Cornwall, the south-west tip of England, is framed to the north and south by a rugged coastline. Once characterised by smugglers coves and tin mines, coastal Cornwall is now synonymous with stunning beaches, world-class surfing, fresh seafood and picturesque harbours.
Cornwall’s epic coastline boasts renowned visitor attractions such as historical castle ruins with links to Arthurian legend, artists’ colonies that have influenced modern British art, and the world’s largest indoor rainforest – all culminating at Land’s End, the most westerly point of mainland England. Cornwall also has a rich culinary heritage. Famous television chefs Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein have restaurants on Cornwall’s coast, and visitors can enjoy everything from Michelin-starred cuisine to traditional fare like Cornish pasties and Cornish cream teas.
Time to check in:
A luxury sea view eco-hotel, Scarlet Hotel, is an adults-only escape on Cornwall’s north coast. Its 37 rooms have private garden terraces or balconies, plus there’s an outdoor cliff-top hot tub, indoor pool, and a spa with tented treatment rooms and chill-out cocoons.
You could also relax in one of the Carbis Bay Hotel’s new beachside lodges near St Ives, which provide access to a private stretch of beach and sun decks. Each lodge is inspired by the hotel’s natural surroundings and alongside hot tubs and heated plunge pools, feature floor to ceiling windows with stunning views of the Atlantic Coast.
Winner of countless ‘best new British B&B’ accolades, Chapel House occupies a grand Georgian townhouse that was formerly home to the Penzance Arts Club. Extensively redesigned, its 6 stylish bedrooms have views of the sea and Penzance harbour.
Set in rolling countryside, Acorn Camping and Glamping is a delightful place to pitch a tent. For something different, stay in one of its popular Hobbit Huts or new Hobbit Holes – a rustic, back-to-nature experience set in a private glade.
10:00 See double the amount of modern British art
Artists have been drawn to Cornwall for centuries, lured by the dramatic landscape and quality of light, and it’s now said to have Britain’s largest concentration of artists outside London. Several Cornish towns have artistic heritage and thriving artist communities, but the opening in 1993 of a Tate gallery in St Ives boosted its creative credentials. Tate St Ives focuses on work by modern British artists with links to the area, including major names such as Barbara Hepworth. Following a 4-year reconstruction project, the landmark building reopened with a roof garden and a spacious new gallery in 2017, allowing twice as much art to be displayed. A guided art tour takes place around the town every Tuesday, detailing the region’s influence on global art.
13:00 Lunch, sun and swim at a stunning Art Deco lido
A 20-minute drive takes you to Jubilee Pool, Britain’s largest surviving seawater lido, originally built in 1935. Located on the seafront promenade of Penzance, this stunning Art Deco lido has a triangular-shaped main pool, plus a small bathing pool that’s ideal for younger children. Work got underway during the winter of 2018 to enable part of the pool to be heated by geothermal energy all year round, with a new café and community space also set to open in spring 2019. The poolside café is a prime spot for a Mediterranean-style lunch, or refreshments and snacks including locally-made Roskilly’s organic ice cream.
15:00 Take a stroll to a historic tidal island
A small tidal island with a castle at its summit, nearby St Michael’s Mount is an impressive landmark on Cornwall’s southern coast. Managed by the National Trust, it’s accessible by foot at low tide via a man-made cobble causeway – boatmen ferry people across at all other times. There are centuries of history to discover: monks from Mont St Michel in France built the church and priory here in the 12th century, and a beacon lit here warned of the approach of the Spanish Armada. Alternatively, wander through the island’s lovely Victorian terrace gardens, where
, thanks to its unique microclimate, a surprising variety of exotic plants grow. For an exclusive insight into island life, tours of the village and harbour take place daily – excluding Saturdays – from mid-February.
