Exploring Cornwall, UK: Trip Summary

From our very first Spring Break trip to Normandy back in 2014, we have really enjoyed finding a new place to explore and planning all the neat things we’d see and do each March. This year’s trip was no exception as we headed off on a Cornish adventure.

This year we changed things up a little too and decided to do some live Instagramming along the way, in addition to a summary of each day on the One Trip at a Time Facebook page. We quite enjoyed that time each evening, looking through the photos from the day, and then sharing them with friends and family back home. I think this will continue on more trips, as WiFi allows of course. ;-)

Over the coming months, either L or I (or both!) will have more stories to share about our time in this wonderful part of England to inspire you to consider Cornwall for a trip of your own. I’ll also be sharing my first ever trip expenses breakdown to give you an idea of the costs to help you budget for a similar trip. So many people ask us how we travel as much as we do with the cost of travel what it is, well we have a few little tips up our sleeves that help us save money along the way so I’ll share how that all shakes out in an upcoming post. 

But before we get to all of that, as I’ve done with our other trips, let me start with a Trip Summary of how we filled our days, along with a sneak peek of some photos from the places we’ll be sharing in the coming months.

Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com
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Day 1: Saturday, March 11, 2017

After my overnight flight to London Heathrow we hopped right in the car and headed straight to Cornwall. It was about a 5 hour drive, including a rest stop and grocery pick up for the first few days in our Airbnb. I think I only dozed off once or twice, leaving poor L to keep himself company while he drove. :-) Getting to our Airbnb for the evening, we had a quick dinner and an early night so I could get on UK time and be ready to explore come morning.

Accommodations Cute and cozy St. Ives garden flat with bay view, this flat had a well-equipped kitchen, comfortable bed, and spacious living area. It was a great base for our three nights in the St. Ives area.

New to Airbnb? Click here for a discount off your first booking with my referral link, and click here to learn more about picking a great place to stay.

Recommendations & Tips:

  • Car Rental: To do a trip like this in Cornwall you’ll definitely need a car. If you aren’t traveling in your own car like we did, we’d recommend Avis for a rental. We’ve used them in several other countries over the past few years and they’ve been great.
  • Food: To save money on our travels we look for Airbnb apartments with kitchens and then buy groceries for almost all of our meals. Grocery store options in the UK include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl. We used Tesco, purchased the groceries online before our trip, and were able to just swing by the stores (in Penzance and Wadebridge) to pick them up. If you live in the UK (and can set up an account with them online) do consider this as an option to save yourself time as it only took us about 5 minutes to pick them up.

 


 Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com
Day 2: Sunday, March 12, 2017

Up and out the door by 9:00 (the early bedtime worked like a charm to get on UK time), we had a full day of varied sights ahead of us to explore:

  • Gwennap Pit, a unique open air amphitheatre that is supposed to have really good acoustics, though we didn’t risk annoying the neighborhood by trying them out with our lovely singing voices.
  • Kennal Vale Nature Reserve was a beautiful walk through the woods with barely a soul in sight. We walked along the stream and around through the remains of the gunpowder factory.
  • Cornish Seal Sanctuary which I have mixed feelings about. I understand, and appreciate, the need for sanctuaries to help injured and orphaned animals but some of the seals have been here for so long (like 10+ years). I just wonder what kind of a life they have. I choose to trust that every animal that can be returned to the wild is.
  • Lizard Point which is Britain’s most southerly point with dramatic rocky cliffs and pretty blue sea. Definitely bring the camera here.
  • Kynance Cove is one of Cornwall’s most photographed and painted beaches and with good reason- it’s very pretty! We were a bit bummed though when some young people nearby interrupted the peaceful breezes and sound of the waves crashing against the rocks with some very loud music.
  • Marconi Centre which is the site of the world’s first transatlantic radio transmission made in 1901 from Poldhu, Cornwall to Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland in Canada. We lucked out and the little visitor centre happened to be open when we arrived so we took a wander through, played with lots of gadgets (like Morse code machines), and talked to a couple of men that were there with their radio club. All I could think of while here was the Heritage Minutes  I had watched on TV from the other side of the ocean, in Canada, as a kid, about this moment in history. And now here I stood on the site the signal was sent from. Pretty cool indeed.

Accommodations: Cute and cozy St. Ives garden flat with bay view


 

Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com

Day 3: Monday, March 13, 2017

Today was our day to really learn more about Cornwall’s mining heritage that has put it on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but we had a few other sights on the agenda too.

