Bars and cars, moors and tors, coast paths and wild swimming

and more travel drama!

Here’s the third and final post about our summer travels.

The last part of the trip was to Devon, England – the country, but not the county, of my birth – to visit family and also to see Dartmoor and the South West Coast Path. We left Finland on a Wednesday, changing planes in Stockholm, arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport and were dealt an instant dose of culture shock. Heathrow airport essentially barely functions. There were three lifts down to the rental car shuttle bus stand, and a huge queue in front of just one of them. It seems the old British maxim “if you see a queue, join it” has lived on well past its origin during wartime rationing. The shuttle bus turned up, already almost full. Just as we were about to board, a middle-aged couple (yes, my age) came running up from completely the wrong place.

“We were here before you. We’ve been waiting half an hour. It’s our turn.”

Whatever. The next shuttle came in 5 minutes and was empty.

Google maps had us take a windy, at times single lane, road past wild ponies and sheep to our AirBnB  in the heart of Dartmoor. We noticed a great looking country pub just down the road, so after checking in we walked on down for a pint and some dinner. A motor coach had pulled up, and about 50 seniors (yes, yes, I know, I’m the same age as old people) were eating in the coach house. It turns out the pub was now a farm-to-table gastro pub. As we walked through the door, we were greeted with a blast of heat from a roaring fire over which were cooking enormous slabs of regeneratively farmed meat. An admirable idea, but hardly sustainable in those quantities. The bartender, who turned out to be a New Zealander, was great. He let us know we’d be able to order food in while, and that there were vegan options. I opted for a pint of cask-conditioned bitter. Now, I know Brits like their beer warm, but there are limits. The cask was set on the bar not six feet from the fire, and the wet rag on top was not doing much to keep it cool. Ah well.

We sat outside. A number of the coach party wandered out to escape the heat. One couple made a beeline for us, wanting to talk to a couple of what they presumed to be locals. They were Jim and Renee from Minnesota. The whole coach party was American, covering the whole of the British Isles by bus in three weeks. We chatted with them for a while, and then turned to a younger couple next to us. They were from Montreal. We managed an entire evening in a British pub without talking to a single Brit!

The following day, Thursday, we drove down through some more narrow roads to Hope Cove on Devon’s south coast. From there, we hiked a chunk of the South West Coast Path, the path featured in Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path and ‘s The Electricity of Every Living Thing. We hiked out to Bolberry Down and back. The scenery was stunning. Afterwards we went for a swim at the cove where the water temperature was an acceptable 64 degrees.

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