The big news is that Cornwall isn't full -- yet! All the information I'm getting up 'til now (July) is that Cornwall is, if anything, under-booked. All the horror stories seem to have put people off. So, if you haven't found a place yet, don't give up!

This page contains the most recent news from Cornwall. Older News is archived separately.

The BBC has a special news siteEclipse latest - South West UK
The BBC's section on the total solar eclipse of 11 August 1999. (BBC)
for the eclipse, with a lot of interesting information.

How Big a Rush?

As I said above, right now, Cornwall is not full. The problem is that there's no sensible way to predict how many people will join in the Eclipse Rush at the last minute.

Cornwall handles about 300,000 visitors in a normal August. (Bear in mind that Devon has far greater capacity.) Pretty much everything there -- hospitals, food supplies, busses, car parks, etc. -- is geared towards the normal population. The water supply, in particular, is often severely stressed in summer, and the roads cope only with difficulty; informed opinion is that the county can take no more than 2 million visitors at maximum. So there's certainly potential for big problems.

However, the warnings may have been overdone, as Bevan Craddock points out:

A friend of mine living in the depths of Cornwall wrote me recently as follows:

"The eclipse is actually scaring off people from coming. Our village pub and campsite have no bookings at all and our B&B's have less bookings than usual. The problem is our eclipse coordinator keeps scaring people away with stories of hippy invasions, no drinking water and expensive accommodation.

"This may be true in the few 'honeypot' areas of Cornwall but it is hardly indicative of everywhere. Even the Cornish list on the internet is conspiring to keep people away. An American woman asked for advice on somewhere to stay for 6 weeks and was promptly told that it was pointless her coming due to the eclipse! Our pub landlord has a cottage that is empty and she could easily stay there."

Good old Tracey Dixon caught this:

Cornish Guardian -- March 18

... The Cornish tourist board has quizzed its 17,000 registered members and found accommodation providers, in different parts of the county, are experiencing verying levels of bookings for August. Those along the line of totality in the west of Cornwall are doing best, with 23 per cent of hotel, guest house and self catering accommodation still available in Penwith and Carrick. Kerrier has 38 per cent, North Cornwall 50 per cent, Carendon 67 per cent and Restormel 77 per cent availability as of last week.

Apparently all the fuss and bother has cut down on Cornwall's normal level of August bookings for that time of year.... so - yes, if you want to go, try and book, there is a good chance you can still find somewhere!!!

A lot of concern was raised over people in Cornwall raising prices too far and putting people off. Well, it looks like this concern was well-founded, as this more recent update shows:

Cornish Guardian May 13
Eclipse Bubble Bursts

The bubble has burst and the predicted fat profits are sliding away like lard on a hot skillet. Far from stampeding people into booking, the great Cornish Eclipse Crush has put people off...

There were stories of accommodation shortages - "Book early or miss your chance" - but more so of traffic jams, medical emergencies, water shortages, sewage overflows, even of the county being closed if it got too full...

Last week, a major holiday company admitted it "had got it's sums wrong"... so now they are knocking £250 a week off cottage lets and admitting: "We priced them too high". In other words the market couldn't bear it...

Even a £2,500 cut in the rent of one cottage has not produced a booking. These are not the only private owners who say bookings, far from soaring, are down on a normal year...


The accommodation situation is, of course, a potential bottleneck, and the advice has always been to book early if you want to get in. Now it seems like this message was taken too seriously! From Matthew Trewhella, on 24 March, comes this:

My parents farm was one of 122 applications for temporary planning permission. Only 13 applications were granted. The main reason for declined applications was because of potential water problems. Many of the approved sites were strictly limited to very small numbers which caused 4 potential sites to give up.

All nine licenced camp sites are currently only 25% booked! The negative publicity around the potential problems to be faced this summer combined with fears that it is now too late scared off most prospective visitors. Almost every booking we've recieved begins with the sentence "Just on the outside chance that you still have space..."

The news is that CORNWALL IS NOT FULL. Of course, spaces in Penwith are likely to fill rapidly after the release of the licenced sites (and the news that so few were licenced). Indeed, parts of Cornwall that are not in the best position have recieved 30% less bookings than normal - the regular holiday makers fear overcrowding and have decided against taking their normal holidays!

Eclipse co-ordinator Gage Williams had some comments along the same lines:

Cornish Guardian -- May 20
What Crisis Over Accommodation?

A new report says there is no cause for concern over the current state of accommodation bookings in Cornwall during the period of the total eclipse of the sun in August.

Conflicting reports have suggested either there is no accommodation to be had for the week of the eclipse, or that stories about high prices have frightened people off and bookings are down. However, according to the report by Gage Williams, county planning co-ordinator for the eclipse, the state of bookings is perfectly normal under the circumstances.

