A decision at the end of last year, brought us – me, my friend, my sister and my cousin – to Cornwall, the land of myths and legends this April. And the land of Daphne du Maurier, Rosamunde Pilcher, Doc Martin and the utterly lust-worthy, Poldark aka Aidan Turner. We took an Aer Lingus flight to Newquay; a short skip and a jump of an hour and 10 mins, (the tiniest airport, with just a small, mainly gin selling duty free on the way back) collected our car and drove to where I had booked our hotel quite close to Padstow. Disaster struck! I had booked an Olde Worlde type inn, full of character that we all loved the look of. I had used Booking.com, as I have used them so many times before with great success. I made an amendment with the original booking and when we arrived, it was to be greeted with “I thought when you amended you had cancelled” despite the fact that both the hotel and I had been receiving notifications from Booking.com. A wedding party had been accommodated instead. All very much an error on their part as my booking was still relevant. I was pretty annoyed and disappointed to put it mildly. To cut a long story short, we were then booked into an alternative hotel in Saint Issey https://www.pickwickinn.co.uk/. It was just absolutely superb. Better than we ever thought. Swimming pool, tennis courts, enormous baths, stunning views, jovial host and the friendliest staff. Plus, they are dog friendly and only about 10 minutes from Padstow. An error that could have turned out badly, turned out wonderfully. Highly recommend this hotel. The suites were glorious. A bath fit for two with a television that looked at first glance like a mirror, a bed fit for four and gorgeous breakfasts.
We had hired a car, so after a little lunch at the hotel Dickens themed bar, we went to Port Isaac, home of Doc Martin I believe. I don’t watch the series, but it’s a lovely fishing village and this was the start of us realising that Cornish people are utterly charming and adore dogs; the biggest bonus for me. We saw all the haunts of the TV characters and even got to see an episode being filmed on the beach. “Mrs. Tishall’s” chemist, sells Fudge in real life and “Portwenn School” is a restaurant; its sign was being changed as we got there.
Then we travelled to what can only be described as “Stein” land. Padstow – choc a bloc with Delis, Restaurants, Patisseries, gift shops, owned by Rick Stein. Padstow had lots to recommend it. A very lovely fishing village,you can visit Prideaux place – positioned overlooking Padstow, this fine Elizabethan country house is complete with formal gardens and deer park. Prideaux Place was built in 1592 and has been passed down through the generations to its current owners, Peter and Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune. You could take the Camel Trail, which follows the route of the former North Cornwall Railway. There are no steep inclines along the 17 mile route. The trail begins in Padstow before passing through Wadebridge and on to Bodmin and then to the village of Blisland on Bodmin Moor. Following the course of the River Camel, the scenery is stunning and there is plenty of wildlife to spot too. Or take a boat trip. There are no shortages of nice shops, tea rooms and restaurants, if you are a land lubber.
We had booked one of Mr. Stein’s restaurants for the next night, so ate in https://burgersandfish.com/. Lovely food and nice decor. We are such very exciting people to be with, we headed off to our hotel and television in bed.
Next morning, lovely breakfast and off to the shops and a visit to Truro.
This gothic revival cathedral of Truro, copies the great cathedral builders of the medieval age, its huge spires soar over the city skyline, and inside there are some of the finest examples of Victorian stained glass in the UK. Not be missed are the gardens of Truro – fountains, bandstand; perfect for picnics, but it was so cold when we were there, the blanket never showed its face
Instead we visited http://charlottes-teahouse.co.uk/ – a glorious little bit of old fashioned loveliness, complete with waitresses in uniforms who never heard the like of a double espresso macchiato and winced when I asked for “Devonshire” Cream Tea. They were quick to put me wise and say that Cornwall was the first to bring out the Cream Tea and they “suggest” that you put the jam on the scones first. Once a Coinage Hall, this is now a Grade 2 listed building, re-built in 1848.
If any of you like crafts and cake making, there is a great little store called https://www.lakeland.co.uk/stores/truro just to the left of the Hall as you look at it.
We headed back to our hotel after some shopping. Does anyone else feel that there is now a sameness to shopping both in the UK and abroad? I used to love, back in the day, when my aunts would bring me home Opal Fruits and square Cadbury’s Milk chocolates, but now all cities have the same shopping. We put on the war paint (well, I did) as we had booked The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow https://www.rickstein.com/eat-with-us/the-seafood-restaurant/ for dinner at 7, but first cocktails in https://www.rickstein.com/eat-with-us/rubys-bar/. Quite yummy and full of atmosphere, just on the corner of Broad Street. Great cocktail menu…………..
