We have worked really hard on getting up to speed on our new working roles in England. So hard, in fact, that there has been precious little time for us to travel and see the beautiful country that the good Lord has brought us to. So feeling that we needed to get away from the pressure of our jobs for a bit, and taking advantage of the Queen’s sad passing and a national holiday, we took a trip to what is called the West Country: Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall and Devon.

We started in Bath in Somerset, where we stayed at the Old Mill just outside of town. Warned about the impossibility of driving in town, we took the bus in ostensibly to see what remained of the Jane Austin Festival. There wasn’t much to see that we could afford, but the town itself was delightful, with a lovely cathedral, pleasant riverside walkways and plenty of genteel local colour. Walking tours were free, but our garrulous guide kept getting lost, both geographically and mentally, so we opted out and settled for a personal walkabout instead. Dinner back at the Old Mill was most pleasant.

The following day we drove to Wells, an unprepossessing town with a most impressive cathedral featuring a stunning open archway to the sacristy. Outside the cathedral, we strolled through the gardens and market stalls before heading on to Glastonbury. On the way we saw a most curious structure on top of what is locally called a tor, or mound. Intrigued, we stopped to climb the 500 plus feet to the top only to discover the remains of a church reputedly established by St. Patrick on his return from Ireland. Local lore has it that the surrounding area was the site of King Arthur’s legendary realm.

That may be myth, but the reality is that Glastonbury has developed a reputation as the site of all that is mystical and otherworldly. Beside hosting the annual Glastonbury Festival – England’s answer to America’s Woodstock – the town was full of wonderfully weird and wacky shops and we spent a delightful afternoon there before returning once again to the Old Mill.

Then we made the longish drive from Somerset through Devon down to Cornwall and the beautiful little seaside town of St. Ives where we found, wonder of wonders, an actual sandy beach. It looked so inviting that the following day we braved the waves up to our knees. However, losing the feeling in our feet from the icy water was enough to convince us that we might be best to leave that dip for warmer weather.

The town of St. Ives could have been plucked from any Italian travelogue. The streets were sunny and wonderfully serpentine with little art and craft shops as befits such a destination. We stayed in grand hotel that overlooked the town and splurged on a lovely meal in the evening. It had been a steep climb down into town and back up again, but the day was once again crisp and clean in the sunny Fall air and it felt so good to be exploring England at last.

The following day we drove to Land’s End where our walk down to the cliff edge was rewarded by the sight of a large pod of dolphins cavorting in the bay. We sat entranced. A few more miles down the road brought us to the site of the Minack Theatre, unfortunately closed for the weekend, much to our chagrin. We did spot another lovely sandy cove below the theatre that we have put on our ‘must return’ list. We took the shortest route back to our hotel, as the coastal route had proved tortuous in the extreme.

Then it was off again, this time to Plymouth to see the harbour where those famous colonists had set out so long ago and where Sir Francis Drake had defended the realm and the honour of the first Queen Elizabeth who would not yield her crown to the Spanish king. Then, after an almost impossibly difficult search and drive, we arrived at Greenwood, Agatha Christie’s retreat in the county of Devon. We walked through the gardens and the home, filled with the mementos collected in a lifetime of travels with her husband Sir Max Mallowan. We stayed the night in Torquay, a miserable and seedy little town on the coast that might at one time have been worth visiting. The lesson? Don’t believe all you read in the guide books.

However, the next day, and our last, more than made up for that temporary setback. We were disappointed we didn’t have time to explore Corfe Castle more than we did, for it has a spectacular setting and a rich history. We did manage a Starbucks coffee at Lyme Regis, the only one we had seen on our travels.

But I was eager to get to Worth Matravers, the site of one of the most important radar installations of the war and the place where my parents met, courted, and married. The Winspit Quarry where they loved to walk can been seen as a location in the new Andor – Star Wars series. The Norman church of St. Nicholas where they married is one of the best preserved in all of England, virtually unchanged since 1100 AD when it was built. And the Square and Compass where they met for drinks and spent their wedding night was a delightfully iconic British pub. We had a pint in honour of our parents who had met and married in such dire circumstances and yet forged such durable marriages.

We covered a lot of ground in five days and are now more determined than ever to explore further this lovely country where we are fortunate enough to reside for this little term. For those who haven’t yet been, the county of Cornwall was surprisingly lovely with gentle rolling hills and spectacular views of the sea. When the weather is warmer, we must return.