Last weekend we headed away to the Cornish Coast for the last few days of summer sunshine. We’d normally have gone abroad for an August getaway, with the guaranteed good weather being a major draw, but staycations have definitely been the way forward this summer due to the Coronavirus. And in parts, I’m so grateful this horrendous virus has opened my eyes and made me realise just how much beauty we have on our doorstep. I’d never visited Cornwall before, apart from a brief stint with work, but I honestly loved it and can totally see why millions of people choose to holiday in this part of the country each year.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, though I had an idea it would be similar to my beloved West Wales and indeed it was, although it was a lot busier and a lot more commercialised in parts. It had the same beauty and the tiny Cornish fishing ports and historic villages captured my heart and I’m already excited to go back. What’s interesting is that Cornwall is almost an island with 80% of it being surrounded by water, and it also means that you’re never more than 16 miles from the sea. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know how much I love the coast, so it really is the perfect place and there is definitely an otherworldly feel on some of its beaches.
We stayed in a B&B in St Austell, which was cute, cosy and had all we needed for a 4 night stay. Being based in St Austell meant we could easily drive around and explore much of the East of the county and the Southern coastline, but as with all trips we didn’t have time to see and do everything and we didn’t touch the Northern coastline at all so missed out on amazing places like St Ive’s and Tintagel (they’re on the list for our next visit!). I thought I’d write up a first-time visitor’s guide, listing our favourite places that we visited and with some snippets of info that you should know before you go.
The main piece of advice? Get up and out early. Car parks were filling up when we arrived at places by around 11am. It’s also worth noting that parking is expensive and you’ll need cash for a lot of them, and that the roads are windy, narrow and busy. We found getting up and basing ourselves somewhere for the bulk of the day, and then driving to somewhere else later on in the afternoon meant we missed a lot of the road/parking issues that could arise.
I’ve also been asked by a few people about Covid-19 and safety. As you’ll have read in the paragraph above, it was busy and understandably so being a sunny bank holiday, but I did feel safe there. There were hand sanitising stations at shop entrances, restaurants were operating one-way systems and had systems in place for ordering, and our B&B had a contactless check-in. There was only one town where it was overwhelmingly busy and we decided to leave because of it and that was in Looe. It just felt like people weren’t socially distanced and it was quite chaotic, but apart from that we did feel safe and everything was well thought out, particularly in the cafes and restaurants.
So, here is my guide to the must-visit places in South and East Cornwall. We missed out on Truro and some of the other ports and beaches, and I would have loved to do more coastal walks between the villages if we’d had more time, but here are our favourites…
I hadn’t heard of this gorgeous little place but we had a welcome pack in our B&B and Charlestown was listed as a must-visit place that was just 2 miles away. We decided to head down for a nose before going out for a meal on our first evening and I realised that Charlestown Harbour is actually a World Heritage Site and an unspoiled example of a Georgian fishing port. You’ll find old ships nestled in the harbour but there’s a modern twist as it is lined with gin bars and street food stalls, with seating areas poised underneath twinkling fairy lights. There are lovely views of the sea and a sandy shoreline too. Definitely worth a visit!
The main reason we actually decided on staying in this part of Cornwall was because my parents stayed in Mevagissey about 27 years ago before I came along. It’s just 5 miles from St Austell and is the most adorable, picturesque little place. Before going I read up here that this working harbour was once the centre of Cornwall’s pilchard fishery and it has a tradition of boat building dating back to 1745.
It has a wonderful hustle and bustle to it, with its narrow winding streets and alleyways, and lots of arts and craft shops to nosey around in. Yet it is also the perfect place to relax and unwind while taking in the stunning views across the harbour. We grabbed a pasty and sat by the sea front and enjoyed seeing all the boats coming and going, and you can also take a short walk up Polkirt Hill to see the harbour from above. A truly idyllic spot and one of my favourite villages that we visited.
At the other side of St Austell Bay, you will find Fowey (pronounced “Foy”). You can take a ferry trip from Mevagissey and across the bay to this stunning little town, taking in views of the South West coastline along the way. It has more of a “leisure” feel to it, with the opportunity to go on boat trips or partake in water sports and you can also cross the river by boat to visit the port of Polruan opposite. It was seriously beautiful and we enjoyed wandering the streets, grabbing an ice cream by the waterfront and enjoying a drink in the beer gardens. It also has a rich history and is one of the ports from which the D-Day invasions were launched in WWII.