Lovely bright surroundings with a nautical theme in the Seafood Restaurant; all crisp blues and whites. Very pleasant and knowledgable staff. I had the Oysters Charentaise ” A seemingly odd combination of freshly opened oysters with some hot, spicy sausage . The idea being that you eat with a cold gulp of Muscadet.” Mmmmm, yes. The Main was, yes you guessed it – fish. Cornish Sand Sole. All very nice. No rush on us leaving the table either
Next day, we set off to St. Ives. We didn’t have too much time there and we were all just a little bit underwhelmed; perhaps I had more expectations of the cobbled streets? Now, I have to say in its defense, it was a particularly windy day and very busy. We knew that the town has been attracting artists for decades who come to capture the area’s undeniable natural beauty. It started with J M W Turner and the marine artist Henry Moore who first came to St Ives in the mid-1800s and since then the town has become a magnet for some of the world’s greatest painters, sculptors and ceramists.
Reasons to visit St Ives
- Numerous galleries and exhibitions
- Attracts famous artists all year round
- Four fabulous beaches with the UKs mildest climate: Porthmeor, Porthgwidden, Harbour beach, Porthminster
- Fantastic surf at Porthminster beach
- Plenty of pavement cafes, ancient pubs and top notch eateries with mouth watering menus
- Working harbour
- One of Cornwall’s top destinations
Things to do in St Ives
- Arrive in breathtaking style by taking the twenty-minute train ride on the popular branch line from St Erth to St Ives and be the first to spot the colourful fishing boats coming into harbour as the branch line snakes around the golden bays to the town
- Kick off your shoes and stroll along the white sand at Portminster Beach where, out in the bay, you’ll see the dreamy view of Godrevy Lighthouse, inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s famous novel To the Lighthouse
- Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives where sensual sculptures by one of the country’s leading 20th century artists are exhibited in tranquil gardens. Wander along pathways through trees and shrubs and discover some of her most celebrated works in bronze and limestone. At the top of the town can be found the Bernard Leach Pottery, established in 1920 and now a working museum.
- Behind the 14th century Sloop Inn on the Wharf and the Harbour beach there is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and fisherman’s cottages. This is the heart of old St Ives, known to the locals as ‘Downlong’. Spend an hour or so delving into the life and times of bygone St Ives at the local museum. The large space is packed with memorabilia and artefacts that reflect St Ives’s long and varied history including fishing, boatbuilding, art and agriculture
- There are only four Tate galleries in the world and one of them is Tate St Ives. Opened in 1993 in recognition of the international importance of art in Cornwall and St. Ives in particular, the impressive gallery holds hundreds of works produced by the St. Ives School from the late 1800’s through to the 21st century. In late 2017 it reopened with a much larger floorspace including extra gallery space.
- Since the 1930s visitors have been taking the boat trip from the harbour out to sea to watch the local colony of seals frolicking in the sea and sunbathe on the rocks. Located 3½ miles (6km) to the West of St Ives, the aptly named Seal Island is home to more than 40 seals who inquisitively like to say ‘hello’
St. Ives is pretty, and the sea was a shade of turquoise but my heart ultimately belongs to Schull plus we needed much more time to really take it all in.
My good friend, Susan, had booked the https://www.minack.com/ for a production of The Secret Garden. I have this book in my attic. My aunty Myra had bought it for me as a little girl, as I was an avid reader and she wrote lovingly on the inside cover. This was such a lovely treat and surprise. The Theatre is spectacular; the idea for the theatre was born when Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House at the top of the cliff, decided to create a place for local drama enthusiasts to perform Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Over the winter of 1931 and into 1932 Rowena and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, moved endless granite boulders and earth, creating the stage and the lower terraces of the theatre, in the same place as you see them today. The first performance was in August 1932.
“When a garden’s kept proper, like these, all weeded and neat, that chases the wild away. But when it’s left alone, for nature, who knows what secret things ‘ud grow there” says Dickon in The Secret Garden. The play has an “enchanted score and some beautifully crafted puppets and it has been a joy to work on from the beginning to the very last chapter. The Secret Garden is all about regeneration” so writes the director.
If you decide to visit, and I class that as bucket list territory, be sure to bring lots and lots of warm layers, depending on the season. Although I figure the wind will always be strong. Bring a warm flask, a hot water bottle (lots of places with kettles to fill it), food, drinks. There are some vans selling really lovely curries and spicy food and also coffee and hot chocolate. Be sure to buy a seat which grips around your back and gives support on the very high steps. It is an experience not to be missed.
Back to our hotel, absolutely shivering and shaking with the cold and we ate in the Inn itself. Really nice dinner.
Our last day, we just drove into Padstow and mosied around the shops and had a Cornish Pastie; it would be rude not to, being in Cornwall. Then on to our Aer Lingus flight home. It was a lovely, lovely break. All the better for being with people I love, but I know there was so much more to do and see. It’s “à bientôt, Cornwall”.