My Favorite Holiday Destinations in Cornwall
Expat Manasita's Favorite Cornish Holiday Destinations
I have travelled the world, but my favorite places of all are holiday destinations in Cornwall that I have visited over the years.
My love affair with the English county of Cornwall began as a small child.
Holidays in our VW camper van, exploring the best that Cornwall had to offer.
Fast forward a few years and my grandparents lived there for a while which meant more happy family holidays.
As an adult I have visited many times, and I can honestly say that leaving my Staffordshire home behind, the further west I drove the more relaxed I felt.
I always used to comment that as my car wheels edged over the county boundary from Devon to Cornwall I could feel the stress slip away.
Please come with me as I revisit Cornish destinations that have held a special place in my heart for many years.
A Whistle Stop Tour of Cornwall
Cornwall, South Western Most Corner of England
Situated in the south west corner of England, Cornwall is a long thin county, bordered by the sea on three sides and the county of Devon on its only land border.
Cornwall was populated by the Celts, along with Wales, Ireland, Scotland the Isle of Man and Britanny in France, and as such it retained its own identity and language. The Celtic name for Cornwall is Kernow, and the language that is still spoken by a small minority today is called Kernowek.
Cornwall was an independent kingdom until the 11th century AD and although it managed to remain some autonomy, by the 16th century it had lost most of its powers to England. The ancient kingdom lives on in the title of Duke of Cornwall, that was created in the 1300's and is traditionally held by the monarch's eldest son and heir, who at this time is Prince Charles.
Cornwall became an integrated part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, and afterwards the Cornish identity and language began a rapid decline.
One of the county's most famous historical character is without doubt King Arthur, who is reputed to have led his fellow countrymen against the invading Saxons in the 6th century AD. Whether this is a myth or reality, you can still visit Tintagel that is considered to be his haunted ancestral home.
Cornwall Guide Books - to help you to plan your stay
Reading online guides is useful to get up to date information about a holiday destination, but I still think its nice to have a guidebook to carry with you, to browse over whilst partaking of a Cornish clotted cream afternoon tea.
My favorite guide book, which I recommend to help you to get the most out of your holiday, is the Good Guide to Cornwall, pictured to your right.
Containing maps, postcodes (for your GPS), websites and contact details, this guide has been painstakingly researched to help you to plan your trip.
Expat Mamasita's Favorite Cornish Holiday Destinations
World class surfing
Centrally located for touring
Home to Rick Stein's Fish and Chip Shop
Amazing restored gardens
Portwenn in Doc Martin
Enjoy The Surf
Perranporth, located on Cornwall's Atlantic coast is famous for its three miles of sandy beaches and it's world class surfing, and makes an excellent base for your holiday, or as the destination for a day trip.
Ideas for things to do in Perranporth?
The Atlantic coastline in Cornwall is famous for its surfing, from Bude in the north, all the way down to Portreath, south of Perranporth.
Less busy than its neighbour Newquay, it is an excellent place to take lessons, and there are many surf schools available, including Perranporth Surf School.
If you are interested in the history of cornwall, and in particular the area surrounding Perranporth, check out the Perranzabuloe Museum.
Situated in the Oddfellows Hall, it covers all aspects of local history from mining (lead, copper, tin and silver), farming, the Great Western Railway and the effect that the opening of the branch line had on the town, memories of the wartime munitions factory and airfields that were located nearby and the history of the boats that traversed, and sank, in the treacherous waters.
Definitely worth a visit, and a good option for something to do on a wet summer's day.
3: Fun Park
Fun parks are always popular with kids (even grown up kids!) and Holywell Bay Fun Park offers a wide range of activities to keep you and your family occupied.
From go-karting, mazes and trampolines to arcades (with electronic games machines), pitch and putt golf and water rides there really is something for all ages.
They offer a competitive pricing system which incorporates pay as you play or all inclusive day passes. This is an excellent idea because it means that if you want to bring the grandparents along too, or someone who doesn't like rides, then you do not have to pay for something that they are not going to use.
