Tag: Cornwall

8 Amazing Airbnb Homes

8 Amazing Airbnb Homes

Airbnb’s Most Amazing Homes

Sometimes picking a place to stay when we travel is as much fun as planning where to go and what to see.  There are some truly amazing homes available on Airbnb that you can rent.  They’re so good, they’ll make you want to book the place to stay and then plan your trip around its location, instead of vice versa!

1. The Seashell House – Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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This home in a gated community on Isla Mujeres seems like it was made from two giant shells.  In fact, shells dominate the decor inside the house as well. The plumbing fixtures are also shells, pouring out water into the sink and shower.

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Shells are also built into the walls both inside and outside the house, and the property features a stunning view of the water. Isla Mujeres is a small island off the Yucatan Peninsula, and the closest airport is Cancun. The property includes a private pool, two king beds, kitchenette, wifi, and air conditioning. The rental fee for the Seashell House is from $308 per night, and it sleeps a maximum of four people in two bedrooms. The property has received 131 reviews with an average rating of 5 stars. Click here to see its listing on Airbnb.

2. Underground Hygge – Orondo, WA

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This Hobbit-inspired home is nestled right into the mountainside of the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge. The doorway and windows are round, providing renters with an amazing view of the surrounding countryside.

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The house is outfitted with many natural elements – the floor appears to be made of log slices, the fireplace and chimney are made of stone, the sink basin is made of well-preserved natural wood. It isn’t hard to imagine a peaceful little hobbit living here. Staying here does require a bit of a hike uphill to reach the property from the parking area, and I really wouldn’t recommend staying here if you’re claustrophobic at all. (The largest room is 7 ft 10 inches by 11 feet. Also, if booking in winter, you will need a vehicle with four wheel drive, as they do get a lot of snow December – March.  The property is available to rent from $250 per night, and it sleeps two. The property has received 185 reviews with an average rating of 5 stars. Click here to see its listing on Airbnb.

3. Skylodge – Calca, Peru

airbnb most amazing homes

For those who want their lodging to provide them with an unforgettable experience, there are the Skylodge Adventure Suites in Peru’s Cusco region.  We actually saw these from our train to Machu Picchu in May.  They are “transparent luxury capsules” that are attached to a mountainside in the Sacred Valley of Peru. This may be the only hotel that you have to climb a mountain (1300+ feet) to enter. I’m a little unclear about how the booking works. It appears as though you make a reservation for one person, but they say that maximum occupancy for the three pods is 12 people. Rates are from $462 per night, which includes a gourmet dinner with wine, transportation from Cuzco, professional bilingual guides, and breakfast in the morning. There is a strict cancellation policy, so be sure you are going to stay there before you book. The property has received 53 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars. Click here to see its listing on Airbnb.

4. The Cozy Palace Bamileke Suite – Marrakesh, Morocco

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This gorgeous little place just oozes romance, with colorful tiles, arching doorways, and a four poster bed. It is a suite in a riad – a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard.

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A skylight fills the bedroom with natural light, and the courtyard is the perfect place to relax.  Guests also have access to a rooftop terrace which provides excellent views.  The suite accommodates up to four people, and rents from just $42 per night!  The property has received 401 reviews with a 5-star average rating. Click here to see its listing on Airbnb.

5. Old Smock Windmill – Kent, England

How many people can say that they’ve slept in a windmill?  You can, if you rent this renovated windmill in the English county of Kent.

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You will have three floors at your disposal.  Each is furnished with modern conveniences while retaining the rustic look of a bygone era.

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Notable features and furnishings include a copper basin sink, walk in shower with under floor heating, gas wood-burning stove, and a patio/deck.  The rental fee for the Old Smock windmill is from $235 per night. Sleeps a maximum of four people in two bedrooms. The property has 154 reviews, with an average rating of 5 stars. Click here to view its Airbnb listing.

6.  San Giusto Abbey Tower – Tuscania, Italy

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Built in 1146, San Giusto is a medieval monastery located in a beautiful valley one hour north of Rome. The tower has been recently restored and decorated, taking into consideration the beauty and austerity of a 12th century building: medieval charm and modern comfort. 

