Marvellous mackerel and peppery pasties

Whether it’s glorious beaches, rugged coastline or mysterious moorlands that take your fancy, Cornwall certainly seems to have it all. Steeped in history and folklore, it is a county that never ceases to capture the imagination and, once again, proved to be the perfect destination for a family holiday.

Having promised the boys some sizeable waves for their bodyboarding this year, we headed straight for Polzeath with its sandy beach and long, slow-breaking surfing waves. And we were not disappointed. With waves of between 5 and 8ft, opportunities for honing our skills were plentiful and although the sea was incredibly powerful, thankfully the only casualties were my dignity – and my Fitbit.  Note to self: salt water and technology do not make for happy bedfellows…

A bracing walk from Constantine Bay (taking in Dinas Head and the lighthouse, Trevose Head, Padstow Lifeboat Station, and a couple of other bays) and returning along some cliffs at Harlyn Bay conjured up countless images of a bygone era dominated by smugglers and shipwrecks. A collapsed cave just beyond Booby’s Bay (you can imagine the hilarity with which that particular name was met by the all-male company that I am frequently forced to keep!) would not have been out of place in a TV adaptation of Du Maurier’s ‘Jamaica Inn’.

Of course, no trip to Cornwall would be complete without a fishing expedition. Quite apart from the region’s rich history of sea fishing, I wanted to give our boys the experience of (quite literally) catching their own supper.

We set sail from Padstow Harbour in search of adventure, and hopefully some mackerel too – although my sister-in-law had apparently taken the precaution of defrosting some burgers, just in case! O ye, of little faith… Passing the ruined towers and engine houses of the old tin mines so typical of the Cornish landscape, we left the hustle and bustle of the port behind us and headed for open water.

The first (very real!) challenge that we faced was that of trying to remain upright as we drifted broadside to the waves. Our boat quickly became engaged in a great deal of heaving and yawing making it almost impossible to concentrate upon the tutorial being given on the finer techniques of fly fishing. The rods themselves were quite heavy too, and countless reminders from the skipper about the significant cost of replacing them did nothing to settle the nerves! However, once a number of us had borne the humiliation of snagging each other’s lines (rather than a nice plump fish) my husband managed to claim the honour of producing the first catch of the day and this swiftly became the catalyst for a veritable flurry of success. Those burgers were beginning to look as if they might be redundant after all! Bursting with pride (and with more than enough fish for the BBQ) we returned to dry land where we indulged in a sumptuous feast of chargrilled mackerel and baby potatoes in a garlic butter, all served on a bed of crisp mixed leaves. Our reputation  as hunter gatherers having now been well and truly established!

For me personally though, one of the things that I enjoy most about foreign travel is sampling the local cuisine. As they say, ‘when in Rome’… And so, it seemed only right to sample the local produce with as much alacrity as if the various ‘dishes’ had in fact hailed from a different continent altogether. Purely in the interests of market research, therefore, we took it upon ourselves to try the famous pasty in no less than three different locations – our (not entirely altruistic) way of supporting the national dish that accounts for an incredible 6% of the Cornish food economy. It was also a rather cunning way of getting our two to eat swede.


The verdict? All three were very tasty (as my post-holiday waistline will testify) but not quite peppery enough to compete for pole position with one enjoyed some 9 or 10 years ago in Launceston.

With locally made fudge and ice cream in abundant supply too (not to mention the opportunity to re-enact a variety of dramatic scenes from Arthurian legend amongst the striking ruins at Tintagel) it is no wonder that our boys are keen to pay a return visit in the not-too-distant future. Their parents are not entirely against the idea either.

Dha weles skon, Kernow!