18:30 Enjoy a picnic and performance at a dramatic open-air theatre
Perched on cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean is the world-renowned Minack Theatre. Local resident Rowena Cade created this open-air theatre on the land below her house in 1932 to enable a local drama group to stage Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Tonnes of earth and rocks were moved to make a stage and terrace seating from the cliffs, laying the foundations for what has become one of the world’s most magical theatrical experiences. Now a professionally-equipped venue, the Minack nevertheless retains its unique ambience: ticket-holders arrive early to picnic on its grass terraces, and each performance is enhanced by the natural drama of sea views, sunsets, and the crash of breaking waves.
10:00 Explore a castle ruin with links to King Arthur
The iconic ruin of Tintagel Castle is a place inextricably linked to the legend of King Arthur. Strategically positioned on a headland on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, visitors can explore the site and discover its links to King Arthur that date back to the 12th century. Managed by English Heritage, there’s also an exhibition displaying some of the artefacts unearthed here. The castle is currently closed for the construction of a new footbridge, but it will reopen in summer 2019. In the meantime, Tintagel Village remains open for visitors who would like to explore its shops, cafes and other highlights.
With exotic flora and fauna housed in huge bubble-like biomes, the Eden Project is home to the largest indoor rainforest in the world. Not just a place for horticulturists, there are adventure activities here as well – including SkyWire, England’s longest and fastest zip wire ride.
13:00 Taste Michelin-starred food or a fine Sunday roast
While on Cornwall’s north coast, enjoy a gourmet lunch at Nathan Outlaw, a renowned seafood restaurant in Port Isaac with 2 Michelin stars, or try Fifteen, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and social enterprise on beautiful Watergate Bay where all profits go to charity. Alternatively, continue onto Falmouth on Cornwall’s south coast. Overlooking Falmouth harbor, the historic Star & Garter is an award-winning seaside gastropub with a menu focusing on fresh local food including fish direct from the boat. Its traditional Sunday roast is regarded as one of the best in Cornwall, with fine cuts of marbled beef sirloin and leg of lamb supplied by a renowned Cornish butcher.
14:45 Learn about Britain’s maritime history
Located in Falmouth harbour, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall tells the story of the sea and explores Cornwall’s fascinating maritime heritage, from the lives of Cornish fisherman to the men and women who’ve made history by sailing solo around the world. From October 2019, the museum will also host an exhibition by artist James Dodds, which will include a number of new works, alongside paintings of traditional boats.
Built by Henry VIII to counter the threat of potential invasion, Pendennis Castle has dominated a rocky headland overlooking the River Fal and its estuary for close to 500 years. The distinctive circular artillery fort boasts a rich history, having served as a military installation during the English Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars and both global conflicts. A visual interactive display in the Tudor keep means visitors can try their hand at loading an interactive cannon and several immersive exhibitions showcase Britain at times of war.
16:00 Enjoy a 100% Cornish Cream Tea
The Waymarker near Falmouth has won awards for its Sunday Roast and its traditional Cornish Cream Tea. The latter is 100% Cornish and includes homemade scones presented on a tiered cake-stand made of Cornish slate, local clotted cream and strawberry jam, plus local Tregothnan Tea, which is the only producer actually growing tea in Britain. Savoury and gluten-free scones are also available.
16:45 Discover a secluded beauty spot
A sub-tropical beauty spot, Trebah Gardens near Falmouth is rated one of the world’s finest gardens. Highlights include a valley full of 100-year-old rhododendrons, flourishing exotic species such as Australasian tree ferns and Brazilian giant rhubarb, and a cascading water garden fed by a natural spring. Or simply relax on Trebah’s lovely secluded beach.
19:00 Take your own crockery to a feast on a beach
Situated next to the beautiful and remote Porthcurnick Beach, the Hidden Hut is a wooden beach hut that serves grab-and-go lunches from March to October – but the main attraction is its regular feast nights. These big outdoor cook-ups focus on just one dish, which can be anything from just-caught fish baked over hot coals to spit-roasted goat. Diners bring their own crockery and alcohol, and should dress for the weather because it all takes place outdoors come rain or shine.
How to get there:
Cornwall is in south-west England, five hours from London by car or train. Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera sleeper service runs between London Paddington station and Penzance – one of only two sleeper train services in Britain.