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As you can see above, the decor is very much in keeping with the building’s age and purpose. If you are looking for a luxurious, spa-like environment, this will not be what you want. On the other hand, if you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, you will probably enjoy this.  The apartment has 4 floors: living room and kitchen, 2 bedrooms (each with a bathroom) on the upper floors and a terrace that overlooks the valley. The tower rents from $184 per night and can accommodate up to four guests. The property has 64 reviews with an average rating of 5 stars. Click here to view its Airbnb listing.

7.  Jack Sparrow House – Cornwall, England

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If quirky and cozy is your thing, you will love this little house! (Have I mentioned that I think Cornwall is the most beautiful place on earth?  Why, yes, I have.) It consists of a comfortable room with a seating/kitchen area downstairs and a romantic bed on the second floor with beautiful views of Porthallow Bay.  

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The cabin has been lovingly constructed with careful attention to detail. There is a toilet in the house, but shower facilities are located nearby in a converted horse trailer. The Jack Sparrow house rents from $134 per night and, needless to say, it can only accommodate two people. This property has 138 reviews with an average rating of five stars. Click here to view its Airbnb listing.

8. St Pancras Clock Tower – London, England

amazing airbnb homes st pancras clock tower london england uk

There’s a new place on my bucket list!  There are two Airbnb apartments located inside the clock tower above St Pancras International Station in London. It features a 30 ft high room in the tower overlooking many of London’s landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Not only is sleeping inside a clock tower a really cool experience, but the location of this clock tower is exceptionally convenient for visitors to London.  From there, you can walk to many of London’s sights, including the British Library, the British Museum, and the West End. The tower does not have bells, and road/rail noise is minimal; however, you should be aware that the windows are not curtained and light will stream in from sun and/or floodlights. The apartments accommodate up to four people and rent from $147 per night.  The property has received 341 reviews, with an average rating of five stars. Click here to view its listing.

If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, what are you waiting for?  This is just a small sampling of the unique and cozy homes available on their site.  Click here, and you’ll get $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

Amazing Airbnb Homes
Driving in Cornwall

Driving in Cornwall

I could sum up the experience of driving around Cornwall with three little letters — OMG — but that wouldn’t make for good blogging, now would it?

So, first… OMG!  The countryside was beautiful, just stunning!  Rolling hills, breathtaking views of the sea, pastures dotted with cows and sheep, trees arching over the roadways to create a romantic little tunnel.  It was lovely!  See for yourself:

On the other hand, OMG!  I have never seen such treacherous roads in my life.  At one point I commented (in all seriousness) that driving on those roads was like riding a roller coaster.

The smaller roads that connected the villages typically were flanked on both sides by 10-foot high stone walls overgrown with greenery.  We had no idea what we were driving past. Could’ve been a house.  Could’ve been the sea.  Could’ve been a herd of cattle.

Whoever laid out these roads was apparently unfamiliar with the concept of  “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” because there were no straight lines.  The roads twisted and turned, rose up and went down.  You could never be sure what was around the next bend because, well, you couldn’t see that far.

Also, the roads were quite narrow.  I think that maybe two itty bitty smart cars could have passed each other without any difficulty, but for everyone else, it was almost like playing chicken.  Who’s backing up?   Who’s going forward?  Do you need to fold in your rear view mirrors before passing?  On our first full day of driving, we backed up to let another car pass us, and edged right up to the aforementioned 10-foot high wall.  When we started moving again, we heard a hissing sound every few seconds.  Apparently one of the stones in the wall had punctured our tire.  Fun.

Here’s a picture of a typical country road in Cornwall.

Even the major highways were a bit strenuous to drive on.  Instead of having exits like we do in the US, there is a “roundabout” (traffic circle) at every town.  For Americans who haven’t driven in Washington DC before (and even those of us who have), traffic circles can be somewhat bewildering.  Particularly in unfamiliar surroundings.    Add to that the frustration of having to slow down when you’ve just gotten up to a nice speed, and the roundabout came to be something we dreaded.

