For many Australian travellers bound for Europe, London is an obvious spot to fly in to, or out from – with a few days tacked onto the itinerary, for exploring London itself. Hailing from our country that stretches so far it requires a flight (or days in a car) to see the other side of Australia, often we completely overlook beyond London. We forget that in the United Kingdom, a whole new experience can easily be reached by car or train, and just a handful of hours.
The Cornwall Peninsula is home to hundreds of beaches and storybook harbour villages, the kind we read about in classic English novels. The pace moves more slowly than the hustle of London, so feel free to be a little lighter on the accelerator, and slow down a notch, or three. Drive West from London [and a little South], as far as you can, and you’ll soon be encircled by almost 300km of rugged, stunning coastline than tumbles into the Atlantic Ocean. Cornwall also enjoys the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, with over 1541 hours of sunshine per year, and winters are amongst the warmest in the country.
For the second part of my trip with VisitBritain, I was so excited to explore the South West for the very first time. After checking out of the beautiful The Great Northern hotel, I hopped across the road to collect my hire car from Hertz St Pancras, loaded my playlist, plugged in my GPS and hit the road for Cornwall.
It’s an easy drive (via freeway the entire way), but a lengthy drive to take solo – so I took my time, and also made a quick diversion to Bristol for lunch and leg stretch. The drive itself takes around 5 hours, depending on traffic – a perfect opportunity to listen to some of my favourite podcasts and just be with my thoughts and the open road.
There’s so many beautiful parts of Cornwall – and much that I still want to see. But here’s how I spent three nights in Cornwall (and you should too).
Day 1 – 2: Fowey
If you like the sound of a tiny storybook maritime village that feels settled under a blanket of quiet and cosy calm, head straight for Fowey.
Hanging off the west side of the Fowey estuary, the large, deep water harbour attracts sailing enthusiasts as well as those who are more than happy to have both feet planted on the ground.
Wander the cobblestoned streets, and you’ll stumble across independent gift stores – the kind of treasure troves that inspires spontaneous gifting – and eateries that beckon you to indulge in breakfast, brunch, lunch, cream tea, dinner AND dessert. There are plenty of park benches for photo stops or thought pondering, and for watching the world go by.
Fowey is also connected to the South West Coast Path, which stretching along 630 miles of beautifully dramatic coastline. The path takes you out of Fowey, along the headland, and upon St Catherine’s Castle.
Where to stay
I checked into the Old Quay House Hotel – a blissful refuge to rest my head, like the old seamen of Fowey once did. I was upgraded to the best room in the hotel, overlooking the Harbour, and spent a good while here on cushions under the duvet, just being. This place is sure to gently nudge away any and all remaining stresses you forgot to leave behind in the city.
The Old Quay House Hotel: 28 Fore Street, Fowey, Cornwall PL23 1AQ
Visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan
After checking out of Fowey, I made my way to St Austell to visit Europe’s largest garden restoration. Literally, a real-life Secret Garden, this fascinating place was lost for decades, lying hidden underneath a green carpet of brambles, ivy and overgrowth for decades after the outbreak of World War One. It was only the chance discovery of a door in the ruins, that led to the discovery and restoration of this once great estate.
Thank you so much to my tour guide James, for taking me through the garden and sharing the fascinating history of the place!
The Lost Gardens of Heligan: Pentewan, Saint Austell PL26 6EN
Open daily in Autumn/Winter from 10:00am – 5:00pm (last tickets 3:30pm)
With a fresh Cornish pastry in my grasp (delicious) I made my way onward to Newquay – via a 40 minute scenic drive through the countryside.
Newquay is one of Britain’s most loved seaside towns, and the epicentre of the UK’s surfing culture. Perched on Cornwall’s Atlantic cliffs, it’s a sand crusted, surf lovers’ paradise, blessed with regular sunshine and a completely laid-back atmosphere – definitely England’s equivalent of our beloved Byron Bay.
Checking into The Headland for a two-night stay
Overlooking Fistral Bay with imposing grandeur, this hotel is only one of 50 hotels in the UK to be awarded 4 Silver Stars by The AA. Stylish, elegant and unique, The Headland is a luxury spa hotel, offering individually designed hotel suites and private cottages finished off with incredible ocean views. If you’re game, you can even book in stand up paddle boarding lessons (weather depending) or a surf lesson with Surf Sanctuary directly with the hotel (they also have wetsuits on hand and all the gear you need). Being late Autumn and at the tail end of my Laryngitis, I opted for a spa treatment instead.
The Headland Cornwall: Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall TR7 1EW
Pedalling the Camel Cycle Trail – to Padstow
The Camel Trail provides access to the beautiful Cornish countryside along a disused railway line between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. I hired a bike and pedalled my way from Wadebridge to Padstow – an easy ride towards the gloriously beautiful Padstow.
Dining at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant
Rick Stein needs no introduction – with an international presence as an English celebrity chef, restaurateur and television presenter. It all started in 1975 when Rick and Jill Stein opened a small, unassuming seafood bistro on the Padstow harbourside. These days, the village of Padstow itself has become synonymous Rick Stein himself. He now owns four restaurants, a seafood cookery school and several places to stay in the town.
The Seafood Restaurant has established an international reputation for imaginative cooking of the very freshest fish and shellfish. On my final night in Cornwall, I dined here and it was delicious!
The Seafood Restaurant: Riverside, Padstow PL28 8BY
Cornwall, I absolutely adored every moment exploring you, and can’t wait to return!