SECRET CORNWALL: TRAVEL EXPERT ALASTAIR SAWDAY SHARES HIS FAVOURITE SPOTS
Renowned travel expert ALASTAIR SAWDAY lists his favourite spots in our county
Renowned travel expert ALASTAIR SAWDAY can be relied upon for the best advice on luxury, distinctive accommodation. Here, in this exclusive feature for Cornwall Life, he lists his favourite spots in our county and the wider South West
If you wonder why the South West is so popular, look no further than a map. You can see how it stands proudly away from the rest of the country, and was hard to reach in the days before trains. So it has been independent, cussed, proud, and less spoiled than much of the UK. The landscape has been shaped by farmers rather than industrialists and developers, so it remains soft and beautiful.
Here is my selection of some wonderful spots which make the South West so very special for me:
One of Cornwall’s joys is the split between north and south, the choice between wild, rugged, cliff-edged north and gentle, estuary-fringed south. Today we walked the path between Porthtowan and St Agnes, the sea boiling far below. Yesterday we strolled around the banks of the river Fal, with lunch at a pub and then a circle back to Mylor Bridge.
I have a great fondness for Trelissick House and its gardens sloping down to the Fal, for Godolphin House, for Tremenheere Gardens near Penzance, for the bleak hills south of St Just and those handsome, squat churches.
Then there is the east/west split. Land’s End to the west is spectacularly lovely, if a little over-used, yet just a mile or so away is the land of Zennor, a mediaeval landscape unsurpassed, with St Ives, popular but still worth a visit, at the far end. Carbis Bay, to the north, is wide open and beautiful, a place to blow away the last cobweb. Then there are the old mine buildings – astonishing still and part of a World Heritage Site around Redruth.
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To the east one is nearer Devon and thus a more gentle landscape. Cotehele is a National Trust treasure, almost perfectly mediaeval. Bodmin Moor is still wild in places, if a trifle sad – for not many go there now. But it is worth it, for its secrets are many. The coastal villages of Fowey, Polperro and Looe are still exquisite, tucked snugly into their little harbours.
The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor
This lovely little inn sits in the most spectacular place. It is a short walk to beaches and the finest clifftops, and the beautiful Gurnard’s Head. It has caught the easy magic of the area, with maps and art on the walls, books piled high on the shelves and two cosy fires. Picnics are arranged, the restaurant is superb, there’s often folk music in the bar and dogs are very welcome.
Hidden within eleven acres of bluebell woods, this eco-house is one of a kind: floor-to- ceiling windows among the trees, a roof adorned with wild flowers, and Japanese inspired interiors. A single B&B suite, it all feels deeply private - with only woodpeckers and tree creepers intruding. The Eden Project and Fowey are close.
Park View, Bottaborough, Kilkhampton Road, Bude
Wonderfully nostalgic, kitsch and full of character – a surprising trip to the 1950s. This gem of a bungalow has a suitcase record player, American diner-style kitchen, busy wallpaper and vintage crockery. There’s irreverent charm at every turn.
Head over the border:For special Devon places to stay, try these:
Magdalen Chapter, Exeter
Exeter Cathedral really is worth your time before checking in to this unusual and remarkable hotel, still showing surprising signs of its past as a hospital. The brasserie is delightful and confidently modernistic, with hanging pods of light. The inside-outside pool is heated by a woodburner and leads to the walled garden.
Fingals, Dittisham, Dartmouth
Richard and Sheila provide sparkle, creativity and generosity at every turn. It is a country house, with heavy beams, delightful design flourishes, mezzanine levels or four-posters, and a cosy panelled dining room. The tennis courts are in lush green gardens. Learn to sail, take a river cruise or hire a canoe for the day and see the best of the river Dart.
Bayards Cove Inn, Dartmouth
Slap bang in the middle of Dartmouth sits a slice of history. In 1621 The Mayflower docked just outside this jaunty little inn before heading to America. Timber frames, thick stone walls and traditional windows do not preclude great lattes, a tapas bar and contemporary soft furnishings. Find a spot by the bay window and watch the world go by.
Prince Hall Hotel, Yelverton
From the rich comfort of the lounge, the undulating landscape of Dartmoor National Park beckons through the grand shuttered windows. Guests are spoilt with attentive and knowledgeable staff, soft downy beds and local, seasonal and organic food at the smart restaurant.