To visit Cornwall means to immerse yourself in a world made mainly of sea, mines and legends. Our trip has been an evocative succession of fishing villages, castles, coves and industrial heritage sites.
Above all, it was a journey through the elements: we walked for days on rugged coastline and promontories, in company of the winds and of the mists of late December. The dampened colours and the muffled sounds of winter assured us a completely different experience from the one normally enjoyed by the summer tourists, who are instead dazzled by the turquoise of the crystalline sea and the gold of the sandy beaches.
Here below we will describe the itinerary of our trip on the road: we started from the north coast, then drove down to the south.
1 - TINTAGEL CASTLE
The Tintagel Castle is the most famous of Cornwall, both for its scenic location between the mainland and a nearby islet and for the link with the legends of King Arthur. According to the latter, King Arthur was in fact conceived in Tintagel with the magical help of Merlin.
Unfortunately we could not personally access the castle, closed for maintenance during winter, but it is definitely a place not to be missed.
In the nearby Camelford (considered by some the legendary Camelot) there is also the Arthurian Center, where the final battle between Arthur and Mordred is said to have taken place and where the tomb of King Arthur is believed to be.
Other interesting Cornish castles are Pendennis Castle, St Mawes Castle, Launceston Castle and Restormel Castle.
Tintagel Castle Adult Admission: £ 9.50
2 - PORT ISAAC
Port Isaac is one of the many fishing villages of the Cornish coast. Here several TV series, such as Poldark and Doc Martin, were filmed. The streets that descend towards the port, the white cottages overlooking the sea, the fishing nets piled on the small beach make Port Isaac an extremely picturesque and romantic place.
Here we begun to breathe the stories of sailors and pirates, here we begun to taste the flavours and smells of the sea.
3 - BEDRUTHAN STEPS
The majestic beauty of this corner of Cornwall is incredible. Wind, stone and water have created a spectacular landscape, where large pointed rocks seem to have detached from the jagged coastline to embark on a long sea voyage.
A coastal path allows you to skirt the whole area from the top of the cliffs and, at low tide, a stairway gives access to the beach below.
This stretch of the Cornish coast has a morphology similar to the one of some Asian landscapes, but with all the colours and shapes of North-Western Europe.
4 - BOTTALACK MINES
Cornwall is dotted with inactive mining sites. The extraction history of this county dates back to 2000 BC. and it came to an end, at least temporarily, in 1998. On the territory there are traces of an industrial past that sometimes decorate the landscape in a painful but suggestive way.
An example is the UNESCO Heritage Site of Botallack, where some buildings remain embedded in the landscape as an important symbol of the Cornish history.
The Levant Mine and the Beam Engine are also recommended.
5 - LAND'S END
Legend has it that between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly lies the lost island of Lyonesse, where Tristan was born. Land's End is the extreme southern point of England, an iconic place where, since 1795, the Longships lighthouse is relentlessly on guard.
The jagged and rocky coastline, the moody climate and the sudden fogs, the narrow coves and the swirling currents, make Cornwall a quite dangerous region for the seamen. Taking a walk along the coast of Land's End you can still see today one of the many shipwrecks that have sunk in these waters.
6 - MINAK THEATER
A unique place: a stone theatre overlooking the sea, born from the vision of an exceptional woman. Rowena Cade moved from Cheltenham to Cornwall after the First World War and her passion for theatre and costumes led her to put up local theatre productions in the garden of her new home. Soon she decided to build a better venue, with the seats and the stage arranged on the rocks below: the amazing result is now there for all to see. However impossible it might sound, she did everything by herself, just with the help of her gardener.
An ambitious and passionate project, a show inside the show.
Admission for adults (shows excluded): £ 5
7 - ST MICHAEL'S MOUNT
Our third landmark of the St. Michael’s Way, which crosses Europe connecting Ireland to Palestine. After the Sacra di San Michele (Italy) and Mont-Saint-Michel (France), we finally managed to get here too. Another spectacular place dedicated to the Archangel Michael, in this case built on a tidal island in front of the town of Marazion. The island can be reached on foot during low tide and by boat during high tide.
Of the original abbey, today only the refectory and the church remain, incorporated into the castle built around them.
8 - LIZARD POINT
Lizard Point is the southernmost point of Britain and plays a crucial role in Cornish sea life. Rescue boats have been leaving these cliffs for decades: the old Lifeboat House is still standing there to remind us of many heroic rescue operations. It is no coincidence that the Lizard Point lighthouse complex is the largest in Europe and, for those who like this kind of places, it is also possible to stay in one of its cottages.
9 - KYNANCE COVE
Keynance Cove was our favourite stop: a bay of an overwhelming beauty. When we saw it appear behind the cliffs, we were literally left breathless.
The creeks and the monumental rocks that frame the beach make the landscape so unique and beautiful to seem almost surreal. A planet apart, that we felt created by nature more for elves or other magical creatures than for men.
One of the many cozy coves that dot the southern coast of Cornwall.
10 - THE EDEN PROJECT
An incredible project that has reinvented a part of Cornwall that was devastated by mining excavations. A tourism and conservation project that has socially and economically relaunched an area in great difficulties. HERE our dedicated article, and HERE our video.
Admission for adults: £ 25 (if purchased online)
It is also possible to buy a combined ticket that gives access both to The Eden Project and to the Lost Gardens of Heligan
Most of the places listed above are on the sea. If you visit one of those and you are walking on the high cliffs of Cornwall, never lose sight of the waves on the horizon: it is quite common to see dolphins jump, or tuna and whales if you are particularly lucky.
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