Saltee’s Cornish guide brought to us by Muddy Stilettos
We’re swapping abroad for the Cornish coast this year and have the inside line on all the county’s hidden gems (PLUS £2,888 of sexy summer goodies to give away).
Planning to staycay this year? Er, aren’t we all! We have teamed up with Muddy Stilettos, the urban guide to the countryside. Experts in witty, super-useful insider guides to the very best food, walks, boutiques, day trips, hotels, interiors and events.
We’re kicking off with Cornwall, one of the most popular summer destinations in the UK. Flipflops and surfboard at the ready? OK, let’s go.
Think of Cornwall and chances are it’s the wild landscapes and quaint fishing villages that spring to mind, or maybe the laid-back towns of Falmouth and St Ives.
Pretty much everywhere in Cornwall has its own beauty but there’s no denying that the most popular destinations can also offer crowds and uninspiring accommodation. The key isn’t so much location as knowing how to find the gems – as even the most touristy places have them.
St Ives! Falmouth! Padstow! All beautiful harbours and picture perfect towns but among the more popular (and crowded) places to stay. If you’re drawn to a town with a harbour, we’d recommend Bude, Looe, Mevagissy, St Mawes or even Newquay, which has shaken off the stag party image but is still vibrant.
Get off grid
For a secluded stay, showcasing the best of the Cornish landscape you can’t go wrong with camping – but don’t run away yet – these options are cool, quirky and much more glam than your average tent with pegs. Kudhva (above), in North Cornwall, is home to treetop architectural hideouts overlooking Tintagel and the site also has it’s own reservoir for wild swimming. Botelet, near Lostwithiel, is an ancient farm with a yurt, meadow camping and beautiful holiday cottages complete with original wooden staircases and slate floors.
At Hideaway Huts, above, near Looe, you can stay in traditional Shepherd huts (with the added luxury of a private bathroom) and The Beach Hut, near Bude, is a renovated 1920s tea hut located by a secret surfing beach. Elsewhere, there’s Bodrifty Roundhouse, an Iron Age hut deep set within dreamy pastoral Penwith Moors, between Penzance and Zennor.
A 10 minute drive from pretty Padstow you’ll find brand new The Pig at Harlyn, set in one of the county’s most historic houses. The Pig group’s newest outpost was set to open in March, but will now (fingers crossed) be opening late summer – expect rustic glam interiors, panoramic views and bags of quirks and character.
In the South Cornish village of St Mawes, there’s Hotel Tresanton – no need to request ocean views, each of the 30 individually decorated rooms overlooks the sea and features some of the best local artwork. Also a dead cert for stunning seaside views is Watergate Bay Hotel (above), in Newquay, a stylish hotel and spa with activities to boot.
Take your pick of self-catering beauties across the county with Latitude50. If Rock is too obvious a location, try Trebetherick or even Polzeath where six-bedroom holiday home Carn Mar (above) overlooks an excellent surfing beach, as do the company’s new surf flats.
Naughty weekend away for two? Clapperboard beach cottage, The Cotton Tree, situated by the rolling dunes of Holywell Bay and Polly Joke beach offers a little luxury with a hot tub and hamper of fresh local produce on arrival.
Where to start? There are so many to choose from, but we’ve narrowed down our favourites. When it reopens (hopefully soon), we’ll be making a beeline for Minack Theatre, an open-air theatre (above) jutting into the Atlantic ocean, four miles from Land’s End.
St Ives punches well above its weight when it comes to artistic endeavours, thanks in a large degree to Tate St Ives (FYI it has a super-chic Gallery restaurant with views of the Atlantic) and the less flashy but still fascinating Barbara Hepworth Museum – stroll around the late sculptor’s stunning garden, which features sculptures amid the tropical plants.
Across from Marazion, near Penzance, you can cross the causeway to St Michael’s Mount (above), a tidal island sitting plum in the middle of the ocean. It takes just minutes to cross by foot, but get your timings wrong and you’ll be waiting a lot longer for the tide to go out to walk back across.
Penzance’s headliner is Jubilee Pool, an Art Deco saltwater lido which will soon be opening a naturally heated area of the pool using geothermal heat, or over near Tintagel there’s St Nectans Glen which is home to a whopper of a 60ft waterfall, plus two others and lush woodland to explore.
In usual climes, Cornwall is brim full of amazing food and produce. At the moment, obviously, things are somewhat limited but foodie spots and cafés are reopening and many are offering takeaway and delivery, some nationwide (don’t worry, we’ll keep this updated with the latest openings throughout the summer).
