Artists and travellers have been attracted to Cornwall for centuries for the natural quality of its lights. The strong winds and lashings of rain which breeze in off the ocean, wash away all particles and pollutants and leave a crystal clear sky which bathes the dramatic landscape in a sharp, crisp light. This is one of the main reasons holidaymakers love Cornwall and why it is so popular with artists of all abilities.
The county of Cornwall has long been associated with artists and great works of art. St Ives is most famous when it comes to art, thanks to the landscape painters who hailed here and the presence of the Tate St Ives art gallery. Other artistic hotspots include Penzance with its great galleries and the historic Newlyn School of Art, as well as Falmouth with its modern day College of Art.
Another big draw for artists is Mousehole just along the coast from Penzance and Lands End. I followed one of these roads along the coast, which was effectively a narrow passage of twists and turns surrounded by steep slopes. Brave trees lined the steep banks, clinging dangerously close to the sheer edge of the cliff.
The hot summer sun burned down from above, shining on the tranquil ocean. This road must be one of the fines in Cornwall, if not the UK. The views are outstanding. Across the sea St Michael’s Mount stood proud, a historic castle guarding the bay.
It was not long much further down the road that I arrived in Mousehole. As I entered the village the road narrowed further, just wide enough for one small vehicle or a couple of bikes. Everywhere seemed to be a little cramped and confined. It was if the houses were perched on top of one another in a tumbledown formation. Mousehole is a very tight spot not really suited to traffic. Driving here was making me very nervous indeed.
The best way to discover this location was by foot so I left the car at the first opportunity. Tight cobbled streets snaked through the buildings, down to the scenic harbour with its incredible views over Mount’s Bay.
On my way through the village I passed at least 4 artists, working at easels with their paint brushes in hand. One of these artists was sat in a quiet lane trying to record the intimacy of this tranquil Cornish fishing village. This artist was a middle-aged woman who was obviously well practiced at painting landscapes. I stood behind her quietly and watched in awe as she went about her work paining the Mousehole scenery with amazing skill.
I carried on walking towards the harbour and a little beach, thinking that I will check on the artists later to enjoy her finished masterpiece. A gentle slope led to a modest area of golden beach enclosed by the historic harbour walls. Fishing boats lay on the sand waiting for the tide to come in again. Children paddled and swam in the sea in this idyllic Cornish scene.
Just above the beach was an old pub which looked like it had been there for centuries. The pub stood guard over the harbour and must be a beacon for returning fishermen. Inside, the low beams and maze of corridors made the place seem very olde worlde. The old fashioned bar was festooned with images of fishermen in days gone by. I ordered a pint of the local ale and soaked up the atmosphere of this historic establishment.
A few hours later I returned to my car and drove out of Mousehole. But this characterful village has stayed with me ever since. Mousehole is so traditionally Cornish, with deep-rooted fishing community it as if it has stood still in time. I shall certainly return to this beautiful location again some day.