You might think of Cornwall as a summer holiday destination, somewhere you go for surfing, sandcastle-building and pasties on the beach. But it makes for a great winter break too – think blustery coastal walks, deserted beaches, cosy pubs and hot chocolate in beachside cafés. I love Cornwall but I’m not a fan of the the crowds, so an off-season trip down to the south west is becoming a new winter tradition.
Holidaying in Britain in the spring is always going to mean taking your chances with the weather, but there’s one place in Cornwall where you’re guaranteed it’ll never be cold or raining – the Eden Project. This 35-acre patch of land has been transformed from a barren china clay quarry to an oasis of greenery. Set up by an ecological charity to promote education about the natural world, it’s home to two huge biomes that bring a taste of the rainforest and the Mediterranean to south-west England.
From Bude in the north to Porthcurno in the south, Cornwall has some of the UK’s most stunning coastal scenery. But you can’t really call it a hidden gem – the motorway queues in the school summer holidays are as legendary as its delicious pasties and cream teas. Which makes the off-season a great time to visit, when the prices are lower and the crowds have gone home. So when Stay in Cornwall invited me down to the region for a springtime long weekend, I jumped at the chance to explore more of the area’s coast, castles and gardens.
Along the wild northern coast of Cornwall, Tintagel Castle is where history meets legend – combining the ruins of a Dark Age castle with the mythical stories of King Arthur. All of which comes with a dramatic setting on one of the UK’s most spectacular stretches of coastline. Legend has it that this was where Arthur was conceived. His father Uther Pendragon was besotted with the Duke of Cornwall’s wife Ingraine. So when he heard the duke had been killed, Pendragon got Merlin to use his magic and disguise him as the duke.
Cornwall might have been beautiful last week, but it wasn’t very kind to us on the weather front. After grey skies and drizzle for days, when the sun finally appeared late one afternoon we headed straight down to the beach with our cameras. Nearby Perranporth beach was full of people taking advantage of the sunshine for a quick evening walk or surf. The wide sandy beach turned golden in the afternoon light before the sun started to dip down behind Chapel Rock.
Rather than jetting off somewhere exotic post-wedding, we decided a week of rest and recovery nearer to home would be a good plan (plus I’m still struggling with the big honeymoon question). Somewhere peaceful where we could laze around among beautiful countryside would be perfect – like Cornwall. During my research I came across the website for self-catering holiday company Unique Home Stays, and ended up wasting a good few hours fantasy holiday planning (check out this beauty, sadly a bit out of our price range!).
This week I’ll be down in Cornwall, staying in a gorgeous holiday cottage on a mini-honeymoon with my new husband. Lots of lazing is on the cards as we recover from last week’s wedding madness. But the last time I visited this part of south-west England was a lot more active – as a coastal conservation volunteer. The Conservation Volunteers ran several week-long Beachsweep trips to the coastline of Devon and Cornwall each year. In return for helping out with surveying work you got a bargain holiday with food and accommodation included, and the chance to explore some of the area’s beautiful coastline.