A Cornish Book Tour
Follow a rich literary trail around Cornwall and discover the fascinating locations that have inspired some of the most popular writers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Spend your first night in the old seaport of Fowey. As you cross the river on the Bodinnick Ferry look back to Ferryside, the waterfront house where Daphne Du Maurier wrote her first novel, The Loving Spirit, based on the nearby village of Polruan. Stroll along the town’s narrow streets packed with friendly pubs and restaurants or just enjoy the view out over the river from the quaysides.
Start the day with a boat trip up the river, maybe to the pretty village of Lerryn, thought to have inspired Kenneth Grahame’s 'wildwood' in his classic tale “Wind in the Willows”. There's nothing better than messing about in boats!. On your return head for Fowey's second-hand bookshop to grab a Cornish classic to read over lunch.
Have a picnic and a paddle at Polridmouth Beach, located in a secluded bay a few miles outside the town and the setting for Du Maurier’s celebrated novel Rebecca. Relive those famous evocative opening lines, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” as you walk the stunning coastal foot path up to Gribben Head, the woodland behind hiding Menabilly, Du Maurier’s home for many years and the inspiration for Manderley.
Walk along the Esplanade in Fowey and pass The Haven, former home to the celebrated Victorian novelist Sir Arthur Quiller Couch (it’s just below the street where book illustrator Mabel Lucy Atwell used to live, too) and have dinner at the wonderfully nostalgic Fowey Hotel overlooking the harbour. Watch the twinkling lights of Polruan village across the water.
Head west down the coast to Mousehole, a postcard perfect village near Penzance, where Welsh writer and poet Dylan Thomas spent his honeymoon in the 1930s (He was married in Penzance). Perhaps you can spot similarities here with the village of Llareggub from his most famous work Under Milk Wood. Call into the Ship Inn on the harbour, his favourite watering hole and ponder.
Continue around the West Penwith peninsula towards Land's End and then north up the coast. You will pass through mining villages that have been made famous by the TV adaptations of Winston Graham’s Poldark novels eventually arriving in the small coastal village of Zennor, once the home of D.H Lawrence. He wrote, “One sees infinite Atlantic, all peacock-mingled colours, and the gorse is sunshine itself. Zennor is a most beautiful place” Lawrence would be forced out of Zennor during World War 1 because locals thought his German wife was a spy.
Finish the day in St Ives where Godrevy Lighthouse can be seen across the bay, at the end of a glorious sweep of golden sand. It’s said to be the inspiration for one of the 20th century’s landmark novels To the Lighthouse written by Virginia Woolf who spent her childhood holidays in St Ives. Eat at one of the many harbourside restaurants in St Ives and be mesmerised, like Woolf, by the view of the lighthouse light blinking across the sea.
Drive up through Cornwall to Polzeath, just the other side of the Camel estuary from Padstow. This is John Betjeman country, an area beloved by the late Poet Laureate who would arrive by train for long summer holidays, later immortalised in poetry, such as 'Greenaway'. "I know so well this turfy mile, These clumps of sea-pink withered brown, The breezy cliff, the awkward stile, The sandy path that takes me down". When he died in 1984 he was laid to rest at St Enodoc Church in the middle of the nearby golf course.
End your literary weekend up on windswept Bodmin Moor where the inspiration for perhaps Cornwall’s most famous novel, Jamaica Inn was set. The inn still exists and makes a final stopping off point before you head back up the A30 towards home. Pop into the bar and have a drink beside the roaring fire and imagine you can hear hooves on the cobbled courtyard outside and the ghostly whispers of smugglers in the rooms above. If your feeling very adventurous, head south onto the open moor and seek out Dozmary Pool, said by many to be associated with the legends of King Arthur.
This is just a small selection of Cornwall's literary links... There's plenty more to read about...and read!
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