Thankfully, Hubs did ALL of the driving for us while we were in Cornwall.  He had to get used to driving on the left side of the car, on the left side of the road, and using his left hand to shift gears.  I have to give him props for that.  I would have been terrified.

Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Cornish Seal Sanctuary

I will begin this post with a slight disclaimer:

Due to an unexpected vehicle malfunction on our way to the Seal Sanctuary, we arrived dreadfully late and not in the best of moods. We rushed through it as quickly as we could. I am confident that I did not see enough or photograph enough to give it a thorough review. But half a loaf is better than none, as they say… so here we are.

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The sea lion above is named Andre and as you can see, he is quite vocal. During our visit to the sanctuary we were able to learn the difference between seals and sea lions. Sea lions are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using their large flippers and have visible ear flaps. Seals have small flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps.

In addition to the sea lions like Andre, the Seal Sanctuary is also home to grey seals, common seals, Asian short clawed otters, and Humboldt penguins. The otters and the penguins were an absolute joy to watch but I was unable to get any really good pictures to share here.

If you time your visit right, you can catch a feed talk at the Sanctuary, at which time you will learn more about the animals while watching them get fed. Feed talks are held at multiple locations in the Sanctuary throughout the day. We caught the end of one of the feed walks, where this trio was really hamming it up for the visitors. I have no idea what they were saying, but they were saying a lot of it!

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They look like they’re singing, don’t they?

The Sanctuary had a lot of educational exhibits too, so we learned about important  topics like conservation, rescue & rehabilitation, and so on. My daughter loved the trip, even though it was shorter than we had intended it to be, and I would highly recommend it for families with school age children.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is located in Gweek, Cornwall.  Postcode TR12 6UG; telephone  01326 221361.  The Seal Sanctuary is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with the exception of Christmas Day.  

Healey’s Cider Farm, Cornwall

Healey’s Cider Farm, Cornwall

In 1986, the Healey family bought a run down 150-year-old farm that did not even have running water or electricity. They spent the next few years planting orchards and renovating the property. Then, in 1990, they produced Cornish Gold Cyder. Cornish Scrumpy followed two years later. In 2000, Healey’s won Supreme Champion at the International Cider and Perry Competition. More products and awards followed.

Impressed? You should be! We visited the cider farm when we were in Cornwall, and although we arrived too late to take the guided tour, we did get to walk around and enjoy the beautiful grounds.

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We were also lucky enough to visit the shop and sample some of their products. My daughter said that their apple juice was the best in the whole world, and at age eight, I considered her to be an expert! It is made at the farm using Dessert Apples, with added Vitamin C. No artificial coloring, sweeteners or flavoring added.

I, on the other hand, am not a huge fan of apples, and found myself partial to the Pear Rattler.

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The Pear Rattler blends juicy pears and crisp apples, teetering between sweet and sharp. It was yummy! We bought a couple bottles of each but realized at the airport we would not be allowed to take them on the plane, so we drank them at a Heathrow restaurant. (Diners at the next table were envious and told their waiter they wanted that too!)

The farm is an outstanding business with delicious products and even an on-site restaurant. Check it out if you visit Cornwall – and drink a Pear Rattler for me.  😉

Healey’s Cyder Farm is located on the A3075 in Penhallow, Cornwall, postcode TR4 9LW. Telephone 01872 573356.  Hours vary by season, so call or check the web site when planning your visit.

King Arthur’s Great Halls, Tintagel

King Arthur’s Great Halls, Tintagel

A retired London businessman named Frederick Thomas Glasscock went to Tintagel in the early part of the 20th century and found himself fascinated by the Arthurian legend. He devoted the remainder of his life and quite a lot of his wealth to pursuing and promoting Arthurian ideals.

The legacy of his passion is King Arthur’s Great Halls in Tintagel.

