The current BBC series Poldark is set in Cornwall, and not only were most of the locations filmed in the county, but most of the actors who performed in the show are actually from the region, albeit not the über-famous leads. Little known fact. The beauty and authenticity of the programme has been praised in many circles (why this is such a surprise we don’t know – you point a camera at Cornwall and you get a screenful of Cornwall!), the reviews have all been of the rave variety, and it promises to be the most successful thing the BBC have shown since, well, the original series of the 70’s! Lovers of Poldark now even have their own name in Cornish – the Polldargoryon. We didn’t see a single pasty in it, though, which is just weird.
Everyone loves a pirate, and for some reason, it’s a widely held view that Kernow is the most piratical county in the British Isles. We suspect this comes from the Cornish accent, closer than most to the pirate “Arrrr!” of the movie screen. But much Cornish mythology comes from the tales of pirates and smugglers who plied their opportunistic dishonesty around the coast of Cornwall from the middle ages through the 19th century. Most local folk were pretty handy in a boat, historically, and thus well acquainted with the region’s sheltered bays and secret anchorages. For many Cornish fishing villages, the ill-gotten gains of wrecking, looting and smuggling provided a thriving black economy. To this day, any square rigged boat with more than one mast is to every school-child, a pirate ship, often seen around Cornish shores and especially in Charlestown – which even has its own Shipwreck & Smuggling Museum!
It’s a well known fact that the correct thing to drink on a summer’s day is cider (cyder), and this may be the reason that Kernow folk prefer an apple beverage to that of the grape or the grain. There are many locally brewed varieties, the most famous of which might be the mighty Rattler by Healey’s. Described as “a bottle with bite”, its mystifyingly un-Cornish rattlesnake logo is the only thing about it that doesn’t exude and typify life at the beach.
These gigantic gentle giants, often growing up to 33′ (10m) long, are the only sharks that are regularly seen around the Cornish coast. This is because in summer they spend a lot of their time at the surface or in shallow water, where being seen by the airbound is more of an option. Though with their mouths closed they are often mistaken for other, dangerous shark species, the basking shark is completely harmless unless you are a plankton – that’s all they eat. With their huge mouth open, they filter clouds of microscopic sea life out of the water as they swim slowly along.
The other kind of large sea creature you are very likely to encounter in Cornwall is a member of the dolphin/porpoise family. Although they are somewhat more predatory than the basking shark, these playful mammals are quite harmless to humans, and will often swim and jump around surfers.
If you’re into surfing you’ve heard of Fistral, Watergate, Constantine, Polzeath, Sennen, and the Porths (-towan–leven–curno–cothan–meor – and the mythical Porthemmet. You might even have heard of Mother Ivey’s, Boobies, Portreath, Chapel Porth. The monster Cribbar that sometimes breaks at 30′ and in plain view of Newquay’s waterfront, perhaps. But you definitely haven’t heard of the myriad rock-shelf reefs and hard to spot point breaks that the local surfers often slip away to. There are also many beautiful coves, accessed perhaps by a steep narrow path, or maybe even only by boat. Most of these places don’t even have names, but they are a lot of fun to find and to explore.