We’ve all had one of those “sun shining, drink in hand, stunning vista” moments. During my two weeks in Cornwall, I had many.
Cornwall’s scenery is spectacular to the point of cliche. Everywhere you look, you can see rolling hills or miles of golden sand. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular TV and film locations.
But getting there can be a bit of a chore. When you’re travelling by road, you have to be prepared for the occasional delay. The motorway basically ends in Devon and then it’s A roads (if you’re lucky) all the way. Travelling from Kent, we stay in Hampshire overnight, which had the added advantage of making the whole thing much more of a road-trip.
As soon as you enter Cornwall the pace of life slows down. On a good day you’ll certainly get stuck behind at least one caravan, two tractors and a herd of cows. Being used to the frenetic pace of the South East the difference is palpable.
People stop to chat, welcome you in the shops and take the time to recommend favourite local drinks in the bar.
This laid back attitude can be contagious, and within hours I feel my shoulders relax and breathing slow down.
On this trip, my family and I stayed in a large, recently renovated holiday apartment in the surfer’s paradise of Mawgan Porth on the North coast. With three beautiful light and airy bedrooms and views of the sea it offered everything that we needed.
I’ve always wanted to kayak, so dragged the gang along to the tiny hamlet of Port Gaverne, close to Port Isaac, where Cornish Rock Tors offer guided sea kayaking trips, coasteering and wild swimming.
The day was still and bright, perfect kayaking conditions for beginners according to our instructor Ayesha. She talked us through the basics of kayaking and we learnt how to paddle, stop and turn.
Once we’d (finally) got the hang of paddling, we set off on an exploration of the coastline between Port Gaverne and Port Isaac. Paddling along the sea with the sun on my back, the sense of peace was almost overwhelming and I had another one of those “if I could bottle this, I’d be a millionaire” moments.
Along the way, we discovered secret coves that you can’t access by land, spied oystercatchers and cormorants and were lucky enough to see some inquisitive seals as we paddled out of one of the coves. It was a short trip but the memory will stay with me for a long time.
Cornwall is known for its impressive beaches and because there are so many to choose from it means that even during peak season they’re not ridiculously busy.
Our favourite was Trevone Bay, which we visited most days. Located near Padstow it’s smaller than most and and the fact it doesn’t allow dogs in the summer makes for a more relaxed vibe. The Trevone waves are good enough for body boarding and paddle boating but the water is shallow enough for younger children and anyone who might find the deep surf intimidating. As the sun sets people arrive with barbecues and the air is rich with the smell of charcoal.
To really explore the coast, I recommend taking a sea safari. We chartered an early morning boat with Newquay Sea Safaris courtesy of Chris and Annabelle Lowe. During our two hour trip, which began in Newquay, we sailed past Holywell and over to Porthcothan where we saw some of the beautiful beaches featured in Poldark including Perranporth. As well as magnificent views, Annabelle pointed out puffins, herring gulls and black back gulls as we sailed along.
The couple’s knowledge was awe inspiring and I loved Annabelle’s passion about the importance of sustainable fishing and we learnt the damage that using nets can cause to the sea bed. Chris and Annabelle’s son is a fisherman and he uses a long line which is a much kinder, although far more time-consuming way of fishing. Along the way, we stopped by his boat to check out his morning’s mouth-watering haul of lobster and crab.
Although it might be famous for its Cornish pasties and clotted cream, Cornwall does contain some amazing pubs, restaurants and cafes. Rick Stein’s hold over Padstow is phenomenal, so much so that the locals call it Padstein. In the town you’ll find a bakery, gift shop, cafe, chip shop and fish restaurant with his name on.
At Stein’s Fish and Chip Shop you might catch hake, plaice, John Dory or lemon sole. Their homemade batter is deep fried in beef dripping making it deliciously crunchy and the homemade mushy peas were without doubt the best I’ve ever eaten.
We ate yet more fish at the 18th century Golden Lion in Port Isaac, a favourite with the Doc Martin crew. Overlooking the harbour and full of history, the pub even has its own smuggling tunnel leading down onto a causeway on the beach. The real fire in our hole, though was the boozy and decadent creme brulee, the perfect final course to what I hope is the first of many West Country adventures.