Cornwall is one of those magical places you can fall in love with when you’re small, and never, ever fall out of love with, no matter how old you are. The last time I remember going down for a family holiday, I can’t have been more than a couple of years older than Miss France is now. So when my cousin and her fiancé decided to tie the knot near Bodmin, it was the perfect excuse for a long weekend in one of my favourite UK destinations.
With the wedding date set for a Monday in July, I scoured Airbnb for a cosy little place where Miss France, my sister and I could spend the weekend. I found it a few miles outside Bodmin: a self-contained apartment above the host’s house on a smallholding in the middle of nowhere – quite literally, as it turned out. The hamlet of Demelza is so small, it’s not even recognised on Google Maps. But situated as it was midway between Cornwall’s north and south coasts and just a stone’s throw from the windswept wilderness of Bodmin Moor, it was the ideal base for introducing Miss France to Cornwall for the first time.
Having driven all the way from Surrey the night before and arrived in the pitch black, my excitement at discovering our new surroundings on Saturday morning was far greater than my need for a lie-in. So after a breakfast of what-I-could-find-in-M&S-at-Exeter-services-at-9pm-the-night-before, we set off to conquer one of Bodmin’s famous tors.
Never let it be said that we don’t like a challenge. Rough Tor (pronounced row to rhyme with cow – Cornish people think it is hilarious when you get this wrong) is the second highest point of Bodmin Moor, and for little legs unused to this sort of landscape, it was going to be quite a hike. We almost didn’t get started, after we stopped to paddle in the very cold little stream at the bottom of the hill.
But with our feet thoroughly refreshed, we began our ascent. Although it was pretty easy going at first, I can’t pretend there weren’t a few whinges and demands for a rest …
… which inevitably turned into opportunities for daft posing.
Pretty sure the locals thought we were maaaaaad.
But there’s nothing like breathlessly scrambling over rocks in a blustery wind to make you feel like a big kid.
The views over Bodmin Moor from the top of Rough Tor were definitely worth the effort.
That big hill over to the left is Brown Willy (stop giggling). That’s the highest point of Bodmin Moor. We decided we’d probably better leave that one for another day. Besides, there was plenty to see at the top of Rough Tor.
But if you climb a tor and you don’t take a jump shot … were you even really there?
We took a bit of a different route back down … and there are no pictures of that because, well, it was a bit hairy. But it went rather more quickly than the climb up, possibly because we were famished.
So we waved goodbye to Rough Tor and hopped back in the car, heading for Wadebridge, where we stumbled upon the most charming little spot serving all-day brunch. Exactly what we needed!
The Shed is just that – a tiny little shack just off the main pedestrianised shopping street in Wadebridge. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d almost certainly miss it, but it’s well worth seeking out. You could count the number of available seats on your fingers, so if they can squeeze you in, you’re in a for a treat.
My sister went a little off-menu, ordering the smashed avocado on sourdough toast instead of a bagel, and with extra bacon instead of chorizo …
… while Miss France savoured a platter of delectable bits and pieces: fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; slivers of baked chorizo; spicy seeds; and hunks of brie with onion chutney.
As for me, I knew what my stomach was growling for the second I saw devilled mushrooms on the menu. And since chorizo was an optional extra, it seemed silly to leave it out.
It didn’t take us long to demolish the lot (literally everything bar the grape stalks – I’d have licked the plate if I’d dared). And although we were full to bursting, we had to think about what we were going to eat that evening. So we went for a wander around the shops to see what we could find, and stumbled upon a fishmonger with the fresh catch from the day boats laid out on his slab. We plumped for some gigantic fillets of lemon sole, and went in search of accompaniments at the greengrocer across the road.
You may or may not know that in my day job, I work in food and drink marketing, helping to showcase independent British producers, so knowing we were buying truly local made me feel pretty good. Plus, food tastes better when it’s fresher, and it can’t get much fresher than the fish landed by the boats just down the road, or the vegetables plucked out of the field a few miles away.
Mission dinner accomplished, Miss France and I went in search of ice cream. Proper Cornish clotted cream ice cream is just about the best there is. I love a fancy gelato as much as the next girl, but when it comes to utterly lavish indulgence, clotted cream ice cream is where it’s at.
Meanwhile, my sister was on the hunt for something special to celebrate our hard work on the moor. And once back at the cottage, we enjoyed a thoroughly deserved Cornish cider on the little terrace as we soaked up the last of the sun’s rays …
… before tucking into a dinner that may not have been pretty, but was absolutely delicious. I pan-fried the enormous lemon sole fillets in a rather undersized frying pan with a generous helping of Cornish butter, some spring onions, a good squeeze of lemon juice and some cracked black pepper. Then we served them up with a Cornish herb salad and some roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine. Maybe I’ll even try and pretty it up into a recipe one of these days …
And everyone went to bed with happy tummies, and slept the kind of sleep you only have when you’re justifiably tired and delightfully satisfied, to ready you for another exciting day.