Jane Barlow goes back to Cornwall, where she spent many happy childhood holidays, and finds it as magical as ever
When I think of my ideal British get-away, it’s my childhood family holidays to Cornwall that come to mind. My memories of Cornwall, specifically north Cornwall and the area around Padstow, are filled with long days of unbroken sunshine, endless ice cream, fish and chips for tea and countless sandy picnics on the beach.
However, the one thing I remember hating about these holidays was the ten-hour-plus drive at the beginning and end of the holiday. The journey was torturous, setting off at the crack of dawn, five of us would be crammed into our old Ford Escort, our suitcases and the all-important windbreak tied to the roof rack with rope which would invariably fall off at some point and we’d have to pull over and wait while my dad retrieved it from the road.
Twenty years later my partner and I were in North Cornwall for a short break and this time decided to let the plane take the strain and took a short direct flybe flight from Edinburgh to Newquay Airport.
Our accommodation was a self-catering cottage at Treworgie Barton Farm, tucked away in the beautiful countryside near Bude. Treworgie Barton Farm boasts a pretty impressive past. The Cornish name translates as ‘Homestead above the Stream’ and the property, set in 36 acres of farm and woodland, was originally the manor house of Treworgie. Fascinatingly, many royals have battled for its ownership over the years. Henry VIII annexed it to the Duchy of Cornwall in 1540 before Elizabeth I illegally sold it in 1601. And the regal tussle didn’t stop there, with James I repossessing it a few years later. Today, the stables and barns have been converted into nine stylish cottages, the cobbled courtyard they surround a reminder of the site’s royal history.
But don’t let Treworgie’s rural setting fool you into thinking there is nothing to do. Just a 10-minute drive away lies the north Cornish coastline, home to a host of sandy beaches, quaint fishing villages and cliff-top pathways. Then there’s Bodmin moor, the rugged ruins of Tintagel Castle and the Camel Trail cycle path all within easy reach.
Having hired a car we decided to drive through greener-than-green countryside, down the coast, passing stone circles straddling hilltops, castles clinging to cliffs and the ghostly engine houses of abandoned tin mines standing hollowed out. Cornwall is full of history and because of its Celtic heritage, feels close to home.
We eventually found ourselves at St Ives, the most perfect of seaside towns, with a pretty granite harbour and a tangle of cottages and lanes nudging each other for space. We arrived at low tide which is when the harbour transforms into a soft, sandy beach, providing the perfect place to sit and spend the rest of the day gazing out across the turquoise waters .
The following day we decided to ditch the car at Wadebridge and swap four wheels for two and hire bikes. The Camel cycle trail provides the most perfect bike ride; it’s flat, manageable and scenic. We cycled for five miles along the banks of the Camel River towards Padstow. Padstow scarcely needs an introduction such has been its rise to fame as the restaurant capital of the region. If you like food you can’t go wrong with more top-notch eateries than you can poke your knife and fork at. This quaint fishing village was put on the culinary map by celebrity chef Rick Stein who has four restaurants, a pub, hotel, cookery school, deli, patisserie, gift shop and fishmongers. No wonder the locals call it ‘Padstein’. We decided to eat at Rick Stein’s Cafe, one of the more relaxed and affordable venues under the Stein banner. The seafood, even in its simplest form, was fantastic.
Another day, another picturesque fishing village, this time Port Isaac, or Portwenn if you’re fan of the television series Doc Martin. Port Isaac nestles in a narrow sheltered valley with impossibly steep streets which lazily wind down among white-washed cottages to the sea. Further away from the gastro epicentre of Padstow, here the number of notable restaurants thins out, giving way to centuries-old inns and cosy tearooms.
I’m happy to report that Cornwall was all as I remembered. Despite the arrival of frothy cappuccinos, fancy restaurants and trendy shops since I was last here it has lost none of its enigmatic charm and the natural beauty still wins out. With no hideously long drive to endure either, I won’t be leaving it another 20 years before returning to this magical corner of the country.
Three nights at Treworgie Barton Cottages, based on two people sharing, start from £225, tel: 0800 247 1445, www.treworgie.co.uk
Flybe operates a twice-weekly summer route between Edinburgh and Newquay on Wednesdays and Saturdays with one-way fares from £41.99 including taxes and charges, www.flybe.com