19 May 2012
And we’re off! Over the next 70 days we will be devoting our blog to uncovering the Torch Relay Route. We’ll be in front, behind, neck and neck and at times running along either side of the torch as it makes it ways across the country, celebrating the sights, sounds and smells that the UK has to offer. We will blog every 3-4 days during the Torch Relay, highlighting places of interest in the area through which the Torch is about to pass and flagging up interesting stories and local sites for you to discover.
The London 2012 Olympic Torch over the next few days will be Cornwall and Devon, areas renowned for their distinct regional identity, but also for belonging to the ‘Wild West’ of the UK, with rugged coastlines and windswept fields waiting to be explored. In fact, the start of the Torch Relay route at Land’s End is particularly apt, both in reflecting the frontier-like character of this part of the UK and in symbolising the long journey that lies ahead for the 8,000 Torchbearers over the next 70 days. From the Land’s End signpost the torch will travel 8,000 miles across the UK, taking in some of the UK’s most spectacular landmarks. We’ll be following the Torch Relay route’s progress and highlighting the lesser-known sites that you can discover after lining the streets to welcome the Torch as it passes through your community or after enjoying many of the local London 2012 celebrations happening up and down the country.
So we begin our search for the UK’s unique places on the most southerly point of the country. If you happen to be watching the Torch Relay from Penzance then you can’t miss the iconic St Michael’s Mount. Situated along the coastline, the Mount is not only a famous centre of spiritual heritage and mythology but also uniquely symbolizes Cornish identity. If you are in the Penzance area after the start of the Torch Relay you can also pay a visit to a unique feature on Cornwall’s coastline – the Jubilee Bathing Pool. As the new Olympic Park Aquatics Centre that has been designed by world-famous architect Zaha Hadid takes to the stage later this summer, why not hold your own swimming competition in a pool that was also celebrated for its daring design in the 1930s? This blue and white lido offers the perfect opportunity to work on that back-stroke and enjoy the pool’s views of Cornwall’s fantastic coastline. The Jubilee Pool will be open again in June, so save your swim for a few weeks’ time.
As the torch wends its way through Southern Cornwall it will pass through the coastal city of Falmouth, famous for its maritime heritage, stunning coastal views and the Olympic Gold Medallist Ben Ainslie. One heritage site near the Torch Relay route that is worth a visit if you are a military history or castle enthusiast is St. Mawe’s Castle. Built by Henry VIII in 1545 and attacked during the English Civil War, this Tudor time capsule is a fun and educational day out for the whole family. A little further along from Falmouth stands a famous surfers’ spot, Newquay. If you are watching the Torch pass through the town just after midday, why not spend the afternoon strolling around Newquay’s Japanese Garden and Bonsai Nursery? This exotic haven of peace and tranquillity is a more relaxing alternative to the surfing (and partying) scene at Newquay. With its Zen Gardens, idyllic water features and colourful foliage, such as Japanese Maples and bamboo plants, this is the perfect place to relax and take in the beauty of the Far East, perhaps on your way to discover more plantlife at the Eden Project in nearby St Austell.
On Day 2 of the Torch Relay Route, the Olympic Flame continues its journey through the South West of England. The torch will depart the city of Plymouth in the morning and pass by defining features of the city’s skyline, such as the Wheel of Plymouth, the Historic Harbour and the Plymouth Life Centre (a new sports arena and a Torch Relay stop). A hidden gem located in the heart of city is the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, where you can enjoy a wide range of exhibitions, from local maritime history to decorative Chinese porcelain. The Museum’s ‘Explore Nature’ exhibit may even inspire you to take part in identifying your own animal and plant species at one of the Meet the Species events happening in the South West this summer.
Carrying on the nature theme, Devon is home to many areas of outstanding natural beauty, with a number of walking trails helping you explore beautiful bays, small fishing villages and ancient woodlands. If you are based in Dartmouth during the Torch Relay route, then you could always spend an afternoon rambling along the Dart Valley Walking Trail. In total, the Walking Trail is 16 miles long, with different sections to suit all hiking abilities. These pathways run through ancient woodland, past amazing wildlife and alongside the tranquil River Dart – a perfect way to see the variety of places that Devon has to offer.
We hope you enjoy exploring the delights of Cornwall and Devon over the weekend – we’ll be back on Monday with more top tips for places to visit along the Torch Relay route in the South West.
Post by Katy, Discovering Places.
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