In my opinion Cornwall is the most beautiful place in the world. Well, I haven’t actually been to all the beautiful places in the world but Cornwall must be up there with the best. Jamie and I spend a good deal of time walking the Cornish coast path and drinking and eating in the local restaurants. We also love chatting to the people we meet on our daily adventures. Based on these conversations I’ve put together the things people wished they’d known before holidaying in Cornwall; I hope you find it helpful.
There are two main routes into Cornwall, the A30 and the A38. They both get incredibly busy and if you’re not on your toes you’ll spend the first day of your holiday sitting in traffic. If we’ve been up country to Hampshire/Surrey, we’ll leave at 5am in the Summer to arrive in West Cornwall around 9.00am including a costa coffee breakfast stop. In Spring and Autumn, you can get away with leaving at 6am. In July and August without an early start a 4-hour journey can take 10 hours and if you’ve a 6–8-hour journey it may take 12! Friday and Saturday are changeover days in the cottages and campsites, so the roads are busy both Eastbound and Westbound and often gridlocked. You’ve been warned, get that alarm set 😊.
Interestingly, Cornwall’s longest ever traffic jam took place on the 12th of August 1999, the day after the solar eclipse. With over 100,000 extra cars on the road that day the A30 was at a standstill; there was a 65-mile tailback from Penzance to Launceston near the Devon border, horrendous!
OK, it’s not Ibiza, but Cornwall is the sunniest county in the UK. We average over 1500 hours of sunshine a year. That said we don’t get many barmy nights and typically temperatures are a lot less extreme than you experience in the midlands, London, and the home counties. Extremely hot days in Cornwall are around 22 – 27 degrees. We’ve seen loads of holidaymakers in their Ibiza clubbing clothes shivering in the cooler evenings so make sure you bring a hoodie and a rain jacket. Sometimes, especially on the North Coast we get sea fog. When the rest of the country is basking in sunshine a sea mist appears which can last for a few days and this mist seems to like to hang around in August.
On a happier note, the quality of light in Cornwall is much brighter than anywhere else in the UK because it’s surrounded by sea. The narrowest part of Cornwall, the western peninsular gets even more light because it’s reflected onto land from both the north and south coast. My biggest tip by far is “if the sea mist is in on the North Coast, go to the South Coast for the day as its often clear and sunny.”
Travelling around Cornwall
To reach some of the picturesque fishing villages and beautiful beaches its necessary to drive down narrow roads. If you’re not a confident driver or don’t know the width of your car you should avoid these roads at all costs. The Atlantic Coast double decker bus travels some of these routes and boy, they can drive. But sometimes you will need to cram your car into a hedge and tuck in your wing mirrors to squeeze past other vehicles so if you’re not happy with a few scratches here and there from the hedgerows, again, avoid. The courier drivers, tractors, and Cornish folk expertly navigate these lanes and take no prisoners. We’ve been in gridlock situations when a camper van meets a bus, and after a lot of raised voices, it takes a long time to sort out. If you don’t like narrow roads, the Satnav is your worst enemy. Get a map and plan your route before you set off.
Cornwall beaches are the best. We’ve eight of the prestigious blue flag beaches, the international standard for best beaches in the world! The consensus is the North coast is better for surfing and the South coast for sailing. The sea is often rougher with better surf on the North while the south has less waves and is more sheltered. There are plenty of gorgeous beaches on both coasts, though probably more on the North. The scenery on the South is softer, some beaches can have pebbles. The North coast is more dramatic with more sand but like I said above, when one coast is cloudy the other can be basking in sunshine so don’t miss out.
Parking at the main beaches can be expensive. You also need to get there early, as they fill up quickly. Remember to check the tide times too as, at high tide, some of the beaches have much less sand, especially when we have spring tides. Also, buy a windbreaker, your beach days will be so much better.
I’ve travelled extensively around the UK (and Europe) and I can honestly say the best food I’ve eaten is in Cornwall. Unsurprisingly there’s a lot of delicious fresh fish but there are loads of other healthy options too which I find difficult to seek out in other areas of the country. Do your research and book your pubs and restaurants before you arrive. If you’re eating in, buy your food from the local shops, its important to the communities and much better quality than the supermarket.
Walking the coast path
Walking is not for everyone but if you’re happy to get active on the cliffs you’ll see the spectacular views that you just can’t experience from sea level. We’ve also seen seals, dolphins, a sun fish and even a whale so make sure you take binoculars. Each section of the Cornish coastal path has various levels of difficulty so check out your section before you set out. Some are easy, and others are technically incredibly difficult, your overall ascent can be greater than if you’d climbed a mountain! Flip flops are not suitable, neither are wedges or stilettos; I’ve tried them all. You know I’m only joking but I’ve seen someone on a tricky section of the coastal path in wedges, so it does happen. You don’t need walking boots for most of the walks, but a good pair of trainers is necessary.
Dogs are very welcome in Cornwall but please remember, if your dog is not familiar with the cliffs keep the lead on. There are sad outcomes every year so its best to keep them safe.
There is so much to do and see in Cornwall and I’m not going to list them out as everyone’s favourite is different. Make sure you grab all the leaflets and visit the Cornwall websites before making your choices. National Trust membership is especially useful here as the National Trust also owns a good number of the car parks which are free for members
Before I sign off, remember if you have a cream tea, you’ll need to put jam on your scone first and then the cream. If you’re over the border in Devon, its cream first; I’ve never understood this.
Cornwall is the most wonderful county so instead of looking at your phone, admire its beauty, including the lifeguards 😊.