In the southwest of the UK, Cornwall is a glittering gem of British paradise. Looking at the images of white sandy beaches and turquoise water you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Caribbean island. It feels a million miles from those grey city streets or murky beaches we’re used to.
Nowhere else in Britain quite cuts it like Cornwall when it comes to breathtaking natural beauty as well as artistic and cultural creativity. I’m sure you already know about those gorgeous beaches but did you know the county’s visual and written arts scene is just as captivating as its long coastlines, picturesque scenery and pretty seaside villages? Add to that an endless smattering of wonderful, traditional pubs and several celebrity restaurants and you’re rightly left with one of the most rewarding weekend break destinations in the UK.
So here it is, our weekend guide to Cornwall…
How to get to Cornwall
The most popular way to get to Cornwall is to drive, but I have to warn you, if you’re leaving on a Friday afternoon you’re going to spend a lot of time in traffic! It’s worth enduring those slow and traffic-clogged roads to the UK’s most out-of-the-way peninsula to have the freedom and flexibility of your own wheels once you arrive. Just make sure you pack a picnic and you’ve updated your itunes!
If you don’t have a car or would rather skip the traffic, it’s really easy to take the train to Cornwall. Book tickets far in advance for the best deals. You can also fly to Cornwall Airport Newquay from many airports around the UK. Flying might seem extravagant but if you live near an airport it could be the cheapest, quickest and easiest option so check it out. You could take a coach for a budget option but this will take a long time so not always great for a weekender.
Travel Hack Tip: For a more interesting and luxurious way of travelling, check out the Night Riviera Sleeper, an overnight train from London Paddington. This is a great option if you’re travelling for the weekend as it leaves London at 22.30 (Mon-Fri) and arrives in Penzance at 8am! It then leaves Penzance at 21.15 on Sunday and gets you into London for 5am on Monday morning.
Where to stay in Cornwall
The best way to enjoy Cornwall is in your own private cottage near the beach. Take a look at Cornish Horizons for some lovely options. If you’re travelling in the winter then look out for a cottage with a log burner so you can cuddle up around it in the evening. In the summer, it’s all about the outdoor area and having somewhere nice to enjoy the sea air as you enjoy a cool glass of wine. Weekender perfection! The Beach House is a unique, eco-friendly house that has made it onto my Cornwall wish list!
Top 10 things to do in Cornwall
- Get arty in St Ives – Boasting that quintessential British seaside charm that makes it a shoe-in for holidaymakers hitting the coast, St Ives is one of Cornwall’s most popular locations. But beyond the beaches and seaside activities, St Ives has fast become an institute for artistic expression, best explored in its outpost of the Tate Gallery, overlooking Porthmeor Beach.
- Visit the Eden Project – Home to the world’s largest rainforest in captivity, the Eden Project is a vast, global garden, home to a staggering collection of flora from all over the planet. Housed in giant, space-age domes called Biomes, the project is a great place to take children, especially for some education and inspiration around the environment.
- Roam the wilds of Bodmin Moor – Once home to some of the country’s earliest inhabitants, who left behind prehistoric stone circles and medieval fields, Bodmin Moor is a giant area of mystery and scenic beauty. Sights such as King Arthur’s Hall are just rewards after a day’s rambling, and remember to keep an eye out for the Beast of the Moor, giving the Loch Ness Monster a run for its money.
- Laze on Perranporth Beach – There are many great beaches in Cornwall, but Perranporth is the one most people rave about. It offers a great range of activities, from snorkelling and sailing to surfing and splashing about, and its long stretch of golden sand is very family-friendly.
- Head back to the Victorian era at Lanhydrock House – This stunning late-Victorian country house has been owned and managed by the National Trust since 1953, and today offers a great morning or afternoon visit. Whether you take a stroll around the estate or delve into the nooks and crannies of the house’s interior, you’ll get a great insight to this bygone era.
- Surf and party – Newquay is the largest and most vibrant resort on Cornwall’s north coast and is a mecca for surfers of all abilities, as well as partygoers who love to indulge in something of an ‘apres-surf’ bar and club scene. Bude is another great option for surfers, and is a little more chilled than its popular neighbour.
- Walk the causeway to St Michael’s Mount – Reached by foot at low tide, St Michael’s Mount is a former medieval monastery which towers above the small town of Marazion. As well as providing fantastic photogenic vistas, the old monastery has been brilliantly restored to showcase life on the mount in the 17th century.
- Make friends with the locals at Screech Owl Sanctuary – A fantastic day out for families with young children, or with a date if you’re Alan Partridge, Screech Owl Sanctuary provides a home for hundreds of sick and injured owls, as well as several other animals, which are presented in an interesting and educational environment.
- Stand at the end of England – A trip to Land’s End will see you visiting England’s most westerly point, with nothing but the Isles of Scilly between here and the USA. Make sure you get photographed beside the famous Land’s End signpost for proof of your visit.
- Wander around Trebah Garden – This stunning valley garden, full of subtropical plants and trees, is a real magnet for botanists, but also for families too. A unique adventure playground and several special children’s trails ensure Trebah Garden is another great option for a family day out.
Off the beaten track in Cornwall
For something a little different, make the most of Cornwall’s cultural scene at Minack Theatre. This theatre is one of the most stunningly located theatres in the UK. Actors hit the cliff-edge amphitheatre during the summer to perform a range of plays, backed by incredible views.
To explore more of Cornwall’s heritage, head to the Geevor Tin Mine, a mine that closed in 1990. This is a big hit with families and it provides a window into Cornwall’s rich mining heritage, which is today recognised by UNESCO. Visits to the mine are led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides who help bring this mining complex back to life.
Where to eat & drink in Cornwall
As is expected from a county surrounded by coastline, seafood is a true favourite of the Cornish chef, and subsequently, many of the UK’s most revered seafood restaurants can be found in Cornwall.
One of these is The Seafood Restaurant, Rick Stein’s flagship fish venue, located in Padstow and serving up fresh, no thrills seafood.
There’s no better place to fill up on breakfast or brunch than the famed Fat Apples Café, found in St Keverne close to Porthallow Beach. This tea room serves up epic cooked breakfasts, as well as providing revitalising snacks for weary walkers.
From the bustling bars and clubs of Newquay to the quaint and traditional pubs of Truro, you’ll have numerous options when it comes to wetting your whistle. For that classic beach bar experience, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Blue Bar in Porthtowan or The Watering Hole in Perranporth, both serving up a range of drinks and bites beside the sand.
Cornwall’s old, traditional pubs can’t be ignored either, especially for fans of real ale. The Blue Anchor is always top of the list, located in Helston and recognised as one of the oldest original inns in Britain. On top of that, the pub has been brewing for over 600 years, today producing a range of Spingo Ales. The Old Ale House in Cornwall’s county town, Truro, is another excellent choice for beer connoisseurs, focussing on serving the best locally-brewed beers, including those from St Austell and Skinner’s, as well as a range of craft ciders.