Mr Williams cites a survey conducted by students at Cornwall College, which confirmed there is still plenty of accommodation to be had throughout the county at normal or near normal prices for mid August. He says there are four main factors affecting demand for accommodation.

Firstly, children are interested in the eclipse because it is currently a popular topic for study in schools at the moment. Secondly, recent booking patterns suggest weather is affecting people's holiday plans and more holidays are being booked at the last minute or people turn up in the hope of finding somewhere with vacancies.

The third factor is that media coverage leading up to the event can be expected to lead to a flurry of bookings and finally, a lot of young people are expected as the eclipse falls in the middle of summer holidays.

Mr Williams concludes there would be cause for concern if the county was already fully booked up for the eclipse at this stage as bookings are expected to build up as August 11 approaches. However, he recommends people book early to avoid disappointment as demand for accommodation will increase nearer the time.

Travel Problems

The roads are always a problem in Cornwall in August, and over-hyping notwithstanding, this year certainly seems likely to be worse than normal.

Cornish Guardian -- May 6

... Several million information leaflets are being distributed at motorway service areas nationwide in a bid to encourage eclipse watchers to plan their journey well ahead...

Traffic information will be provided on the Information Line and the web site between July 30 and August 16.

Getting above the (possible) clouds is still a popular theme, with various airlines planning special trips. I always wonder how they plan to allocate time at the windows:

Cornish Guardian -- Jan 21
Getting Over Any Cloud Problems

Anyone wanting to get a 'bird's eye view' of the eclipse is being offered the chance to take to the skies with Brymon Airways. The airline is running two Eclipse Specials with flights scheduled to last two hours and carry 50 passengers each. The cost is £249 including taxes.

Brymon planning manager Paul Ford said: "Following a pre-departure reception at Bristol International Airport, we shall take off and head for the air-space over Cornwall where the eclipse will be total. Although Cornwall is is already planning for a massive influx of eclipse spotters, the only way of being certain to experience the full impact is to be above any cloud that may be around on the day - which of course means flying above it."

For a more relaxed escape from the madding crowd, especially in the south-west, what could be more appropriate than viewing from the sea (as long as it's clear):

Cornish Guardian Feb 11
And Now, The Romantic Way To Experience The Big Black Out

Many airlines are preparing to make most of the eclipse experience by offering seats for the big day - and now another provider of transport is offering "the perfect location to view the eclipse on August 11" - Brittany Ferries!

Undaunted by being at something of a disadvantage when compared to its airborne counterparts, Brittany Ferries' Western Channel sailings are being hailed as the ideal way to watch the eclipse. Travellers on the 08.00 Plymouth to Roscoff, 7.45 Portsmouth to Caen and 08.00 Cherbourg to Poole sailings are being tempted to take to the water to watch the eclipse.

(Personally, I'd go for the nice wide deck of a ferry compared to the tiny window of an airliner, shared by 6 people... C)

Fun Things!

It's not all gloom and doom (well, we're all hoping for gloom, of course... ;-) ; some fun events are being planned for eclipse time! Tracey "The Sooth is Out There" Dixon reports:

Cornish Guardian -- May 20
Kula Shaker to Headline Lizard Festival

Headlining the eclipse festival on the Lizard in August will be chart toppers Kula Shaker. Other top bands are expected to perform at what has been described by organisers as "this summer's funkiest eclipse party".

Lead singer Crispian said: "The eclipse is nature's celebration of the Millenium. The timing of the eclipse and the year 2000 are going to make this the most happening event of the year. The festival is about people coming together, respect for one another, respect for the environment, and ultimately, world peace."

A number of other bands have confirmed for the event, including Plastikman, Femi Kuti, Andy Smith, the Drummers of Burundi and the Freestylers.

The festival will have two main stages, with a total capacity of 20,000 on the site, which lies directly in the path of 'totality'. Attractions will include music, entertainment, surfing, swimming, games, art and a large screen cinema.

And one that really appeals to me; after all, it's certainly traditional:

Cornish Guardian -- Feb 11
Raising A Stone To Celebrate It

A 15-feet-high monolithic standing stone - raised using just ropes and manpower - will form the centre-piece of a festival planned in Cornwall for the total eclipse.

The Cornish Eclipse Stone Festival at St Neot, near Liskard, will include bands, circus acts, stalls an astronomer and poetry - but it is the stone raising which promises to be the high point. The huge rock, to be hewn from stone from a local quarry, will be raised in the traditional way... "that means no JCB and no cranes, just a bit of wood and some ropes..."

... the standing stone will be placed on the St Michael ley line which runs from St Michael's Mount to Glastonbury, and passes straight through the festival's 70 acre site at Rosecarreck Farm, higher Draynes....

... the week long festival will run from the August 7-14.

