It’s a late February evening, and as I answer the phone to my partner at the time, she tells me to make sure I keep a week free at the end of April because we’re going on holiday to North Cornwall with another couple.
‘Okay,’ I tell her. ‘No Problem’. I say my goodbyes, put down the phone and can’t help but feel uneasy. I’m very much a creature of habit, and as I’ve never been to Cornwall before, I don’t fully know what to expect. I know it looks nice on the TV and I know there are some awesome beaches there, but what if it’s boring and I feel as if I’ve wasted my money? Well, it’s too late now, I’ve said yes and have committed.
A couple of months later, it’s April and it’s time to go on holiday.
To beat the morning rush hour, we set off ridiculously early in the morning and as the rain falls and I wait for my morning coffee to kick in, I worry that the entire holiday’s going to be a complete washout.
Several rain-soaked hours later, we pass through Bristol, Somerset, and then Devon. As we do, I notice the scenery changing and with it, my mood begins to lift. Perhaps it won’t be so bad after all, and as the saying goes ‘a change is as good as a rest’.
Finally, after nearly 6 hours on the road, I see the sea, and worries about work, finances, the weather, and anything else you can think of, fade away, and all seems right with the world. Now, I know this is going to be a holiday I’ll remember forever.
My first time in Cornwall
Cornwall has to be one of my favourite holiday destinations in the entire world. Believe it or not, however, but I’ve actually only been twice in my life, once in 2016, and once in 2017. Both holidays have been some of the best of my life.
The very first beach I visited in Cornwall was Porth beach in Mawgan Porth. Mawgan Porth is in North Cornwall and is nestled snugly between the fishing town of Padstow, and the surfer’s paradise that is Newquay.
Mawgan Porth is a lovely little beach and small settlement and has one of the nicest beaches I’d ever seen.
We arrived at roughly 11 am and got ourselves unpacked and took a look around the holiday cottage we were staying in for the week. The cottage was a two-bedroom converted farmhouse that had been renovated to a very high spec. Because of intense storms in the area a couple of days before, the cottage didn’t have WIFI, which was perhaps a bit of a downer, but in all honesty, not being glued to my phone and checking work emails every day was a nice break.
Once unpacked, we drove to the beach, which was a little over 2 minutes away from where we were staying. Despite it being the end of April, the sun was now shining and the weather was quite warm, so I decided to take myself off for a paddle in the sea. The others looked at me like I was mad but whenever I’m around water I’m always tempted to get in.
The next day, we visited Padstow, and for me, that was certainly one of the highlights. Padstow is nicknamed by the locals as ‘Padstein’ due to the fact that celebrity TV chef, Rick Stein hails from there, and owns a number of properties and businesses there, including a seafood restaurant, a fish and chip shop, and several bakeries.
I really enjoyed Padstow, as it is much smaller than a lot of the other popular tourist places in Cornwall, and for me, the fewer people, the better. If you read my last article on Whitby, you’ll know that I’ve got a thing about fishing harbours. Perhaps I was a fisherman in a past life, who knows?
After walking what felt like a million steps, as it had been over three hours since my last meal, I was close to death with hunger, so we decided to stop off for dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant named Pucelli’s. I’m funny about my food, as back home it’s rare I’ll eat seafood, especially when dining out. When by the coast, though, when it’s fresh, you can’t beat it. I ordered prawns in garlic butter, followed by the ‘fruit de mere’ seafood pizza with extra chillies. To wash it down, I ordered my very first pint of Rattler cider, and from that point onwards, I was hooked on the stuff. This was lucky really because the next day we’d booked to visit the farm where Rattler is produced.
Getting drunk at Healey’s Cyder Farm
It’s rare that I’ll drink alcohol in the day, and certainly not on a weekday, but as we were on holiday, we decided to book a tour of Healey’s Cyder Farm in Truro.
Healey’s is where Rattler cider is produced, which is a cider that is synonymous with Cornwall. This cloudy apple cider is made from Cornish Rattler apples and features a far too cool looking snake sporting a pair of sunglasses as the mascot.
Once we arrived at the farm (by taxi, I might add) straight away the distillery towers dominated the landscape. These huge metal cylinders featured a huge image of the rattlesnake mascot of this awesome brand of cider, which I thought was awesome as I am a sucker for a good gimmick.
Before we began the tour of the brewery, we hopped onto the back of a tractor-trailer and took a guided tour through the vast orchards to see where the apples that were used to make the cider were grown.
