The last time I visited Cornwall—the furthermost point of south-west England—was over forty years ago. I don’t remember much except for sitting in the back of a steamed-up car with my siblings, squabbling and eating hot Cornish pasties. I vaguely remember a harbor, the sea and steep narrow lanes.
Latterly, of course, if you’re into English costume dramas, you will have been ravenously consuming Poldark, lusting in equal parts after the anti-hero, played by Aidan Turner, and the dramatic Cornish coastline itself. The chance to go on a quick getaway to these parts, sans Monkey (and Aidan), with a dear girlfriend from my 20s was too good to pass up.
I booked the 40 minute flight from Gatwick to Newquay – how easy is that?! – I thought to myself. Way to skip the 6-8 hour drive from London, or the 10-hour sleeper train. [Apparently it stops in sidings along the way to ensure its passengers get a good night’s sleep! This amuses me because that would never happen in the U.S.: better, faster, more efficient. Who cares about sleep?]
But I should have known better to think that a British mode of transport could be relied upon. Our inability to run things on time in less than perfect weather conditions is legendary. And my 1.30pm flight, soon got pushed back 30 mins, then 50, then 90… all the way until it was a stupendous 6 hours late taking off. The moral of this tale? Don’t ever fly Flybe. No matter how tempting it seems. It’s appalling. Okay – enough said, on to the fun parts.
We were staying in sweet little Cornish cottage in Penzance, which is a slightly less than picturesque part of Cornwall but situated very close to lots of gorgeous beaches, just a few miles from St Ives and its white sandy beaches.
Our first night we went to The Cornish Barn in Penzance for cocktails and a late bite, given the horrendously late arrival time of my flight. The staff kindly kept the kitchen open to serve us roast chicken and hake with butter beans, which hit the spot after my long sojourn at Gatwick airport. It’s a comfortable spot, with a lovely fireplace and big comfy sofa in the bar area if you’re looking for a place to chill.
A Rainy Day in Cornwall
Unfortunately for us, the rain did pour down in quite epic amounts for the first 24 hours of our stay. No matter, we managed to eat a really fine lunch at Ben’s Cornish Kitchen (BCK) in Marazion – review to follow; battle against wind and rain for a 2.5 mile beach walk from St Michael’s Mount back to Penzance; recuperate with hot showers and tea, and then fit in a superb fish tasting menu – this time at The Shore. Yeah, Cornwall isn’t a place to go and watch your waistline.
I found myself constantly losing my bearings on our drives around the countryside. There seems to be multiple ways to get to a single destination and with all the bays and inlets it’s easy (for me) to think I’m facing south, only to find it’s north. One thing that blew me away was how gorgeous and sandy white the beaches are, contrasted against the amazing crystal turquoise of the shallow waters. I will say that the turquoise only really comes to life when the sun is shining.
A Relaxing Day Around St Ives
Thankfully said sun obliged on day two, which saw us spend a few hours wandering picturesque St Ives. Be warned, it is super busy in August when all the British schools are off. We started out by picking up a coffee, and then grabbing a super cheap and tasty cooked breakfast at Porthgwidden beach, before checking out a local craft fair.
I loved watching Cornish pasties being expertly made through the window of a bakery. Filled with steak, but mostly potato and swede, the story goes that the crimped edge was created to give the tin miners a way to hold their self-contained lunch with dirty hands. Eat these beauties hot. They are great comfort food and the perfect meal on-the-go.
While the Tate Museum beckoned, we decided instead to take advantage of the dry weather and walk along the coastal path, just before it started to pour again! Hungry once more, we headed to the picture-perfect St Ives Bakery—which will truly set all your senses tingling, especially your sense of smell—to share one of their giant Cornish pasties.
Tired of battling the crowds, we headed out the much quieter Carbis Bay, just a few miles away, to restore and rejuvenate at the C Bay Spa – located inside the Carbis Bay Hotel. My massage was great and the view was spectacular.
We wrapped up our visit with a Clotted Cream Tea in the hotel’s conservatory. Scones, jam and clotted cream (which is extra thick and delicious) are served alongside a pot of hot tea. Apparently, in Cornwall, you put your jam under the cream, while in neighboring Devon, the jam goes on top of the cream. Who knew?
Our final day was spent trying to burn-off the excesses of our eating adventures – with a coastal run and a short hike along part of the famous pathway that hugs over 600 miles of coastline at the south end of England – more photos to come in a subsequent post. We toyed with the idea of a stand-up paddle-boarding session, but decided against it after watching a couple battle against the wind and lose.
Overall, three days in this spectacular part of the country really wasn’t enough, but it was a good sampler to whet my appetite. Cornwall is not the easiest place to get to, and it’s infamous for its unreliable weather, so be warned. If you’re into water sports, you’ll definitely want to get in the water, one way or another. Take a variety of clothing, a big appetite and go with the flow.