Cross the River Tamar into Cornwall and it is immediately obvious that you are, as the Cornish will remind you, no longer in England. Cornwall, a region in the southwest of England, is often overlooked as a Celtic destination. That is because many of the cultural aspects that make Cornwall distinct were almost lost. However, thanks to a significant revival in the past century, a traveler in Cornwall now feels the rich history of the region. Cornish is now taught in schools, St. Piran’s flags can be seen flying above government halls, and there is even an official Cornish tartan. Although the Cornish tartan is a recent invention to display Cornish heritage, the Cornish culture is as old and as rich as those of their Celtic brethren and certainly worth visiting.
From the breathtaking views of the Cornish coastline to the cozy bakeries offering Cornish pasties at every turn, Cornwall will win you over in a heartbeat.
What to Visit in Cornwall:
Legendary birth place of King Arthur and home to the famed love story of Tristan and Iseult, Tintagel castle is one of the great Medieval ruins in the United Kingdom. The recent addition of a foot-bridge spanning the chasm between the mainland and the outcropping that the castle is built on makes it easier for visitors to access the castle and provides stunning views. If you want to get a few more steps in take the stairs that climb up and down the cliffs and enjoy your hard earned reward wandering the crumbling corridors of the castle and a statue of King Arthur that watches over it all.
As stated by the National Trust, Kynance Cove is one of the world’s most spectacular beaches. You absolutely must time your visit to the cove with low tide so that you can wander the beach that emerges from the sea and explore the many tidal caves that are only accessible when the water has retreated.
There is a gradual path leading down to the cove that is appropriate for strollers or wheelchairs while there is also a more direct path that ends in a scramble down some rocks to reach the beach. Both paths take you to the cafe that is at the base of the cliffs that serves cakes, ice creams, tea and scones. If you want to make a day of it, you can join the coastal path from Kynance and walk down to Lizard Point, the most southerly point in England.
A World Heritage site, the Botallack mines once produced tin, copper, and arsenic. Today they offer breathtaking views of the Celtic Sea and an opportunity to learn about the important role that mining once played in the local economy. There are lots of trails running along the coastline, from casual strolls to more daring cliff edge scrambles. The visitor center has maps, explanatory videos, and even a quaint cafe staffed by locals that are very helpful in explaining the different paths.
If the weather is less than ideal for a day outside or you simply want to switch things up from being outside most of the day, pay a visit to Saint Ives, a quaint coastal town full of wonderful restaurants, local shops, and charming places to stay. It also has beautiful beaches stretching the length of the town and a branch of the Tate with ocean facing galleries.
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is often confused for Mont St Michel, an understandable mistake given that the two do look strikingly similar and are in fact historically connected. Mont St Michel is a tidal island off the coast of Northern France that backed William the Conqueror in his quest to take England and was rewarded with the gift of St Michael’s Mount for their support. Subsequently, the smaller Cornish island was modeled after the French island. Over time it changed hands many times and today the island is home to 35 people. The castle is still inhabited by the St Aubyn family and is open for tours. The island is also home to quite a few small restaurants and shops, just note that none of them are open on Saturdays.
The Eden Project is one of the most amazing environmental transformations you are likely to see and is well worth a visit. The site was once a china clay strip mine and a real eyesore. Since acquiring the land in the late 90’s, the Eden Project completely made over the mine, constructing two large biomes in the pit housing a staggering array of the world’s most important plants while covering the remaining areas in lush gardens. You can learn all about the plants and their ecosystems of origin or just enjoy strolling through the beautiful foliage. There are multiple cafes to chose from and there are often activities for families so make sure to check out the website and see what’s going on!
Where to Stay in Cornwall
Saint Ives is a great place to stay while in Cornwall because all of the sites listed above are at most about a forty minute drive away and the city has so many great places to eat.
27 The Terrace is reasonably priced and is a beautiful guesthouse with only 9 rooms making it an intimate experience. The Georgian period home is also perched right above the Porthminster Beach and is just a few minutes walk from the center of town.
If you want to indulge a bit then Carbis Bay Hotel is a great choice. Just a mile out of town from Saint Ives, there’s an in-house spa and it’s a beach front property where you can relax on the golden sand or rent kayaks.
Another option is choosing to stay in the smaller town of Marazion, where Saint Michael’s Mount is located. The Godolphin Arms sits directly across from Saint Michael’s Mount and offers stunning views of the island along with luxurious rooms and a delicious restaurant.
Where to Eat in Cornwall
Blas Burgerworks (St Ives) – This local burger shop has an abundance of burger options, many of them vegetarian. The restaurant is small and the seating is communal so make sure to get there on the earlier side since it can fill up and there are no reservations for smaller groups.
The Loft (St Ives) – Also a smaller restaurant, The Loft serves up seafood dishes using locally sourced food. The presentation is beautiful; the food is delicious; and there’s even an outside terrace with views over the bay that you can sit on when the weather is nice.
St Ives Bakery – Whether looking for something sweet or something savory, St Ives Bakery has you covered with a scrumptious array of fresh baked goods that make for the perfect pit stop.
Philps Bakery – If you end up in Marazion you have to go to Philps. The Cornish pasties are not to be missed. They’re pretty much like the British version of calzones stuffed with savory fillings, our personal favorite were the chicken ones. Best part, if you fall in love with them you can have more shipped to your home via the post!