Cornish tourism chiefs were redirecting tourists from hotspots long before Covid-19. Nathaniel Cramp seeks out some of Cornwall’s quieter spots.
In mid-March, before the UK formally entered lockdown and amid confusion over travel restrictions, Visit Cornwall made sure it was unequivocal in its message to potential holidaymakers. Launching the #ComeBackLater campaign, the tourist board’s chief executive Malcolm Bell said: “We want you back and we love you and it will be a very warm welcome when this is over – but you must stay where you live.”
This attempt to keep people away from the beaches and beauty spots of one of the UK’s most popular staycation destinations is nothing new, however. In 2018, long before the coronavirus pandemic, Visit Cornwall revealed that it had actively stopped promoting some of the county’s beaches because of overcrowding.
But as it becomes safe to return, there are still plenty of places in Cornwall that remain relatively quiet, but which boast facilities and attractions that are just as good as their more popular counterparts.
Padstow has had a reputation as the foodie capital of Cornwall ever since Rick Stein opened his Seafood Restaurant in the town in 1975, but Porthleven offers a fine alternative. The picturesque fishing port is much quieter than its north coast equivalent and boasts an annual food festival each April and number of very good places to eat. Kota is a Bib Gourmand restaurant in the Michelin Guide and serves local, sustainable seafood with a subtle Asian twist (it also offers four-star accommodation); The Mussel Shoal is a more laid-back harbourside eatery serving mussels, fries and hearty chowder; Rick Stein even has a franchise here, which caused controversy in the local fishing community when it opened six years ago because of his reliance on fish merchants rather than the local supply.
Porthleven’s location on the Lizard Peninsula means that it is an ideal base for walks where you can enjoy a famous local delicacy from Ann’s Pasty Shop at the southernmost point of mainland Britain, or simply get away from it all in a number of hidden coves and bays. Kynance Cove near the tip of the peninsula might be familiar from the recent BBC adaptation
of Winston Graham’s Poldark novels.
If you are seeking surf, rather than seafood, then the north coast is the place to be. Newquay’s Fistral Beach is the most well-known surfing beach in the UK, but Bude, further along towards the border with neighbouring Devon, is just as good. With its west facing beaches, it is ideal for surfers who are looking for good, consistent waves. Crooklets Beach – which has been nicknamed “the Bondi of Britain” – is ideal for more experienced wave riders, while Summerleaze Beach is better for beginners, and is home to the Bude Surfing Experience and the Big Blue Surf School. Even Prince William chose to surf here during his stag do stay at nearby Hartland Abbey, hiring gear from local surf shop Zuma Jay.
Bude itself it a quaint, down to earth town that is a lot more peaceful than Newquay’s noisy party hub. Despite its Sainsbury’s car park tunnel famously becoming the top local attraction on Tripadvisor thanks to the ironic votes of local residents, it does boast a number of fine attractions and accommodation options, including the boutique The Beach at Bude and the eclectic Hebasca Hotel.
Nearby Widemouth Bay has a huge and family friendly beach and marks the start of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which stretches all along the county’s north coast to Pentire Point.
St Ives has been the go-to place for artists in Cornwall, ever since the coming of the railway in 1877, through the St Ives School of artists in the early 20th century and the opening of Barbara Hepworth’s studio in 1949. The reputation was cemented when the Tate opened a gallery in the town in 1993. However, it is Penryn, towards the south coast of the county, that is fast becoming Cornwall’s creative hub.
The small town has long been in the shadow of its near neighbour Falmouth, ever since it lost its market rights and customs house after siding with the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. This eternal outsider status means it’s the perfect place for creative enterprises to flourish. The award-winning Jubilee Wharf development on the banks of the Penryn River was the catalyst for this, providing a sustainable home for arts, craft and independent businesses such as Brickworks Pottery alongside eateries such as the Muddy Beach Café. When it first opened in 2007, The Guardian described it as “the greenest British building to date”.
Its success has led to the conversion of neighbouring Jubilee Warehouse into workspaces and there are now a number of interesting events and exhibition spaces nearby, such as Grays Wharf and The Fish Factory, which also hosts live music and has its own vegan cafe. Up the hill, the town centre also boasts a number of galleries – Open Space, Fannie & Fox, Terrace Gallery – showing work by both local artists and those from further afield.
(Credit: Matt Jessop)
The July 2020 issue of ABTA Magazine is out now. In this issue, we consider the impact of two recent government announcements: the reopening of the hospitality sector and the proposed formation of ‘air bridges’. With these policies likely to encourage Britons to travel domestically and to select European countries, can we finally see the green shoots of recovery? Nathaniel Cramp explores Cornwall’s lesser-known beauty spots; Jenny Southan of Globetrender shares her insights into travel in the age of Covid-19; while, the Jamaican tourism board tell us the story of the country’s reopening. Click on the cover to read the magazine in full.