Hidden away in The Old Brewery Yard, Falmouth, is neighbourhood restaurant MINE which offers an excellent Saturday brunch and Sunday roast takeaway.
For seafood, you can’t go wrong with Falmouth’s Verdant Seafood Bar, found onsite at one of Cornwall’s best independent breweries, or for the best of both land and sea, there’s The Longstore (above), Charlestown, a steak and fish specialty restaurant. Both are offering takeaway now.
For other take out options, scope out cult food truck Taco Boys (you’ll usually find it parked on the beach in Polzeath); caterer and deli Fees Food, in Rock, has both takeaway and delivery of the best local Cornish food and, for fine dining at home, try Philleigh Way. It’s usually a cookery school, set on a farm on the beautiful Roseland peninsular, but is currently offering pre-cooked meals for delivery.
Also worth noting is brand new The Ethicurean at Trevibban Mill near Padstow (so new, it’s not open just yet) which is bound to be brilliant when it gets going, with a focus on veggies and Cornish fish. Another newbie, Fitzroy, in Fowey (which opened last year), is hoping to reopen for the summer season – it’s from the team behind Primeur, Westerns Laundry and Jolene. Fish features heavily alongside delicious small plates.
Indie café JamJar is just a stones throw away from the beach in Newquay serving amazing coffee and organic lunches (takeaway available); and Temple café and indie shop, in Bude, also has an ace takeaway offering.
Meanwhile St Ives is home to funky Yallah Kiosk (above), serving all your classic seaside essentials – takeaway coffee, fresh juice and donuts – plus there’s an exciting new cafe for St Ives called West Porthmeor, a new venture from part of the team behind Canteen Cornwall in St Agnes. It can be found right on the beachside.
Once they’re allowed to re-open we’re looking forward to going for food at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole (due to reopen after a fire & refurb the week lockdown started) with its tropical gardens and views of St Michael’s Mount; The St Tudy Inn near Bodmin Moor; and The Punchbowl & Ladle at Feock near Truro which has been taken over by the team who run the gorgeous Ferryboat Inn on the river Helford.
Elsewhere, don’t miss the lovely beer garden by the river at St Kew, and the waterside beer garden at the Pandora Inn at Restronguet, above. Watchful Mary at Watergate Bay serves drinks and cocktails with a terrace overlooking the beach and The Bowgie Inn at Crantock. The Oystercatcher at Polzeath, while less gastropub and more pub-pubs, both overlook wide sea vistas – just time it right to catch the sunset.
You can’t come to Cornwall without trying a pasty. The title of ‘best’ is fiercely contended (and there’s even a Cornish Pasty championships each year), but our favourites can be found at Ann’s Pasties in Mullion, Chacewater Bakery near Truro or a more classic one from Malcolm Barnecutt’s in Wadebridge (they all also send them nationwide). Boscastle Farm Shop also make a goodie from their own red ruby beef steak and their cheese & onion version features local Davidstow cheese.
For ice cream, a Muddy favourite is Moomaid, in Zennor (above) – I say chocolate, but my daughter says passionfruit is the best flavour. It also does takeaway and local delivery. Reeves in Port Isaac is also a dead cert, a teeny bright yellow ice cream van (also offering local delivery at this time).
For cakes our go-tos are Kern of Kernow delivering Insta catnip iced cakes and donuts from a van called Beyoncé; Ladyvale Bakery, a cheerful cake & coffee stop in Nansledan; Da Bara Bakery, which is widely voted the best for cinnamon buns and also does nationwide delivery.
Obviously Cornwall is home to the amazing Eden Project – but did you know the centre has the longest zip wire in the country? It’s a little touristy, but on a quieter day is well worth an explore. As is the Lost Gardens of Heligan, just 23 minutes drive away in St Austell, with its jungle boardwalks, rope bridges, hidden art and swings (above). Retallack Aqua Park, Saint Columb, a Total Wipeout-style waterpark is a fun day out, plus you might spot a celeb (Romeo Beckham visited last year).
Bude Sea Pool (above) is probably the most well known, but off the radar of most tourist trails is Priest’s Cove, just south of Cape Cornwall, which is well worth a visit with little ones. It’s a small lido, carved out of the rocks. And then, if it’s rock pooling you’re after Polridmouth has some excellent pools at low tide, as does Hannafore beach near Looe.
