Daily Telegraph: St Ives - The bay To Watch
Escaping the crowds
Where to stay
Where to eat
Where to shop
Cornwall is defined by its magnificent 300-mile coastline of dunes and cliffs, fishing harbours and wooded creeks rich in bird life. Best of all, the entire coast is accessible by foot thanks to the generosity of landowners allowing permissive rights of way across private land.
Rock steady: Cornwall has some of Britain's most spectacular beaches
Hardly a mile goes by without some kind of beach appearing beside the sparking, Grecian-blue sea. The north coast has long, dune-backed sandy strands where Atlantic rollers create the best surfing waves in Britain. The south coast is more sheltered, with dozens of little coves, rocky inlets and salt-water estuaries beloved of sailors.
Talk to adults who were taken to Cornwall as children and they will say it is the one holiday that has stuck in their memory, conjuring up visions of happy, carefree days in the sun. Perhaps this is because Cornwall is a make-your-own-fun kind of place. The beaches are not backed by concrete and car parks but reached along footpaths or by scrambling down cliffs for an Enid Blyton-style sense of adventure. The sand, soft and golden, falls away gently into the sea and is ideal for building castles. There are rockpools to explore and space for a game of cricket and football - even in August.
Older children drag their parents back for the surf culture. Surfing and bodyboarding have become so popular that the main resorts - Bude, Polzeath, Newquay, Perranporth, Portreath, St Ives and Sennen - have vastly improved their facilities. The shacks and campervans have been replaced by attractive wooden structures housing a wide range of board and wetsuit hire, surf-school offices and, above the obligatory cheap-and-cheerful café, a smart bar and restaurant where parents can watch the action, a glass of chilled Chardonnay in hand.
In high summer, the beaches are the big draw for most visitors, but there is plenty to do on dull days: snatch some tropical warmth and view plants from all over the world inside the Eden Project's giant biome; explore an underground tin mine at Geevor and Levant on the Land's End peninsula, or drop in at the National Trust's Lanhydrock House near Bodmin to step back into the lifestyle of Cornwall's Victorian gentry.
Of course, bad weather is very rare (locals will tell you to ignore the black cloud that BBC weather forecasters slap on the county so readily); the sun always shines in Cornwall - at least once in a day. This optimism has spawned a big programme of outdoor theatre and music events this summer. Not only at the magical Minack Theatre built into the cliffs at Porthcurno, but also in town squares, on beaches, and in National Trust gardens all over the county. Come with a picnic and a rug and enjoy a perfect end to what is bound to be a perfect summer's day.
Godolphin House (01736 763194, www.godolphin house.com) near Helston is a virtually unknown jewel of Cornish domestic architecture. The restoration of the principal rooms in this privately owned mansion dating from Tudor times is now complete: early plasterwork, linenfold panelling and an overmantle carved by a master in 1604 are among its quiet treasures.
Children are particularly welcome: there are pony rides, an American Indian tipi and balls for knocking about in the orchard. Lunch (homemade, using organic produce) is served in a large marquee and includes "thunder and lightening", a proper Cornish tea of molasses and clotted cream served on splits (a sort of bun). Open Tues-Fri 11am-5pm, Suns 2-5pm; entry adults £6, children over five, £1.50.
Fal River Links (www.falriverlinks.co.uk) is an exciting new collaboration by all the transport providers - ferries, pleasure boats and buses - on and around the River Fal. By linking their services, they hope to encourage visitors to explore more of this beautiful deep-water estuary. The local tourist information centres provide a free guide and there are itineraries for gentle walks; boat and bus timetables are on the website.
As part of the project, a new jetty at the National Trust's Trelissick Garden opens on August 15 so that Truro-Falmouth pleasure boats can drop off and pick up passengers on this bank of the river. There is also a new park-and-float service from Ponsharden near Penryn into Falmouth to visit the National Maritime Museum and to pick up pleasure boats to Truro and the Helford or the regular ferry services to Flushing, Mylor and St Mawes.
Diving on Scylla This former naval warship was deliberately scuttled earlier this year in Whitsand Bay. It is proving a big hit with wreck divers, creating an artificial reef that is being colonised by all kinds of marine life. It's accessible to divers of all abilities; book through Looe Divers (01503 262727, www.looedivers.com). Two new glass-bottomed boats are also operating from Looe Harbour to view marine life in the area.
Canoe Tamar (0845 430 1208, www.canoetamar.co.uk) runs three-hour trips on the River Tamar between Morwellham and Cotehele. The large, stable canoes can carry up to three people and go with the tide so paddling is easy. Cotehele House, owned by the National Trust, is a must-see too. The trips, led by qualified instructors, cost £18 per person (children over eight welcome) and there is a chance to see leaping salmon and seals as well as the rich bird life.
