A weekend on the Cornish Coast

When I think about holidaying in Britain, images of dirty beaches, arcade games and rusty ferris wheels spring to mind, and I tend to opt for sunnier climes instead. But, when I met Caro in late 2008we would spend hours talking about one day road tripping through our respective countries to showcase the best of England vs Sweden, and I knew I would have to come up with something far more appealing than a week caravan-ing in Blackpool. 

We then travelled to Sweden & Norway in the summer of 2011 and I was under no illusions that anywhere in England could compete with the beauty of Scandinavia. That was until we visited Cornwall…

(May 2014)

Having just been made redundant from work a couple of weeks earlier, I had plenty of time on my hands to plan our weekend getaway to the coast but once I’d booked the car rental and reserved two nights at a beautiful B&B in Mevagissey, I left the rest of the planning to fate (also known as Annie, Caroline’s friend from uni who grew up in Cornwall).

Early on the Saturday morning, we met at Gatwick airport to collect the car, my housemate Monica in tow for the ride, and soon set off for more rural adventures than London could offer. Relying on the sat nav to get us there was perhaps not the best idea as we soon realised that our little ‘tom tom’ was taking us on the scenic route but I didn’t mind one bit as I got the hang of driving our nippy little Corsa along the windy roads, passing Stonehenge en route, until we finally hit the Cornish border.

We dropped Monica off in Bodmin where her boyfriend collected her and carried on to our home for the weekend in Mevagissey.

Mevagissey Harbour

Mary  and Tony (the B&B owners) welcomed us into their home and showed us up to our pristine room on the top floor of the four storey house. At just over £100 for the two night’s accommodation I wasn’t expecting a great deal more than a comfy bed from our AirBnB booking, but Mary obviously takes great pride in making her guest’s stay as pleasant as possible. It felt more like we were in a boutique hotel than a B&B.

B&B

We quickly showered and headed out in the early evening sun, ready for dinner at one of the restaurants on the harbour. With my hair still damp from the shower and the sun beating down on our shoulders, it felt more like we were in the Mediterranean than on the English coast.

The stress of London life and losing my job melted away as I soaked up the last rays of sun and listened to the peaceful sound of the birds chirping and the water gently lapping the shore. I felt a million miles away from hectic Clapham Junction, where even earplugs and an eye mask can’t block out the noise from the 24-hour bustle below my flat.

Mevagissey is just a small town, not really geared towards the tourist crowds as much as Newquay and St Ives, but there are still a good selection of restaurants dotting the harbour. The Portuguese restaurant, Alvorada was a natural choice for us, offering up a deliciously fresh platter of seafood stew to compliment the stunning views across the water. My glass of rose wine went down so smoothly I was tempted to finish off the bottle but as the designated driver of the trip, I thought it would be best to be sensible for a change and so we opted for a walk around the harbour instead.

Despite looking like the Mediterranean, the weather wasn’t quite up to par and once the sun went down the temperature dropped with it. My optimistic outfit choice of cotton maxi dress and sandals meant that we were soon heading back to the B&B for an early night. Perfect, considering our packed itinerary for the next day.

Are we on the Amalfi coast?

We punched the post code for Minack Theatre into the sat nav and I was surprised to see that it was just over an hour away. Considering how vast Cornwall looks on the map, it’s so easy to get around and we were soon setting off down the motorway towards Land’s End.

We did however skip Land’s End and instead I slowly maneuvered the car down some of the smallest country roads I have ever seen. Despite my love of the countryside, I am actually a city girl through and through and so I was a little nervous of the small country roads at first but with the lush green plants springing up from either side, dotted by the most vibrant fuschia flowers, it didn’t feel all that scary once I got the hang of it.

When we finally descended from the maze-like roads, I did breathe a sigh of relief though as I stepped out from the car and took in the fresh sea air. As we walked towards the edge of the cliff and eyed the turquoise water below, I was even more awe struck than I had been by the beautiful harbour in Mevagissey. Who knew we had views like this in England?

Minack beach

After I got over the shock of just how beautiful my home country can actually be, we returned to the path and paid our entrance fee (around £5) into the theatre. Positioned right on the edge of the cliff, the theatre itself looks like it belongs on the Amalfi coast or on an island in Greece, but it’s perhaps the surprise of seeing something so stunning in England that makes it all the more special.

