15th February 2021
On the upside, this crazy year has given us all many reasons to stay closer to home and slow down a little. And being a destination that doesn’t involve hopping on a plane to get to, Cornwall’s culture, landscape and remoteness makes it a place that goes hand-in-hand with the art of slow travel. So, here are some of our favourite places to ditch the car and reconnect with yourself, with each other and with nature at your own pace.
Once your feet hit the sand, these waterside villages and your pace of life will quickly re-adjust to the ebb and flow of the tides. Take a step back in time in this ‘forgotten corner’ of Cornwall, where you can wander the coast path to historic landmarks or hop aboard a ferry and witness the county’s maritime heritage from the water. Why not wake up with a sunrise sea dip, skim pebbles in the twinkling bay, then follow the cobbled lanes to The Old Bakery for a loaf of fresh sourdough that you can unpack on a picnic at Rame Head?
With little to do except stroll, swim, eat and gawp at its pristine beauty, the seaside hamlet of Portloe is an idyllic location to ditch your keys and lap up life in the slow lane. Get a mighty dose of Vitamin Sea, rub shoulders with local fishermen and dine on the their catch in historic smugglers’ hangouts. Flaunting Cornish culture and eye-popping coastal scenery in bucket-loads, for its diminutive size, you’ll feel a million miles away from the maddening crowds. In spring, wafts of coconut-gorse infuse the air as you stroll along the coast path to Portholland’s duo of beaches. Or you might prefer to castaway on a paddleboard to spot seals and seabirds.
Hang a crabbing line from the harbour wall and watch the watery world go by in a place dubbed ‘the loveliest village in England’ by Dylan Thomas. Tuck into potted Cornish crab accompanied by locally brewed ales in the The Ship Inn – a place frequented by Thomas – before rambling onto Lamorna Cove, where he also stayed with his girlfriend Caitlin. As you pass the iconic Tater Du lighthouse, tunnel through the enchanting Kemyel Crease woodland and emerge at Lamorna’s quayside. It’s easy to see why Dylan Thomas fell so deeply in love with the landscape – and indeed his girlfriend, who he subsequently married. Whether you walk the coast path, or take a cruise aboard where the skipper regales tales of smugglers, shipwrecks and pirates, you’ll no doubt fall head over heels for this place, too.
Get lost in miles of dunes and glide down their sandy peaks, onto a crushed-shell beach perfect for hunting sea glass. At low tide explore the sea caves in search of the ‘holy well’ that gave the beach its name, and when westerlies bring white horses scudding across the Atlantic, seek shelter in the towering dunes. As soon as you clap eyes on the twin peaks of Gull rock, you’ll recognise the bay for its part in BBC’s Poldark hit. And whether your toes are in the sand or you stomp the coast path to Kelsey head, it’s easy to imagine Ross Poldark galloping along the shoreline, and Demelza wistfully picking sea pinks on the cliff tops.
Exploring Cornwall under pedal power is a great way to get under the skin of the landscape and culture at your own pace, while cunningly avoiding the holiday traffic. There’s a web of mineral tramways criss-crossing some of the county’s richest mining heritage in West Cornwall, our favourite of which is the Coast-to-Coast trail. Freewheel along 11 miles of off-road trails from Portreath harbour on the north coast, ticking off sea views, woodland, engine houses and quarries, on the way to the sublime estuary-edge Devoran on the south coast.
Kick off your shoes, grab a fishing net and bucket, and pad along Downderry’s sand and shingle shoreline on the ebbing tide. Here, in the shadow of the sea cliffs, you can squander hours searching the rock pools for the likes of starfish, anemones, crabs and blennies. Don’t lose track of time if you want to pad barefoot all the way to Seaton, as you don’t want to get cut off by the incoming tide. At the very eastern end of the beach you’ll find more than nature baring all, as it’s a popular naturist hangout.
Feel the embrace of nature as you turn inland from the rugged North Cornish coast and follow a magical glen all the way to a thundering waterfall. Explore ancient woodland alongside the River Trevillet to reach the 60ft St Nectan’s Glen, serenaded by birdsong, the whisper of the water, and the mythical fairies and piskies believed to inhabit one of Cornwall’s most spiritual sites.