Custom tour of Cornwall

By Beryl Bogan
This item appears on page 27 of the November 2012 issue.
The gatehouse at Lanhydrock, Bodmin. Photos: Bogan

I strongly recommend the services of Midway Motor Travel (Southerwicks, Corsham, Wiltshire, England, SN13 9NH, U.K.; phone, from the US or Canada, 800/214-8738 or, in Britain, +44 [0] 1249 71657).

My husband, Michael, and I had been to Britain many times but never to Cornwall. I saw the ad for Midway in ITN’s MART classifieds and contacted owner Anton Prole, who was most efficient and helpful. Over a few months, we planned a customized trip for March 20-30, 2012.

The land cost for this 10-day tour for two was £5,069 (near $8,190), including accommodations, breakfasts, ferries, our driver/guide, gas, tolls and parking. Anton recommended small, family-run hotels in the towns, but we opted for 5-star hotels.

Anton had expected to be our driver but was temporarily ill when we arrived, so Michael Buckett met us at Gatwick Airport and drove us to Torquay, where we stayed three nights at The Grand Hotel, which was very satisfactory.

Street in Polperro, Cornwall, England.

Each day, we discussed what was of interest and then set off, free to change course as we went. Mike drove a nice, roomy, 6-seat, luxury Volkswagen Caravelle MPV — comfortable and always clean. He was incredible at navigating the narrow country lanes and fishing villages.

We spent two nights at the beautiful Talland Bay Hotel, overlooking the sea about three miles outside Looe; three nights in Falmouth at St. Michael’s Mount Hotel & Spa, which I would not recommend; one night at Instow at the excellent Commodore Hotel, overlooking the estuary in North Devon, and our final night at the Three Ways House Hotel in the pretty Cotswold village of Mickleton.

Highlights included Dartmoor, with its beautiful scenery, wild ponies and grim prison; Plymouth, where we saw the steps the Pilgrims walked on when they left for America, and Plymouth Hoe.

We visited Slapton Sands at Torcross, where nearly 1,000 American soldiers and sailors drowned in landing crafts when, practicing for D-Day, they were torpedoed by German E-boats.

Full-size reproduction of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, Brixham. Photo: Bogan

From Marazion we visited St. Michael’s Mount, which, like Mont-St-Michel in France, was built by Benedictine monks. It is still occupied by the St. Aubyn family. We reached it by ferry but were able to walk back across the causeway during low tide. It was a very steep climb up to the castle but well worth it.

We visited beautiful fishing villages like Polperro, Mevagissey and Port Isaac (where the British TV series “Doc Martin” is filmed).

Travel tip — prior to our trip, we bought a one-year membership to The Royal Oak Foundation (35 West 35th St., Ste. 1200, New York, NY 10001-2205; 800/913-6565), at $95 for the two of us. With that, entry to any National Trust property in Britain is free. As we visited six such properties, this represented a considerable saving.

I can’t express enough what a great experience this was, having the care and attention of a great organizer, having our own driver and being flexible each day.

Georgetown, TX