4: Kite Surfing School
Kite surfing is a sport that is becoming more and more popular, so if you fancy trying out an adrenalin packed activity then head along to the Mobius Kite School where you can have fun learning the moves.
Bodmin & Wenford Railway
Lanivet might seem an odd choice for one of my favorite Cornish destinations, but its where my grandparents lived for a time, and I have happy memories of visiting there.
Maybe its one claim to fame was that the English author Thomas Hardy visited the village in 1872 to visit a friend, and while he was there he wrote a poem entitled Near Lanivet.
Lanivet is situated inland, more or less in the middle of the county, a couple of miles from the old county town of Bodmin, and there are lots of interesting places to visit nearby.
Ideas for things to do around Lanivet
1: Historic Houses
If you love to visit old houses then Lanhydrock House, situated close to Bodmin is well worth a visit. The house was redeveloped after a serious fire in the late 19th century is spectacular and its extensive gardens are truly beautiful.
2: Steam Railway
Do you love steam trains? If so then you should take time to visit Bodmin and Wenford Railway. A mere 15 minutes walk from the center of the town, and can be accessed at platform 3 of Bodmin Parkway station.
There is something magical about the smell of a steam engine, and if you have never been on a steam train, or want to relive memories of when all trains were steam powered then you really should take a trip on their thirteen mile circular route.
As a child it was always a treat to visit Trago Mills, a discount retailer. Over the years they have modernised and moved into modern stores, my favorite of which is situated on the A38, in-between Bodmin and Liskeard.
It is set in landscaped grounds with places where you can get a meal, and they sell just about everything imaginable at good prices.
Last time I visited I came away with a stash of craft supplies, clothes, household goods and toys!
4: A Historic Jail
It is always useful to have a few indoor activity ideas for those inevitable wet British summers, and a visit Bodmin Jail is an interesting way to spend a few hours.
If you are feeling really adventurous then consider booking a place on one of their overnight ghost walks.
Rick Stein's Fish and Chip Shop
Padstow is a harbour town situated on the north Cornish coast, and is the perfect place to while away a few hours. It gets very busy during peak season (July - August), but there is a decent sized car park on the harbour, or there is a park and ride service that operates from the nearby Tesco store at a very reasonable price.
Ideas for things to do in Padstow
1: Sample Rick Stein's Food
A trip to Padstow would not be complete without sampling some food from award winning chef Rick Stein's. Don't panic, you don't have to max out your credit card or book months in advance as there is a more affordable option, at the Stein's Fish & Chips, where you can either book a table - or do as we did and buy a take away to eat in the fresh air.
2: Go Crabbing
Trying to catch crabs is an inexpensive and entertaining way to spend a few hours. There is no need to invest in expensive fishing gear. All you need is a crab line, some bait and a bucket to keep the crabs in, which are for sale at many of the harbour side shops.
Have you ever tried crabbing? It's great fun!! Pop into the Padstow Angling Centre and pick up everything you need for a fun filled afternoon.
Just don't forget to let the crabs swim free again at the end of your crabbing session.
3: Fancy a walk?
The Camel Way, which incidentally is named after the river and not the animal, is an eighteen mile pathway that follows a disused railway between Padstow, Wadebridge, Bodmin and Wenfordbridge.
Whether you want to walk, cycle or horse ride along all of the path or just part of it, this is a lovely way to get some fresh air and enjoy the Cornish countryside.
4: Or just want to sit and people watch?
There is no law that say holidays have to be filled with strenuous activities. Padstow is a bustling port, and I have whiled many an hour just sitting outside a cafe, drinking freshly brewed coffee and watching the world pass by.
Cornish Food— From traditional to fine dining
Cornish Cream Tea
Traditionally eaten part way before lunch and dinner an English afternoon tea traditionally consists of dainty sandwiches, a selection of cakes and a cup of English tea.