This was probably my favourite place that we visited in Cornwall. It really is incredible and being in Polperro in the sunshine felt like were in a tumbling clifftop town overlooking the sea in Europe. It’s just South of Looe, and walking through this historic C13th town, you can completely see why it was notorious for smuggling!
You park your car at the top of the village (cars aren’t permitted in the village itself – you’ll see why when you get there as the streets are so narrow and higgledy-piggledy!) and walk down to reach the harbour and the sea. The alleyways are lined with old fishermen’s cottages, quirky shops, delicious cafes and pubs, and these all tumble down towards the beautiful sheltered harbour.
Follow the signs to the South West Coast Path and you’ll find yourself overlooking Peak Rock and The Net Loft (pictured in the first photograph on this post), which is believed to be an old chapel and is now a Grade II listed building looked after and currently being restored by the National Trust. Just to the right of this you will also find Chapel Pool, a stunning natural swimming pool.
Around the bay from Polperro you will find the sandy beaches of Looe. I’ll be honest, and as mentioned this was the only place that felt overly busy on our trip. It was busy almost everywhere but here it felt quite chaotic and we didn’t stay very long as social distancing was near enough impossible. That being said, I can imagine it is glorious on a sunny autumn day with its beautiful turquoise seas. You can also get a boat from there to Looe Island which is looked after by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and you may just spot some seals.
Moving further South, you will find the Roseland Peninsula and on the tip of it is the county’s largest town. Falmouth really surprised me. I’m not sure why or what I expected, but I really liked this quirky place with all of its artsy shops and independent eateries. It felt quite cosmopolitan and its flaglined streets boasted an array of gift shops that you could easily spend hours mooching around in. It also has a fantastic harbour from which you can get ferries to other spots along the Roseland Peninsula and beyond. We got the ferry to St Mawes and it was a 20 minute ride across the Fal Estuary to get there.
Being in St Mawes honestly felt like being in France. It was beautifully sunny, peaceful and quiet and had stunning views of the turquoise sea all along the village front. There was a really slow pace here and it felt quieter and like more of an escape than some of the other bustling villages we visited. I particularly enjoyed a walk to St Mawes Castle and grabbing a bite to eat whilst sat out on the balcony of the St Mawes Hotel. This spot is a great place to base yourself if you’re planning to explore the Roseland Peninsula.
One thing I really loved doing on our trip was visiting Lizard Point, the most southerly point on mainland Britain, and walking in the stunning Lizard Peninsula. The peninsula is almost entirely surrounded by water and its coastline has a really rugged feel and really reminded me of strolls I’ve taken with my mam along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. It is a really unique place for wildlife and plantlife, and is the start and end point for many walkers and animals on migratory journeys. Lizard Point is definitely worth a visit. Grab yourself a bite to eat at Britain’s most southerly cafe perched on the cliff edge and take in gorgeous views of the Atlantic.
This place had been on my UK bucket list and in my opinion, no trip to Cornwall is complete without a walk along its stunning coastal path. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to spend a few hours trundling along the clifftops when you get views like this? * insert heart eyes emoji here * You can totally see why Kynance Cove has been voted one of the best beaches in the world. It is absolutely magical. The walk there from Lizard Point is about 2.5 miles and is fairly moderate, though not suitable for wheelchairs or prams. Keep your eyes peeled for seals along the way.
Penzance & Mousehole
This is the furthest West we got while on holiday but we’d been recommended to grab fish and chips from Fraser’s in Penzance if we were in the area and decided to take the trip after our walk along the Lizard Peninsula – the food really didn’t disappoint! We ended up walking from Penzance to Mousehole (and catching the bus back as it was quiet and had social distancing measures in place) and the walk was really lovely, with views of St Michael’s Mount over in the distance. Mousehole itself was really gorgeous and reminded me so much of New Quay in Ceredigion, West Wales. We arrived in the late afternoon so the sun was just setting and casting a golden light over the harbour.
Have you ever been to Cornwall? What are your favourite places?
Lots of love. xoxo