Truro’s famous neo-gothic cathedral rises above this medieval city a little like the Emerald City over Oz; a 250 foot jewel rising over the old county town, and Britain’s most southerly city. John Loughborough Pearson’s triple-spired Victorian edifice looms large over the town but the kink in its design belies the fact that Truro is much older than the cathedral and the designers had to fit the church to the town, and not vice versa. The ramshackle spread of Truro’s streets makes reveals the medieval structure of the town and as such, it’s quite a charming place to visit.
As the big town of Cornwall, it’s also a heaving mess of people on this sunny Easter holiday weekday. I can’t imagine it of a weekend – chances are I’d be less keen, having inherited a charming misanthropy from my father. But, it’s a pleasant diversion from the dusty wastelands of most of the Cornwall that the brochures don’t show you, so I’ll poke around further.
The plan of Truro has changed dramatically since Google’s satellite imagery was last updated. Gone are the huge building sites, replaced with the biggest Marks & Sparks you ever saw and a host of other large scale shops and eateries. The plaza in front is now the central part of this new development, and it’s an attractive arena with an outdoor market to complement the indoor pannier market. You can cut through the pannier market to the older, smaller town centre section of Boscawen Street, and between the two you have all the chain stores you’d hope for in a town of Truro’s size (probably more, even).
It’s worth having a poke through the side streets though, because it’s here that you’ll find the little retailers and cafes that make Truro actually quite pleasant. There’s a few crafty jewellery types (crafty in the make-their-own-wares sort of way, not suspicious) and handmade toy shops, that sort of thing. There’s also our lovely charity shops, and many of them – too many to give a run down of pro’s and cons, I think. I failed to make suitable notes, sadly.
At the top of Pydar Street we have British Heart Foundation and a teeny Cats Protection League. There’s a couple of shop-laden snickets through to The Leats, and at this end of town (mostly around River Street, heading back towards Boscawen) you’ll find the Cornwall Hospice, Cancer Research, Save The Children, Barnado’s, Age Concern and CLIC Sargent Hospice. That leaves Children’s Hospice South West, and finally an Oxfam that proved a significant iPhone/GPS fail. But, worth it, because it was a nice shop over the bridge.
That’s not a lot of information, true, but Truro wins on quantity rather than quality. If you want a pushchair, or a particular necklace, or a particular book, chances are you’ll find it somewhere in Truro, just be the law of odds. Plus, it’s an attractive enough town with its neo-gothic/middle ages mash-up architecture in abundance and plenty of things to do.