I had a crazy notion that to be truly on holiday you had to either be speaking a different language or spending a different currency. A week camping in Cornwall proved that’s utter nonsense
After enjoying a week in our tent touring Cornwall I realised it is as stunning as many of the places I’ve spent hours on a plane reaching. We only had a week. We knew we couldn’t do it justice. But we gave it a good go...
First stop: Ruthernbridge, near Bodmin
Ruthern Valley Campsite is on the edge of Bodmin Moor, equidistant between Padstow in the North and St Austell in the South. If you’re looking for a rural escape you’ve found it, even the nearest pub is a good 30 minute walk away. But don’t despair, you won’t go hungry - the campsite shop sells fresh meat from the local butcher, making it the perfect barbeque location. While this campsite felt roomy in September, I am concerned that at full capacity it would lose it’s feeling of remoteness.
From here it’s a short drive to the Eden Project (www.edenproject.com). Without doubt a fabulous structure, dreamt up by the architect while washing-up – the instantly recognisable biomes are inspired by bubbles. Inside you’ll find two distinct areas, of which the Rainforest Biome is the largest and, in my opinion, the most interesting. Ignoring the concrete pathways, you could imagine yourself sweltering deep in the humid Amazon. However, I think the £16 entrance fee is pretty steep.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan (www.heligan.com) are a complete contrast to the Eden Project (and only £8.50). Steeped in history, these are the ultimate old English gardens. For us, as non-gardeners, we were fascinated by the discovery of the gardens in the 1990s, and the ongoing story of the work to bring them back to their former glory.
And so to Padstow, otherwise known as Padstein, home to celebrity chef Rick Stein whose empire in ever present – cafés, restaurants, accommodation and a cookery school (www.rickstein.com). Regardless of your budget, you can get a bit of the action. We enjoyed Rick Stein fish & chips with ginger beer for two on the harbour wall and still got change from a £20 note.
Second stop: Gwithian, near St Ives
Gwithian Farm Campsite is positioned on the cliff tops, so there’s no shelter from the elements - when the wind blows you know it! It was here that I looked at people cosied up in their vintage VW campervans and felt a pang of jealousy.
Regardless of the windy nighttimes, this place makes up for it in spades during the daytime. You’ll be on the beautiful sandy beach in minutes. Surf here is apparently good for those who have mastered the art; rock pools will provide hours of entertainment on the beach for kids; while cliff-top walks provide endless viewpoints for those who prefer to remain dry. For the best walk I suggest you head up to the Godrevy Lighthouse, then follow the coastal path round – the first cove you reach is known locally as Seal Cliff. You’ll get a great view of the seals either chilling out on the beach, or diving among the waves. Continue winding along the coastal path, after about 30-45 minutes you’ll reach Hell’s Mouth, a cove that earned its name when it was used as a harbour for smugglers. Ready for some replenishment? Pop into Hell’s Mouth Cafe (by the car park) for fantastic home cooked food and cream teas that will fit the bill perfectly.
The fantastic thing about this campsite is its close proximity to the beautiful town of St Ives, a 10-15 minute drive away. It is a typical Cornish town set around the harbour, but with an extra charm about it. It could be down to the influence of the local artists community, who have congregated here for years claiming the light is absolutely perfect, but whatever it is, St Ives feels special.
The Tate St Ives (www.tate.org.uk/stives) showcases both local and national artists, although the gallery is perhaps a little smaller than I’d hoped. If you do just one thing, then head to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden (www.tate.org.uk/stives/hepworth/) for a peek into the life of one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century (joint ticket for Tate and Barbara Hepworth Museum £8.55). Following her death in 1975, Hepworth’s wish to open her home and studio to the public was honoured and the museum opened. To see her sculptures in bronze, stone and wood, all displayed in the place where they were created, and many placed there by the artist herself, really gives you an insight into her life.
And so we headed off for our final campsite of the week on the Lizard peninsula. Unfortunately stories of the Lizard area will have to wait for a subsequent guide – it’s not to say the area doesn’t deserve to be covered here, it’s just that to try and do it justice within the word limits would simply be impossible.
Our week was up. The tell-tale signs of a week in the outdoors were obvious from the colour of our faces. Cornwall is without doubt a beautiful county and one I’ll be coming back to very soon. You should certainly try it too.