Doyden Castle

Port Quin, Cornwall

Port Quin

 

In the early 19th century about 90 people lived in Port Quin, most of them fishing for pilchard, mining lead or getting plastered with Symons. Today, the National Trust owns almost all of the village's remaining stone cottages and rents them as holiday homes.

Port Quin was abandoned on two occasions, once when the pilchards failed and once when all the men were drowned at sea and is still sometimes referred to as the "Village that died", because late one stormy night, sometime in the 19th century, the entire male population were drowned at sea whilst out fishing. The women of the village were unable to continue without their men folk, their hardship became intolerable and Port Quin was left deserted, with the fishermen's cottages falling into disrepair, ruin and the sea.  You can still see the fish cellars there today. But the Port is now mainly a tourist spot with a scattering of National Trust properties and a couple of private dwellings. It is also rumoured that Viking longboats came ashore here and apparently, the remains of one that was buried, are here about.

Built as a retreat by Chelmsford prison governor Herbert Latimer Conor in 1900, Doyden House is divided into four self-contained apartments. A coal fire, comfy chairs and beds and a fully equipped kitchen make Doyden comfortably isolated. If a TV, books, games and each other aren't entertainment enough, you could be in the wrong place. With no shops, & not even a pub, Port Quin's social scene has been in remission since Symons' demise.

However, Doyden's location on the South West Coast Path (also maintained by the National Trust) makes it ideal for families and walkers. Six kilometres west is one of Britain's best surfing beaches at Polzeath. Grey seals bask off the oddly named "Rumps" headland and puffins frequent nearby Mouls island in summer.

Celtic history pervades Cornwall's physical and human landscape. Cornish, or Kernewek, is an ancient language unique to Cornwall (Kernow) and still spoken by a few. It's evident to visitors in place names like Trelissick, Bohetherick, Bohortha and Inglewidden Vean - guaranteed to trip up phonetically challenged rookies.

Buoyed by recent concessions granted to Scottish nationalists, Cornwall's own nationalist Mebyon Kernow (Party for Cornwall) has made its demands heard for self-rule and a legislative assembly. Radicals claim the last foreign force to invade Britain was not William the Conqueror's men in 1066, but a Cornish army protesting a 15th-century version of the poll tax.

With a 3,000-year-old tin mining tradition all but wiped out by pit closures in recent years, Cornwall is anxious to hold on to its remaining economic mainstays -- fishing and tourism. Thanks to agencies like the National Trust, visitors will continue to come and enjoy themselves. Samuel Symons would approve.