With its sandy beaches, smuggler’s coves and turquoise waters, Cornwall is renowned for its natural beauty. And as a haven of biodiversity and ecological research, it was a fitting location for the G7 summit in mid-June 2021. If you’re dreaming of a trip to Britain, you can get inspired by this south-west gem, where leading horticultural highlights and sustainable seafood practices blend with centuries-old traditions preserved for all to enjoy.
From top attractions to lesser-known alternatives, our round up reveals the sustainable heart of Cornwall, as well as top tips for those wishing to discover another corner of Britain.
Like…the biomes of the Eden Project?
Since launching in 2001, the Eden Project has transformed a disused china clay pit near St Austell, Cornwall, into a world-renowned attraction with sustainability at its core. Originally created to protect and conserve important and endangered plants, the site combines epic outdoor exploration with interactive education and even a new geothermal energy project. One of its giant biomes houses the world’s largest indoor rainforest, complete with a waterfall and Canopy Walkway, while the Mediterranean Biome takes you on a journey through the planet’s warm temperate regions. Thousands of other plant varieties stimulate the senses in 20 acres of outdoor gardens, packed with ornamental blooms, sculptures and paths to explore, while various sculptures reveal the ecological importance of different plants and insects, including Bombus the Giant Bee.
Love…the Lost Gardens of Heligan
Lost to the world and forgotten for three-quarters of a century, The Lost Gardens of Heligan have been lovingly revived over the last 30 years to become Europe’s largest garden restoration project. Transformed by Tim Smit, the founder of the Eden Project, the site is now a mysterious outdoor escape focused on preservation. Littered with rare plant breeds, ancient woodlands and plenty of wildlife, it also features a stunning National Collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons first planted more than 100 years ago.
Discover…the glasshouses at Kew Gardens
If you’re a London-bound visitor inspired by the gardens of Cornwall, you can head to south-west London and The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the most biodiverse place on Earth. A world-leading research space and UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with more than 50,000 living plants, you can peruse its Victorian glasshouses and experience captivating views of the gardens from the Treetop Walkway.
Like…the Museum of Cornish Life?
Delving into life in Cornwall through the ages, this museum is dedicated to the preservation of local traditions and covers everything from the region’s links to tin and copper mining, showcased across the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, to farming and social history. If you’re looking to explore from home, you can also visit the Museum of Cornish Life virtually in 3D, for a journey through efforts to preserve the region’s rich heritage and traditions.
Love…Wheal Martyn Clay Works
China clay has played a pivotal role in shaping Cornwall for hundreds of years, and that heritage is explored in great detail at Wheal Martyn. Alongside a preserved Victorian clay works and museum, you can wander through 26 acres of historic woodlands and look out over a modern working clay pit, while discovering more about Cornwall’s largest export and the steps being taken to preserve the unique landscapes that remain.
Discover...St Fagans National Museum of History
If you’re a history fan looking to explore more of Britain’s past, you can discover the story of Wales at St Fagans National Museum of History. Located in the ground of St Fagans Castle and Gardens, just outside Cardiff, the 100-acre site features a number of re-erected original buildings from different historical periods, each of which offer a glimpse into the traditions that formed the country we see today.
Like…the cobbled streets of St Ives?
Voted one of Trip Advisor’s top emerging destinations for 2021, the fishing harbour and seaside town of St Ives will take centre stage for the G7 summit. Situated on the Cornwall Coast Path, the surrounding walking routes are typified by sun-dappled covers, lush headlands and the traditional farming methods adopted to preserve this Environmentally Sensitive Area’s status. Its cobbled streets house an array of eye-catching fisherman’s cottages, independent shops and boutiques, as well as award-winning restaurants featuring locally sourced seafood and other regional delicacies. Having been central to the British Modernist movement in the early-to-mid 20th century, the town’s rich artistic heritage can be also explored at Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Love…the harbour village of Mevagissey
Just like St Ives, Mevagissey offers a taste of coastal Cornish culture among its perfectly preserved buildings, which are now home to cafes, galleries and craft workshops. Once a centre for pilchard fishing in the 18th and 19th centuries, fresh-from-the-harbour delicacies are now offered in cosy fish and chip shops, while you can still get a taste for tradition with fishing trips available from the quayside. The South West Coast Path also passes through the village, providing an alternative way to see this stunning stretch of coastline.
Discover…Tobermory on the Isle of Mull
If you’re a lover of coastal tradition en route to Scotland, you can head to the Isle of Mull. With its pastel coloured houses and boats bobbing in the harbour, the fishing port of Tobermory is packed with coastal heritage. Known for freshly caught seafood, the island and its surrounding waters are also renowned for rare wildlife, including white-tailed eagles, dolphins and otters. An abundance of walking trails makes the scenic landscape easy to explore on foot too.
Like…the performances at the Minack Theatre?
Perched high on the rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Minack Theatre offers stunning views and a unique outdoor theatrical experience. Mainly crafted by hand from the natural landscape, the theatre hosts regular musicals and performances throughout the year, with the crashing of the waves as a melodic backdrop. This inimitable space can also be explored on a 360-degree virtual tour.
Love…the shows at Penlee Park Open Air Theatre
Found in the heart of Penzance, the Penlee Park Open Air Theatre offers another distinctive performance space, set against a backdrop of privet hedges. Expect a varied programme of original shows from a wealth of local and national theatre groups, including a number of Shakespeare productions and child-friendly entertainment.
Discover…Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
If you’re a visitor to the capital hungry for more cultural arts, you head to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, one of London’s largest theatre spaces, set amid the greenery of the iconic Royal Park. Renowned for exceptional outdoor performances, many of which move on to the West End or Broadway, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel are among those on the bill for summer 2021. If you want to get back to nature prior to a performance, you can also wander along the Regent’s Canal or come face-to-face with the endangered animals at the nearby ZSL London Zoo.
