The sea has nibbled Cornwall into intriguing coves, ideal for smugglers and cool cafes. England’s spiky heel is a hilly, curvy couture of palm trees, high hedges and beaches. When the sun’s shining and you can find somewhere to park, there’s nowhere hipper for an English beach holiday. And when the wind’s gusting, you’re never far from a cosy gallery or trendy restaurant. Artists have coloured in nature’s design perfectly.
What We Liked
Lizard Point, the most southerly place in England, is inhabited by fab beaches. Every day, kids can point at RAF helicopters and zooming fighter jets from a different beach.
Here’s an insider tip…
Cornwall is alive with birds and flowers and secret places. Martin Rule, a Helston based conservationist and wildlife expert, took us on a top secret walk to Loe Pool – a winter mecca for ducks, and the kind of beauty spot we’d never have found. Accompanied by Sarah (his ecotherapist wife), a telescope and binoculars, he helped us spot more birds than I’d noticed in a year, a squirrel running along a barn roof, and the most gorgeous reflection of wintry sun. Kids snacking on wild plants and peering into a telescopic world of pochards and great crested grebe made for a lush, peaceful morning, and cost less than a tenner. Longer, off-the-beaten track natural experiences for families, ornithologists or anyone looking to soak in nature can also be arranged (www.feelgoodinnature.co.uk).
Falmouth is where sea meets shops. Cobbled streets spiral down to western Europe’s deepest harbour. Students’ work spills from England’s leading Art School into galleries and book shops, giving the town a funky edge. Local illustrator Emma Yarlett’s vibrant Nibbles books inspired Alicante to turn holiday scribbles into a picture book. The galleries, shops and cafes with a view, make it perfect for wet or wintry days, and when the sun’s out you can climb up, up, up, then swoop down to the beach.
St. Ives is stacked high with houses, galleries, boutiques and sweet shops. It’s where seaside meets creativity; a place for grandparents to rest while the kids seek ice cream in its nooks and crannies.
The Blue Anchor Inn, Helston
Sipping a pint of home brewed spingo with a group of pals feels conspiratorial, under The Blue Anchor’s low wooden beams. Even nipping off to the toilet between the pubs stony walls has an air of eeriness. This creaky old pub echoes with centuries of conversation and clanking glasses. As the spingo strips away any remaining memories of modernity, the 15th century ceilings and floors begin to slope further and further downhill. If you’re keen to lose a few centuries, pop in for a pint.
Porthleven’s a blend of painted and unpainted houses gathered round a splashy harbour. There’s the standard Cornish gallery, Rick Stein restaurant, cosy inn, fish and chips, surf; plus fab ice cream at the cool Nauti But Ice cafe. And – for those looking for a change from plain, golden sand – the beach also has shells and pebbles.
Marazion has the type of flat golden beach that kids and dogs love to race along. It also has a cobbled causeway that washes away with the tide, leading to a rock crowned with a garden and castle. Standing at the top of St Michael’s Mount, Cornish flag afluttering, you can be king or queen of your own republic. Less energetic conquistadors can dine at the Godolphin Arms and watch the snake of adventurers splash across to the island.
Once you know how to say Fowey (Foy) properly , you’re all set to blend into holiday poshness: townhouses that look as if they’ve been scrubbed up and transplanted from Georgian London; delis and bars with upmarket meals and views of Daphne Du Maurier’s Readymoney Cottage. Hours slip away peering into shop windows, hoping to spot Dawn French. Generally, to no avail. But it’s a lovely place for long, slow walks washed down with a beer.
If you’ve not had any luck spotting Dawn French, try looking out for Rick Stein and Richard and Judy in Padstow. Even failed attempts can be savoured in first class restaurants.
Under no circumstances should you trust a gull in Cornwall. They are charlatans and thieves who’ll whirl and flock and dive bomb; then swoop off with your unlicked ice cream or freshly unwrapped chips.
Usually, you have to pay to park. Even then, it can be hard to find a place. If you can, ask about parking before you set off; carry lots of change or be prepared to walk.
Buses run between the main towns and villages but you can see more with a car, or bike. The most beautiful places are often the most remote.