Once the tour of the orchard concluded, I ordered my first pint of Rattler of the day, and it was here that things began to slowly go downhill. If you’ve never tried rattler cider before, there’s something you should know, and that is the fact that Rattler is like rocket fuel. It’s 6%, though the sweetness disguises the alcohol. I also can’t sip my drinks, and as I was thirsty, I drank my pint quicker than Usain Bolt could complete the 200-metre sprint.
The others had barely touched their drinks by the time the tour began, so they were forced to leave theirs, which in all honesty, broke my heart (I hate seeing food or drink go to waste).
The tour was incredibly interesting as we saw where the apples were pressed, where they were distilled, where they were bottled or barrelled, and where they were labelled up and boxed up to be sent to virtually every off-licence and supermarket in Cornwall. Finally, the last leg of the tour took place in the bar, where we were told we could sample everything that they brewed there.
This alone was incredible value for money as for £14 you got the tractor ride, the tour of the brewery, a free pint of Rattler, and all of the samples. We tried shots of the many different cider flavours, shots of their whiskey, shots of their gin, shots of their strawberry wine, rum, and more besides.
By the time we went to the café to have dinner, I was feeling more than a little delicate. Unlike the others, I’d tried every drink they offered me and was certainly beginning to feel unsteady on my feet. I redeemed my free pint of cider, ordered dinner and went on to drink another couple of pints afterwards. I don’t remember a great deal after that, but know that the tour of the cider farm was one of the main highlights of my first holiday in Cornwall.
A second holiday in Cornwall
Shortly after getting home from Cornwall for the first time, we decided to book again for the following year. This time we decided at the end of May, as the weather the first year was slightly too chilly. This time I knew that Cornwall was awesome and knew what to expect. We decided to book a cottage in the village of St Merryn, which was between Porth and Padstow.
St Merryn is a small village with a few shops, a couple of cafes, a restaurant, and The Cornish Arms pub. This pub is also owned by Rick Stein. Seriously, it’s like he owns half of Cornwall. To be fair, he has created jobs, improved the tourism industry, and his lobster thermidor recipe is fab, so he gets a pass from me.
We arrive in Padstow at 10.30 am, and as we can’t check into the cottage until gone 3, we decide to take a look around Padstow again. ‘I’m so hungry I could pass out’ I say, as dramatic as ever, and we decide to get a pasty. After all, in Cornwall, you can’t NOT try a traditional Cornish pasty. As we walk down past the harbour, we spy a pasty shop up ahead, and guess who owns it? Yep, it’s my old friend, Rick Stein once again. I demolished a Cornish pasty and a lamb and mint pasty in 0.76 seconds and we decided, as it was nice weather, to take a boat trip out to sea.
‘I’m going to be sick’ I said to my partner as the boat bobbed up and down.
‘It’s your own fault for eating those pasties too quickly’ she said unsympathetically. ‘Just look at the horizon, that’s supposed to help with seasickness’.
Thankfully I didn’t throw up, and the waves did calm down. We saw the old tin mines from the boat, before stopping on the aptly named ‘puffin island’ which was littered with puffins, and a seal who was sat on a rock sunbathing, seemingly not bothered by the large boat of people gawking at him and taking pictures and videos. I must admit, if I was nude sunbathing on a rock, I’d object to having my picture taken, but then again, the seal was doing it in public, so it’s his own fault. Besides, for all, I knew he could have been an exhibitionist.
After checking in at the cottage and getting unpacked we decided to have a walk down the road to the Cornish Arms, which was literally less than 200 yards from where we were staying. I ordered a ‘a half pint of prawns’ which was a half-pint jug full of sweet and delicious prawns, served with homemade bread, lemon mustard mayo, and butter. This was followed up by steak and ale pie and sticky toffee pudding, all washed down with a pint of, you guessed it – Rattler.
Adventures at Tintagel
‘Oh great’ I said as I opened the curtains the next morning and was greeted by a grey sky, fog, and drizzle. Today was the day we were off to visit Tintagel Castle, which was renowned for its amazing views out to sea. Judging by the weather today, I’d be lucky to see more than 5 metres in front of myself.
Tintagel is one of Cornwall’s most popular tourist attractions. It is here where history meets legend as Tintagel Castle was believed to be the birthplace of the legendary king, King Arthur. Located on the coast, adjacent to the Cornish village of Tintagel, the ruins of this castle see holidaymakers from all over the globe visit here throughout the year. Originally, Richard, the 1st Earl of Cornwall, built a castle here in the Middle Ages during the 13th century. Sadly, the castle fell into disrepair and is now in ruins. Despite this, it is still an excellent tourist attraction and I had a whole lot of fun here.
