Experience the magic of North Cornwall

Posted on: 22 March 2010 by Mark O'haire

From craggy coastlines and sandy beaches, to national gardens and fine gastronomy, it's easy to lose yourself in North Cornwall.

Known for its scenic beauty, North Cornwall combines varied and breathtaking scenery with the myths and legends of Merlin and King Arthur, medieval castles, great houses, inspiring gardens and golden beaches.  With year-round attractions and plentiful opportunities for walking, cycling and other sporting and leisure pursuits, there isn't a moment of boredom in Cornwall.

The region stretches along the dramatic Atlantic coast from Bude’s sandy beaches, passed rugged cliffs and secret coves to the Bedruthan Steps just north of Newquay, taking in mystical Tintagel and the pretty fishing villages of Boscastle, Port Isaac and Padstow. Inland the craggy tors and wild moorland of Bodmin Moor contrast with the more gentle countryside nearer the coast while major historic towns include Launceston and Bodmin.

The Great Outdoors

Bossiney Beach

Don your walking boots or jump on the bike and enjoy the picturesque scenery of rolling green hills, disused tin mines and arguably some of Britain’s finest coastline.

Cycling & Walking Routes

Among the network of walking and cycling routes is the 18-mile Camel Trail, which follows the level route of a disused rail track along the banks of the Camel River from Padstow to Wenfordbridge.

A new extension allows cyclists to link onto the Cornish Way, a 42-mile stretch along minor roads to Bude, away from busy roads. 

Bodmin also has a new off-road track called St Guron’s Way, linking one side of the town to the other, and connecting with the Cornish Way.

A 26-mile footpath named the Saints Way, traverses the county between the picturesque fishing villages of Padstow on the north coast and Fowey on the south following the footsteps taken by pilgrims many hundreds of years ago.

For a more challenging route, the South West Coastal Path hugs the coastline along its undulating and rugged cliffs.  

Golf, Fishing & Horse Riding

Cornwall boasts a selection of coastal links and parkland courses for golf enthusiasts, while anglers will find lake, sea, rock, river and canal fishing available all year round.


For keen equestrians, North Cornwall offers some of the best riding locations in the west, through wild moorland, alongside gentle rivers and across sandy beaches and blustery headlands. With more than 60 miles of Atlantic Heritage Coast, famed for its golden sandy beaches, award-winning bays and crashing waves, the area also attracts surfers and other watersports enthusiasts from around the world.  For further information, visit www.southwestcoastpath.com

Gourmet Coast

Rick Stein indulged his passion for ‘fresh fish simply cooked’ by opening the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow some 30 years ago. Now for the first time in its history, the restaurant has undergone a £2.5million refit including a new extension.

The restaurant is larger with thirty extra seats but, according to Rick Stein, “The best bit will be the seafood bar right in the middle where you will be able to sit and order anything from the menu without booking. A couple of chefs will be assembling platters of oysters, langoustines and, almost better still, Japanese sushi and sashimi.”

There is also a new entrance for both the restaurant and rooms; a new wine cellar; two extra bedrooms and a terrace for pre-dinner drinks overlooking the harbour. The kitchen is bigger too with a new fish preparation area, new grills and fryers and a very fierce wok burner for turning out the best chilli crab and stir fried mussels, with black beans and ginger.

Padstow HarbourRick also now has a bistro, café and fish-and-chip shop where the food is both delicious and inexpensive.  He has been the forerunner of a culinary renaissance in North Cornwall, which is still gathering speed.  Since opening in Padstow in December 2005, No.6 fine dining restaurant has gone from strength to strength and was voted the ‘Best Restaurant in Cornwall by The Which? Good Food Guide 2007.  For further information, visit www.rickstein.com.

Just along the coast at Watergate Bay, Jamie Oliver opened Fifteen in 2006; this stylish restaurant sources 80 per cent of its food from within a few miles offering everything from an inexpensive breakfast to lavish six-course dinners with native lobster, crab and Cornish ricotta ravioli.  To book, visit www.fifteencornwall.co.uk.

Throughout the region champion chefs are creating mouth-watering dishes with the freshest of local ingredients – fish grilled close to where it’s been landed; fruit and vegetables from nearby farms, and cheese and cream from dairy herds grazing in Cornish fields.

Visitors will find inspiring dishes wherever they chose to dine, or they can source local produce from farmers’ markets. Prize winning delicacies include Dell Farm fennel-flavoured salami, Tregida Smokehouse Farm oak-roasted mackerel and Whalesborough Farm cider-flavoured Keltic Gold soft cheese. To follow there’s cheesecake from Cornwall Cake plus top quality wines from the Camel Valley Vineyard. Their sparkling Cornwall Brut is a gold-medal winner, and you can find out more at: www.camelvalley.com.

Boscastle Food, Art and Crafts Festival

Lobster Pots At Bude

The picturesque coastal village of Boscastle now has its own annual Food, Arts and Crafts Festival held in the autumn, (the 2010 event will take place over two days at the beginning of October). Thousands of visitors flocked to the festival in 2005 and 2006 to enjoy the weekend event which showcases high quality local produce and the talented crafts people who are the very essence of what this reborn village has to offer. The festival was rested for a year in 2007 as major regeneration works were carried out in the village resulting from its flood.

