Follow Me To: A Devon & Cornwall Road Trip

Plymouth Hoe at sunset with a girl posing in front of the lighthouse

Hey Owlets,

I feel like I'm back in 2017 as I write these words but it's time for a good old-fashioned "Follow Me To" post. If you're a fairly recent member of The Owlet family you probably have no idea what this is, but my entire blogging career started with me writing travel diaries and sharing where I've been. In all honesty I phased them out a few years ago because I was told that people only read blogs for advice; well as much as I enjoy writing tips posts, I do miss my diary-style posts and having spoken to you on Twitter and Instagram it turns out you do too! Given that we're all in need of a bit of escapism right now I thought this would be the perfect time to bring them back. So, let's chat about what I got up to on our recent trip to Plymouth.

The first thing I have to say is that travelling during a pandemic, even within the UK, is weird. Our first trip was to Wales (we were there to review a hotel so obviously that blog post is on hold until you can actually visit Wales again) where the rules were different so we didn't' notice too much difference, but England is much stricter and it wasn't until we were stopped at the entrance to our hotel for not wearing a mask that the penny dropped (I'm planning an article on the changes to expect soon, but escapism comes first obviously!). If you've been following me for a while then you'll know I have two sides - one where everything is planned to the second, and the other where I just rock up with no preparation. This trip fell into the latter category and we found ourselves in Plymouth (known for being a university city) on Fresher's Week - it was hell.

Icecream at sunset overlooking the sea in Plymouth

I can't lie - our only reason for choosing to stay in Plymouth was that there was somewhere to stay. I've genuinely never seen anything like it - I searched "Cornwall" on for our week off and there wasn't a single place available, and it was almost the same story for Devon. I actually regret not taking a screenshot because I'm sure no one will believe me! Our options in Devon were Bournemouth (which was reporting a huge spike in Covid cases at the time) or Plymouth which was on the boarder with Cornwall and central to drive from, which is why we chose it. Not knowing anything about the city other than there was a pretty lighthouse in a park somewhere, we checked into our hotel and headed out for a wander in time to watch the sunset in Hoe Park (where said lighthouse is). We weren't at all prepared for what was there - as we walked over the crest of the hill we were confronted with a sea of people (it was at this point that the penny dropped about Freshers Week), but we still managed to find somewhere socially distanced to sit down and even had an ice cream on the seafront. 

It actually set the tone perfectly for the chaos of our first evening - it turns out that everywhere in Plymouth serves squid, gluten or both so we spent 2 hours just walking around looking for somewhere to eat dinner. We even went to Rockfish which is a chain of restaurants across Devon after having an amazing meal in their Torquay restaurant, only to find that they couldn't guarantee it would be squid-free either. In the end I took a gluten tablet and we ate a hot dog before trying to find a seat in several overcrowded and overpriced bars around the marina. We ended up giving up, buying a bottle of wine in Tesco Express and sat drinking from teacups in our hotel room and watched a film - not the classiest of getaways but I didn't even mind. We just laughed at our total fail as we poured another glass of luke-warm rosé.

Becky stood on the beach in Looe, Cornwall in the sunshine

Our second day was thankfully much less stressful - we knew exactly what we wanted to do and had the best day. First of all we headed to Looe in Cornwall. It's a place I spent a lot of time in on family holidays when I was younger so I wanted to show Jack around. It was hell. I navigated Jack to "the usual carpark" which was full - it then took 5 minutes to drive back out again because there were so many people walking around. I've genuinely never seen such a busy place. We contemplated just leaving but having driven all this way we wanted to make the best of it so we just wore our masks the whole time we were there and tried to stick to the smaller side streets to avoid people. It was really strange because the second we got to the beach at the end of the town, everyone disappeared. It meant we were able to relax and enjoy the sunshine on the beach without worrying about anything else. We then managed to find a fish and chip shop that did gluten free batter AND didn't serve squid - thinking we weren't likely to be able to eat much when we got back to Plymouth we treated ourselves to lunch out and it was one of the best meals ever (even if we had to run back to the car with full stomachs when the parking ran out!!).

