Ellen Schaepsmeier went for a cheap weekend in Cornwall – here’s her guide to a relaxing few days on the beach in England’s top coastal towns. You might not be able to guarantee the weather, but you can be sure of fun and fantastic scenery!
Cornwall is England at its most picturesque, home to rolling hills, historic ruins, sleepy coastal villages and some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in Britain. It’s equal parts rural retreat, surfer’s paradise and party destination, with scores of clubs and bars in Newquay pumping during the summer season. With easy rail connections from London, and plenty of guesthouses and hostels in Cornwall, it makes the perfect budget beach break.
Settle In: Newquay is the most popular base for exploring the rest of Cornwall, and it’s easy to see why the town is so popular – home to some of the best beaches for surfing and swimming, a large town center with plenty of shops, quaint cafes and restaurants, it also has an infamous clubbing scene, with bars and clubs packed out with students and backpackers from June-September. If you’re looking to party, stay at the St Christopher’s Inn Newquay, a popular backpacker crash-pad perched on a cliff overlooking Towan Beach, with its own bar and surf school. A classier option is Hotel Sunnyside, a chic boutique hostel in Newquay town center.
Hit the Beach: even if the weather isn’t up to much, Newquay’s beaches aren’t to be missed. Spend the morning at Fistral beach, the UK’s leading surf beach and venue for major surf competitions. Take a lesson with the British surf school, or hire your own equipment from the various surf shacks along the beach.
If this all sounds too adventurous, relax on Towan beach, a far less crowded and peaceful patch of sand, with warm water and gentle winds.
Tuck into a Cornish Pasty: The Cornish Pasty is a local delicacy and the perfect snack after a morning at the beach. Traditional Pasties consist of a thick pastry case filled with beef, sliced potato, turnip and onion, and baked, but you can find all sorts of sweet and savoury variations. Go to the Pastry Parlour, (1 The Crescent, Newquay town center) and buy one to eat on the beach. Heed the staff’s advice to ‘Beware of the seagulls’ – they will try and nick your lunch!
Explore: Walk off that pasty with a scenic country walk to Crantock, an idyllic spot to the south of Newquay. Located on an estuary of the River Gannel, it’s a 1-1.5 mile walk along some beautiful cliffs, and then a short dinghy ride for £1 across the water. There’s a pristine, practically secluded beach, and a small community snuggled around an old Norman church. Spend an afternoon exploring the church, chilling on the beach and then have a pint or dinner at the Old Albion, an authentic Cornish pub selling real ale. It feels like you’re sitting in someone’s living room, and when the weather’s nice there’s a lovely beer garden. The fish and chips make a hearty dinner.
Hit the Clubs: After the walk back to Newquay you might still have enough energy to hit the town’s bars and clubs. The Chy is a Bar, Kitchen, and Club and a slightly more chilled out choice, with a 20+ audience, and a nice terrace, overlooking the beach. Unwind over a drink or three and watch the sunset, or hit the crazier clubs in Newquay – big names include Berties, Pure and The Koola.
A Day in Truro: Getting around in Cornwall is surprisingly easy for such a rural part of England. There’s an excellent ‘Greyhound’ Bus Network, which will take you across the countryside and to some quieter beaches for around £2. With this in mind, after polishing off your free breakfast, why not head further afield and discover Truro, a less touristy Cornish town? Buses from Newquay bus station run quite frequently till almost midnight, take about an hour, and only cost £4 for a return ticket.
Truro is a very pretty town of cobbled streets and Georgian buildings, great for wandering around, and although it’s only half the size of Newquay, it feels more urban and ‘Cornish’, with more shops, less tourists, and more ‘Truronians’.
Cornish Cream Tea: This other Cornish delicacy is an essential for anyone with a sweet tooth. Most tea rooms in Cornwall will serve their own version of the ‘Cream Tea’ – a feast of freshly baked scones served with jam and mounds of Cornish clotted cream, all washed down with a pot of tea. In Truro, try a quaint old-fashioned teahouse for the real deal – Charlotte’s Victorian Tea House (on Boscawen Street) is pleasingly kitsch – housed in a Grade II listed Georgian building, delicious scones are served by ‘maids’ in frilly aprons.
The Cathedral and Cornish History: It’s free to explore Truro Cathedral, one of the only Cathedrals in Britain with three spires. A 12th century church stood on the original site, but Victorian architects decided to build a ‘church within a church’ on the original foundations, and the result is a grand late gothic building. Visit in the evening and you can catch a haunting performance of Evensong.
If you fancy some more Cornish history for free, check out the Royal Cornwall Museum, the oldest museum in Cornwall. Founded in 1818 to promote “knowledge in natural history, ethnology and the fine and industrial arts”, the eclectic mix of exhibits ranges from an unwrapped mummy to a collection of fine art.
Linger in Lemon Quay: Lemon Quay is the main square in Truro, a huge modern piazza that hosts free festivals and farmer’s markets throughout the year. From flower shows to international food festivals, this was also the site for Cornwall’s first Gay Pride event that took place in August 2008. Truro is known for its excellent shopping, so explore the kooky speciality shops and independent boutiques in the neighbouring streets, and head to indoor Pannier Market if it starts to rain!
The Last Supper: If your cream tea seems but a distant memory, spend your final evening at one of Truro’s renowned, but affordable restaurants. The French Bistro, (19 New Bridge St) is tucked away on a corner next to a bridge, overlooking a little river. This tiny restaurant is a relaxed and intimate spot, with unique décor – a jumble of vintage furniture and antique crockery. Bring your own bottle and enjoy a meal of warming chicken casserole or ratatouille with goats cheese for only £10.
Thanks to Ellen and chatiry girl for the images. Have you been to Cornwall this summer? Well, we’re looking for keen travelers and ammateur bloggers to get in touch with their reviews! If you’ve got a budget tip for backpacking in Cornwall, or a review of your favorite sight, bar or restaurant in this area, why not get in touch below…