Now with the works completed, the festival is back on the calendar and promises to be bigger and better with a cavalcade of celebrity and local chefs turning up the heat in the demonstration kitchen, a wider range of local produce stalls offering a real plough-to-plate experience, and even more opportunities to see the unique arts, crafts and culture of North Cornwall.

This year the festival will be followed by a ‘Boscastle Walking Week’ with guided tours in the surrounding area celebrating its links to the sea, famous authors and local produce.  For further information on the walking week, visit www.visitboscastleandtintagel.com.

Film Locations

North Cornwall has provided the perfect backdrop for numerous films and television dramas. Port Isaac’s narrow streets feature in the Doc Martin television series as the fictional village of Portwenn, while other films shot in the area include Saving Grace and Twelfth Night.

Bedruthan Steps

One of Daphne de Maurier’s most famous novels first published in 1936, Jamaica Inn, was inspired by the hostelry of the same name on the edge of Bodmin Moor; it tells the story of twenty-three-year-old Mary Yellan, brought up on a farm in Helford but forced to live with her aunt, who is the landlord’s wife, when her mother dies. She soon discovers the inn has no guests and is never open to the public – then follows an intriguing story of wrecker gangs, murderers and thrilling events centred on the desolate moor.

North Cornwall’s stunning landscapes have also inspired John Betjeman, Thomas Hardy and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The former poet laureate, John Betjeman (1906–1984), lived at Trebetherick in his later life and is buried at nearby St Enodoc Church. A former rectory built in 1856 features in Betjeman’s poem ‘Summoned by Bells’.

Thomas Hardy met his first wife, Emma in March 1870 at St Juliot’s Church in the beautiful, wooded Valency Valley, which forms a backdrop to Boscastle. At that time Thomas Hardy, a young architect and aspiring author, was sent from his home county of Dorset to Boscastle to look at a church which was to be restored.

They fell in love and their courtship was played out among the rugged landscape around and author. Now a guest house, the old rectory at St Juliot’s where Thomas Hardy stayed during his courtship remains virtually unchanged.

An Ancient Landscape

There’s a treasure trove of clues to North Cornwall’s past scattered across the landscape from ancient stones and Celtic crosses to the Iron Age hill forts at Warbstow Bury and Rumps Point. Remains of a Bronze Age settlement can be found on Bodmin Moor while the
plethora of historic buildings includes Launceston Castle, John Wesley’s Cottage at Trewint and the Old Post Office in Tintagel. And of course there is the mysterious, cliff top Tintagel Castle now in ruins and the legendary home of King Arthur.

On the far side of Bodmin Moor, at Minions and Caradon Hill, can be found the remnants of engine houses and tramways left by those who mined and quarried the land for tin, copper, slate and granite. These mining sites have been awarded World Heritage status joining the ranks of the Taj Mahal in India and the Great Wall of China.  For more information, visit www.cornish-mining.org.uk.

Attractions & Gardens

Carruan Farm is a family farm attraction at Polzeath which offers animal encounters, tractor and trailer rides and a chance to experience farm life and food production at first hand.  It also a has a restaurant and farm shop.  For visiting information, visit www.carruan.co.uk.

Children also love to visit the Crealy Great Adventure Park - www.crealy.co.uk - just off the A39 between Padstow and Newquay, with its thrilling rides and slides, play areas and many animals including rabbits, goats, ponies and shire horses. Or for a unique insight into marine conservation, the National Lobster Hatchery, www.nationallobsterhatchery.co.uk, at Padstow shows the various stages of these fascinating creatures development before they are released back into the sea.

Holidaymakers to North Cornwall can also take a nostalgic step back in time at the Bradworthy Transport Museum, near Tamar Lakes  which contains a unique collection of restored antique cars, motorcycles and farm, military and transport vehicles and memorabilia.  For more information, visit www.bradworthy-transport-museum.co.uk.

Step back to the steam age with a journey on-board the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, and experience travel in the former steam age.  Visit www.bodminandwenfordrailway.co.uk for details.  

Or for something a little more macabre, you can play the part of a juror at a Historic Victorian Murder Trial acted out regularly at Bodmin’s Shire Hall.  Visit www.bodminmoor.co.uk/bodmintic for details.

North Cornwall has long been recognised for its great houses and gardens. Amateur and professional enthusiasts alike can spend time exploring the wonderful English gardens at Lanhydrock - www.nationaltrust,org.uk; Pencarrow House - www.pencarrow.co.uk - and Prideaux Place www.prideauxplace.co.uk.  The Lost Gardens Of Heligan are must for any keen gardener, with their fascinating history and Victorian ambition.  For further information visit http://www.heligan.com.

The World famous Eden Project - www.edenproject.com - is also within easy reach where they can experience the humidity of a tropical rainforest complete with waterfall, and the warmth of the Mediterranean, superbly re-created in the centre’s giant biomes.

Further information on the area visit the official North Cornwall tourism website - www.visitnorthcornwall.com.

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