Cornwall AdventureCornwall | United Kingdom

  • added: Apr 14 2010
  • author: foodsketches
  • comments:
Editor's choiceHidden jewel
The trip took place in May and the weather was exceptionally good. Cornwall is one of the most scenic British destinations located on the South-West of the Island. It offers endless adventures that will accommodate any interest: take the dramatic coastline of the north to the sheltered bays in the south, or ancient moorland to soft river estuaries, surfers, walkers, sailing buffs, gastro geeks and visitors simply seeking a break from a hectic world at home have discovered a fascinating, vibrant culture, first class accommodation, exceptional food delights and a thrilling adventure ...

Our Cornwall adventure happened very spontaneously. I was given 3 days warning which allowed for some homework on places to see and visit; not to mention the key pit stops for night rest & necessary recharge of stomach reservoirs.

The trip took place in May and the weather was exceptionally good. Cornwall is one of the most scenic British destinations located on the South-West of the Island.  It offers endless adventures that will accommodate any interest: take the dramatic coastline of the north to the sheltered bays in the south, or ancient moorland to soft river estuaries, surfers, walkers, sailing buffs, gastro geeks and visitors simply seeking a break from a hectic world at home have discovered a fascinating, vibrant culture, first class accommodation, exceptional food delights and a thrilling adventure playground called nature.
 
We had three nights and four days to dedicate to our trip and we consciously decided on driving a car from London throughout our entire journey, as we felt it would give us more freedom and flexibility to be able to detour and explore sites we discover along our way. There are, however, other options of taking a train or even a plane to get to Cornwall and even then we would still recommend renting a car to submerge yourself into the beauty of the coastal line.

Our first stop from London was the small coastal city of Padstow. It was once a fisherman's village with beautiful long sandy beaches. Aside from its captivating nature, Padstow is a special place for food lovers as it is home of Rick Stein - one of Britain's renowned cooks.

Not only did Stein establish a few restaurants in this tiny village, but he revolutionised the hotel business as well by opening a few interesting properties of his own. We chose to stay in the hotel which is situated on top of his Seafood Restaurant.



This hotel is very small and offers 16 beautiful rooms. We were lucky and had a room with a stunning view of the bay area and windows from ceiling to the floor that could be opened and lead to a miniature balcony with the cast iron fence. The room was very large and had a very tasteful interior with modern bathroom facilities. Amenities in the room were the kettle and delicious local small treats from Rick Stein's deli. After  moving in and unpacking, we ventured outside to explore the village and the surroundings.



As mentioned, Padstow is a tiny village, however, you may be surprised how crowded it gets when the weather is good. It took us about 15-20 minutes to circle most of the town and we found many more of Rick Stein's establishments. Visiting one of the delis was like a teaser before the evening meal; we could hardly await dinner. After this tasty and delightful snack we went to explore the sandy beaches.

Once you climb over a small hill, a breathtaking panorama captures your eye: long, almost endless golden sandy beaches; rocky cliffs in the distance and turquoise glittering water.



We took a stroll to the beach and decided to get as close to the water as possible and lay a blanket down to enjoy the bright sunshine and the soothing sound of trickling waves. After about 10 minutes, we noticed that the sound of waves was surprisingly louder and once we looked around, we noticed that the water was within five centimetres of our blanket: it was high tide coming in!



If we have waited two or three minutes more, we would have been covered by water - it came in rather quickly. We gathered our things and went into a nice well-protected lagoon where the incoming tide would not reach. From this point we were able to observe the ocean and take in the incredible serenity of the place. The beauty of travelling in May was that the beaches were still empty and only randomly populated. After this relaxing afternoon, we returned to the room and prepared for dinner.

The Seafood Restaurant occupied entire ground floor and was certainly a hit among the locals as well as other loyal customers who did not mind travelling miles for such a unique treat. We started the evening with a glass of chilled champagne and proceeded with studying the menu. Cornwall offers the freshest and varied seafood delicacies, so we decided to go for a full "fishy" evening meal. Rick's kitchen is famous for being imaginative and exploratory combining techniques and ingredients from different parts of the world to create that unique texture or flavour of a fine meal. The restaurant also has a seafood bar situated right in the middle of the restaurant, which gives you a brilliant opportunity to observe the overall happening and in addition be able to watch the chefs at work. The bar offers a series of fresh fish and shellfish specialties and you can order anything from the restaurant menu including the tasting menu surprise. We could not resist the local delicacy of Cornish crab that was served with wakame salad and Wasabi mayonnaise. And, I could not pass up the opportunity to taste fresh local oysters complimented with champagne! They were divine, with the scent of the ocean water and rough wilderness. We also tasted the sashimi platter that came with fresh local scallops, sea bass, salmon and kingfish. It was still early into the evening and we had a lot of time to enjoy this culinary feast. After a small pause, the entrees were served: braised fillet of Brill with black truffle, slivers of potato, mushrooms complimented with truffle oil; and the second entree was the infamous John Dory with spring onion mash and fresh morels. Our evening was getting better by the minute! When the time came for dessert, we decided to go for Passion Fruit Pavlova. This was one of the most exquisite and sublime desserts I have ever tasted! After this culinary delightful evening we were very close to spending another night at the place and trying more specialties from the menu.

