Why get on an international flight when you can enjoy the golden sands, azure seas and welcome sunshine of a break in Cornwall?
With an excellent rail service from London, a petite airport in Newquay and beaches you won’t believe are British, Cornwall is easy to get to and almost impossible to drag yourself away from. The perfect short-break destination for families, couples and solo travellers alike, Kernow – in the ancient Cornish language – is a beautiful peninsula with pretty fishing villages, fascinating historical sites and a dazzling coastline.
A weekend break in Cornwall will fill your lungs with sea air and your belly with the freshest, most perfectly served fish, and leave your soul fully refreshed as well – after bike rides, strolls and other sedate adventures, all with spectacular views. The county is unusual in that it offers the best of rural living with the perks of city-dwelling – Cornwall boasts fabulous gastropubs, chic boutiques and excellent cultural attractions and festivals.
Planning your trip to Cornwall
Cornwall is well served by rail, air and road. If you don’t have to work around school holidays, though, avoid these times if you can. The family-friendly charms of Britain’s best beaches have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the country – and popular towns such as Padstow, not to mention the roads into the County, fill up quickly in August.
Where should I stay in Cornwall?
What are your priorities? If it’s surf, you’ll need the north coast and beaches including Fistral, Harlyn and Watergate Bay. Newquay is fun, lively and subject to a recent regeneration project that has seen the town smarten up, scheduling interesting events all year round. If you choose to stay here, be sure to call in on Jamie Oliver’s fantastic Fifteen restaurant in Watergate Bay – its huge windows provide a breathtaking panoramic of the ocean, and its cocktails are some of the best in Cornwall.
If it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for, go inland a little to the Allen Valley around Bodmin. Like the idea of St Ives but want something more reasonably priced, or less busy? Hayle is one stop away on the train, meaning you can visit the world-standard Tate St Ives gallery and surrounding restaurants, then nip back to this lovely seaside town – with three miles of beach to its name.
When should I go to Cornwall?
As mentioned, the school holidays are always busy – but that doesn’t mean they’re unfeasible. Just book your accommodation in Cornwall well in advance and don’t expect deserted beaches. In fact, the more children on the beach, the more sandcastle companions for your own! The summer months are more than likely to bring sun, for at least part of your trip – and a picnic on a Cornish beach in August is an unbeatable way to spend a family break.
If you have the luxury of an open calendar, May is a lovely time to take a short break in the county. May Day (1st May) in Padstow is a riotous affair that starts late the previous night with thundering drums, and sees the whole town dressed in white with red scarves, while a nominated member of the population dances the streets in the ’obby ’oss – a singular black horse costume. It’s hard to describe and impossible to forget – the event provided the inspiration for some of the pagan activity in 70s film classic The Wicker Man. Allow yourself a few days’ stay to recover from this boozy and bizarre event. And don’t forget your whites.
While spring and summer see Cornwall at its liveliest, winter gives the truest sense of its charms. So, visit off-season to try Stargazey Pie (expect to see fish heads poking out of your lunch, through the crust), hot punch and a harbour walk under the fairy lights. Have Trevone beach to yourself in December, and take a bracing walk to Rick Stein’s inn, The Cornish Pub – the food is predictably brilliant, the décor stylish and cosy. Hope for snow – there is nothing prettier than a little harbour under snowflakes.
What are the best places to visit in Cornwall?
If you’re looking for more than just beaches, or should wet weather strike, then there are plenty of inland Cornish attractions. The Tate St Ives is a compact cousin to the gigantic London galleries, but it has transformed the town into a real artist’s colony (as well as a second-homer’s paradise, with top-class restaurants and shops to delight visiting metropolitans).
The Eden Project is a sublime family attraction – genuinely unmissable for anyone with an interest in how the natural world works… or an appetite for adrenaline (the park includes zip-wires and other athletic challenges). Meanwhile, history buffs and kids who like the challenge of a battlements walk should head to the ancient riverside town of Lostwithiel. The imposing remains of a 14th century castle, which was home to Edward the Black Prince, provide the perfect location for a spot of hide-and-seek against an epic pastoral backdrop.
Does Cornish ice cream and picturesque beaches sound like the perfect destination for you? Then take a look at our hotels in Cornwall.