Cornwall: the UK equivalent of Western Australian with its surf, sand, and sea (just with a lot more rain, gulls, and Mr Whippy).
Whether you are camping, caravanning, B&B-ing, or hotel-ing, Cornwall has served as a firm family-friendly favourite across the generations. In fact, many weeks of my childhood summers were spent running across the beaches of Bude. But times change! We are currently in the middle of winter, and I am no longer a child (more a frazzled twenty-something who still doesn’t quite understand taxes). So, let me tell you a little secret; Cornwall isn’t just for summer.
I’ve just come back from the most gooooorgeous week away in Bude with my family of grown-up in-laws and it’s confirmed itself as not only the summer staycation of dreams, but a serious contender for the best winter staycation spot. You don’t believe me? Well, let me tell you about my winter trip to Cornwall and you can make up your mind yourselves…
Monday – Arrival Day @theoldfarmhousebude
Ah, the first day of holiday! Also known as ‘the day where we put all of our belongings in a 2006 Ford Fiesta, blast the handcrafted travel playlist, and watch as my fiancé tries to get to grips with country roads’. After spending a weekend in Bristol, said fiancé Rory and I set off in our beloved car Charlie, and made the two- and a half-hour trip to Bude, Cornwall. We arrived with the rain pelting and the wind howling, exactly how you expect an English winter to look. But as soon as you stepped inside the house, you never would have known.
Reader, it was a cosy, cottagecore dream. I’m talking log burners, exposed beams, sloping ceilings, square windows – it was traditional farmhouse bingo in there. Structurally, the house is a typical reclaimed farmhouse, but the decor was all about the seaside. Artist’s renderings of the coast, reclaimed driftwood, little statues of sailing boats. ADORABLE. After the year we’ve (all) had, walking into a place that was the architectural example of a hug was just what I needed.
Tuesday – Port Isaac
Tuesday was the first of our exploration days. Of course, it was rainy and windy – in all honesty, that was the theme of this holiday. We all bundled into the cars and took to the country lanes to make our way to Port Isaac. If you look in the dictionary and search the word ‘picturesque’, you will see a little picture of Port Isaac, with its sloping houses and wild inlet.
Before serving as a popular tourist destination (and filming location), Port Isaac was, well, a port, so has all of the seaworthy charm you would expect from a Cornish town. As you wind your way through the town and up the cottage’d streets, you’ll spot listed buildings and narrow alleyways at every turn. It even holds the crown of having the narrowest street in England; go on Port Isaac! As a firefighter’s daughter, I did find myself thinking ‘cor, you’ll never get a fire engine up here’, but I can assure you, most non-emergency services folks will just be thinking ‘oh isn’t this beautiful!’ or ‘hey, how much do you reckon a house up here would cost?’
It wouldn’t be a day out at the British seaside in the middle of winter if you didn’t stop off for a hot meal. We settled down at the port-side restaurant The Mote. Primarily a seafood-based gastropub specialising in local catches, it’s where I had one of the best beef-burgers I have ever eaten in my life. What can I say, I’ve got to be in the mood for seafood, and you just can’t beat being presented with a nut-free, artisan burger. The decor and atmosphere of the restaurant really lent itself to Port Isaac; lime washed walls, crab nets and diving helmets, driftwood and rustic rope accents. Once we had all devoured our food, we ventured back into the fog and the rain. Port Isaac sits proudly along the South West Coastal Path, which offers stunning views of the soaring cliffs and roaring ocean. Rory’s family decided to follow the path and loop back to Port Isaac. Us, on the other hand? We felt too full of good food and too cold to continue a walk, that we could not ignore the call of a good nap any longer.
Wednesday – The Eden Project
We ended Tuesday on a high, with stroganoff, a family games night, and little old non-sporting me getting a bullseye in darts. Was it the proudest moment of my life over graduating from university and getting my dream job? Only time will tell. Then on Wednesday, the high just kept going as we visited one of my favourite places in the world – the Eden Project! Growing up, my family were big on caravan holidays, so I spent many a summer in the Bude sea pool, walking around Tintagel, and visiting said Eden Project.
So, what is The Eden Project? To put it simply, it’s an eco-visitor attraction. What once was an old clay mine is now thirty acres of gardens, plants, wildlife, and ecological history. The selling point of The Eden Project has to be their two biomes, each with a different climate (neither of which is a cold English one). As an adult, a large part of my personality is ‘enthusiastic plant lady’, so the idea of walking around areas full of plants, learning about plants, and the possibility of buying new plants made me all the more excited.
Even in the winter, the gardens of the Eden Project are beautiful. Evergreen plants reveal sculptures and art pieces, and the wild cliffs of the quarry are lined with trees of all colours. But the biomes are where it is at. If you visit the Eden Project, I would recommend starting with the Mediterranean biome. The smaller of the two biomes, it’s a warm walk reminiscent of lush holidays in Spain, Greece, and Italy, as well as moments of Californian, South African and Western Australian plant life. The enormous cacti of California were a personal favourite, as well as the orchards and vineyards growing citrus fruits, olives, and chillies. The centre of the dome also houses an art piece called The Rites of Dionysus by Tim Shaw, for any of you art or ancient history lovers out there.
After feeling warm and relaxed in the Mediterranean biome, move on over to the Rainforest Biome for something a little different. If you are there in the winter, you best take off your coat because you’ll be hit with a humid 25-degree heat as soon as you walk in.
The larger of the two biomes, it will take approximately an hour and half to walk around, and you are instantly immersed in tropical greenery. Towering bamboo plants and palms line the path, intertwined with rare gems like baobab and the jade vine, and watch your feet for the roul-roul partridges that roam freely around the biome. The Rainforest biome is a wonderful place to learn about the different plants and products we take for granted such as bananas, vanilla, chocolate, and the millennial lifeline that is coffee. My favourite area to be found in the Eden Project is the walk along the Wobbly Bridge in the biome.