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To some it may seem a cheesy tourist trap, but my husband and I appreciated the artwork on display there as well as Mr. Glasscock’s devotion to his time period of choice. (History geeks that we are, we know all too well what it is like to feel as if you were born in the wrong time period.)

Glasscock founded a fraternal organization, the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table, in 1927 to promote Christian ideals and Arthurian notions of medieval chivalry. By the early 1930s membership had reached 17,000, although some newspaper reports put it as high as 250,000.  We found a sign that explained their oath upon induction into the Fellowship.

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King Arthur’s Great Halls originally served as the headquarters of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table. There are 72 stained glass windows illustrating the Arthurian tales are by Veronica Whall. These tell the story of King Arthur and show the coats of arms and weapons of the knights involved. All of them were exquisite! Here are a few that I especially liked:

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Additionally, there was a theatre that showed an introductory film about the location and its history.

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The theatre also included the sword in the anvil.

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Following the introductory film, we toured the facility at our leisure. There were two thrones. The first was normal sized and made of wood.

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The second was HUGE – wide enough to seat at least 3 or 4 people – and made of granite.

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From looking at their web site, it seems King Arthur’s Great Halls primarily focuses on marketing itself as a wedding venue. It does say that it is open to the general public on the dates/times listed below, but my recommendation would be to contact them prior to visiting just to make sure that they are open.

King Arthur’s Great Halls are located on Fore Street, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0DB.  Telephone 01840 770526.  Open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, March 1 through October 31.

Tintagel: King Arthur’s Birthplace

Tintagel: King Arthur’s Birthplace

Tintagel Castle was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, 1233 to establish a connection with the Arthurian legends that were associated with the area and because it was seen as the traditional place for Cornish kings. The castle was built in a style that made it appear older than it really was. Richard hoped that by doing this, he could gain the Cornish people’s trust. However, the earls who followed after Richard took no interest in the property.  One hundred years after it had been built, the castle was already falling into a state of disrepair.

In case you’re wondering, this is not an adventure for anyone with a fear of heights or creaky knees. There are seriously A LOT of stairs to navigate:

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But once you get up there you will be rewarded with some stunning views.

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We had heard that there was a cave nearby known as Merlin’s Cave – the cave in which Merlin lived and where he first encountered Arthur. I got very excited when I spotted a rather large cave. Here’s the picture I snapped:

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Unfortunately, that is not Merlin’s Cave, but rather Barras Head. Merlin’s Cave  is much less exciting, and is located directly beneath the castle ruins.

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As I stated above, the views from the Tintagel Castle ruins are outstanding. The weather was extraordinarily beautiful the day that we went, so we spent quite a lot of time up there, just gazing out at the sea. The farmland was pretty too.

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If you have an interest in Arthurian history, like high cliffs that overlook the sea, or are drawn to the eerie romance of ruins, be sure to visit Tintagel in northern Cornwall.

Tintagel Castle is located at Castle Road, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0HE.  There is no parking on site, but there is paid parking in the village. Telephone 01840 770328.  Hours vary by season; please call or check the web site to plan your visit.  The site is managed by English Heritage.

Port Isaac (aka My Happy Place)

Port Isaac (aka My Happy Place)

A few years back, I happened upon a British TV show called Doc Martin. As I started watching it and growing increasingly fascinated with the characters, I realized there was one character I had completely fallen in love with:  the fictitious town of Port Wenn. To refer to the town as a character may seem silly, but to me, she stole every scene she was in.

So when my father passed away and I received a small inheritance, I decided that the best way to spend it would be to go to Port Wenn for a vacation. The first order of business was to find out where, exactly, that was. As it turns out, Port Wenn is actually the fishing village called Port Isaac, in Cornwall.

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When planning the trip, I was torn between staying at the Old School Hotel (the building with arched windows in the above photograph – it is the school on Doc Martin) or staying someplace else, in a more central location, at a lower cost. My husband said, “The whole reason you want to go to Cornwall is because of Doc Martin. I’d say we have to stay there.”

I do love him so!