  • Ancient burial site Lanyon Quoit, and stone circle Men-An-Tol, kicked off the day. It’s a bit of a walk between some farmer’s fields from the little parking area to Men-An-Tol but it’s a nice way to start the morning with some fresh air.
  • A fantastic tour of the Geevor Tin Mine. It’s not very busy in March so it ended up being just us and another couple for the tour through the buildings that house the machinery and into the mines. Our guide was a gentleman who had once worked there and he was full of information and stories.
  • Wandered around the Levant Mine and Beam Engine (was closed so we couldn’t go inside) and the Count House at Botallack Mine. Both are situated on the coast so, in addition to the neat remains there are to walk through, you get wonderful views of the sea.
  • A stop at the most westerly point in Britain- Land’s End. This site is quite commercialized and I can imagine it would be very crowded in the summer but in March it was quiet and offers more great views out to sea…and some delicious fudge in the gift shop!
  • The Telegraph Museum and Porthcurno Beach, where submarine telegraph cables – transatlantic and to other locations- come ashore.
  • A quick wander through the Minack theatre situated right on the sea. One day I’d love to come back here to watch a play with a summer evening’s breeze blowing in off the water.

Accommodations: Cute and cozy St. Ives garden flat with bay view

Recommendations & Tips:

  • The tour of the Geevor Tin Mine sounds like it is much better in the off season. Where we were given a guided tour through everything, in the busy summer visitors wander through more on their own and can ask questions from the staff stationed at various points throughout. Worth considering when planning the time of year you would like to visit this area.
  • For some great seafood (try the chowder…yum!) the Lifeboat Inn pub is an option in St. Ives. It’s situated along the harbour with views out to sea, or you can get comfy in the chairs and sofas by the fire and enjoy a pint.



Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com

Day 4: Tuesday, March 14, 2017

This was a bit of a lighter day than normal with only a few things on the agenda and then our drive to our next Airbnb where we would spend the next four nights. On the itinerary for this day was:

  • The quite well known, St. Michael’s Mount, that is a small tidal island topped with a medieval church and castle. One of the really neat things about this site is that you can walk along a stone path at low tide, but at high tide you need to go by boat. We timed our visit for low tide, although I misjudged it by a couple of minutes and one particularly big wave covered the path…and my feet! Doh! Either bring your wellies (rubber boots), or be sure the tide really is low enough to cross. :-)
  • Flambards which is a theme park but we didn’t go for the rides, instead we were there to step back in time in the life-size Victorian Village and experience Britain in the Blitz in their indoor attractions. The lady that checked us in said we’d be surprised at how much there was to see in the village and she was right!
  • Truro Cathedral, which is an Anglican cathedral in, you guessed it…Truro. We generally love visiting pretty churches and cathedrals but this one didn’t really wow me. We also tried to have some afternoon tea and they had just closed up for the day so we missed out on that too.

Accommodations: Tremayne Barn- Rural Stone Barn in Cornwall …and here is where I might gush just a little. I was particularly looking forward to our stay here just from the pictures and then when we arrived- Wow! This is quite possibly the perfect Airbnb experience. Described on the Airbnb site as luxurious, cosy, and tranquil, I would agree with all three. You can really tell a lot of thought and attention went in to restoring the barn …and it smelled wonderful. I urge you to check this one out if you are planning a trip to this area. Seriously, it is amazing.

Don’t forget if you’re new to Airbnb you can click here for a discount off your first booking with my referral link.


 

Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com

Day 5: Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nature was on the agenda this day, with both native and exotic plants, on our visits to:

  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan which were a pleasant surprise for me in that there was so much more to see and explore than I had expected. You could easily spend a day really wandering and soaking in all the different gardens and come back again and again in different seasons to see how it changes.
  • The Eden Project is a must-do on any list of things to do in Cornwall and I can see why. Built in a rock quarry there are two biodomes to explore with plants from all over the world.
  • A quick stop at the Treffry Viaduct, which is a historic dual-purpose railway viaduct and aqueduct built around 1840. Definitely be careful when driving here as there are lots of very tight roads to get to it.
  • A bit of a spooky experience with a visit to the historic former prison called Bodmin Jail. Being March there weren’t many visitors so many times it was just L and I wandering around the cells and reading the stories of former inmates. Sometimes, in addition to it being quite cold, it felt a bit eerie to me. There are ghost walks if you like to be scared, but I’m not sure I’d want to walk around there at night.

Accommodations: Absolutely lovely Tremayne Barn- Rural Stone Barn in Cornwall

Recommendations & Tips:

  • There is a coat rack at the Eden Project between the entrances to the biodomes and its worth taking advantage of as it can get quite warm in the Rainforest Biome, especially if you’re wearing a sweater and carrying around a wool coat! I wish I’d noticed it sooner.

Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com

Day 6: Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ah Thursday… the day we went all off plan and walked until our legs hurt. :-)

  • An unexpected find first thing in the morning, we came across a little church with a sign saying there was also a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery there, so we stopped for a little visit. St. Eval, a 13th century church, is very quaint and pretty, and we were able to go in and look around even though there seemed to be nobody about. It is surrounded by disused runways of RAF St. Eval – a coastal command airfield during WWII, and hence it’s connection to CWGC and the reason for the little cemetery.
  • Popular since Victorian times, Carnewas at Bedruthan was our next stop for a little walk along the steep cliff edges to listen to the waves crashing below. I can only imagine what it would be like here on a clear day, or at sunset.
  • What was planned to be a short stop just to see Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel Castle turned into quite a visit when we found the castle was indeed open for exploring. Tintagel Castle is actually a medieval fortification located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island with a few ruins left to check out. It must be noted at this sight that there are a lot of steep stairs to climb but they are worth the effort when you get to the top and can wander around.
  • St. Nectan’s Glen woodland walk to the waterfalls, which took a bit longer than anticipated. We had planned 45 minutes for the whole visit but it turned out to be more like a 45 minute walk each way with waterfalls and a tearoom as the reward for your persistence (especially your persistence in navigating the muddy path!). Thankfully they provide wellies so you can really see the waterfall because you need to walk in the shallow pool at the bottom of it to get a good view. There is a longer path that you can take if you’d like to see more waterfalls but it was getting on in the afternoon so we didn’t really have time (nor did I have the energy quite frankly) to climb more hills. I think this site would be best visited by just taking a whole day to wander. And if anyone knows why all the coins are stuck in the fallen tree trunks, we’d love to know!

Accommodations: Absolutely lovely Tremayne Barn- Rural Stone Barn in Cornwall

Recommendations & Tips:

  • With all the stairs to climb at Tintagel Castle you’ll no doubt work up quite an appetite so if you’re there around lunch do pop in to the Cornish Bakery at the top of the hill (by the main street) for a Cornish pasty. We had the ‘traditional’ ones and they were delicious!
  • Afternoon tea at St. Nectan’s Glen café is worth making time for. It was delicious and you can have it outside on their pretty little terrace.

Exploring Cornwall, UK || www.onetripatatime.com

Day 7: Friday, March 17, 2017

Although not the last day of our trip (as we spent Saturday afternoon in London to be close to the airport for my morning flight back to the US) this was our last day in Cornwall. Where did the week go? Today we were out and about visiting the following:

  • The Royal Albert Bridge, uniquely designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1800s to carry the Cornish Main Line railway in and out of Cornwall.
  • Morwellham Quay (actually this is in Devon, not Cornwall) which features a historic port, village, copper mine and railway. We really wanted to to ride the mine railway that goes underground into the copper mine but it was all booked up when we arrived by a big school group. We had purchased our main tickets online in advance, but they don’t allow for the mine train to be booked in advance so we missed out on this. I’m not sure if it was just the time of year or not but there didn’t seem to be much going on at this site (other than the train!) when we visited, and what was there seemed more geared to the kiddos, so we didn’t end up staying very long.
  • Cotehele Mill, which actually turned out to be more than we were expecting, so our time all evened out in the end. At this site we wandered along a pretty wooded path to a working Victorian watermill and workshops. On certain days they actually mill flour there and have a baker making treats to sample. We then headed up the hill to the pretty Tudor house for a tour of the interior- especially taking note of all the tapestries. The gardens were also in bloom with daffodils and other spring flowers and would make a wonderful place for a picnic on a sunny afternoon.
  • Two final quick stops at some more ancient monumentsTrethevy Quoit and King Doniert’s Stone. We then decided we were pooped and ready to head back to our wonderful Airbnb for some dinner, a game of cards, and to cosy up by the fireplace.

Accommodations: Absolutely lovely Tremayne Barn- Rural Stone Barn in Cornwall

Recommendations & Tips:

  • When visiting the Cotehele House be sure to pick up one of their informational books about the tapestries in the Great Hall. This book is essentially a self-guided tour through all the rooms and explains the scenes and history of the dozens of beautiful tapestries covering the walls.

Can you tell we had a wonderful time?  My goodness did we ever get to see and do a lot, but we still took some time to relax, especially by the fireplace in the evenings. And so another great trip filled with so many memories came to an end. We can’t wait to share more of the trip with you. 

Have you ever visited Cornwall? If so, what are some of your favourite Cornish places and moments? If not, have we inspired you to visit? 

If you’d like to catch up on our past Spring Break Adventures, please feel free to check out these links:

Normandy and Ypres 2014          Western Front 2015          Ireland Road Trip 2016 

 

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