Last weekend I decided to take a spontaneous weekend break to explore Cornwall. In the 5 years I lived in the North East, the farthest corner England always felt that extra stretch out of reach, but now we’ve returned to Somerset, a weekend trip to one of my favourite counties in the UK suddenly seems achievable once more. So, my girlfriend Ellie and I threw a tent in the back of the car and, with no plans beyond the first night, hit the road to Penzance.
Stop 1 – Marazion
Our first stop gave us a chance to catch up with our family in Marazion. After a three-hour drive, arriving at their beautiful house and opening a cold beer on the balcony overlooking St Michael’s Mount was the perfect introduction to our Cornish mini-break. Marazion is a lovely little town just a short drive around Mount’s Bay from Penzance. On Saturday morning we grabbed our first Cornish Pasty of the weekend and waited for the tide to go out before walking over the causeway to the Mount itself. In the afternoon we waited for the incoming tide and slid/wrestled into our wetsuits for a family surf session.
Stop 2 – The Minack Theatre
True to the impulsive nature of our trip, we decided to look at what was on at The Minack Theatre that evening. On the bill was skiffle band The Dodge Brothers which instantly rang a bell. As avid listeners of the weekly Kermode and Mayo film show on Radio 5 Live we knew that film critic Mark Kermode played double bass in band, so we booked our tickets and looked for a campsite for us to pitch our tent. We found the Treen Farm Campsite a few hundred yards from the coast at Porthcurno and about 1km walk around the coast path from the theatre – perfect!
If you’re not familiar with The Minack, it’s an open air theatre cut into the cliffs in the 1930s. Usually famed for its Shakespeare performances, The Dodge Brothers had been invited to play for one-night-only in front of the awe-inspiring backdrop of the swelling Atlantic Ocean. It was a fantastic evening and the campsite, theatre and band all come highly recommended. Take a picnic and some cold beers to further enhance the magical atmosphere.
Stop 3 – Padstow
I’d decided that we had probably picked the best time to visit Cornwall. A weekend in May where the sun was shining but the summer crowds had yet to mob the county seemed to be perfect. That was until we entered Padstow! Nicknamed “Padstein”, this once-sleepy fishing port has gained notoriety from the presence of Rick Stein’s numerous restaurants, chip shops, cafés and gift shops. If you can look past the crowds and commercialism, it’s an experience to pop in if you’re passing, though I think the town of Rock on the opposite side of the Camel estuary enjoys a more laid-back atmosphere.
Stop 4 – Polzeath
Around the corner from Padstow is the long sandy beach of Polzeath. We arrived late in the day, just in time to pitch our tent in the spectacular (but costly) Tristram Campsite and struggle into still-damp wetsuits for a surf as the sun set. Polzeath again has a tendency to get overcrowded in the summer months, but on this weekend in May it was almost tranquil.
Stop 5 – Port Isaac
Our first port of call (excuse the pun) on our last day in Cornwall was the picturesque fishing village of Port Isaac. Unbeknown to us, Port Isaac is the setting of television series “Doc Martin”. Apparently this hadn’t escaped the other visitors to the village who were gleefully snapping selfies outside the local village shop! Port Isaac is the kind of typical little ports that for me sums up local life in Cornwall, where freshly caught fish can be bought straight off the slipway.
Stop 6 – Tintagel and the South West Coast Path
As it was such a nice day, we decided to stop off on the way home for a walk along the stunning Cornish coast. The South West Coast Path boasts 630 miles of uninterrupted footpath. More for convenience than any profound interest in Arthurian legend, we chose a short three-mile circuit taking in the remains of Tintagel castle. The nearby town clearly caters for King Arthur enthusiasts… there can’t be many places this small that have multiple, competing sword shops! Regardless of the focal point, the coastline is spectacular enough to warrant a visit in itself. Along our short walk we spotted three seals and almost stepped on a baby adder!
Unfortunately, Tintagel marked the final destination of our adventure before the drive home to Bristol. Given that it was a completely unplanned visit I think we managed to fit quite a lot into three days, with more than a few highlights. Let me know what we might have missed to give us an excuse for a return visit at the end of the summer (hopefully when everyone has left again!).
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[Photographs: Decorator’s Notebook]