This county may only be a few hours away by car, but it feels like a different world. We visit Cornwall often – may even move there one day – and we’ve walked every inch of its coastline.
From the twisty streets and art galleries of St Ives to the wildest and most inhospitable stretches of the Coast Path, this is a place to escape to.
It can get crowded at times (school holidays spring to mind) and it’s the only part of England with a viable independence movement, its own language and flag, and “English Out” graffiti on the walls. As such, it pays to show a bit of respect and avoid acting like a brash foreign tourist (also, to be aware that in the eyes of some “foreign” starts at the Tamar).
Avoid that mistake, however, and a magical place awaits.
- The north coast
- Lizard Point
- The feeling that you’re running out of land
- Shuts down in winter
- Too many surfers
- Economic deprivation in the towns
Where to eat
- Sims Family Restaurant, St Ives
- Portuguese restaurant in Mevagissey
- Pub restaurant in Porthleven
What to buy
- Arty stuff from St Ives
- Serpentine from the Lizard
Where to stay
- Trenmore, St Ives
- Whitesands Lodge
- Hotel in Coverack
Where to visit
- Tate St Ives
- Forget the exhibitions for a moment, even though they’re always at least interesting and frequently rather more than that. What impresses most about the Tate’s western outpost is the vision behind it – a superb piece of modern architecture that succeeds in regenerating the site of an old gas works and in building on the artistic tradition of a town that paid a key, although often forgotten, part in English art history. The associated Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden is also well worth a visit.
- We prefer this gem to Tim Smit’s other great undertaking, the Eden Project. Heligan was a fine garden at the start of the 20th century, but declined soon after – partly because many of the gardeners went off to the Great War and never returned. In the 1990s Smit discovered it, abandoned and overgrown, and restored it to its former greatness.
- Chysauster & Carn Euny
- These ruined Celtic villages are sufficiently well-preserved to give you a vivid feeling of what ancient life must have been like here. Both are on isolated hillsides in the west of the county, neither have been swamped by the heritage industry, and both offer the opportunity to ponder over the mystery of just what the hell is a fogou.
- Screech Owl Sanctuary
- We love everything about this place, from the falconry lessons I had for my birthday to the fact that it’s based near the gloriously-named Indian Queens. We sponsor a western screech owl called Montana (Monty for short) and visit as often as we can.
Where to avoid
- The Minack Theatre
- Yes, it’s spectacular. Yes it’s unique. Yes, it’s an example of English eccentricity at its finest. But our experience, based on dealing with the people who work there, is that it’s also smug, unfriendly, possessed of a vastly inflated sense of its own importance and actually rather tacky.