Since me and Jack got together I've not stopped talking about the place where I held my first owl in Cornwall, and it turned out that it was only an hour away from Plymouth and 40 mins from Looe so he insisted on going (so many brownie points won here!). After our seaside lunch we jumped back in the car and continued our road trip to Screech Owl Sanctuary in Indian Queens where we had an amazing afternoon, only improved by the fact that first owl I ever held was still alive, healthy & living at the sanctuary! They weren't able to do any handling sessions because of Covid, but they made the flying demonstrations longer to make up for it, and the handler saw me with my camera so instructed the owl to land on the bench next to me - it honestly made my day and I didn't shut up about it all evening. They also still ran the "close encounters" section where they talk about a few of the different owls they have and then allow you to stroke them. They had the most beautiful owl I've ever seen, which they explained was a crossbreed - you would never get that in the wild so this owl was one-of-a-kind. I know that I've written a lot about an owl sanctuary but when the entire world is a mess I can't tell you how happy it made me to go back to somewhere I visited more than 5 years ago and find it unchanged by something that's bulldozed the rest of the planet.

An owl at Screech Owl Sanctuary in Indian Queens, Cornwall

We ended up staying at the sanctuary until closing time then drove back to Plymouth. I can't lie - we got back to the hotel at around 5pm and had a nap. I don't even know why we were so tired! I think we're just not used to being busy anymore. We headed back out just before 7pm for another trek up to Hoe Park to watch the sunset at sea again, and it was even more beautiful (and more importantly peaceful!!) the second day. After the disaster of trying to find somewhere for dinner the night before we made sure to do our research. We found a Persian takeaway which sounded amazing, so we thought we would walk to get that then eat in the park as it was another stunning evening. As we arrived at the "takeaway" we realised that they'd messed up the listing on Google, and instead we were greeted by a beautifully bright coloured restaurant. The food was incredible - we ended up staying there for a few hours and it was the perfect end to an amazing day. 

The next morning was our last day and I wasn't at all ready to go home. As comfy as our hotel room was, we wanted to make the most of our last few hours before returning to normality, so we checked out early, grabbed breakfast at a local cafe and ate it in Hoe Park so we could enjoy the view one more time. After that we jumped in the car and headed home via Torquay, which was honestly one of my favourite parts of the trip for a very special reason. Throughout the pandemic several cruise ships have sought shelter in Torbay, and they've become somewhat of a tourist attraction. This is where my level of nerdiness paid off - I looked at Marine Traffic (the website that I use to track ships) and matched that to the map on my phone to work out where we would get the best view. 

P&O Venture at anchor off the coast of Torquay, Devon in September

It turned out that the best place was Babbacome, right by the funicular railway (the little carriages that use water pressure to go up hills, in case you're wondering). I almost feel guilty admitting how excited I was to see the ships, but after almost a year without cruising just seeing them made me so happy. P&O Cruises' Azura was at anchor in the bay which made my day as I sat there being reminded of the incredible time we had on board. There's a certain feeling of excitement bubbling in your stomach when you drive to the port and see your new floating home for the first time, and I got that familiar feeling when I saw them in Torbay, although admittedly it was bittersweet. We didn't actually do much in Torquay - we just took some photos of the cruise ships, got our last icecream of the trip and sat in the sunshine chatting, before having to admit that we needed to get home.

I know that two nights in a budget hotel in Plymouth doesn't compare to a cruise, but this year it does. At the end of the day I love cruises because they provide an escape from real life for a while, and if there was ever a time that I needed that it was now. When you're stuck in the house 24/7 with the same routine and no end in sight or nothing to look forward to, it's really easy to start to feel negative. My positive mindset had definitely packed up and left a few weeks before this trip, so having a few days to get away from real life, escape and reset was everything I needed and I'm so grateful for that.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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