Unmissable Cornwall in 2021
- Credit: Ewen MacDonald
Almost one in ten of the UK population will visit Cornwall this year – and holiday spots are filling up fast for 2021: so what’s the big attraction?
Partially residing in the subtropics (thank you Isles of Scilly) Cornwall is its own thing – not only do many of the generations-long families believe it is separate to the rest of the UK – many incomers and visitors feel the same when it comes to Cornwall thanks to its unique lifestyle.
Whether surfing, coasteering, eating at pop-up low tide seabed eateries or bare back riding horses across the beach, there is always something to do – and crucially – something new to try.
The foodie movement is fast paced, the art and craft industry continues to grow and the outdoor lifestyle rivals California. In a breakneck tour, there are 160 beaches and coves, even in the height of summer there is space for everyone. Beaches vary from Atlantic coasts with great breaks to hidden coves – and even a nudist beach or two.
Cornwall's harbours offer a romantic view on the past – as well as incredible food and drink. Poldark fans should look to Charlestown and Porthcurno which sits in the shadow of the unique cliffside Minack Theatre, while Doc Martin enthusiasts can head for Port Isaac (stop off for Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen for a fish dish with a difference).
St Ives is all about the light (and the surf, and the art, and the food...) with this peninsula harbour remaining mostly unchanged, its charms are amplified by the Porthminster, Porthmeor and Porthgwidden beach cafes offering seriously good menus from breakfast to supper (seafood is obviously a must).
Over the last decade, Cornwall has successfully shunned competition from rival destinations around the country to hold top awards as Britain’s best holiday spot, helped by world-famous attractions like the Eden Project, National Maritime Museum, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Tate St Ives and Minack Theatre as well as lesser known ones the Lobster Hatchery. These long-favourite destinations hold their place with a huge range of different events – and they are chomping at the bit to share their latest charms with 2021 visitors.
- 1 10 of the best restaurants for al fresco dining in Norfolk
- 2 35 great Surrey pubs with beer gardens and terraces
- 3 Win a holiday for two on the Isles of Scilly
- 4 12 outdoor dining experiences in Surrey
- 5 6 of the best outdoor events in Cheshire this spring
- 6 16 of the best spots for al fresco dining in Essex
- 7 Sussex pubs with beer gardens to visit this summer
- 8 Two Cornwall fish and chip shops named country's best
- 9 10 pubs with pretty beer gardens in Canterbury
- 10 19 great places to eat outdoors in Cheshire after lockdown
For water-lovers, there are seas, oceans, sea pools in Bude, a world-famous lido in Penzance, complete with a new geothermal pool set to open all year-round, plus rivers, reservoirs - and one of the deepest natural harbours in the world to explore (Falmouth sits at number three behind Sydney, Australia).
While there are many loyal visitors to Cornwall who crave the same holiday each year – even down to the same camping spot - many of us are looking for new adventures and each season offers new places to stay, eat and try: new for 2021 is Bodmin Jail’s new interactive experience – who wouldn’t want to stay in luxury hotel rooms created from the jail’s old cells? If you want to stick to something more traditional – Harlyn Bay surf school reckon you can learn to surf in two hours (or you can master the boogie board in about two minutes).
Cornwall offers some incredible short break ideas. Regulars make their way across the 300 miles of South West Coast path that offers incomparable views of the Cornish coastline, its unique geology, flora and fauna. and there are also incredible wildlife watching spots. Areas like Bude are becoming more and more popular for people to set up their telescopes for a spot of stargazing thanks to its Dark Skies recognition.
Cornwall has become a champion at offering a spot of adventure: surfing, paddleboarding, coasteering and cycling along the Camel Valley - and of course bareback horse riding across the beaches of the Isles of Scilly where dozens of uninhabited islands encircled by white sandy beaches and azure seas await.