Escaping the crowds
A careful study of the OS maps for Cornwall can be very rewarding as there are many small sand-and-gravel coves accessible on foot from the coastal footpath. In August these are rarely busy. One of the loveliest larger beaches is Porth Kidney Sands in St Ives Bay, a mile-long swathe of soft creamy sand backed by dunes. From the car park at Lelant Saltings Station it's a 25-minute walk across a golf course. Lifeguard on duty; dogs allowed.
Porthallow, on the east coast of the Lizard peninsula, is a small fishing hamlet that is rarely visited as it has a grey quarry-stone beach. Yet it has a great pub, the Five Pilchards (superb fish chowder) and is a tranquil place to set up a deckchair and watch yachts whizzing around the Carrick Roads.
Land's End moor
Criss-crossed by footpaths and topped by piled-up stone "carns", this is the perfect place to stretch out on the grass and read a book or simply admire the sweeping views over this untouched Celtic fieldscape to the sea. Get hold of Bob Acton's A View from Land's End, available in local bookshops, for the best ways onto the moor. For non-walkers Harry Safari (01736 711427, www.harrysafari.co.uk) runs entertaining half-day tours to the ancient stone circles and Iron Age villages hidden on the moor. A four-hour trip costs £15 per person in an eight-seat minibus.
Where to stay
Nearly every farmhouse hangs out a b&b sign at this time of year and many are lovely old granite buildings. Good websites for late rooms: www.cornwalltouristboard.co.uk, www.cornwall-online.co.uk and www.unique homestays.com. For cottages, contact Classic Holidays (01326 555 555, www.classic.co.uk).
The Tresanton Hotel (01326 270055, www.tresanton.com) in St Mawes is still the place for the rich and quite famous to stay in cossetted chic surroundings; doubles £195-£265.
Late risers may prefer Driftwood (01872 580644, www.driftwoodhotel.co.uk), which occupies a nearby cliff-top. It has New England-style decor and a good restaurant (the chef is Rory Duncan from Number One Aldwych); doubles £150-£190.
Locals celebrating a special occasion opt for the more traditional Well House (01579 342001, www.wellhouse.co.uk), a nine-bedroom country house near St Keyne. It is one of the AA's top 200 hotels and has award-winning food; doubles £115-£170.
St Ives has several stylish newcomers. Blue Hayes (01736 797129, www.bluehayes.co.uk) has won a tourist award for its spacious cream-and-blue rooms with their picture-postcard harbour views; doubles £130-£170. One Sea View Terrace (01736 798001, www.seaview-stives.co.uk) has two exquisite rooms with king-size beds, £90 for two b&b.
Families with younger children will find a warm welcome at the completely renovated four-diamond Primrose Valley Hotel (01736 794939, www.primroseonline.co.uk), a minute's walk from Porthminster Beach; doubles from £66; family rooms from £99.
At the Carbis Bay end of town, Jamies (01736 794718, www.jamiesstives.co.uk) opened in June. A large white 1920s villa with fabulous sea views, it has three light, white rooms with king-size beds and, downstairs, sofas that invite you to curl up with a book; doubles £80 b&b.
Sally Port Cottage, a converted lighthouse keeper's cottage beside St Anthony's Head lighthouse, opened this month. It has two ensuite bedrooms with stunning cliff-top views over the sea and across to St Mawes; £774-£932 per week through Rural Retreats (01386 701177, www.ruralretreats.co.uk); short breaks also available.
Wando Lady (01209 715757, www.goldenblack.co.uk), a 65ft traditional motor yacht built in the 1960s, has undergone a complete refit. It offers cruises to the Scillies or France in style for about £9,800 a week, five sharing, including skipper and hostess (fuel extra).
Where to eat
Cornwall now has three Michelin-starred restaurants: the Abbey Restaurant in Penzance (01736 330680, www.theabbeyonline.com), Ripleys in St Merryn, near Padstow, (01841 520179) and, a new entry this year, the Black Pig in Rock (01208 862622, www.blackpig restaurant.co.uk). All have small menus so everything is as fresh as possible and reflects the catch of the day.
The Porthminster Beach Restaurant (01736 795352): watch the light change minute-by-minute over St Ives bay while dining on wild sea bass and other fish straight from the boats. Great for an alfresco lunch, too (try the Thai beef salad). A big deck-style terrace overhangs the beach with heaters for cool evenings.
Alba (01736 797222); the food lives up to the lovely views from this first-floor restaurant in the Old Lifeboat Station beside St Ives' harbour. It is the AA's Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2004.
Juniper (01326 564424) in less-touristy Porthleven, near Helston, has built up a loyal local following since it opened last summer with its inventive modern British cooking in a simple chalet-style building overlooking the harbour.
Finn's (01637 874062, www.finnscafe.com); diners can watch the chefs grill their fish on the open-air barbecue at this classy restaurant built out over Newquay's harbour beach. Great cocktails and organic wines; seafood platter (lobster, crab claws, baked oysters) for £35 is a speciality. It has a sister restaurant in Polzeath.
