Of course the grass is always greener, right? I can’t tell you how many local Londoners I’ve spoken to who haven’t done much traveling inside of England. It makes sense – there’s large parts of the U.S. I haven’t explored either. Partly I guess because it’s my home country and I think the opportunity will always be available. The other part is I want to see other places rather than explore domestically.
But now that we’ve moved to the UK, everything is new again. Although I visited London a few times before making the permanent move, I hadn’t seen much outside the city. But I knew the ocean was close by and after a few trial and error runs to Wales by road, I felt ready to tackle England’s southwest coast.
The key to a successful long weekend in Cornwall from London is to give yourself plenty of time. The roads can quickly be jammed and speed checks along the highways are not few and far between. It takes a solid six hours to drive there on a good day, so schedule for food breaks and know you’ll need an extra day or two for the driving.
There’s countless things to experience in this large seaside region, but here are a few highlights:
Easily the quirkiest town visited with its naughty souvenir shops, cafes and hearty surfing community. Being there in November I assumed there’d be no boards to be seen, but plenty of surfers were hitting the waves and catching some great curls. The hostel scene seems to revolve around the surfing and reminded me a lot of Australia’s vibe along the coast. While sipping a few ciders at an outdoor pub, it was a trip witnessing a wet suited surfer and board strolling alongside a woman in a peacoat, gloves and hat.
The English love their medieval tales of centuries past. But I certainly did not love traipsing up a super steep staircase in the pouring rain. Call me crazy, but my American side wondered about the safety regulations of the crooked and loose railings that were my only lifeline. But I did make it to the top of the cliff, greeted by a chain smoking grandma that was highly unimpressed about my dangerous accomplishment. Stepping sideways around grandma, I saw stone walls rise out of green grass forming what I’m sure was once a magnificent fortress and home. Looking down off the cliff to the crashing waves you can see Merlin’s Cave squished between the rocks. This is the spot where we decided to commit to the annual English Heritage pass so hundreds of castles and historic points of interest would be free explore without paying separate entrance fees.
There’s a tiny little village connected to a tiny little beach. As we walked along the short sea wall, a woman approached, hands outstretched. Immediately I thought she’d want something from us, but instead explained she had ordered extra food from the chip shop next door by mistake. She wanted to know if we would take it so food wouldn’t go to waste. In many other places of the world I might have not taken the gift, but in this small village, it made perfect sense. I watched the sun go down over the sea, happily munching on fresh fries while digging my toes into the cold sand. It’s these moment that make Cornwall special. Lucky enough to call Gorran Haven our base while staying at the beautiful Llawnroc Hotel, the best parts of time in Cornwall are just soaking up the scenery, the cozy welcome of its local people and the comforting cuisine with a hearty tradition.
Now that I’ve done Brighton and Cornwall in England, where to next? As soon as the weather is a little more favorable, maybe it’s time to venture north. Where’s your favorite spots to road trip or take the train from home?
Special thanks to Room Auction who allowed me to work with them on a project for hotel reviews in Cornwall. Feel free to check out my stories there too!