A cream tea is usually scones, served with butter, jam and fresh cream and accompanied by a cup of tea.
The main difference with a Cornish cream tea is the cream that is used. Traditionally, farmers in Cornwall made their cream into a thicker clotted variety. Some people say it was to reduce waste, others say it had a longer shelf life.
All I can say for certain is it will never reduce your waistline, and you don't have to worry about the shelf life as it is deliciously irresistible!
I didn't say that as a child however, and I would always choose tomatoes straight from the greenhouse over a cream tea.
The neighbouring county of Devon is also famous for its clotted cream and its cream teas, but of course the Cornish ones always taste better (in my opinion anyway!!).
Traditionally a dish eaten by mine workers and labourers, pasties are to Cornwall what sandwiches are to England and indeed oatcakes to North Staffordshire. They were a way of workers being able to eat a midday meal without the need for plates or cutlery.
These days they are sold all over the country, but if you want to taste the best ones visit a harbourside pasty shop and try out a warm one for yourself.
Traditionally filled with steak, potato and vegetables you will find a variety of fillings available today, from cheese and onion to chicken tikka masala.
Fine Dining in Cornwall
Do not think that dining in Cornwall is just about pasties and cream teas.
In recent years many well known chefs have opened restaurants in the county and now there is an excellent choice of fine dining available.
There are also restaurants in Cornwall that are owned by celebrity chefs.
In Watergate Bay, Jamie Oliver has one of his signature Fifteen restaurants, where his apprentice program enables young locals to achieve the skills necessary to work in a top class establishment.
Rick Stein has six eating establishments in and around Cornwall, including a fish and chip shop, an English public house and a seafood restaurant.
Paul Ainsworth owns Number 6 in Padstow, where you can sample his amazing menu, or hire a private room for you and your friends.
In Rock, Nathan Oultaw runs a 2* Michelin restaurant at the St Enedoc Hotel. Famous for his seafood dishes, Cornwall makes the perfect home for his venture.
See the beauty of Heligan for yourself
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
The above quote is "A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil.....with the names of those who worked there signed under the date - August 1914"
Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, All Rights Reserved
Situated just inland from the southern Cornish town of Mevagissey is the fantastic lost gardens of Heligan.
Up until the World War 1 the 1,000 acre estate was immaculately kept by a large staff employed by the Tremayne family. The war changed things for lots of big estates, with the male employees leaving to fight for king and country and women needed in war work. Suddenly staff were not easy to come by and houses and gardens were either turned over to war work, or they went into decline.
Heligan's gardens became overgrown after the house was sold off, until 1990 when a huge hurricane uprooted some of the trees, which ultimately led to the gardens becoming rediscovered and restored.
I have visited both Heligan and the Eden Project, and I can honestly say that the former was my favorite. I think it was a mix of not knowing what would be around the next corner, maybe another impressively rediscovered plant or a stone statue, a figure lying on the floor, partially covered by undergrowth, looking as if an actual person had been petrified and left to become an integral part of the garden.
I loved the magic of the place, mixed together with the history and romance of a place that became unintentionally forgotten, and I hope that you get an opportunity to visit and fall under its spell too.
Enjoy a walk from Boscastle to Tintagel
If I had to choose one area of Cornwall that was my absolute favorite place, it would have to be the area that spans from Boscastle through Tintagel and Crackington Haven to Port Isaac.
On 17th August 2004, Boscastle suffered a devastating flood, where a 10 foot high wave of water brought an estimated 100 tons of water pouring through the village every second, leaving thirty four people dead and many buildings destroyed.
I was in Boscastle only three weeks before this tragic incident, and I returned the following summer to pay my respects and to witness the rebirth of this historic village. I felt a little uneasy returning, but now the river has been widened and made deeper so that the chance of flooding is a lot less likely.
Ideas for things to do in Boscastle?
