‘A rollicking account of a walking tour around Cornwall in 1850 … to “the savage regions beyond” Plymouth’
It was not only intended to be used as a guidebook, but Wilkie Collins’s Rambles Beyond Railways (1851) is written with the kind of precision you’ll find in any of the later Shell or Blue guides. It’s a rollicking account of a walking tour he took around Cornwall in August 1850, aged 26, when he travelled to ‘the savage regions beyond’ Plymouth, where the railways had not yet reached (although they were only just behind him).
He was rowed from Devonport to St Germans by an expansively inebriated shrimper, and he hiked from village to town, along the coast, strolling along the tops of the thick stone walls (as we still can), dining on pies, cream and lobsters, trying to find Cornish speakers, looking for ghosts, becoming almost indecently excited about the prospect of Land’s End (which he then couldn’t find without a guide). We don’t have that problem today, what with the car park and hyperactive gift shops, but much of the rest of Rambles is as fresh and informative as it ever was.
I have wriggled through the same caves at Kynance Cove, followed Wilkie to Tintagel and Helston (‘the dullest of towns’)
I have wriggled through the same caves at Kynance Cove, followed Wilkie to Tintagel and Helston (‘the dullest of towns’, he sniffed), stood on the Cheesewring (where the view, if you squint out the pylons, is just as he described) and caressed the same standing stones…