Stein's Fish & Chips (01841 532700, www.rickstein.com) in Padstow has been a huge hit since its opening in March with queues round the block most days. Local monkfish, megrim sole and John Dory as well as the usual cod and plaice, served battered with chips and mushy peas or griddled with salad and garlic mayonnaise. Take-away or eat at scrubbed wooden tables with a glass of wine or beer. Open daily 12-2.30pm and 5-9pm; Sundays 12-6pm.
The Croust House (01326 280479, www.roskillys.co.uk), attached to the Roskilly's farmhouse, serves home-produced meals from 10am-9pm in the summer (barbecues some days), home-made cider and organic beer as well as its famous ice-cream. A great place for families; children can see the calves, watch the milking, and explore the farm's meadows and woods.
Hamlet at Falmouth's Pendennis Castle, films screened outdoors in Penzance's Penlee Park, and Cosi Fan Tutte at the Carnglaze Caverns near Liskeard are just several of the treats in store for art and music lovers in August. For listings of the main theatre, music and visual arts events, indoors and out, visit www.seencornwall.com.
The Ordinalia The community of St Just near Land's End is performing, under professional direction, the full cycle of medieval miracle plays (originally written in Cornish) for the first time in more than 300 years. The performances will take place in the ancient Plen-an-gwary, a grass amphitheatre in the town centre. August 19-30 (evenings), plus two matinees. Tickets £9 from Just Cornish (01736 787877, www.justcornish.com).
Eden Sessions (01726 811972, www.edenproject.com) offers summer rock concerts against the dramatic backdrop of Eden's giant domes: Primal Scream (Aug 6), Air (Aug 12) Supergrass (Aug 20), Womad (Aug 27). Special buses from Falmouth, Truro and Newquay.
Sterts Theatre (01579 362382, www.sterts.co.uk); moorland amphitheatre near Liskeard (full canopy against the weather). August performances include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Sweeney Todd, and Art (directed by Nigel Havers). Bring a picnic or dine at the on-site bistro.
Where to shop
Truro is the place for general shopping. Don't miss The Cheese Shop (up from the museum) with its carefully chosen selection from small producers all over Britain, some unpasteurised.
There are more than 100 galleries in west Cornwall alone selling paintings, sculpture and jewellery for all tastes. Pick up a copy of the Cornwall and Devon Galleries Guide (£1), available in most galleries and TICs. Among the best galleries for contemporary work are: the New Millennium, the Belgrave, and the Salthouse in St Ives; Badcocks in Newlyn; the Goldfish Bowl and the Rainyday Gallery (above the Co-op) in Penzance; Lemon Street Gallery in Truro. For landscapes, the Great Atlantic Mapworks in St Just.
Stephenson's and Trelawney's in Newlyn, England's biggest fishing port, will vacuum-pack fish to take home. For freshly picked crab and other shellfish visit Harvey's, opposite the Pilchard Works.
Newquay, Bude and St Ives for the latest surfer "threads". The best prices for wetsuits and boards are found in less-hip Hayle. Countrywise in Wadebridge for walking gear and foul-weather clothing. Wildlife (branches in St Ives, Penzance, Falmouth, Truro, Fowey) for quality seaside casuals for the over 30s (Oska, White Stuff, Crew).
Not just for veg but also organic/traditionally reared meat and eggs, cheeses, fruit from private orchards, homemade jams and cakes. Among the best: Trevelyan Farm (near Perranuthnoe on the A394 Helston-Penzance road); Gear Farm (between Mawgan and St Martin on the Lizard); Cornish Organics (on the B3297 at Four Lanes near Redruth); Trevathan Farm (on the B3314 near St Endellion), restaurant open 9.30am-5.30pm; Lobbs (opposite Heligan Gardens near Mevagissey); and St Cleer Farm Shop (near the Stag Inn, St Cleer). See www.cornwallfoodfinder.com.
My favourite steak pasties are baked by McFaddens - the butcher's shop in St Just's main square - and by Ann's Pasties, sold from the back of a bright yellow house in Lizard village. Go early as both sell out fast. Pengenna Pasties (St Ives, Falmouth, Tintagel and Bude) does a great lamb and mint version.
Holiday traffic brings the A30 to a standstill between Bodmin and Truro on Saturdays in August from 10am to 4pm. Try to hit this section earlier or later in the day. Use park-and-ride schemes in August, especially for St Ives (take the train from St Erth or Lelant Saltings) as car parks are filled by those staying in hotels and cottages.
On a short break, avoid the queues by flying to Newquay: Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com) from Stansted twice a day; Air Southwest (0870 241 8202, www.airsouthwest.com) from Gatwick four times daily.
Seagulls are becoming a dangerous menace. Don't feed them and don't walk along quays with a pasty or an ice-cream or it will be snatched in seconds.
Cornwall Tourist Board (01872 322900, www.cornwalltouristboard.co.uk). For dates of festivals, fairs and guided tours and walks see the monthly Inside Cornwall (www.insidecornwall.co.uk). Also visit www.destination-cornwall.co.uk.
British seasides: Norfolk
Cornwall Tourist Board
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