1: Historic Harbour
The harbour area in Boscastle was formed from a natural inlet amongst the steep cliffs, where the River Valency meets the Atlantic Ocean, and it does not take much imagination to imagine a Cornwall of years gone by, with sailing ships and smugglers.
The quay, which has been in use since the 16th century is run by the National Trust but entry is free.
2: Art Gallery
A new addition to the village is The Old Forge Gallery, which occupies the building that was the National Trust shop, prior to 2004.
3: Witchcraft Museum
IF you are interested in all things connected to witches then the fifty year old Museum of Witches is a must see.
They have a warning notice that says "People with Children of a sensitive disposition are warned that some of the exhibits are controversial." so be warned, and be sure to look out for the grisly and gruesome exhibits.
4: Cornish Afternoon Tea
Narrow, windy roads
A Video Tour of Port Isaac, Home to Doc Martin
Port Isaac is an extremely picturesque fishing village, on the north Corish coast near to Padstow.
Navigating the steep and narrow road to get to the car park in Port Isaac takes nerves of steel, and the ability to be able to reverse if required. The road is navigable in both directions for traffic, but is barely wide enough for one car, never mind two!
I had been before I took Senor Cicak, and laughed as I saw the look of horror on his face as we travelled slowly downhill and approached a sharp right turn that did not look passable, even by my small sports car. He breathed a big sigh of relief when we reached the bottom of the hill - until he saw where I was planning on parking!
For those of you who are feeling braver than Senor Cicak was, there is parking available in the harbour at low tide. When you park your car you will be told what time to leave by, and don't dare be late - or you might return to find your car floating out of the harbour gates into the Atlantic Ocean!!
Ideas for things to do in Port Isaac
1: Are you a Doc Martin Fan?
If you are lucky you might just chance on finding filming of Doc Martin taking place in Port Isaac. They are next filming filming between the 4th and 14th of June 2013.
See if you can find Doc Martin's surgery, the school house, Wenn House and The Edge Restaurant.
For a virtual visit with a difference, check out this recreation of Port Isaac in Second Life.
2: Fancy trying out the beach?
As a fully working harbour, Port Isaac does not have a beach, but if you visit the neighbouring village of Port Gaverne you will find a delightful beach which is safe to swim in and has rock pools to keep the children happy hunting for crabs and sea life.
If you are lucky you might also see dolphins and basking sharks, which are both known to frequent the area.
See Port Isaac through the eyes of Doc Martin
Doc Martin DVD's
If you are a Doc Martin fan, or have visited Port Isaac and fancy watching the series then this is the perfect DVD collection.
This DVD collection includes the first five series of this popular tv drama, and is a good starting point for watching or re watching the series.
Originally shown in the UK between Dec between 2004 and 2011, you will find all 37 episodes broadcast and as a bonus the 2006 Christmas Special and the two pre-series movies.
Personal Accomodation Recommendation— From Expat Mamasita
St Tinney Farm Holidays
St Tinney Farm - Otterham
If you want to stay somewhere that is picturesque, then I can personally recommend St Tinney Farm, situated just off the A39 in between Bude and Wadebridge on the north Cornish coast. I have stayed here maybe five times, twice a tent and three times in one of their caravans, and have never been disappointed.
Unlike some caravan parks that try to cram in as many people as possible, St Tinney's thirty four acres of beautiful countryside are only home to three camping fields, six static caravans, six lodges and two cottages. So even during peak season you will have plenty or room to relax and explore.
They have converted one of the old farm buildings into a traditional English pub, the St Tinney Arms, where you can relax at the end of the day with a pint of beer and maybe a delicious home cooked meal.
Also on site is a heated outdoor pool (open from late May until early September) and there are three coarse fishing lakes.
St Tinney Farm is ideally situated to explore north Cornwall and Devon, with Port Isaac, Bude, Wadebridge, Newquay, Tavistock, Barnstaple and Ilfracombe all being within easy reach.