What comes to your mind when you think of England’s most western county Cornwall?
Vast uniquely hilly landscapes and the most beautifully rugged cliffs? Romantic costal walks, picturesque harbor towns and breathtakingly colorful sunsets? Sheep and horses furthermore decorating the wonderful tranquility? Beautiful mansions and teahouse blending into the background landscape? One can almost hear the winds whispering of all the lovers gazing into each other’s eyes surrounded by the waist-high heather, am I right?
All of the above? And all clichés? Nope.
Rosamunde Pilcher is not wrong setting her wildly romantic and cheesy novels here. Pack your most comfy shoes, throw in a windbreaker, bring the book you always wanted to read in front of the most stunning seaside backdrop and head to England’s most southwestern tip.
Elli’s insider: Did you know that Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca or Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House are both famously set in Cornwall? Sounds like the perfect book-choice for this trip!
Getting there & getting around
While you can fly via London, Exeter or Bristol and be well off, there is no discussion if you need a car when visiting Cornwall, because you really do! The sights and places you want to visit are all scattered throughout the whole county. It is just so much more convenient driving yourself than having to deal with the various bus- and train schedules, which are not on the cheap side and will also cost you precious time. Time that you could be spending on discovering more of the English countryside aka eating as many delicious Cornish pasties as possible.
Cornwall has so much to offer: if you keep your eyes open you will definitely notice the many hilariously named places that are mostly derived from the Kernwek language, which started to diverge from Welsh towards the end of the 7th century AD. If you need proof of that, why not visit Green Bottom or walk up Brown Willy, the highest point of Bodmin Moor and of Cornwall as a whole! And yes, those are both real Cornish destinations.
Your base in Truro: the largest Cornish Town
One of the best tips we have been given before our visit was to have our base in Truro which is the only real town in Cornwall, and serves as the administrative capital and is home to about 19.000 people. It has a nice center with lots of shops and cobblestone streets and serves as a great starting point for your exploration of the Cornish countryside. There are a few nice things to see in Truro: visit the Truro Cathedral or the Victoria Gardens. Make sure no stroll through the Lemon Street market with lots of cafes and little shops for a snack and a chat with the locals.
If you have a little more time to spare, the Royal Cornwall Museum is quite charming and very informative. If you’d like to start your journey with slowing down, this is, as we noticed ourselves, a good place to do so. Also, there are many nice bed and breakfast places. We can really recommend the one we stayed in for the whole duration of our four-day trip. The Merchant house was indeed good value for the money, with nice, clean rooms and super friendly staff sharing all the information about our daily destinations and – (wo)men – the breakfast was amazing! From Truro all the destinations below will be under an hour estimated driving time.
Discover our Top 5 Must-Visits
1. St Michels Mount – The Majestic Mountain
This popular destination functions as Cornwall’s national monument, where people flock to to discover a really extraordinary site. So, we flocked there as well and it is absolutely worth it! St Michel’s Mount, shrouded in legend, is an island consisting of huge cliffs with a medieval castle and church on top of it. We went there twice and both times it was amazing and truly different. Different how, you might ask?
Depending on the tide the whole island is surrounded by the sea or not. A gorgeous sight indeed. In a span of 3-4 hours you can walk over and visit the island. Since we never made that walking window, we “only” watched it from the beautiful beach, which is also a popular place to hang out and have a little swim or a drink, we marveled at it from a distance and still felt more than satisfied by that. Next time we’ll visit the castle, promised! Come here in the evening and take the perfect shot with the sunset behind the castle.
2. Land’s End – Over and Out
We visited beautiful Land’s End, referred to as “Belerion” – place of the sun by the ancient Greeks, to be greeted by the most majestic rugged cliffs. Even if the weather is not perfect, this is still a destination you don’t want to miss out on. Tourists have been visiting Land’s End for over three hundred years, so take a walk along the spectacular coastline and snap a picture of the very cool signpost. Since this is a touristy destination, you’ll find some restaurants there, but we’d recommend bringing your own lunch bag and picknick blanket and enjoy nature from your front row seat.
3. St Ives – “Mediterranean” lifestyle the British Edition
This little gem by the sea is as cute as English seaside towns get. Surrounded by a fishing harbor, soft white beaches, beautiful Victorian houses and a little esplanade that has a Mediterranean feel to it. There is a Tate St. Ives, that is a highlight in this otherwise very artsy feeling community and lots and lots of shops where you can stroll, buy or window-shop. We suggest to help yourself to some delicious Cornish ice-cream and do some people watching by the sea. BUT: Be aware of the Seagulls!
We did not take this seriously in the beginning and where taught a lesson pretty instantly. Though warned really sincerely by the ice-cream vendor in his gorgeous parlor we were attacked and robbed of our beautiful Cornish mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream by one of these flying food-thieves. After the shock wore off we laughed it off and got an even bigger cone. (Take this seagull!).
4. Minak Theatre – THE Surroundings
This is Cornwall’s world-famous open-air theatre right on the cliffs with an amazing view of Porthcurno Bay. The setting is truly extraordinary, if you can, check out a performance, they do operas, plays and other performances. If you are not on the artsy side, we still propose you visit the area. The beaches around Saint Levan and Portchapel are stunning and definitely worth to spend a relaxing day with your feet in the sand.
5. Tintagle Castle – Land of Legends
If you are a little nerdy about history, just as we are, and you want to wander the footsteps of mighty King Arthur, Tintagle Castel is for you. This is the place where the legendary King was said to have been conceived with the help of spells by the most famous wizard of them all, the great Merlin. You can see the ruins of the castle and walk through a small museum that will tell you all you need to know about the man and the myth.
Remember that Arthur became one of the most famous Kings by drawing Excalibur out of the stone? Tintagle will definitely make you read up on all of it. Especially after you climbed down a set of stairs onto a dreamy moss-covered beach where you can find the actual entrance to Merlin’s cave. If the tide is low it is save to walk in and feel the mystical atmosphere where the great wizard once cast his spells.
Leave some room for the many Cornish culinary delights
Since we are always on the hunt for the perfect bite we will end this post on, guess what? Food recs, to be precise, two of them. As already mentioned above, the Cornish are very proud of their produce. Milk, meat, grains as well as honey and eggs are of very high quality and can be enjoyed in a great variety of foods and snacks. We can only endorse enjoying Pub grub such as meat loaf, crab sandwiches or Cornish turbot while there.
Our two highlights are both classics
The first one is sweet. Don’t leave Cornwall without giving the velvety delight that is Cornish ice-cream a good try. It comes in traditional and sometimes also inventive variations. Creamy and delicious, just do it and do it often. But make sure to be careful of the always lurking seagulls.
Our second favorite is on the hearty side. If you thought you’ve already tried English pasties, think again. The very flavorful Cornish pasty is a must-eat while you are visiting. This D-shaped national treasure is filled with a mixture of veggies and meat (we also tried a full veggie version, one with Indian spices, one with Thai flavors and also a cheesy pasty) and can only be described as warm, hearty and very very satisfying. Have it as an afternoon snack or with a beer for dinner. The former miner’s lunch is not only handy, but also cheap and you can get it at pretty much every corner.
Land of legends, of many exceptionally amazing destinations some with more than unusual names, beautiful landscapes, cute little harbor towns as well as England’s best beaches – what are you waiting for? Book yourself a flight and a car and start your Cornish adventure. We are looking forward to your pictures and are very curious about new Pasty flavors you might discover while being there!