In General

Cornish Guardian -- Jan 21
Getting Over Any Cloud Problems

Addressing the Cornwall Association of Tourist Attractions, Gage Williams said around 20 wide-bodied jets would be flying leading industrialists from all over the world into RAF St Mawgan to see the eclipse and the base's annual International Air Day...

... A Press village of up to 6,000 journalists, broadcasters and back-up teams was anticipated. Sky News, broadcasting to 70 million people in 40 countries, would be deploying eight of its nine UK newsgathering teams in Cornwall and Devon.

He added that web sites on the Internet were going to play a critical role in the build up to the eclipse, and forecast "a great breakthrough" for Cornish tourism on the back of the once-in-a-lifetime event...

(given the relatively small area everyone is trying to fly into (including non-steerable ballons if the wind speed is OK) this could prove to be, um, interesting... T.)

Avoiding Problems

So things certainly aren't too black in Cornwall -- at least, not yet. Still, we all want to avoid as much hassle as possible. So what to do about it...

Seeking out an alternative site might be an attractive idea, specially for those coming from farther afield. There are places in Devon which will get a pretty good eclipse. Then again, there are alternative ways of travelling to Cornwall for the event, such as boats and trains, which will avoid all the hassle on the roads.

Of course, if you can afford to travel, you will see a longer eclipse -- and have a better chance of clear skies -- if you travel to just about any other part of the eclipse track. Northern France, Germany, Austria, and particularly the Black Sea area in Romania are all excellent alternative locations. Even better, Turkey and the Middle East offer the best viewing conditions of all. Since the path of totality cuts right across the mainland of Europe and the Middle East, space pressure will be far lower there. Watch out for crowds on the cross-channel ferries, though.

If you decide to head for the south-west, do not travel without confirmed accommodation. Alternative transportation is definitely the way to go, if you can manage it; a train tour, ferry trip, or bus trip could be a really good idea. But if you must go by car, carshare!

In any case, it looks like a day trip -- or even a two- or three-day trip -- is going to be a bad idea. Think about staying for the whole week (or a large part of it). The longer you stay, the fewer hours you'll spend in traffic jams; and after all, Cornwall's a great place for a holiday!

And it looks like bringing a supply of food, water, and anything else you might need, might be sensible! All the cash machines in the county will probably be empty for most of the time, and with little food warehousing in Cornwall (most food is delivered straight to the shops immediately before it is needed), general supplies could be low. The golden rule is, be as self-sufficient as possible.

Finally, wherever you go, remember to view the eclipse safely, as highlighted in this BBC article, "Eclipse Cooks Eyeballs".

Trivia Section

Courtesy of Tracey you-know-who... ;-)

Cornish Guardian -- Jan 21
Surfing Wipe-Out

Keen surfers wanting to mark the eclipse by catching a wave may have their hopes dashed. Restormel Council's head lifeguard John Broad said surfers and bathers would be ordered out of the water during the eclipse for safety reasons.

For those seeking "alternative" accommodation:

North Cornish Advertiser -- Xmas 98 Edition
Introducing The Yurt - Hire One For The Eclipse!

The latest enterprise to receive a grant form the South West's Working Woodlands programme is introducing a highly unusual product to Devon and Cornwall - the yurt. Cornish coppices worker Tim Hutton (36) is one of the very few people in Britain who has learned the art of yurt making; he demonstrates his confidence in the product by living in one!

'Yurts' are the dome shaped tents used by the nomadic peoples of central Asia and Mongolia. In their original form, they are made of covers of felted wool over collapsible wooden lattice frames. Tim identified the yurt frames as a good outlet for the chestnut and ash that he harvests from his regular coppicing activities. He then designed a canvas cover instead of wool to provide more appropriate protection from the British weather.

His aim isn't to persuade other people to use yurts as homes - his market is the growing demand to hire or buy them for summer houses, workshop spaces, marquees for shows, parties, etc. Tim is currently taking bookings from people who want to hire yurts to view next year's total eclipse - either from their own chosen vantage points or on land at Tim's home on the edge of the moor at St. Breward near Bodmin.....

(So if you arrive in Cornwall to find the fields full of yurts... do not fear, the Mongolian hordes haven't (neccessarily!) invaded...)

OK, here's an interesting idea from Tracey herself:

The "Best chance ever to find the Bodmin Beast" Plan...

Well, given that there will probably be more people in Cornwall than ever before (and maybe after) and they can all be synchronised by a single event.....

Well my cunning plan is, at fourth contact, everyone in Cornwall shout "here kitty, kitty" and beat the nearest bush with a stick... if that doesn't flush the Beast/Beasts out I don't know what will!

To this masterful scheme I can only add the obvious rider that we should all be holding tins of Whiskas and making tin-opener sounds. (Perhaps we could issue everyone with a recording of a tin-opener at work.) If that doesn't do it, nothing will.

Of course, you might not want a giant starving cryptopussycat hurling itself at the tin of cat food in your hand...