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Cornish Attractions

Posted: 29th April 2014 09:39

Newquay

Laid-back charm and some of Cornwall’s best beaches are found in Newquay.  From family holidays to wild stag parties, Newquay has something to offer for every crowd, and with thousands of holiday makers flocking here each summer. 

Master the Surf

Newquay has been at the heart of UK surfing culture for over forty years.  Fistral Beach is famous in the world of surfing for its powerful, hollow waves and large swell.  In recent years it has been the site of the pro-surf competition at Boardmasters Festival, but international surfing competitions have taken place here for over two decades. 

Surf schools and adventure centres offer beginner classes to get newcomers ready to jump into the swell, with some of the UK’s top instructors working in this part of the world.  Watergate Bay and the brilliantly named Lusty Glaze are among the many great spots for novice surfers.  Advanced surfers should look out for the notorious Cribber.  This shallow rocky reef just off of Little Fistral causes very steep waves to break at up to 20 feet.  Exhilarating conditions, but the lack of a beach break makes it dangerous even to the professionals!

Get Sociable

Newquay has become the go-to UK destination for stag and hen parties, with daytime activities including go-karts, paintballing, kite-surfing, golf, as well as the famous surf.  Then by night the town comes alive as the bars and clubs open their doors. 

There’s little doubt that Newquay is the club capital of Cornwall – if not the whole of the UK.  Party long into the night, from chilled out beach bars to nightclubs that attract the biggest international DJ’s.  Add to that the huge selection of restaurants and pubs, and you’ll find that Newquay has thought of all eventualities before you’ve even considered the options. 

St Ives

The quaintly attractive seaside town of St Ives is based on an historic fishing community, and to this day it revolves around the picturesque harbour.  With winding cobbled streets and an array of independent shops, galleries, and restaurants, the breathtaking coastal scenery draws visitors to St Ives year after year.

Grab a Paintbrush

Considering the picturesque beauty of St Ives, it’s hardly surprising that the town has long attracted artistic types to its sandy shores.  Notable artists Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson herald from here.  If you’re interested in unleashing your creative side, the St Ives School of Art offers a range of courses and workshops, and have done since 1938.

If you prefer to look at art than make it yourself, the Tate St Ives was established here in 1920 and is well worth a visit, exhibiting work from modern British artists.  The gallery is currently closed while a new extension is being built; it will reopen in May 2014 to offer enhanced visitor experiences and updated facilities.

Beaches

Surrounded by the ocean, St Ives has four beaches with many more a little further afield, all with golden sand and clear blue waters.  Sit a little while and take in the scenery, and before you know it you’ll have spotted one of the seals, dolphins, and even basking sharks that frequent the shallow waters of St Ives Bay.  From the Blue Flag surfing beach of Porthmeor to the almost half a mile of soft sand and calm waters of Porthminster, there’s a beach here to suit every mood.

Padstow

The small port of Padstow is located on the north coast of Cornwall.  Although some of its former fishing trade remains – you won’t find fresher fish than in the numerous seafood restaurants here – Padstow is popular as a yachting destination because of its navigable harbours, as well as dramatic coastlines. 

‘Padstein’

Celebrity chef Rick Stein is a bit of a fan of this part of the world.  He owns and runs four restaurants in Padstow with his ex-wife Jill, serving up his specialty of fresh fish brought in by the local fishermen.  He also runs a Seafood School here.  You can choose from workshops teaching you how to create a single dish, to specific skills classes, ranging in time from a morning to four days of cooking.   In no time at all you’ll learn everything from filleting a fresh fish to creating a delicate sauce to highlight the beautiful flavours of the fresh seafood.

Culture and Festivals

If you’re in Padstow for May Day, you can’t miss the Obby ‘Oss (or Hobby Hoss) festival.  It’s thought to have stemmed the Celtic Beltane celebration and ancient fertility rites.  The ‘Oss is a kind of one man horse outfit, and two of them dance in the streets,  trying to catch maidens as the procession moves through town.

More controversial are the Darkie Days; they involve local residents donning blackface for Boxing Day and New Years Day, and parading through the town singing minstrel songs.  With its obviously dubious origins, these have in recent years been renamed Mummers Days.

Falmouth

The town of Falmouth is most famous for its harbour – which is the third deepest natural harbour in the world – from where many notorious record-breaking voyages have begun.  Best known of these include Robin Knox-Johnson, the first person to sail single-handedly around the world in 1969, and more recently Dame Ellen Macarthur, who became the fastest person to make the same trip in 2007.

Literary Connections

The familiar childhood favourites of Toad, Mole, and Rat are the loveable creatures of Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic Wind in the Willows.  They first came to life here in Falmouth, where they were featured in letters to his son while Grahame stayed in the Greenbank Hotel in May 1907.  For a blast of nostalgia, you can see reproductions of these letters on display at the hotel today.  Falmouth is the birthplace of W J Burley, author of the Wycliffe series which is based in Cornwall.  Scottish author John Sterling also lived here from 1841, till his death in 1844. 

Diving in Falmouth

Falmouth’s sheltered location makes it a great spot for diving in most tidal and wind conditions.  Beginners and snorkelers will love the variety of shallow beach dives available here; from learning the basics at the most popular shore location of Silversteps, to trying out a night dive at Swanpool Beach. 

There are also a variety of offshore dive sites; including The Manacles, which is perhaps the best known dive site in the UK, featuring shallow reefs, pinnacles, and drop offs.  There have been many shipwrecks at this spot over the years, the most famous of which is the SS Mohegan which was sunk here in 1898.

Truro

Truro is the retail and leisure centre of Cornwall, offering a wide selection of bars, cafes, and shops to spend relaxed days wandering around.  Tourist trails include the grand Truro Cathedral, the Royal Cornwall Museum, and a range of art galleries, 18th and 19th Century townhouses, and pretty cobbled Georgian streets.

Royal Cornwall Museum

This is the oldest museum in Cornwall and displays leading exhibits of Cornish culture, and objects relating to Cornwall’s unique heritage, as well as exhibits on world culture and history.  These displays include an Egyptian gallery (including an unwrapped mummy), a Cornish archaeology collection with an emphasis on the Bronze Age, and Philip Rashleigh’s collection of Cornish minerals.

The Courtney Library is also housed in the Royal Cornwall Museum, holding books, archive materials and periodicals relating to Cornish history.  It’s open to members of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, and visitors holding a valid student ID or a letter of recommendation from their institution.  As visiting the library is by appointment only, you need to make sure you call ahead.

Truro Cathedral

The cathedral as it stands today was built between 1880 and 1910, over the remains of St Mary’s church.  The architect, John Loughborough Pearson, didn’t want to destroy the history of the site, and so the Tudor church remains within the Victorian cathedral. 

The cathedral is worth a visit if only for the breathtaking stained glass, which makes up the worlds largest ever stained glass project, telling pictorial stories from the gospel as well as a narrative of the history of the church in England.  The cathedral is build in a gothic-revival style, and stands as one of the most impressive and memorable sights of modern-day Truro.

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