When morning came, the desire for more adventures came with it...



So, we took off along the coastal line and headed for St Ives. The road was along the shore and scenery was spectacular.



Interestingly, the climate was prone to very quick change: one minute we drove through complete sunshine, and the next we found ourselves diving into a foggy cloud and then into drizzling rain minutes later. Despite the rain, we decided to get out of the car to walk on one of the hills stretching along a sandy beach which was heavily populated by small moving dots.




We moved closer and realised that these dots were surfers who loved the big vast waves and took every opportunity to ride them. The view of these beautiful sandy beaches; drizzling rain and the salty smell of the endless ocean were intoxicating. We were simply enchanted by the beauty of the moment. As we were going back to the car we noticed a strange looking place across the road - it was a gated piece of land with barbwire all around it. In the middle there was a small hill top with a door and multiple antennas. This scene hardly fit into the overall ambience of the area. Then, off we went to look for more sunshine and while we were approaching St Ives, we finally saw the sun again.



St Ives is a nice coastal town, with lots of small cafes and art galleries. You may be surprised to learn that a town as such has a Cornish arm of the Tate Gallery. The building carries a very modern structure and is painted in dazzling white and stands on the seashore line. St Ives is also known for its beautiful white sandy beaches. The abundance of white in combination with sunshine and the beautiful colour of the ocean offers magical scenery.




Although you may be tempted to stay along the coast, we would recommend climbing up one of the hills and getting a room at the Garrack Hotel which also has a very good restaurant. This is a family run business that started back in 1923. The Garrack Hotel stands on two acres of land with breathtaking views over Porthmeor beach, St. Ives, the sweep of St. Ives Bay and the Atlantic is beyond. The hotel has 18 individually styled rooms that are somehow an elegant mix the old English interior and modern amenities of this world. The hotel is an incredibly cosy place which allows you to feel at home at once which is surely a rarity. The hotel grounds transform themselves and become your big house with an inviting fire place and breathtaking views of the ocean. The Garrack Restaurant was awarded 2 AA Rosettes, and as they like to say themselves, it is the minimum standard that you should be able to expect in this place. The seasonal menu changes daily. The focus of the kitchen is British dining at its best: the chef constantly experiments with Celtic/Gaelic, English and world influences. The menu has about four to five choices for appetizers as well as for the main courses. Desserts always come freshly made and change daily. The waiter explains the dessert specialties that are prepared in the house and be sure to be surprised with a beautiful and stylish presentation of your choice! The restaurant is not very big. If you want the best view, secure a table on the winter garden terrace. The dress code here is smart casual; after all you do not want to feel underdressed. And, not to forget, the restaurant has a good wine list with an interesting selection of international wines.

After a relaxing evening and a glass of Scottish whiskey, we carried the evening into sweet and peaceful dreams looking to a new day. We woke up early, had a hearty British breakfast and set out for further adventures. This time our destination was around the Cape Cornwall, then down the coastal line and off to St Austell. Weather was spectacular and we stopped at various sites of abandoned old mines.



Somehow the landscape reminded me a lot of Scotland, of course if we take the ocean out of this equation. As we continued our scenic drive, we were anxious to find a picturesque spot as close to the ocean as possible. Once we were passing a small town, my husband could not remain patient anymore and made a sharp turn onto a small road which should have led us to the ocean side. We kept driving through a small town when suddenly a breathtaking panorama evolved in front of our eyes.

There was a light house on top of a harsh cliff and a bit lower, there was a small house with a public area to park, take a small rest and have a snack. Being well-prepared travellers, we took a picnic basket with us. We moved on from the public grounds and approached a private house on the cliff. The views were stunning: big thick waves crashed on the black stones along the shore line forming an enormous amount of white foam.



At times the surface looked like delicious meringue and when the waves withdrew there were patches of bright turquoise colouring peaking through the white foam. It was simply astonishing and we decided to go beyond the private house hoping to find a hidden spot where we could sit and enjoy the view. We were lucky and discovered a nice patch of green right on the cliff edge. We put down the blanket, got comfortable and opened our picnic basket.



The combination of endless and powerful ocean force, battling waves, strong salty wind and warm sunshine created an unforgettable ambiance. We clearly would have liked to stay but we faced a lengthy drive of a few hours before reaching our next destination St Austell. Sadly, we headed back to our car and continued our journey. Our next stop was to be Lands End. I was so intrigued by the name itself that I could hardly wait to see this place and investigate what this "end" looks like! This landmark featured some of the most striking cliffs along the coastal line; I was getting impatient. Suddenly we noticed that signs indicating Lands End were increasing in number as we drove further. Then we spotted a huge car park on the horizon and as we came closer it was a free economic zone with multitudes of shops! I could not believe my eyes! Where were the cliffs? Apparently, you needed to enter this free economic zone, park your car (pay for parking) and only then go through the shop facilities to reach this infamous cliff landscape. We were appalled, so I begged my husband to continue on the journey and spare us the shopping centre experience. So, we circled around and off we went!
Our journey to St Austell was interesting - we passed a series of coastal small towns, each had a different character. Some were well taken care of and probably had wealthy inhabitants; some were simply deserted and sometimes resembled ghost towns.