The rain didn’t let up, and if anything, the fog got worse, but it was too late now, we’d committed and would see these ruins come rain or shine. A steep walk down to the entrance to the ruins and we were ready to ascend to the summit. The walk up to the top of the ruins is not for the fainthearted, and by the time we reached the summit I was sweating like I’d just done 10 rounds with Tyson. I’d like to say that the view was worth it but, in all honesty, it was that grey and foggy I could barely see anything. What did make up for the lack of a view, though, is the imposing bronze statue which sits proudly atop the clifftop, overlooking the rough Atlantic sea. Contrary to popular belief, the statue is not necessarily King Arthur clutching Excalibur, unless that is what you want to believe. The bronze statue is known as ‘Gallos’ which in Cornish, translates to ‘power’. Standing out against the grey and misty backdrop, it looked very impressive and it got me a total of 16 likes on Instagram, as of this writing.
The walk back down was much easier than the walk up, and because I’m such a lazy slob, I convinced my partner to hop into the Land Rover taxi that was ferrying people up and down to the car park, for a mere £1. Despite the weather, I really enjoyed Tintagel and would convince anybody visited Cornwall to check it out.
Seven bays for seven days
North Cornwall is famous for many things, though arguably the most famous things in Cornwall are in fact the beaches. Where we were staying, we were fortunate enough to be located in close proximity to what is known as the ‘seven bays for seven days’.
These are the following 7 gorgeous beaches, all nestled snugly on the North Cornish coast between Newquay and Padstow:
- Trevone Bay
- Constantine Bay
- Booby’s Bay
- Mother Ivey’s Bay
- Porthcothan Bay
- Harlyn Bay
After laughing for an uncomfortable amount of time at the name ‘Booby’s Bay’ (At the time I was 31 years of age, and am still as mature as ever) we decided to visit as many of these beaches/bays in our week as possible.
Thankfully, the day at Tintagel was the only day of the holiday that was wet and miserable, and in fact, afterwards, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a heatwave so every day was unusually hot, with not a cloud in the sky. Perfect beach weather.
Now, I won’t keep you in suspense, we failed miserably at visited the ‘7 bays’ as in reality, we only visited 3, which were: Trevone, Constantine, and Harlyn. Each one was fantastic.
Treveone Bay is wonderful because it is one of the smaller beaches and is tucked away from the main road, so to get there you really need to venture off the beaten track. During the day, we went rock pooling and I was wiped out by an enormous wave and spent the rest of the day soaking wet. We also visited in the evening and watched the sun set. Watching the amber and crimson sun disappear into the Atlantic Ocean was special, and gave some amazing photo ops.
Constantine Bay was much more of a surfer’s beach, and I must admit, listening to two young lads chatting about the surf did make me want to pack up, move hundreds of miles to Cornwall, live by the sea, and become a surfer.
‘What’s the surf like today’? Asked one of the young men, who looked to be in his mid-twenties, was riding a motorcycle and had apparently just finished work.
‘Awesome, man’ replied the surfer. ‘You coming in’?
‘Yeah, sweet man’ replied the biker. ‘I’ll just head home and grab my gear, see you in 10’.
I loved that. The thought of finishing work early in an afternoon, hopping on a motorcycle, riding home then down to the beach, and being able to grab your surfboard and wetsuit, and jump into the water in less time that it takes your average McDonald’s restaurant to make a Filet O Fish.
Constantine Bay was my favourite as it was vast, with golden sands, warm waters rock pools, surfers, and Cornish people just kicking back giving off good vibes, and enjoying life the way it should be enjoyed.
Finally, not far from Padstow, we visited Harlyn Bay. Again, the sun was shining and the weather was awesome and this too was a gorgeous beach. This was the busiest of the three we visited, so much so in fact, that it was slightly difficult to relax as there were so many people, children, and dogs running riot. Because of this, we didn’t stay for as long as we did at Constantine.
I will say, I’ve visited Turkey, Spain several times, France, and Belgium, and other than Turkey, the brownest and most tanned I’ve ever been after going on holiday, was in May of 2017 after a week in Cornwall, sunbathing on the beaches.
Cornwall, it was a pleasure
As always, the final night of the holiday is always the worst, as in all honesty, I could happily have spent 2 weeks in Cornwall and still would have had plenty to do.
The holiday blues well and truly set in, especially considering it was close to six hours’ worth of driving to get home.
I always think that once a holiday’s over, it’s important to have something to look forward to, which is why I always made a point of booking our next break as soon as we get home. Another benefit of booking early is that you’re far more likely to find somewhere without having to worry about it being fully booked.
If you’ve never been to Cornwall before, just go ahead and book, it’ll be a holiday you remember forever.
Until next time stay safe, stay curious and don’t stop wandering!