It can be hard to transition from long-term travel back into “normal life,” so it wasn’t long after we had settled ourselves in London after months of backpacking Eastern Europe that the wanderlust itch had hit us once more. We figured we should spend some time exploring the country we now called home, so we went where most bored Londoners would go for a long weekend in early November: Cornwall, England’s premier beach destination!
Alright, so in the spirit of full disclosure, November may not be the best time of year to visit if you’re planning on spending some lazy days soaking up the sun and hitting the waves. We did have to endure some damn cold winds and torrential rain, but nonetheless, we managed to have a fantastic time. Considering that we went in the low season, accommodation prices were surprisingly affordable (we rented a cottage on Airbnb for £40 / night) and tourist crowds were virtually nonexistent, making the stunning landscapes and quaint fishing villages all the more charming. Regardless of when you decide to go, however, Cornwall is an area that should be on everyone’s English travel list.
Cornwall is the southwesternmost county in England and is famed for its beautiful beaches, world class surfing, and Cornish pasties. There are good train and bus connections from the rest of the country, however, it really helps to rent a car as it makes getting around a hell of a lot easier. Michael and I rented a car at Heathrow and, keen to see a good portion of the coastline, drove a more scenic route along the A-30. Without stopping and accounting for traffic, that drive is about 5 hours all in. You can cut off about 30 minutes by taking alternate routes and the scenery is just as stunning so it’s entirely up to you! You could also take the train or bus and rent a car there if that suits you more.
Where to stay
There are myriad places to stay whilst in Cornwall, from small cities to tiny fishing villages and if you have a car it doesn’t really matter where in the county you stay as you will have the freedom to go wherever you’d like. Michael and I stayed in a cute little cottage in a small village about a fifteen-minute drive from the city of Penzance and had no issue getting where we wanted to go, although the small roads can be precarious, especially when driving at night. Places like Newquay or St. Ives are a good option to stay if you’d like to have more variety of things at your doorstep — like a bigger selection of restaurants other than a local pub — and proximity to the beach and such. There are guesthouses and B&Bs in most towns and hostels in the bigger cities and also a plethora of Airbnb choices, so finding accommodation isn’t tricky. If you do end up going in the high season, however, it’s good practice to book well in advance as it is a very popular summer destination.
What to do
Michael and I love to hike and Cornwall is a fantastic destination for this! The website iWalk Cornwall is great for finding the numerous walks available, outlines their level of difficulty, and there is a corresponding app where you can download the route to prevent yourself from getting lost! It’s also worth a walk around Cape Cornwall or Land’s End.
For a different taste of nature, head to the Eden Project which has a number of different biomes including the biggest rainforest in captivity. If you’re an adrenaline junky, it’s possible to zip line across the entire park.
The city of St. Ives boasts a lively art scene and even has its own branch of the Tate. There are a number of great restaurants and shops there as well and the winding cobbled streets exude a classic English charm. We took cover from the rain in an arcade on the main road for a couple of hours and had a blast playing games from our childhood, and, though he’ll deny it, Michael took a brutal beating in air hockey and skee ball!
Newquay is another great city to spend a day in — if it’s warm be sure it hit the beach and maybe take a surf lesson! There are a number of surfing schools and it is considered the best destination for the sport in all of Europe. It also has a plethora of great restaurants — Michael and I enjoyed a fantastic lunch at The Fish House in Fistral Beach.
If you’re a scholar of Arthurian history (and I assume the majority of this blog’s readers are) be sure to check out Tintagel Castle, which is meant to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Or if you’re in it for old castles, St. Michael’s Mount in Penzance is very much worth seeing.
If you’re a theatre buff, take a trip to the Minack Theatre. It’s an open-air theatre that a Cornish woman carved out of the side of a cliff. It has spectacular views of the sea and puts on Shakespeare productions during the summer season. It’s worth a visit even if you don’t see a show, though, because both the theatre and scenery are absolutely breathtaking.
Cornwall is full of things to do and is one of our favourite parts of England. It is well worth a visit any time of the year.
Have you been to Cornwall? What were some of the highlights? Add a comment below!