All of a sudden, we were driving along the bay and in the distance we saw a small island that had a castle on it. We were naturally very curious and decided to take this detour. As we approached the place, it became clear that the site was a popular tourist stop as parking lots were multiple; there were many people out on the beach with families, dogs, friends; there was music and a lot of buzz coming from everywhere. We parked our car and decided to take a stroll along the beach to have a better view of the castle.

As we came close, we realised that there was a tiny passage leading to the island from the shore; the stones of the passage were still wet and in certain areas even under a thin layer of water; seaweed was a nice framing decor. A few people were already using the passage and I could not resist the temptation to do the same!

Once we reached the island, we learned that during low tide it was possible to reach the place by foot, but beware, should you forget to return in time, the water encircles the island and you had to have a boat to get to shore.  The island is rather small and the main attraction is the medieval castle with sub-tropical gardens. The place was also known as an important pilgrimage destination: according to legend, a vision of the Archangel St Michael appeared to some fishermen in the year 495AD. Since then, the place was named St Michaels Mount and was always considered a deeply spiritual location. So, we meandered around the historic village, climbed to the island's summit where the vision of St Michael appeared and we even discovered the underground tram that carried supplies from the harbour to the castle. The only disappointment was that the gardens were closed leaving something to visit on the next trip.  There was also a nice quaint cafe where we enjoyed a cup of tea and the most luscious carrot cake.  Views were spectacular.

Unfortunately time was passing by so quickly, we needed to head back to the car as we had to find our way to St Austell where our next hotel stop was.

 As we were approaching the town, it started to rain and soon it was pouring down. We were already a little tired and stressed, as we had managed to get directions confused and found ourselves slightly lost. We got back on track and - a bit exhausted - we finally made our way to the hotel. On arrival we agreed that it was worth the drive. The Hotel was an 18th century elegant country house set in some beautiful garden grounds. By the way, the name of the place is Boscundle Manor.

We opened the door and saw a line of wellies and a number of colourful umbrellas in the basket. The interior was perfectly matching the 18th century style of the house. You felt being sent back in time. The reception desk was not in the obvious location, we wandered around a bit before we came into a small room with an enormous fireplace and an intricately crafted wooden table. This was the reception! We were greeted by a lovely young man who then showed us around and helped us with our luggage. Boscundle Manor is a small luxury boutique hotel with only 14 rooms. It also has a spa and a very impressive restaurant! All rooms have individual interior decor. We picked a lovely room with access to the gardens.

As it was still pouring rain, we could not squander outside and, besides, it was already getting dark. So, we rested a bit and got ready for dinner. Dinner was a pleasant treat:  we were served an aperitif with delicious selection of amuse bouche. While enjoying this prelude, our host took us through the daily menu and shared a few of his personal recommendations. We made our choice and proceeded to the dining room. Candles and low lighting created just the right ambience along with fresh flowers in tall dramatic vases and elegant glassware. We could hardly wait to taste the creations of the chef. As a starter we had pan-seared Cornish king scallops, foie gras and chicken liver parfait. Each plate was a small artful presentation and evoked many of our senses. The aroma and taste of the dishes were superb. For the main course we both had roasted loin of venison served with dauphinoise potatoes, carrot puree and orange/liquorice sauce.  And, we could not possibly skip dessert! I chose hazelnut meringue served with fresh raspberries and chantilly cream and my husband chose the house interpretation of creme brulee with caramelised banana and honey ice cream. Dessert was pure bliss! The next morning we took a walk around the hotel grounds and went for a quick visit to Eden Project.

Eden Project is a green theme park dedicated to local flora and plays a very active social role in raising awareness about current climate and other environmental changes. It is an unforgettable experience in a breathtaking location; a global garden; a place of beauty and wonder. In their own words: "our world famous architecture and art draws inspiration from nature, our educational work is about creating a positive future in a world that is going to go through radical change, and we try to ensure everyone who visits Eden leaves knowing something more about their connection to the world". The intended quick visit turned into a few hours walking the grounds as it is a truly futuristic park and has a lot of fascinating exhibits and interesting educational activities going on. We would certainly highlight this place as a very special point of interest!

 We returned to our hotel for a wonderful lunch, then packed our bags and unfortunately had to leave this beautiful location. Both of us had to be back in London as work and business meetings were ahead of us the next morning. Physically tired, but overwhelmed with the magnitude of emotions and experience, we arrived back home. The next day we were already looking through all of our photographs, sharing our discoveries with friends and feeding off these impressions and memories for a very long time. A new adventure had to be planned soon...

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comments:

  • Gerhard : Sep 18 2010 23:55

    The long sandy beaches around Padstow are amazing ...

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