Cornwall’s food and drink industry is flourishing despite a difficult year – there are hundreds for great places to enjoy fine dining and cream teams - and everything in between. Some of Cornwall’s most famous chefs now offer takeaways and home kits for cooking restaurant meals – ideal for self-caterers. Gin and seafood schools have popped up all over the county, you can learn something and take home a gift to remember your day. Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth! (Happy Holidays).
Our top 10 favourite resorts in Cornwall
Where to eat in Cornwall
Outlaw’s New Road Two-Michelin starred chef Nathan Outlaw closed his specialist fish Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac in 2020 to reopen his New Road as a more accessible eaterie while still retaining its Michelin star. The restaurant is set in the heart of Doc Martin country – in the town that has become so famous as the fictional Port Gwenn in the long-running hit TV series. outlaws.co.uk/restaurants/new-road
Where to visit in Cornwall
Now just a 15 minute helicopter ride away, the Isles of Scilly sits off Cornwall’s coastline in the sub tropics and is made up of dozens of islands (most of them uninhabited). There are white sandy beaches, thriving arts communities and festivals practically every day celebrating island life, its food and drink and its history. There is even one celebrating the annual low tides that allow pop-up events on the land between islands usually covered in water. Best of all short boat rides between the islands allow you to discover your very own private island – even if it is just for a day. Bareback riding, gig rowing, vineyard tours and pop-up festivals held between islands during low spring tides are just a few of the unique activities here.
Where to stay in 2021
Bodmin Jail - There are now shortages of luxury accommodation in Cornwall – but if you are looking to try something new, the luxury 4* hotel opening in 2021 at the imposing 18th century Bodin Jail is the place to go. This gruesome building has undergone a multi-million-pound revamp for its visitor centre and the new hotel inside its walls combines luxury with some of the original features of the jail. bodminjail.org
Where to shop in Cornwall
Cornwall's harbours have turned the Italian passeggiata into a local artform. Head to Fowey and Padstow and enjoy an afternoon stroll and some window shopping. You’ll find old bookstores, art galleries and boutiques not found anywhere else. Arts and crafts dominate in Cornwall as the artists’ colonies continue to thrive here. Look out for open studio events and workshops to buy direct from makers and artists.
Day's out in Cornwall 2021
The tiny village of Mousehole near Penzance is named after a cave – thought to have once been home to a giant mouse. The harbour is also home to one of the country’s most famous Christmas lights and the birthplace of the strange Stargazey pie – so named as the fish in it all look up to the stars. This ancient harbour, once sacked by a Spanish Armada (only one house was left standing) has two tiny beaches, a rockpool for dipping your feet and plenty of places to while away the afternoon with a cream tea.
Porthleven harbour is fast overtaking Padstow as Cornwall’s foodie capital – you read it here first. Home to BBC Great British Menu favourite Jude Kereama’s Kota Kai restaurant, new restaurants have opened along the ancient harbour – including Michael Caines. Each spring sees the Porthleven Food Festival which grows in size each year with top chef demonstrations and stalls featuring the latest in food and drink.
Throughout Cornwall – and on much of its merchandise - you will see the outlines of engine houses. These granite and stone buildings are landmarks of a once thriving tin mining industry. Today many lay derelict; a few have been converted into housing, but there are many you can visit to discover more about what once made Cornwall so wealthy. Head to Heartlands in the centre of Cornwall’s World Mining Heritage Site for the full story. heartlandscornwall.com
The Eden Project
Celebrating its 20th birthday in 2021, the Eden Project has become an icon in world tourism done well. The gravity-defying biomes rising out of an old clay pit at Bodelva near St Austell. It has achieved that most difficult of things, creating an ever-changing programme of event and attractions that keep visitors coming back for more (the winter ice rink was sorely missed in 2020). Explore the different areas - the Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, Outdoor Gardens, Wildlife Cornwall, Western Australia Garden, Invisible Worlds exhibition and art installations like the Giant Bee.
There is lots of food on offer (this is the home of the World Pasty Championships after all) which reflect Eden's buy local andedenproject.com sustainability policies (free water refilling along its most popular).