Cornwall is the western county in Great Britain. Kernow, as the “Cornish” people call it, is blessed with the wildest coastline and the most breathtaking beaches in the southwest. With a smile, we crossed the Tamar River and arrived in Cornwall.
We had heard so much about Cornwall, many stories from travelers, and weekend holidays. When we looked at the map, we realized how little we knew about Cornwall. That change right now.
Saltash, on the other side of the Tamar River, is considered the “Gateway to Cornwall,” but this was not a good enough reason to stop.
The Duchy of Cornwall is one of the two royal duchies in England. The son of the ruling British monarch inherits the duchy. That’s no joke. Even today, the Duchy of Cornwall belongs to Prince Charles – or official – Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall.
But Cornwall is also a county, a ceremonial and a traditional, and on top of that, an administrative county. Who wants to know exactly the difference, should do a study on this topic. Nobody seems to know precisely. There are exceptions to the exceptions – a classic British system.
Cornwall has recovered well from the mining time and reinvented itself as a British artist’s corner. The top to-do lists of this idyllic and in recent years more hyped region can be found countless on the Internet. Whether it’s St. Ives, Land’s End, the Minack Theater, walking at low tide to St. Michaels’ Mount, taking the ferry from Truro to Falmouth, or surfing the Newques’s Fistral Bay, the list is endless.
For German-speaking Europeans, it is impossible to do not know Rosemunde Pilcher. The British author, who has been writing novels since the 1940s, was one of the most successful authors of her time, with around 65 million books sold.
She is considered the master of the Schmaltzy books and films. In April 2003 she ranks # 50 on the Top 100 list of BBC’s most famous novels.
The German, public broadcaster ZDF, filmed hundreds of Pilcher’s novels, which played the on Prime Time. The films are like Hallmark movies in the US.
Especially in German-speaking countries, the films were successful and led to a tourist boom in Cornwall and Devon.
As the head of the tourist office “Visit Cornwall” Malcom Bell reported: “The fact that Cornwall provides the backdrop for the films is the best marketing we can get”, half of all foreign guests in the structurally weak area are German-speaking, which is called the “Rosamunde-Pilcher effect.” Approximately 350,000 tourists from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland would arrive each year.
Built on the bottom of a clay pit, the giant biomes of the Eden Project – the largest greenhouses in the world – have become one of Cornwall’s most famous landmarks. Eden’s bubble-shaped biomes look like a lunar landing station and preserve miniature ecosystems in which all sorts of strange and beautiful plants thrive. At 28.50 GBP per person, the charitable project was a little too expensive, and we drove on.
Truro was our first stop in Cornwall. It is Cornwall’s capital and the only city. The cityscape is dominated by the three mighty towers of Truro Cathedral – one of the three three-towered cathedrals in the UK.
Like the rest of Cornwall, Truro owes its former wealth to tin mining. The city became the main port in Cornwall to export the metals from the surrounding mining towns to overseas.
Truro was nothing special with its typical British chain stores and probably would not have an impression on us. However, as is often the case on our travels, the experience is usually associated with special people. Sometimes small, sometimes big.
In the case of Truro, it was a very polite and helpful employee of the “Park and Ride” parking lot. He gave us a map of Truro and talked like a tour guide who just did not have time to do a full city tour with us. Michael explained the highlights of Truro and the best route through the city looked like.
He included the current time and planned when we should be in the small library cafe for Cream Tea. With a hand-drawn plan and some notes, he released us to the waiting shuttle bus. We liked Truro.
“Cream Tea” in the UK, especially in Cornwall, does not describe a pure tea with milk or cream. It is a special meal, made of tea, with milk, scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
A scone is a typical English luggage. It is usually served warm and tastes like a fluffier version of a muffin. The proper consistency of scones is created by the incorporation of cold butter in the dough, which can be kneaded only slightly. Before the invention of baking powder (around 1850), scones were prepared in the pan and were more like pancakes.
We stopped in Penzance. The majestic bay of Mount’s Bay and the old port of Penzance felt different than the many refurbished ports of Cornwall.
Penzance looks more authentic and genuine and rundown. Even the beautiful granite buildings of the city can not change that. Thanks to the old Great Western railway line, Penzance was once a thriving seaport and a major tourist resort. At the end of the 19th century, it housed Cornwall’s only promenade and later the Jubilee Pool, Britain’s largest outdoor pool.
But at some point, the tourists stayed out and instead of that came – well, nothing.
However, not everything is bad. Penzance is a naturally interesting and attractive city, a large artistic community that is reflected in several galleries.
St. Michael’s Mount
Just a few minute’s drive from Penzance, visitors to the stunning medieval castle on the small, rocky tidal island of St. Michael’s Mount can experience a little adventure.
The island is accessible at low tide on foot over the dam. At other times you get into a boat to make the crossing. A really nice tour of Penzance.
Land’s End is, without doubt, one of the worst tourist attractions in Cornwall. However, if you fight your way from the overpriced parking lot through the terrible theme park to the cliffs, you will be rewarded.
In front of us, the Atlantic Ocean, our view directed west to North America. Always good 😊. Not quite so far away and right in front of us, a dramatic and 80-meter-dropping, black cliff. In the morning, light shimmers the wild, restless Atlantic, and the icy wind blows us almost off our feet. Land’s End is the westernmost point of Great Britain and is popular with birdwatchers. Nearby in the Sennen Cove is a well-known surf spot.
We stood at the very top of the cliffs, realizing that right now, we were the westernmost people in the UK. 💪
Strengthened with fish and chips – more chips than fish, because they were “bottomless” chips – we stepped out into the warm sun and were again overwhelmed by the unique view of the harbor and the colorful houses.
If there were a prize for the most beautiful ports in Cornwall – which may exist – St Ives would be at number one. A crowded cluster of colorful houses, fishermen’s huts, and church towers sprawling around a turquoise-blue bay.
In the 1920s and 1930s, St Ives became the center of Cornwall’s art scene, when celebrities such as Stanhope Forbes, Lamorna Birch, Julius Olsson, Adrian Stokes, Dame Laura Knight, Sir Alfred Munning, and Sir Stanley Spencer moved here.
The fishing port of Padstow has experienced exploding popularity in recent years. Located around the attractive harbor, the bustling city is an eclectic mix of fishermen’s huts and merchants’ houses. While fishing and trade in the harbor has declined over the centuries, Padstow has established itself as one of the best holiday resorts in Cornwall.
One of the biggest attractions of Padstow is probably the harbor. Sailboat meets fishing boats, as well as the “Rock Ferry” carry passengers and day-trippers from Padstow.
It’s a great place to find yourself a seat and soak up the bustling life of the beautiful place for a while.
We are avoiding visiting Newquay. The town’s bad reputation with its notorious afterlife in trash clubs, noisy pubs, and flashing arcades, and drunken people on every corner had not been particularly appealing to us, even though it’s Cornwall’s surfing capital.
Tintagel, the birthplace of King Arthur, or not – who knows precisely. In any case, history and legend are inseparable in Tintagel. From the 5th to the 7th century, it was a famous fortress and probably the residence of the rulers of Cornwall.
Anyway, the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth was inspired here to use this as the birthplace of King Arthur in his book “History of the Kings of Britain.” An exciting story, not very beautiful but exciting.
Just a stone’s throw from the border with Devon lies Bude. Our last stop in Cornwall. The city itself does not have much to look at. Nevertheless, the breathtaking coast invites for a stop.
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