Well known is The Camel Trail, which is beautiful but not the only flat cycling trail suitable for a family ride. Our favourite is the Coast to Coast Trail (11 miles) starting at Portreath on the north coast, to Devoran on the south. The route goes from the Atlantic to the channel, so you’re basically cycling across England in a couple of hours!
Particularly in the current climate the beauty and draw of Cornwall is all the space – with very little else open, walking and going to the beach are going to be high up the agenda.
The very best beaches are the ones that you have to work a little to find, or at least walk to rather than drive up. Some of our favourites a little off the beaten track are Polly Joke and the wild flower meadows at West Pentire, Nanjizal near Land’s End, Gwenver near Sennen and Lantic Bay between Fowey and Polperro.
Walking any part of the SW coast path is going to be rewarding, particularly quiet stretches to enjoy the myriad wildflowers and sea birds. With that in mind, favourite stretches include The Rumps (above), near Polzeath, where you can see puffins and razorbills if you bring binoculars, Treen Cliff on the Penwith Peninsula, the tin mines on the heritage coast at St Agnes, and the wild flower meadows at West Pentire where the whole cliff is ablaze with poppies.
Other favourites are Saints Way, a picturesque ramble from Padstow to pretty Fowey; St Anthony’s Head, at the southernmost tip of the Roseland Peninsula which passes near the lighthouse and Carrick Roads, one of the largest natural harbours in the world; Bodmin Moor, up Brown Willy (nothing rude to see here, just Cornwall’s highest hill!), 420 metres above sea level.
Elsewhere, there’s the ancient woodland to explore by foot or mountain bike at the National Trust Lanhydrock Estate (above), in Bodmin. And if you fancy a challenge, climb Kit Hill, Callington, which is 334 meters above sea level at the summit. You’ll be rewarded with 360 views around Cornwall and Dartmoor, look towards Plymouth and you’ve Devon on your left and Cornwall the right, divided by the river Tamar.
And finally, for seal spotting without the crowds (they’re super-cute, all doe eyed and whiskered) head to the village of Gweek for the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, or Gwithian where you’ll see them lying right on the beach.
Giving surfing a go is a must on a Cornish getaway (no, dipping your toes in wearing a wetsuit doesn’t count). George’s Surf School at Polzeath is great for individual coaching, or there’s Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay and the Sennen Surfing Centre, near Land’s End.
Try Stand Up Paddleboarding at Polkerris or Gylly Beach in Falmouth, and there’s also Cornish Rock Tours based at Port Gaverne, near Port Isaac, which will take you kyaking, SUP, coasteering or open water swimming. Check out Camel Ski School at Rock for waterskiing and sailing schools operate in Fowey, Rock, Mylor and Falmouth. Porthoustock, on the eastern side of The Lizard peninsular, is a great spot for kayaking.
Cornwall’s unique British climate makes for some exotic gardens. We love Trebah, at Mawnan Smith, which also has a stunning beach at the bottom and Tremenheere Sculpture Garden (above) near Penzance- at times you could be in California not Cornwall. In addition to the art the cafe & plant shop with sweeping sea views make it a favourite place.
The Isles of Scilly, an archipelago just off off the coast, is a stunning collection of islands harbouring sandy beaches, subtropical plants, an abundance of wildlife and the tower of 17th-century Cromwell’s Castle (tourists have been asked to refrain from visiting at the moment, but definitely one to bookmark for a later date).
Padstow is home to the National Lobster Hatchery, a marine conservation charity – you can visit the centre when it reopens but in the meantime, you can adopt your own lobster!
And finally, it’s still uncertain when feast nights at Nancarrow Farm and The Hidden Hut will be up and running again, but both are worth watching for tickets, as is the Wild Wine Club outdoor wine suppers.
Anywhere that has a wide, west facing vista is going to be a great place to catch the sunset but some of the best beaches to catch the final rays of the day are the north coast beaches of Watergate Bay, Porthmeor in St Ives, Godrevy, and Fistral in Newquay. South coast sunsets while still dramatic and picturesque don’t have that quintessential sun dropping behind the sea holiday vibe, but the Gribben Head lighthouse and looking over to St Michael’s Mount from Marazion make some good spots to try (also think about sunrise In these spots if you’re after an iconic photo opp).
Fancy being in with the chance of winning a huge bundle of summer treats? Head over to Muddy Stilettos and enter today for your chance to win one of four prizes worth over £720 each!
Wherever you’re planning your staycation this year, ensure you have Saltee by your side to protect your skin and it’s great for the whole family. Here’s to memorable Saltee adventures, a little closer to home.