High above the ground plants, you take a walk along a rope bridge, looking down at the wonders below you, and at the clouds of mist that roll in to keep the climate damp and delightful.
After the biomes, we continued with a walk through more gardens (bitterly cold after experiencing the Rainforest biome) and stopped off to look at Infinity Blue. One part ceramic sculpture, the other part caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, this twenty tonne art piece pushes vapour rings out in an homage to cyanobacteria. Unlike anything we had seen before, it really made us stop in our tracks in awe, before turning us back into children, running up and trying to bat the rings of smoke. To close off our trip, we walked through their enormous gift shop. Yes, I bought something. Yes, it was a plant. I am very happy to say I now have my own olive tree in a sunshine yellow pot bringing me joy in my home.
In the evening, we once again made the most of the farmhouse with its huge dining table and roomy kitchen. It was mine and Rory’s turn to cook so we made a Mexican inspired feast, including fajitas, quesadillas, margaritas, and (watch out, flex incoming) homemade churros. We also chose a murder mystery to be our entertainment of the evening, which left us all aching with laughter by the end of the night.
Thursday – Day In the House
After two days of making the most of what Cornwall has to offer, Thursday was a day of making the most of what the house itself had to offer. Mainly peace, quiet, and relaxation. I woke up to the sound of rain on the skylight, winter sun creeping in for a late morning wake up. Warm coffee in hand, draped in an oversized jumper, I sat down on the sofa in the games room and did not move for hours. I know what some of you are thinking – I am in one of the most beautiful places in the UK and I’m not out exploring. Friends, this is a holiday. A balance between exploration and full rest. This was a rest day, sitting by a log fire, with views of the hills and orchards around me. This is all part of making the most of Cornwall. I am very thankful I took this day for myself because I felt creative. I hadn’t had a day to myself, without doing something, for so long, and the creativity just started to flow. I wrote for the blog, edited Reels, made writing plans. I didn’t feel I had to do it or that I should do it. I simply had the desire, the want to do it. All because I took time for myself. Who knew that resting was good for you, eh?!
Friday – Tintagel Castle
Our last full day of the Cornwall trip came far too soon for my liking. The wind stayed howling, the rain stayed constant, and the British desire to make the most of things despite the weather was in full force. So, we visited Tintagel Castle. At first, I was unsure about the trip. Visiting ruins precariously placed on the edge of a cliff, with steep stairs slapped by the sea, and the rain pouring at the whim of God did not sound like a good day. On the other hand, when will I be back in Cornwall to make the most of visiting King Arthur’s birthplace and the home of many a literary tale? So, we went.
To get to the actual castle, you have to make your way across to the island. The island and mainland were once connected via a natural land bridge hundreds of years ago, but this crumbled into the sea. In order to get across to the island, you either have to trek up 140 steep steps or take the 229ft footbridge over the beach and crumbled land.
Neither seemed the most pleasant to a scaredy-cat like me, but the COVID one way system made the choice for us – footbridge it is! To put it simply, I was terrified of the bridge. I got soaked to my skin. I climbed up and down the steepest hill I have ever experienced. But I was so glad we went.
I learnt so much about the Cornish landscape and history, as well as the folklore that comes with the tale of King Arthur. Plus, the views? Whether it was in the fleeting moments of clear sky or in the more common spurts of rain, they were just breath-taking. There is something rather remarkable about walking up and down the worn steps and paths that have been walked by thousands, if not millions, of people before you.
A personal favourite moment of mine could be found at the bottom of a winding, cliff-cut, sea-sprayed staircase: Merlin’s Cave. The mouth of the cave is found tucked away on the beach that sits attached to the remains of the land bridge. It’s wide, open mouth swallows you into darkness as you walk under the length of Tintagel Castle, before opening up into a blindingly bright cut into the cliff. Best beware though; a few ambles, jumps, and slips, and you’ll be sure to find yourself battling the current against the rock.
After walking up the steepest hill I’ve ever experienced to return to the town of Tintagel, we had our first Cornish pasty of the trip. Yes, it’s cliché but you’ve got to do it. They even do vegetarian and vegan versions so get your tourist on! With a few hours of daylight left, Rory and I hopped back into the car and decided to explore the town of which we had been staying; Bude! Like the farmhouse, Bude exuded Cornish charm and comfort. Fudge stores and surf shops around every corner, fish restaurant and cocktail bars too. It is certainly worth an afternoon trip if you are into either retail therapy, seaside walks, or are on the hunt for a good cream tea. I can thoroughly recommend Nanny Wendy’s Fudge Kitchen and The Barge Restaurant.
Saturday – Heading Home
Saturday morning brought more rain (and hail this time!). I sat listening to it hit the window whilst Rory braved the last hour of the hot tub. But as 10am hit, we packed up the cars, hit ‘home’ on Google Maps, and started the four-hour journey back to Hampshire.
When my feet walked through our front door, I realised how rested these few days away had made me! The change in scenery, a different place to sleep, no worries, no commitments, no work – it was *chef’s kiss*. My creative cup felt full and ready to go again, something I had been missing for quite some time now. Who knew taking time to rest way good for you, eh?! Alright, I did know that. What my trip has taught me is that if you are looking for a vibrant yet restful winter trip away, Cornwall is the place for you. There’s plenty to do whether you are looking for family, couple, or solo activities, and so many of them are winter friendly too. I am sure we have only scratched the surface of Cornwall as a staycation location so I can’t wait to go again.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been to Cornwall and what was your favourite thing to do there!