A few months ago I bought a classic car. A 1974 MGB GT, to be exact. It’s blue, with chrome bumpers, wire wheels and a sunroof and I think it’s brilliant.
The real question, however, is whether the MG would be brilliant enough to make it down to Cornwall on Friday, along steep coastal roads, and back to London in time for work on Monday morning.
The route down to Dartmoor was pretty clear, and we arrived at Langstone Manor Park just before lunch. The MG behaved all the way there, which was a surprise; I was fairly certain we were going to end up camping on the hard shoulder of the A303.
Our home for the weekend was a little wooden pod, complete with a mini-heater. Langstone Manor Park lay right on the edge of Dartmoor, and we walked across the moor for a couple of miles in the afternoon. It was a great afternoon drinking from trickling brooks, making ‘baa’ noises at sheep and becoming increasingly wary of a group of menacing cows.
Dartmoor is a beautiful, completely unspoilt moor. We drove around in the MG, engine roaring with the roof back and the roads to ourselves, bar the odd sheep. The best thing about Dartmoor is that there’s barely anything there: a few small towns, a prison and a couple of bridges made of rocks. The rest is untouched, natural moorland covered in gorse, heather, rocky outcrops and bubbling springs. It’s wilderness exactly how it should be.
The next day, after a night in the pod, we woke up, cooked beans and sausages over our little camping stove and planned the next stage of the road trip. First stop, Bude.
This pretty seaside town was busy by the time we arrived, with surfers, families and elderly people enjoying the sun. We parked the MG then walked up to the grassy cliffs. The sea breeze was refreshing after spending the last few weeks commuting on the tube; London in warm weather gets very hot and airless, and the cool Cornish air was exactly what we needed. It’s difficult to beat seafood by the coast; we went to a cafe looking out over Summerleaze Beach and had lunch, watching other tourists fend off peckish seagulls.
Padstow is probably most famous for its links with chef Rick Stein, who opened his first seafood restaurant here in the 1970s (you’ll never guess what he called it). Since then, the Stein name has ended up over many buildings around the pretty little seaside village.
Every shop in Padstow sells fish, pasties or ice cream. As it was a nice afternoon, we opted for the latter and wandered around the quay, where children fished in the harbour with fishing line and little buckets. The tide was out, and we stood by the sea wall looking across the flats of sand in the bay dotted with lobster pots.
I’m not a particular fan of Arthurian legend (some chap pulled a sword out of a stone and his mate had a round table?), but Tintagel made for a good break between Bude and Padstow. We parked near the castle, scoffed at the entry fee and instead wandered down the hill towards the cove. The turquoise water was lapping at the beach, and children were clambering over the rocks at the entrance to Merlin’s Cave. Merlin, in case you weren’t aware, chose to live in a damp cave prone to flooding, despite being capable of performing magic.
Sunday afternoon meant we needed to return home, so we packed up the MG and set off towards London, stopping at a few friends’ houses along the way. Late on Sunday, we arrived back in Kew, and as we pulled up to our house the trip meter clicked over to 600 miles. The MG was superb throughout the trip, and coped equally well with winding narrow roads, fast dual carriageways, Dartmoor hills and London traffic. Not bad for a car from 1974.