A Literary Tour of West Cornwall
In the Morning
Rosamunde Pilcher OBE was born in Lelant (between St Ives and Hayle) in 1924. After attending school at St Clare in Penzance she began her writing career under the pen-name of ‘Jane Frazer’, for Mills and Boon.
She went on to write thirteen books, many of which are based around the west coast of Cornwall, in her own name. One of her most famous was the The Shell Seekers which was made into a film with scenes shot around St Michael’s Mount. Visit St Michael’s Mount, across the causeway from Marazion (use the sea front parking) to explore the fairytale castle, gardens and village.
In the Afternoon
The 1998 tv production of Pilcher's Coming Home featuring Joanna Lumley and Peter O’Toole was shot partly in West Cornwall at both Lamorna Cove and Porthgwarra (also used for Poldark). Visit both before driving on to Sennen Cove to walk the South West Coast Path to Land’s End which featured in the The Shell Seekers.
The author John Le Carré lived near to Lamorna for 40 years up until his death in 2020. In that time he wrote novels such as A Perfect Spy and The Night Manager.
The coastal landscape, from Sennen heading towards St Ives, is famous for its industrial heritage. It features heavily in the recent TV adaptations of Poldark, and in R. M. Ballantyne’s Deep Down novel of 1868.
DH Lawrence lived just outside Zennor during WW1. He described the area as “the most beautiful place, lovelier even than the Mediterranean”. Visit the Tinners’ Arms in Zennor where he stayed with his wife Frieda before renting a cottage nearby. Unfortunatly Frieda was German and the Lawrence’s were forced to leave the area after being accused of spying in 1917. While in Cornwall he wrote 'Women in Love', but it is the two novels, 'The Fox' and 'Kangaroo' that feature Cornwall.
The whole West Penwith area is rich in folklore, nowhere more so than Zennor where The Mermaid of Zennor is a legendary tale about a mermaid enchanted by the voice of Matthew Trewhella, who used to sing at the church. It is said she covered her tail and visited the church every day. Eventually they fell in love and Matthew swore he would follow her wherever she went, which in this case was into the sea and he was never seen again. Visit St Senara Church to see the 600 year old Mermaids Chair or Pendour Cove where it is said you can hear the two lovers singing happily together.
Australian comedian Barry Humphries also lived in the Zennor area briefly in the early1960s. Whilst out walking one day he fell 150 ft down the cliff and had to be rescued by helicopter.
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