It didn’t take any time at all to realize that we’d made the right choice. Port Isaac was every bit as beautiful as it seemed on television. I still refer to it as The Most Beautiful Place on Earth. Cobbled streets, winding paths, tiny cottages, the wind, the water… it was just heavenly! And every morning we woke up to the sound of seagulls outside our window. This was our view:

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Other than the harbor, there were two main sights from the Doc Martin show. First, Doc Martin’s surgery:

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And Mrs Tishell’s drug store, which is in actuality a candy shop:

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But we were there for a week. And seeing the Doc Martin landmarks took just a few hours. So we went to the beach, which looked like this at low tide.

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At high tide, the fishermen would have to take small rowboats out to get on these boats. Very often the reason we would hear the seagulls outside our window in the morning was because the fishermen would be returning with the day’s catch.

Walking along the beach, I happened to glance down and spot a piece of sea glass. Then another. And another. An hour or so later, I was virtually obsessed and had two pockets full of sea glass to bring home.

We also found a couple caves, which was a neat exploration opportunity.

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Thankfully there were no bats in there!

After we had been there a few days, we noticed an awful lot of people down on the beach, so we went to see what the fuss was about. It turned out that a local singing group known as The Fisherman’s Friends were singing in the harbor, and their performance was being filmed. The place was packed.

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I jokingly call Port Isaac my happy place, but I really do mean it. When I need to relax and clear my head, Port Isaac is the place I visualize. I don’t know if I will ever be able to return to Port Isaac, but I am certainly glad that I spent a week there!

Port Isaac is located on the northern coast of Cornwall, England, about 9 miles southwest of Tintagel.  

 

The Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project, Cornwall

There are primarily three sections to the Eden Project:  a Rainforest Biome, a Mediterranean Biome, and outdoor botanical gardens featuring native plants and art.

One of the works of art there was this woman, whose hair was actually a type of grass.

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Another was the giant bee (unfortunately, it absolutely terrified my daughter):

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There were so many lovely plants too look at, many of which I photographed but I don’t know what they are, so I’m focusing on some wider angle shots.  For instance, look at all this lavender:

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And these colorfully arranged rows of flowers:

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The rainforest biome is hot and humid! As we approached the entrance, I saw several young men coming out with their shirts off.  And no wonder – the climate inside the biome is engineered for the comfort of the exotic plants inside it, not for our comfort.

As a side note, we ate in Eden Kitchen when we arrived. It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten.  I really recommend eating there, and it’s not often you’ll find me saying that about a restaurant located within a tourist attraction.

There was no doubt, as we walked around The Eden Project, that the people there are passionate about what they do, and about the environment.  Enthusiasm like that is contagious, and we learned so much that day we still talk about it.

The Eden Project is at Bodelva, Cornwall PL24 2SG. Telephone +44 (0)1726 811911. It is a year-round attraction, but hours vary by season; check the web site or call for specific opening/closing times.

Cotehele in Cornwall

Cotehele in Cornwall

Cotehele (pronounced a lot like coat-EEL) is a beautiful manor house located near Saltash in Cornwall. When we heard that it was one of the best preserved Tudor-era houses in England, we decided to pay a visit.

The house’s Tudor Hall was the first room we saw, and it was impressive.

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Whale jaw bones flanking a doorway, armor displayed on the wall, an albatross head mounted on the wall, flags, banners, guns. This house was owned by the same family for roughly 600 years – that’s quite a long time to amass a collection of all sorts of items. I felt like I could have stayed in the great hall for several hours, just looking at everything.

I believe it was at Cotehele that we saw a small cupboard-like area in one of the bedrooms that opened onto the church below. The guide explained that it was constructed so that those who were ill could still hear the church service.

We also saw the Punch Room, which takes its name from its tapestries depicting scenes of Bacchic revelry and the making of wine. And of course, its little hideaway cupboard for beverages:

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The gardens at Cotehele are beautiful. There are terraced gardens, a peaceful pond, a bowling green, and palm trees and rhododendrons in the steep Valley Garden. An orchard on the property boasts 120 different varieties of Tamar Valley apples.