There’s the opportunity to read up on the history of the theatre as you enter, but after being couped up in the car the previous day and all morning we were craving the sunshine and instead headed straight out to the theatre itself. We were lucky enough to visit during dress rehearsals for a play that was taking place the next day and so sat a while taking in the show and getting a sneak peek at the performance. From the stage set-up, I was hoping for a rendition of the Great Gatsby and was a little disappointed when I discovered that it wasn’t but soon the beach was calling our names and we wandered down the coastal path to join it.

Beach

We swapped jeans and t-shirts for our bikinis and once dressed, it was inevitable what would happen next. We raced at full speed to the inviting blue sea and I can only imagine the laughter from onlookers as we screamed with shock at the icy cold water we’d just plunged ourselves into. We quickly scrambled back out and were soon laughing again as we dried off, dug our heels into the sand and pointed our faces at the sun, absorbing what felt like the first rays of summer.

It didn’t take long for me to grow restless though and so we packed up, and climbed back up to the theatre cafe, the sun disappearing behind the clouds as we went. We enjoyed a lunch of warm tomato soup and bread rolls, made all the more comforting now that the sun had gone in and we gazed out from our cliff-top vantage point. After which we hopped back into the car and carried on to our next stop, Sennen Beach.

Hill top

The sun looked to have disappeared during our lunch break and so we grabbed our jumpers and instead of heading to the beach, we strolled along the harbour and trekked slowly up the hill. Once at the top, we rested a while taking pictures of the beautiful scenery below but all too soon an hour had passed and it was time to head back to the car park before the warden could even dream of towing us away.

After the seclusion of Sennen beach, we decided to try the more populated St. Ives. As soon as I saw the tourist shops along the front, I knew Caroline wouldn’t be a fan but I quite enjoyed reminiscing about childhood day trips to the likes of Blackpool and Southport where I no doubt would have loved the rock shops and beach-side paraphernalia. I grabbed a mint chocolate ice cream from the lady on the beach and proceeded to eat it as quickly as possible before the seagulls could steal it, as the lady had warned me they might.

St Ives ice cream

Despite the rush, it was still one of the tastiest ice creams I have sampled, or perhaps I was just hungry because I was soon wondering if it was time to head off for dinner.

I knew that a girl from my old work, Caitlin had a restaurant over in St Mawes and I was dying to try it after hearing rave reviews from some of our fellow colleagues. So, we jumped back in the car and drove up to Falmouth, taking the car ferry (£4) over the small crossing in search of the The Watch House.  En route, I got it into my head that as it was Sunday, we would definitely be able to have a roast dinner but when we arrived to find that it wasn’t available (and Caitlin also couldn’t make it down to join us) we continued the search for another place to dine, promising to return the next time we were down. After scouring the local restaurants and bars for my Sunday favourite of roast beef and gravy, it soon became apparent that we’d have to give in and we eventually settled on The Victory Inn, which was pleasant enough but nothing to write home about.

Two days of almost non-stop driving had by now began to take it’s toll and my back was aching like crazy so we decided to head back ‘home’ for the night, hoping to be bright and fresh for the next day, my 28th birthday.

 Birthday blues

Caro woke me early (7:30am!!) with a birthday surprise and I must admit I was feeling a little grumpy at being woken at such an ungodly hour, especially after an action packed couple of days, when I spotted the homemade birthday cake lit up and making it’s way over to me. All is forgiven Caro 😉

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Several cups of coffee later, I was still yawning away and the cloudy sky wasn’t doing much to help. However, once we arrived at our first stop of the day, Holywell beach, I soon brightened up, as did the sun.

Holywell beach

We clambered up and over the sand dunes, then strolled along the beach, stopping to chat to the lifeguard who told us of a ‘secret’ cave that could be entered once the tide went out in an hour or so. Unfortunately, we’d already planned to leave by then as we headed up to Watergate Bay where we would be having lunch and catching up with Monica, ready for the drive home.

When Monica had suggested the Watergate Bay Hotel, I knew it would be somewhere stylish and I wasn’t disappointed as I wandered in and couldn’t help but think that the hotel wouldn’t have been out of place in San Diego. A delicious salad and a final coffee of the day later, we all jumped back in the car, waved goodbye to Monica’s boyfriend and headed back to London. I for one couldn’t wait to get home as the promise of a bottle of red wine was waiting when we arrived.

I would have been sad to leave the beautiful coast line behind but the temperature was beginning to heat up in London and there was only two weeks until my next escape to sunny Greece. Plus, now that I know what delights are almost on my doorstep, I’ll no doubt be returning sometime soon.

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