A visit to the Westcountry: 5 counties in 2 days

Given that I am now based on the north coast of Scotland, it has become even more important to cram more into each visit to the south coast. Making the most of an opportunity when Bob had to meet a client in Devon, we flew down to Exeter a couple of Saturday’s ago to finally pay a visit to those lighthouses that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure to meet.

Bob on top of Hemsbarrow Beacon, in formerly the highest point in Cornwall
Bob on top of Hensbarrow Beacon, formerly the highest point in Cornwall

Arriving shortly after 10am we picked up our little white Fiat 500 and headed west. There was a hill that Bob still needed to bag, which happened to be on the way to the first lighthouse, St Anthony Head. We hadn’t done any research on this hill beforehand and, as we drove around, we were looking for a high point using the handheld GPS. We thought we had spotted it. We got out of the car and starting heading for what we thought was Hensbarrow Beacon, but at one point on the journey the GPS started telling us that we had gone to far. It turns out that Hensbarrow Beacon used to be the highest point in Cornwall before they started creating and building up slag heaps around it. So, it turned out that reaching the top was a lot easier that planned, but it was a little disheartening to be standing at its summit, surrounded on three sides by higher areas of land.

St Anthony Head lighthouse
St Anthony Head lighthouse

Hoping for better luck on our next stop, we headed for the Roseland Peninsula and St Anthony Head. We encountered some long, winding roads on the way there before finally reaching the car park. Following signs to the lighthouse, we followed the steep path down to the locked gates near the lighthouse. As usual, Bob tried to find a way of getting in, but to no avail this time. Instead we wander back up and around to the old battery there, where we had some lovely views to the south and another angle on the lighthouse. A beautiful location and a great lighthouse.

From here we managed to miss a right turn and ended up in St Mawes, where no one wants to move out of the road for cars. We did, however, manage to pick up a huge Cornish pasty each though!


Fowey lighthouse
Fowey lighthouse

Fowey was our next stop and this one presented us with something of a challenge. Again we used the GPS to search for it and we wander along the coastal path to the south of the town, but the GPS was directing us closer to the coast than we thought we were able to go. Fortunately though, Bob was actually looking properly and noticed a gate in amongst the foliage on the coast side of the path. A gap in the bushes had been created next to the gate so we crept in and, as we approached the end of the path, we could clearly see a big red structure. It’s only a short little thing, but being so high up on the cliffs it wouldn’t need to be tall. The small area around the lighthouse was looking a little run down, but we got some good pictures and, again, enjoyed the views before continuing on our journey.


Portland Bill
Portland Bill


While these two lighthouses were the ones I had not yet seen, I was keen to revisit Portland Bill where I knew there were three lighthouses, but I’d only ever really taken notice of two of them. By the time we reached Portland it was getting darker by the minute and we hurried around, trying to capture them all before we could no longer see. The operational lighthouse at Portland was in action and looking wonderful. Although I’d lived in nearby Weymouth for two years, I’d never seen Portland Bill in the dark or the lighthouse working at night. We managed to get a look at the lighthouse I’d managed not to see properly before and Bob’s persistence with getting a good picture of the other old lighthouse next to road paid off.

We’d booked to stay at a B&B in North Perrott in Somerset that night and arrived here later than planned and completely exhausted. It had been a busy day, but we’d managed to see what we had planned.

On Sunday we drove to Bristol in preparation for a trip out on the Bristol Packet boat that sails along Avon Gorge and out to Avonmouth. As you would expect, this trip wasn’t planned just for a nice boat ride, we had lighthouses in mind! Avonmouth docks had proven difficult to access meaning we hadn’t been able to see the lighthouses on the ends of the piers there – just catching a quick glimpse from the M5 on the approach to Bristol. I felt confident that this boat trip would get us closer.

One of the two lighthouses at Avonmouth docks
One of the two lighthouses at Avonmouth docks

So, we climbed aboard out of the rain and a short while into the trip Bob spoke to the captain, Andrew, about going out to Avonmouth to see the lighthouses. He told us that he would do his best, although visibility was particularly bad that day and stormy weather was forecast. As we approached the docks we made our way to the front and were able to get some good pictures of the two lighthouses to the east by sticking ourselves out of the open door in the rain. Based on the OS mapping software I have been using to locate the lighthouses, it seemed that there was also one on the end of the pier to the west, but on the day we couldn’t see anything there apart from a sign and lots of street lights (on a pier?!) When I got home I wasn’t able to find any evidence of it existing, so I’m not sure what happened there, but I will look into it further.

After the boat tour was over and we’d returned to not so dry land, we hurried off to the train station for my train and, as I headed towards London for a brief catch up with my friend Jane before catching the sleeper train towards home, Bob drove back down to Devon ready for the Monday morning.

It was certainly a packed weekend, but we managed to escape Cornwall without a parking ticket this time and it was great to see a variety of lighthouses in different shapes and sizes.

I suspect that the next blog on here will appear in a few weeks from now and will be something to do with a  wedding and St Catherine’s lighthouse on the Isle of Wight!!! 🙂

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