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Cornwall LivingIssue #119

Whistle-stop Cornwall

A holidaymakers’ guide to some of our favourite Duchy destinations and places to stay, from coast to coast.

This month, we’ll be exploring Cornwall as a holiday destination for the coming spring and summer, covering some of our favourite destinations (although we can’t include them all!), as well as places to see and things to do. All of this, in combination with featured holiday homes from just a small a selection of our favourite hotels and holiday cottage brands, means you’ll have all the ideas and inspiration that you need to make your 2022 break your most Cornish yet.

Penwith peninsula

We’ll start out in the furthest reaches of Penwith. Land’s End was formed around 270 million years ago, the peninsula being one of four roughly circular granite domes that, according to the website, form the backbone of Cornwall. The coastline is rugged, spectacular and full of intrigue. The notoriously wild nature of the seas here makes for some superb wave watching, with reefs and islets jutting out of the ocean. These include Carn Bras – the base for the iconic Longships Lighthouse, itself a sign post for the dangers that await mariners along this fickle stretch of coastline. Another reminder is the wreckage of RMS Mülheim, a German cargo ship that ran aground on its way from Ireland to Germany. Visible on the shoreline between Land’s End and Sennen, the wreckage adds drama to an already beautiful and fascinating walk between the two.

The peninsula is also something of a wildlife haven, and along the fringes of the coast here you may be lucky enough to spot gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags, razorbills, and even the elusive Cornish chough – once extinct in the county but now making a welcome return. And for lovers of not just wildlife, but of the landscape too, then Cot Valley – just north of Sennen – is a must-visit. One of west Cornwall’s beautifully lush, sub-tropical valleys, it runs west-northwest to the coast, passing about one mile south of the town of St Just. Meeting the sea at Porth Nanven Cove, with the unmistakable Brisons Rocks lying a mile off shore, it’s a lovely place to stop for a picnic, or from which to start a walk, if you’re staying nearby.

The Heritage Coast

Our next stop is the famed surfing beach of Gwithian. Loved by surfers nationwide for its waves, and by bucket-and-spade beach-goers for its fine golden sand, Gwithian is at the heart of a miles-long stretch of beach from Hayle rivermouth, all the way to Godrevy. It sits on the opposite side of St Ives Bay to St Ives, which makes the views all the more special – as does the iconic Godrevy Lighthouse which sits to the right of the spectacular panorama. Kids and adults alike will love learning to surf with one of the local schools, while those who prefer to find their own piece of sunny real estate for the day will find plenty of sandy spots that tick the box of even the fussiest sun-seeker.

Continue north and you will eventually come to Newquay, another surfer’s paradise and one of the Duchy’s most loved seaside resorts. Blending surf culture and a bustling night life, with exceptional Cornish food and stunning coastal walks to boot, it’s no surprise that Newquay continues to draw visitors back time and time again. The same can be said for Mawgan Porth, five miles up the coast, however the pace of life here is perhaps a touch slower. The perfect location for a peaceful, relaxing Cornish holiday, Mawgan Porth lies mid-way between Newquay and Padstow, with a beautiful west-facing beach, incredible scenery, more superb surfing and, with the South West Coast Path right there, exceptional opportunities for walkers. There’s also great food available from the local pubs, restaurants and takeaways.

Seven bays for seven days

An exploration of Cornwall’s must-visit destinations would not be complete without a trip to the famed ‘Seven Bays for Seven Days’.

Comprising Porthcothan Bay, Treyarnon Bay, Constantine Bay, Booby’s Bay, Mother Ivey’s, Harlyn Bay and Trevone Bay, these seven sites centre around the small village of St Merryn. As the popularised name for them suggests, there is a bay for every day of the week, each as unique as the last. Between them, they offer great surf (and surf schools), soft sand, folklore, sheltered waters and sea pools for swimmers, plus rock pooling, wildlife watching, and even, in Porthcothan’s case, fame as a location for BBC series Poldark. Just around the corner from Trevone is the fishing port of Padstow, Cornwall’s foodie capital and one of the most popular culinary destinations in the UK. With a raft of celebrity names opening restaurants here, including Paul Ainsworth and, of course, Rick Stein, there are also some incredible independent eateries to be discovered. Not only that, those who fancy it can embark on a seafaring adventure, be that on a safari to spot the local marine life, on a fishing trip to catch your own supper (nothing beats fresh fish on the barbeque!), or even a private charter to spend a day exploring the local waterways at your leisure.