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But the real star of the show is the Cotehele tapestries. There are so many!  Many have been altered to fit the space in which they hang. In the Punch Room, a tapestry hanging over the cupboard has a slit in it so the door can be easily opened and closed. Here is one of the many magnificent tapestries from Cotehele.

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One of the most remarkable things at Cotehele is its clock, which is the earliest turret clock in the United Kingdom still working in an unaltered state and in its original position. It has no face, but is attached to a bell which strikes the hour. Many other clocks from this time period have long since been converted to pendulum, but the clock at Cotehele never was.

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The clock is located in a small alcove that appears to be custom made for that purpose – it has a chimney-like chute that goes up to the bell and has just the right dimensions for the clock, the weights, and the double-pulley system.

As with most of the places we visited in Cornwall, it was very family friendly, with children’s activities and a bit of a scavenger hunt for young visitors to enjoy. The theme of the scavenger hunt was things that didn’t make sense, such as tapestries that were cut and sewn together. It was a fascinating way to find peculiarities and I think I enjoyed it just as much as my daughter did!

It would be easy to spend an entire day here. In addition to the house and extensive gardens, there is a triangular tower folly known as Prospect Tower, a Chapel in the Woods, a Mill, the (free) Cotehele Quay Discovery Centre, and The Shamrock, a traditional Tamar sailing barge launched in 1899. It’s a great day out with all sorts of fascinating sights.

Cotehele is open every day from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Its address is St Dominick, near Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6TA, but they recommend that you not use GPS as it can be misleading. Telephone 44 1579 351346.  It is a National Trust property.

Old Post Office, Tintagel, Cornwall

Old Post Office, Tintagel, Cornwall

We had not planned to visit the Old Post Office in Tintagel, but because we were there (to visit the ruins of the castle where King Arthur was said to have been born) and because we had a National Trust Touring Pass, we decided to pop in and see what it was like. I’m so glad we did!

A note on pronunciation: Prior to arriving there, in all of my trip preparations and itinerary building, I though that the town was pronounced TINT-ah-gel, with the emphasis on the first syllable. I was wrong. Emphasis is placed on the middle syllable, which sounds like the A in “smack.” It’s Tint-A-gel. I had to re-train my brain to say it correctly after pronouncing it in my head incorrectly for so many months. Now I try to find out in advance how place names are pronounced as soon as they land on my radar.

The Old Post Office was first built in the 14th-century as a farmhouse. In those days, it would have been a single story, with a thatched roof and livestock housed in one section. Heat and smoke from a central hearth would have risen up through the thatches and killed any woodworms (thus preserving the frame).

In the 16th and 17th centuries, major modifications to the building took place. A slate roof replaced the thatched one. Wood paneling was replaced with stone, and a chimney was added. With no more open fire sending smoke up through the roof, a second story could be added.

In the Victorian era, the house briefly held a licence to be the letter receiving station for the district. Afterwards, it was referred to as the Old Post Office, and the name stuck.

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It has a wavy slate roof and a gorgeous cottage style garden in the back. On the whole, it was a very child-friendly place to visit. The guides were very good about engaging our daughter in conversation, and there was no shortage of hands-on activities for little ones to enjoy. During our visit there, she got to play giant tic tac toe in the garden, try making a rag rug, and learn why we say “sleep tight” at bedtime.

In addition to all the reasons she loved it, we enjoyed the peek into what life was like in England centuries ago. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest rooms contained the fireplace.

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A second floor was added to the building in the 17th century. We were able to see what the bedrooms there would have looked like.

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old PO bedroom

Outside, in the back yard, we played for a while and just sat to enjoy the pretty flowers. It was there that we learned the herringbone pattern of the stone wall in front of the Old Post Office is called the curzy way.

old PO garden

All in all, it was a lovely visit – I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the Tintagel area!

The Old Post Office is located on Fore Street, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0DB. Telephone +44 18407 70024. The building is open seasonally, so it’s best to check and make sure it will be open when you visit.