Driving Around Cornwall

Yes, I'm on the right, and I have no clue where the left edge of the car is!

So, we finally did it.  After more than a year and a half in this country, we finally drove a car on the wrong (er, I mean left) side of the road!  As part of the long weekend trip to Cornwall, we planned to “hire” a car for 24 hours to see some of the country and to get us to and from the Minack Theatre (more on that in a separate post from Astrid).

The results?  Well, in short, it was both easier and harder than I expected.  All along I was worried that my impulse/instinctual reaction would be to swing the car to the right –  into the path of oncoming traffic!  The good news is that, as I had been promised by others, that was not a problem at all.  Not once did I have an urge to move the car to the right, and not once did I turn into the incorrect side of the road.

The problem was judging the left side of the car; I had absolutely no clue where it was, and as a result tested out a few curbs, and Astrid was sweating it in the passenger seat as we passed perhaps a bit too close to some objects (like parked cars and centuries-old stone walls) on the right.  I do believe, however, that this was mostly due to the “car” we got.

Unfortunately, we got stuck with this huge monstrosity, which didn't help matters at all!

So, let me try to explain briefly what happened.  I reserved an intermediate-sized 4-door sedan with an automatic transmission for 9am on Friday.  However, Enterprise failed to deliver; they did not have such a car available, and after first promising it at 11:30 they didn’t show up to pick us up until just after 12, and we wound up having to drive with the Enterprise guy nearly an hour north (out of our way) to liberate the above monster truck from a field next to a tent on some farm.  This was after a few failed attempts by the Enterprise guy to locate it – damn this country with no street numbers (the address was something like Rose Haven, Cornwall, England – very helpful).

I tried to drive a hard bargain and at least succeeded in getting 25% off the price, but was also told that we’d still have to return the car before noon on Saturday because that’s when they close (and otherwise we’d be stuck at the Enterprise office, which is a couple of miles at least outside of the town).  So, we tried to make the best of it and set off from the middle of nowhere to drive down the coast.

The route we drove on Friday - from near Newquay all along the coast, through St. Ives, to Land's End. All in a really big vehicle on really small roads!

The real problem was  the road width; in sections where the road had a center line that I could hug, it was ok.  But in lots of places there was no center line, because the road wasn’t wide enough to mark it, and in more than a few places the road was barely wide enough for one car!  In those cases, when someone was coming the other way, I had no sense at all of how far over I could go to the left.  Believe it or not, there are at least a few double-decker buses roaming around these roads too (including the open-top Route 300 Cornwall Explorer) – luckily we didn’t ever meet one of those, or it could have been really ugly!

This was a wider section, and one of those with such a green canopy that it was almost dark along the road!

Not only were the roads narrow, but of course there are no shoulders either.  Most of the roads were very tightly buffered by what looked like a hedge of green…we found out (by looking, not by bumping into, luckily!) that these were mostly stone walls that are so old that they have become completely covered in vegetation.  In one spot, there was a little rise next to the side of the road with a cow virtually hanging over the road!

Overall, though, the payoff was well worth it, as we enjoyed these spectacular views. And we learned to INSIST on a small car next time.  I am confident enough, though, that I think we can hire a car and tour the more remote parts of the country (as well as Ireland), and I wasn’t quite ready to say that before last weekend.

Sections of rocky cliffs, reminding us a bit of that amazing drive down Route1 from SF to LA...

...and attractive meadows and rolling hills at the oceanside. There were lots more sights, of course, but we were too busy holding on and watching the road to get pictures!


Posted on 03/08/2011, in Exploring the UK, Silly British Things, Transit, travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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