Polzeath and Daymer Bay

Cross the Camel Estuary from Padstow and continue north along the coastline, and eventually you’ll come to Daymer Bay, and Polzeath soon after. Daymer Bay is the perfect spot for sun-bathers and calm-water swimmers, with plenty of shallow, tap-clear water in which to swim, splash and play with friends and family. At high-tide, space on the sand can be limited, but time it right and you’ll find there’s plenty of room to move with the water dropping surprisingly far to reveal a large expanse of beach. There’s also a café set just back from the sand with plenty of parking to boot. Alternatively, if you’re hoping to hit the waves, Polzeath is a renowned surfer’s beach, with a great beach to match. The village itself has plenty of amenities right next to the sand, including a shop, restaurants, and even a gallery for art enthusiasts seeking respite from the heat of the sun.

Nearing the county line

As we explore Cornwall’s north-most beaches and approach the border with our neighbours in Devon, there’s still lots to explore and enjoy. We’ll start in Crackington Haven, seven miles south-southwest of Bude. Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this small village’s harbour once imported coal and limestone from Wales. Fortunately for us, it narrowly escaped industrial development in the 1800s, and is now one of Cornwall’s most unspoiled coves. In the spring, you can see wildflowers beginning their annual display of colour, with birdsong forming a backdrop for a sensational, sensory experience. It’s also a great spot for surfing in the right conditions, with lifeguards in the summer months. When it’s calm, the sheltered cove is great for a sea-swim. For history buffs, the area is replete with historic sites, buildings and tales of shipwrecks – just ask the locals!

Up the coast to Bude and you’ll find much more of the same. Fortunately for us, Elite West Holidays know exactly how to make the most of your time around Bude and Widemouth Bay, with recommended activities including rock pooling at low tide and discovering the myriad species that make a home along the Atlantic waterline; surfing, both on Bude’s own beaches and Widemouth Bay (with help for beginners available through a local surf school); and for those who want to get out on the water but avoid the swell, the chance to hire a stand-up paddleboard and explore at leisure. There’s plenty more to do, including a dip in the iconic Bude Sea Pool, or taking just a short drive to the Upper and Lower Tamar Lakes – havens for walkers, runners, sailors, wildlife watchers and anglers alike. History also abounds here, including The Castle (thecastlebude.co.uk), one of Bude’s finest, and oldest, buildings. Grade II listed, it was built in 1830 and houses a Heritage Centre, where you can discover Bude’s inventive genius, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, as well as the area’s unique geology, a wonderful collection of Bude railway nostalgia, interactive models, plus tales from the area’s military and maritime past.

The south coast

Our whistle-stop tour continues after a hop from north to south, starting at Falmouth, where we find plenty of reasons to make this your holiday HQ. First, its proximity to the ocean ticks a big box for many. Second, is that the town itself is home to a fantastic array of boutique retailers, trendy bars, cafés and restaurants, and a selection of independent galleries. The wider coastline is perfect for walkers, while the nearby Carrick Roads provide the ultimate sailing sanctuary for those looking to weigh anchor during their stay. There’s also plenty of history to be uncovered here, particularly behind sister castles Pendennis and St Mawes; built by King Henry VIII on either side of the entry to the Carrick Roads, these Tudor castles were key to the monarch’s defensive strategy against the threat of invasion from 16th century Catholic Europe.

Further south still is the Helford river, a paradise for leisure cruisers, sailors, swimmers and paddleboarders alike. It’s also a wildlife haven, with protections in place to champion the population growth of myriad marine species. Hop aboard a kayak, paddleboard or a private charter and head up-stream, and you find plenty of secret creeks and inlets that you could spend an entire holiday exploring. Alternatively, venture out of the river mouth (best done with a guide who knows the waters!) and have a go at fishing for your supper. The Helford marks the northern boundary of the Lizard peninsula, where explorers can stand on the UK’s most southerly spot. Along the coast and in-land, the Lizard is a wild place quite unlike anywhere else in the UK. A wild coastline, with equally untamed countryside in between, the Lizard feels a world apart even from the rest of Cornwall. Often referred to as ‘true Cornwall’, there’s no escaping the elements here, which adds to a sense of drama in all weathers, one that needs to be experienced to be believed.


