Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Travelling to Falmouth

I've had an exchange of emails with a German lady, who would like to attend Physical Separation '09 in June, but is worried about the journey from London to Falmouth.

This is understandable as Cornwall is the most remote area of England, but don't be put off by this, as the journey can be a very rewarding experience, and takes you into one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

Because of its location in the far south west of Great Britain, Cornwall is the only area of England to have retained its Celtic roots, having survived successive invasions by the Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans. Not only is Cornwall remote, but to access it, two very inhospitable moors have to be crossed. First of all, Dartmoor in Devon, the setting for Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and home to the famous prison, then the bleak Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, passing the Jamaica Inn, immortalised in Daphne du Maurier's famous novel.

Passing over these moors by modern transport, it is easy to underestimate how formidable the journey to and from London must have been little over 150 years ago, when travellers would often make their wills before departing, so dangerous was the journey with the ever-present fear of highway robbers, as well as the elements.

In the mid 19th century, the heyday of Cornish tin and copper mining, the most prestigious service was the London to Falmouth Royal Mail Coach which left Falmouth at 1.45am and after travelling through Cornwall via Truro, St Austell, and Liskeard, crossed the river Tamar and headed for an overnight stop at Devonport. Departing the following morning at 9.30am it then passed through Plymouth, Ashburton, Exeter, Honiton, Ilminster and Amesbury that day, departing from Andover at 12.19am the following morning and after another overnight stop, arriving in London at 7.05am, a total journey time of nearly 3 days!!

Today the journey time is around 5 hours by car or train and it is easy to overlook how formidable the moors must have been in the past.

The various options for travelling to Falmouth are given in the Travel section of each Falmouth-based MEI Conference web-site but I would like to add a few extra tips which may make your journey more comfortable.

Assuming you are travelling from London Heathrow, you essentially have two options- car or train. The MEI team have rarely used the air travel option, as the plane to Newquay only operates from London Gatwick, and the transfer to Falmouth is by very expensive taxi, which has to be reserved while on the plane.

If you intend to spend some time in Cornwall after the conference, then a car is a necessity. We have a deal with Europcar, so when ordering a car from the airport, please quote our contract number (on the conference website).

Train is the second, and often preferred option, and the Paddington to Truro section is one of the world's great rail journeys (see also the posting of 29th January 2015). Book your ticket in advance via the website link. The journey will be in 3 stages- Heathrow to London Paddington; Paddington to Truro and Truro to Falmouth Docks. Make sure that the Paddington departure is at least 2 hours after your flight arrival, to give you plenty of time to pass though immigation, baggage retrieval and customs.

After clearing immigration, follow the Trains signs, and hop on the Heathrow Express. This leaves every 15 minutes, and the journey time to Paddington is also 15 minutes. If you have time available get a first flavour of Cornwall by enjoying a pasty at the West Cornwall Pasty company situated on the concourse.

The journey from Paddington to Truro is about 4 hours. On arrival at Truro, transfer to the Falmouth train on the adjoining platform, and take the short journey to Falmouth Docks, where you will be met by an MEI representative, who will transfer you to your hotel.

Enjoy the journey- we never tire of it!!

Updated 29th January 2015

1 comment:

  1. There's a good YouTube clip from the BBC series 'Coast' which features the train track at Dawlish. It's well worth a watch if you're going to get the train down to Cornwall.


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