Personal Journey: Taking a bike tour of Cornwall

Posted: May 01, 2011

Cornwall, England is home to the Pirates of Penzance, the romantic novels of Rosamunde Pilcher, Cornish pasties (pastries filled with beef, potato, and onion) and Land's End, the southwesternmost point of mainland Britain. I was intrigued enough to want to visit but wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up for a three-day bike trip.

The website for Cornish Cycle Tours labeled the trip "easy" because it averaged only about 15 miles per day. I had never done a multiday bike trip, but hey, I can bike the five-mile loop at Valley Forge National Historical Park, so I figured I was ready. I convinced a friend that she was, too, so off we went.

It helped to know that the tour company would pick us up from the train station, book our rooms, provide us with all necessary equipment, and transport our luggage each day. And because it was just the two of us with the provided map, we could go at our own pace. All we had to worry about was biking.

Realistically, 15 miles can be biked in a few hours, giving us plenty of time for taking pictures of the rolling green hills, the rocky cliffs, and the water so unexpectedly blue it looked like the Caribbean. We also took breaks at country pubs to enjoy ploughman's lunches of cheese, veggies, pickles, and homemade brown bread or some hearty country soup, all washed down with a well-earned pint or two of local brew.

In three days, we got to see the extreme tip of Cornwall, including Land's End, with its strange amusement-park feel; the artsy town of St. Ives, where we met an American couple who had visited once and loved it so much they were back looking for a home; the natural cliff-side theater made of rocks overlooking the ocean; and St. Michael's Mount, an island home to a castle and about 30 residents.

The island can be reached on foot during low tide, which it was when we started walking. Unfortunately, the tide was coming in as we were crossing, forcing us to slosh through water to make it to the island. We found an outdoor spot for lunch, complete with picnic tables and plenty of fresh air to dry our socks and shoes before we took the ferry back.

During our biking, we also had to deal with a few unexpectedly steep hills. While we pushed our bikes up one of the larger ones, a local woman loaded down with grocery bags passed us on foot. Supportive friends at the pub that night explained we couldn't move as quickly because we were pushing the weight of the bikes. We weren't about to argue with such sound logic.

Cornwall turned out to be everything that originally intrigued me: adventure, beautiful scenery, and delicious food, with maybe a touch more adventure than I was expecting.

Nadine Banks lives in Malvern, Chester County.

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