When we visited Sennen Cove and Porthgwarra last week we drove down some small and narrow roads. Whilst we struggled with passing tractors and navigating the tight bends we discovered that we weren’t alone – the Atlantic Coaster was doing the same thing. The Atlantic Coasters are open top buses that drive 4 routes around the coast of Cornwall. You can find out more about the Atlantic Coaster routes here. We couldn’t believe that a double-decker bus was driving along these tight, narrow lanes and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to view the journey from the top of the bus.
I came home and decided to suss out the buses and routes to see where they went. I discovered that a route could take me to various beach locations and places of interest so on Saturday I took myself off to Penzance and boarded the A1 open top bus.
The A1 bus route starts at Penzance bus station. The bus station is next to the rail station and I parked my car here as it had the most reasonable parking charges for a weekend. I had a quick peek at the train station as I’d never been in it before and was curious given it’s the end of the line. The train/bus station car park is also home to the Penzance Tourist Information Centre which has tonnes of leaflets, postcards and local knowledge; you can also book tickets for local events, including tickets to see a show at the awesome Minack Theatre.
After waiting at the bus station and trying to work out which stand was which the bus arrived. I boarded and brought my day ticket. Day tickets are £12 and include unlimited travel on any of the First Kernow buses, including the Atlantic Coaster ones. I made a beeline for the upstairs and got a seat in the fresh open air. The bus starts by going through Penzance town centre and you wind through the small streets of shops before passing through Newlyn, Sheffield and the cute village of St Buryan. Note, who knew there was a place called Sheffield in Cornwall – not me, I wondered for a split second where this bus was taking me! The views of the countryside, fields of cows and quaint little villages are lovely as the driver navigates you along the winding country lanes. There were quite a few times when cars had to squeeze past the bus or the bus had to reverse for tractors – rather them than me!
The bus continues on through Treen to Porthcurno beach. The bus pulls right into the beach car park and drops you off opposite the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. I decided to get off here so I could take a trip to the beach and check it out. I have seen it a couple of times from above when I have visited the Minack Theatre but as it is a beach listed on my Cornwall Beach Challenge I wanted to see it properly.
The walk down to the beach is about 10 minutes from the car park along a sandy track with a small set of stairs at the end to reach the sand. The beach is beautiful and sandy and lifeguarded in the summer so perfect for a quick swim or surf. It was quite an overcast day but there will still groups on the beach enjoying the views and making the most of the warmer sea. I walked across the beach to the steps that go up to the Minack. I decided not to climb them because not only did they look steep but I was strapped for time before the next hourly bus.
I made my way back to the car park and thought I would check out the Telegraph Museum entrance and gardens. I didn’t want to pay the £8.95 entry fee as I didn’t have long until the bus was due but I have on good authority from my big sister that it’s worth a look round – so maybe one day! There were so nice gardens to wander around and I enjoyed taking photos of some nice colourful flowers as I waited for the bus to arrive.
I wasn’t the only one waiting for the bus – there were quite a few groups of tourists, lots of different accents could be heard, even more so when people got increasingly frustrated the later the bus got! It also started to rain which I don’t think helped peoples moods! However, it wasn’t going to dampen my spirits! The bus finally arrived, 45 minutes behind schedule and everyone pilled on. Despite the light rain I wanted to sit upstairs and make the view of the open air views. It was rather windy and blustery as the bus made its way along the rest of the route to Lands End so I’d advise taking an extra later or jacket if the weather isn’t tip-top.
The bus takes about 20 minutes from Porthcurno to Lands End but the views along the way keep you occupied and make it feel much quicker. On arrival at Lands End, I was pleased to bypass the very pricey parking fee and be dropped off by the bus in the coach park. The coach park is about a 5-minute walk from the grand entrance of Lands End and you walk along the path adjacent to lovely fields of purple hedge-land.
I have mixed feelings about Land’s End which you can read more about here; it’s a strange mix of beautiful natural coastline combined with over touristy and commercial money-making attractions.
After exploring and having some well-deserved lunch (a chicken pasty and mocha) I went back to the coach park to wait for the next bus. By this time it was roughly 5pm and I had planned to get the A3 bus onto St Ives to explore more around there before returning to Penzance. However, the A1 bus direct to Penzance came first and I decided to get on that instead – it was getting colder and I didn’t really have enough time to spend going to St Ive’s (well over an hour on the bus) and then getting off and exploring before waiting another hour for the bus and then the journey back to Penzance. Not forgetting I had to drive home from Penzance at the other end. I resigned myself to the fact I would just have to come back another day and do the St Ives route!
On the bus ride back to Penzance I again decided to sit on the top deck but undercover this time and the rain had returned. I sat next to a lovely lady from Sheffield (the proper one in Yorkshire this time!) who told me about how she and her husband were walking the whole of the South West Coastal Path over different sections and holidays. Whilst it sounded tiring and like hard work, it also sounded fun and a good way to explore the South West’s gorgeous coastline – something to plan for when I’m retired!!
I returned to Penzance and got off the bus feeling like I had experienced something different and made the most of the day pass. I enjoyed the open top experience and would recommend it – the nerve-racking and awkward passing of traffic on the narrow lanes and the overhanging trees bashing into your face as you drive past just adds to the whole experience!
Have you taken a ride on one of the new upgraded Atlantic Coaster buses? Where did you stop off? Let me know your thoughts below!