By Malcolm Ginsberg
Travelling to Cornwall can take a very long time if you are driving from London. And although the train may be considerably quicker, the First Great Western rail service from Paddington can still take a few hours.
Provided you are not reliant upon needing a car during your visit, it is definitely worth considering flying to Cornwall and saving yourself hours of travelling time in doing so. Flybe now offers a great service from Gatwick that will get you to into Newquay airport an hour later – late-summer flights are still available from around £50 return.
I managed to cram in a lot during my latest visit to Cornwall, which lasted three days, but it’s worth spending longer if you have the time as there is so much to do.
Often referred to as the heart of ‘the Cornish Riviera’, Newquay has the finest surfing beaches in the country and visitors come from all over to ride the waves. And with a coastline stretching for more than 250 miles, Cornwall has no shortage of fantastic beaches and coves.
These range from secluded, barely-accessible rocky inlets to huge stretches of golden sand on the Atlantic coast. We stayed at the Headland Hotel (pictured). The imposing Victorian building overlooks the famous Fistral Beach, a wide expanse of golden sand with the headlands of Pentire and Towan to the south and north respectively.
The hotel is on the Towan point, and is a magnificent place, boasting an impressive spa with indoor and outdoor pool and a nine-hole golf course for those who love the game. If you are travelling with children, Cornwall has a number of family-friendly places where you can stay.
One particular example is the Bedruthan Steps Hotel. It is hugely popular with young families and, having been under the same management for 50 years, has built up a large and devoted following of guests who visit annually.
Cornwall is famous for its gardens and country houses, many of which are administered by the National Trust and are offer free entry to NT members. They include Lanhydrock House at Bodmin, Trelissick Garden at Truro, and Glendurgan Garden with its maze, near Falmouth. Worth a visit is St Michael’s Mount, a castle built out into the English Channel, which can be found on the southern side of the Cornish isthmus.
One of the best attractions in the area is the Eden Project, which opened its doors in 2001. This renowned eco-attraction houses the largest indoor rainforest in the world and is surrounded by stunning landscape.
As well as hosting a number of different activities, the venue offers the SkyWire, which at 660m is the longest zip wire in England and claimed to be ‘definitely the fastest’. It offers an excellent view 50m above the iconic and huge bio-domes that mark the Eden Project, but I was not brave enough to try it!
Other places worth visiting in Cornwall include the award-winning National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It is a must for all sailing enthusiasts and features a number of stunning exhibitions telling the story of the region, its sea and the boats that have inhabited it. An area called the Tidal Zone provides a particularly memorable way to learn about the mysteries of how the sea moves up and down.
Cornwall also boasts a Jewish history, with communities settling here from as early as 1740. Evidence of their presence can still be seen in places such as Market Jew Street in Penzance or the Jewish cemeteries in the town and in Falmouth.
Following the Industrial Revolution, there was a big movement to the cities to find work and Cornwall’s Jewish community largely vanished, with the shul in Penzance closing in the 1850s.
There is still a small progressive community, Kehillat Kernow, which runs services on Shabbats and festivals. Another must-see is Cornwall’s world famous open-air Minack Theatre, carved into a granite cliff and set in glorious gardens overlooking the spectacular panorama of Porthcurno Bay.
Established in the early 1930s, it runs a series of plays throughout the summer season, but it can get cold, so dress warmly. Recent productions have included performances of Oh! What a Lovely War, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Monty Python’s Spamalot. There are special morning shows for children too.
No visit to Cornwall is complete without a mention of food and the celebrated chef Rick Stein. He owns and runs four restaurants in the small fishing village of Padstow with his business partner and ex-wife Jill.
Stein, who has catered for many famous people including the Queen and Prince Philip and French president Jacques Chirac, has had such a positive impact on the local economy of Padstow that the town has been nicknamed Padstein.
The set lunch at his main restaurant can set you back just under £40 for three courses, so be sure to arrive hungry!