Like…the history of St Michael’s Mount?
Situated just off the southern coast of Cornwall and connected to the mainland by a causeway at low tide, St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island with a long and varied history. By turns a medieval priory, a fortified castle and a family home, the preservation of the site now falls to the National Trust, which maintains the buildings and slopping terraces housing hundreds of exotic plants. You can wander among the walled garden, dating back to the 1780s, climb to the gun batteries at the island’s summit for spectacular coastal views, and discover the legend of Archangel Michael, said to ward fishermen away from danger.
Love…the mysteries of Tintagel
Switch to Cornwall’s rugged northern coast and there’s another island shrouded in mystery, Tintagel. Here, history meets the legend of King Arthur against a backdrop of stunning scenery, with a new bridge now linking two halves of the 13th century Tintagel Castle. You can explore this idyllic landscape under the gaze of Gallos, a life-sized bronze sculpture inspired by the site’s legends and royal past.
Discover…the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
If you’re heading north, you can continue your journey into island heritage in Northumberland. Inaccessible when the tide washes over its causeway, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne offers a unique insight into the lives of medieval monks. Follow in their footsteps while exploring the ruins of the 12th century Lindisfarne Priory, once a key site of pilgrimage, or discover how the National Trust is working to maintain the architecture and gardens of Lindisfarne Castle. The Holy Island also marks the end of St Cuthbert’s Way, a 100km historical walking trail stretching from Melrose in the Scottish Borders.
Like…freshly caught fish in Looe?
Small fishing fleets deliver their daily catches to harbours across Cornwall, allowing you to tuck into sustainably caught seasonal delicacies at different points throughout the year. The historic fishing port of Looe has a reputation for its fresh seafood. In addition to fish merchants lining the quayside, there are numerous award-winning restaurants and fish and chips shops where you can enjoy the catch of the day, knowing it was caught in a sustainable way.
Love…locally sourced seafood in Falmouth
Much like Looe, Falmouth’s large harbour welcomes an abundance of fishing vessels each day, and their catches can be sampled at locations across the town. Notable venues include Harbour Lights, The Shack and Brasserie on the Bay, with menus showcasing the very best of the region’s produce.
Discover…the shellfish port in Fraserburgh
Sustainably-minded foodie travelling north? You can enjoy coastal delights in Fraserburgh. Located in the north-east corner of Aberdeenshire, the port has a thriving traditional fishing industry to go with its stunning coastal landscapes. Locally caught seafood can be sampled at locations such as The Captain’s Table, while the region’s rich heritage is expertly detailed at the Fraserburgh Heritage Centre. All that, and it’s a great sport for golf and birdwatching too.
Like…sub-tropical Abbey Garden Tresco?
Established in the 19th century on Tresco Island, the second largest of the Isles of Scilly, the Abbey Garden is a sub-tropical gem. Packed with 20,000 plants from more than 80 countries, including a number of blooms that change with the seasons, the garden showcases the best of Mediterranean horticulture in the heart of Cornwall. It’s also home to the Valhalla collection, a unique set of preserved figureheads from shipwrecks which have washed up on the Isles of Scilly, predominantly dating from the mid-to-late 19th century.
Love…historic blooms at Trebah Gardens
Covering 26 acres in a small Cornish valley near Falmouth, the Trebah Garden represents 200 years of horticultural work. The result is a vibrant display of exotic planting, criss-crossed by four miles of footbaths and featuring some of Britain’s highest recorded trees. Each season offers a different display, from colourful 100-year-old rhododendrons in the spring to swathes of hydrangeas in the autumn.
Discover…the newly created RHS Garden Bridgewater
If you’re a conservation fan, you can discover more horticultural highlights in the heart of north-west England. Breathing new life into the former site of Worsley New Hall in Salford, Greater Manchester, RHS Garden Bridgewater is the fifth garden from the renowned Royal Horticultural Society. Open from 18 May 2021, the last four years have seen the 156-acre heritage landscape transformed into a world class horticultural site, representing Europe’s largest gardening project. Themed spaces include a colourful Paradise Garden, a Kitchen Garden housing 29,000 plants dedicated to food and sustainable produce, and areas focused on learning and wellbeing.
Like…the geothermal Jubilee Pool lido?
Britain’s largest sea water lido and geothermally heated pool offers exceptional coastal views alongside the chance to relax with a spot of outdoor swimming. The Grade II-listed Jubilee Pool Art Deco lido in Penzance opened in 1935 and contains five million litres of sea water. Its geothermal pool opened in 2020 and is heated using geothermal energy and sustainable heat pumps – the first system of its kind in Britain – to a temperature of around 30-35 degrees centigrade.
Love…Bude Sea Pool
Also dating back to the 1930s, Bude Sea Pool is a free to use semi-natural, part man-made swimming pool nestled among the rocks at Summerleaze Beach, Bude. Topped up by the sea at high tide each day, you can enjoy a natural bathing experience or explore the beach itself, which is home to numerous water sports and outdoor pursuits, including surfing, coasteering and kayaking.
Discover…the historic Saltdean Lido
You can experience a different side to outdoor swimming at the Saltdean Lido, a remarkable example of International Style Modernist architecture in Brighton. Built in 1938 as part of efforts to develop the seafront, the Grade II-listed Art Deco building was restored and reopened in 2017, with the open air heated pool surrounded by sunbathing lawns. The vast expanse of the South Downs National Park is also on the doorstep, so you can explore more of the area’s incredible biodiversity.