You could easily spend your entire trip discovering the unique geography, geology, flora and fauna of the Lizard and still not cover it all, which makes the prospect of a stay here all the more alluring.

As we make our way back to Penwith, our final two stops take us to Rinsey and Praa Sands. The car park for Rinsey lies right on the South West Coast Path, making it a must-visit on any walker’s day-trip itinerary. The beach, accessed via a winding and fairly steep hill, is a great spot for sun-bathers and swimmers, particularly when the swells are small. That said, it’s also a popular surfer’s spot when the conditions are right! Along the coast path and you’ll eventually come to Praa Sands. Whilst the pronunciation of ‘Praa’ continues to be hotly contested, one thing everybody can agree on is that this long stretch of sand is one of the best ‘all rounders’ in Cornwall’s long list of beaches. Exceptional for swimmers on calm days, whilst offering steep, speedy peaks when the swell kicks in, and with deep, soft sand that’s just the ticket for castle building, there’s plenty of room to spread out on here. And with the Sand Bar restaurant above the beach offering sea-view dinner and drinks, with games tables for the kids, it’s a superb place for the whole family to pitch up and
spend the day.

From Praa Sands, it’s onwards to Penwith and back to where we started. As stated already, there are so many more destinations and attractions that we just haven’t the space to cover, and take it from us – narrowing down the list of those to include is no easy task! We hope, however, that our whistle-stop tour of the Cornish coast has given you the inspiration you need to start pulling your 2022 holiday itinerary together, and to those who are headed to Cornwall this year, all we have left to say is happy holidays – we’ll see you here soon!

 

DISCOVER MORE…

 

PENWITH STAYS

Porth Nanven House, Porth Nanven – Sleeps 7 www.stylishcornishcottages.co.uk

Sea Eden, Sennen – Sleeps 6 www.cornishcottageholidays.co.uk

 

HERITAGE COAST STAYS

Dune House, Gwithian  Sleeps 8 www.forevercornwall.co.uk

Spring Tide, Newquay Sleeps 8, dog-friendly www.forevercornwall.co.uk

To the Shore, Mawgan Porth Sleeps 8, dog-friendly www.forevercornwall.co.uk

The Park Cornwall, Mawgan Porth – A range of accommodation, including dog-friendly www.theparkcornwall.com

STAYS OF THE SEVEN BAYS

Jackdaws Lounge, Constantine Bay Sleeps 7, dog-friendly www.cornishhorizons.co.uk

Marine Villa, Padstow Sleeps 12, dog-friendly www.cornishhorizons.co.uk

Old Barn, Padstow Sleeps 5, dog-friendly www.corncott.com

 

POLZEATH AND DAYMER BAY

Mordros, Daymer Bay Sleeps 10, dog-friendly www.johnbraycornishholidays.co.uk

Seascape, Polzeath Sleeps 12, dog-friendly www.johnbraycornishholidays.co.uk

Polzeath Beach House Rooms and apartments available www.polzeathbeachhouse.co.uk

 

BUDE AND CRACKINGTON HAVEN

Bramble Hill, Crackington Haven – Sleeps 10, dog-friendly www.corncott.com

Aaloka, Bude Sleeps 10, dog-friendly www.elitewestholidays.co.uk

The Retreat Sleeps 8, dog-friendly www.elitewestholidays.co.uk

 

SOUTH COAST STAYS

Ash Cottage, near Looe  Sleeps 6, dog-friendly www.kilminorthcottages.co.uk

The Falmouth Hotel Hotel Rooms and Self-Catering Lodges available www.falmouthhotel.co.uk www.falmouthlodges.co.uk

The Granary, Mawnan Smith Sleeps 4, dog-friendly www.cornishcottageholidays.co.uk

Parc Brawse House, Lizard  Sleeps 10, dog-friendly www.forevercornwall.co.uk

Housel Bay Hotel, Lizard 23 Guest Bedrooms www.houselbay.com

Rinsey Head, Rinsey Sleeps 9 + 1, dog-friendly www.stylishcornishcottages.co.uk

Sundance, Praa Sands  Sleeps 14, dog-friendly www.cornishhorizons.co.uk