Day Trip: Cornwall
PLACES TO VISIT IN CORNWALL
Fancy a day trip to Cornwall? Here are the best places to visit that are within an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Moorland View.
If you're looking for a classic Cornish fishing town, you've found it in Port Isaac, where a cluster of cobbled alleyways, slender opes (lanes) and cob-walled cottages collect around a medieval harbour and slipway. Though still a working harbour, Port Isaac is best known as a filming location: the hit TV series Doc Martin has used the village as a ready-made backdrop. A sign near the quayside directs visitors straight to Doc Martin's cottage. A short walk along the coast path leads to the neighbouring harbour of Port Gaverne, while a couple of miles west is Port Quin, now owned by the National Trust. Cornwall's chef du jour Nathan Outlaw has made the village his culinary centre of operations.
With its cluster of rocks and a lonely seaside cottage, the small cove of Port Quin makes a perfect picture. Local folklore maintains that it was once a thriving fishing port, but the entire fleet was lost during a great storm in the late 17th century. The remaining families, including some 20 widows, were all subsequently relocated to Port Isaac. It's a good focus for a walk, easily reached from Port Isaac via the coast path, about 2 miles away.
The spectre of legendary King Arthur looms large over Tintagel and its dramatic clifftop castle. Though the present-day ruins mostly date from the 13th century, archaeological digs have revealed the foundations of a much earlier fortress, fuelling speculation that Arthur may indeed have been born at the castle, as locals like to claim. It's a stunningly romantic sight, with its crumbling walls teetering precariously above the sheer cliffs, and well worth devoting at least half a day to exploring.
Roughly halfway between Newquay and Padstow loom the stately rock stacks of Bedruthan. These mighty granite pillars have been carved out by the relentless action of thousands of years of wind and waves, and now provide a stirring spot for a stroll. The area is owned by the National Trust (NT), which also runs the car park and cafe. Admission to the site is free, but non-NT members have to pay for parking.
If anywhere symbolises Cornwall's increasingly chic credentials, it's Padstow. This old fishing port has become the county's most cosmopolitan corner thanks to the bevy of celebrity chefs who have set up shop here – including Rick Stein, whose Padstow-area property portfolio encompasses several restaurants and hotels, plus a gift shop, bakery, pub, seafood school and fish-and-chip bar.
In a superb position on a knuckle of cliffs overlooking fine golden sands and Atlantic rollers, its glorious natural advantages have made Newquay the premier resort of north Cornwall. It is difficult to imagine a lineage for the place that extends more than a few decades, but the “new quay” was built in the fifteenth century in what was already a long-established fishing port, up to then more colourfully known as Towan Blistra. The town was given a boost in the nineteenth century when a railway was constructed across the peninsula for china clay shipments; with the trains came a swelling stream of seasonal visitors. The centre of town is a somewhat tacky parade of shops and restaurants from which lanes lead to ornamental gardens and cliff-top lawns. The main attraction is the beaches. Festivals run through the summer, when the town can get very crowded.
Built at the bottom of a china clay pit, the giant biomes of the Eden Project – the world's largest greenhouses – have become Cornwall's most famous landmark, and an absolutely essential visit. Looking rather like a lunar landing station, Eden's bubble-shaped biomes maintain miniature ecosystems that enable all kinds of weird and wonderful plants to flourish – from stinky rafflesia flowers and banana trees in the Rainforest Biome to cacti and soaring palms in the Mediterranean Biome. Book online for discounted admission.
In many ways, Fowey feels like Padstow's south-coast sister; a workaday port turned well-heeled holiday town, with a tumble of pastel-coloured houses, portside pubs and tiered terraces overlooking the wooded banks of the Fowey River. The town's wealth was founded on the export of china clay from the St Austell pits, but it's been an important port since Elizabethan times, and later became the adopted home of the thriller writer Daphne du Maurier, who used the nearby house at Menabilly Barton as the inspiration for Rebecca.
Slender alleyways, flower-fronted cottages and a grand double-walled quay make the little coastal village of Mevagissey one of the most authentically pretty ports in southeast Cornwall. Its character has changed little since the days when it earned its keep from the sea; higgledy-piggledy buildings line the old streets leading inland from the harbour, and fishing boats bob on the incoming tide. It's not been gentrified to quite the same degree as other ports along the coast, and feels all the better for it. There are secondhand bookshops and galleries to browse, and the harbour is one of the best places on the south coast for crabbing: you'll be able to buy all the gear you need in the nearby shops. In summer, ferries run along the coast from Mevagissey Harbour to Fowe
Dominated by the three mighty spires of its 19th-century cathedral, which rises above town like a neo-Gothic supertanker, Truro is Cornwall's capital and its only city. It's the county’s main centre for shopping and commerce: the streets here are packed with high-street chains and independent shops, and there are regular weekly markets held on the paved piazza at Lemon Quay (opposite the Hall for Cornwall).