48 hours in coastal Cornwall

Tuesday 10 December 2019

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. Its winding country roads link it all together, making it a scenic destination to explore by car. If you’re travelling from London, the drive takes in the region of five-and-a-half hours.

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.

View of Padstow Harbour, Padstow, Cornwall, England.

 

DAY 1

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. Exhibitions showcasing the works of South Korean artist Haegue Yang and acclaimed constructivist Naum Gabo will both be on display during 2020. 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. A geothermal pool is also set to launch in 2020. 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, a 15-minute drive brings you to nearby St Michael’s Mount, 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, while 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.

18:30 Enjoy a picnic and performance at a dramatic open-air theatre

A couple at the clifftop Minack open air theatre on the Cornish coast, in winter. Standing on the staging with stone arches and the backdrop of dramatic scenery, and a view over the sea.

Perched on cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean is the world-renowned Minack Theatre, a 35-minute drive to the south west. 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.

 

DAY 2

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, you 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. Thanks to the construction of a new multi-million-pound footbridge, the two separated halves of the castle are now linked for the first time in more than 500 years. Timed tickets are required for the castle in order to protect the unique archaeology and ecology found at the site.

Or...

Aerial image of The Eden Project, a travel destination and ecological park, an educational visitor attraction in a series of dramatic biodomes. They have the world's largest rainforest in an enclosed space.

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 harbour, 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. Until September 2020, the museum is hosting an exhibition by artist James Dodds, which includes a number of new works, alongside paintings of traditional boats.

Or

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 you can try your 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, produced right here 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 late 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.

The famous sign post at Land's End, the most westerly point of England.

For more practical information on visiting Cornwall, visit our Cornwall destination page.

 

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