Scones, Surfing, and Castles in Cornwall: England's New Coastal Hot Spot
Surfing at St Ives in Cornwall. (Photo: David Merrett/Flickr)
The county of Cornwall used to be famous for one thing above all else — the homegrown “bucket and spade” beach holiday. Every summer, families from London and the surrounding environs (mine included) would load up their cars and head west, making their way down roads of steadily reducing diameter, to the land of clotted cream, strawberries, and sand castles.
As much today as when I was a child, Cornwall often feels like an entirely different country from the rest of the U.K. It’s impossible to mistake the area’s unique identity. Partly that’s a function of simple geography. Despite new motorways, the drive from London to Cornwall still takes at least five hours, an odyssey by British standards. Plus, there’s the climate; Cornwall is always a few degrees warmer than London. It’s not exactly tropical, but the residents proudly grow palm trees in their gardens, which adds a dash of exoticism.
Adding to the sense of being abroad is the fact that many older residents still speak Cornish, a Gaelic-origin dialect incomprehensible to outsiders, as their first language.
St Michael’s Mount Gardens, Cornwall. (Photo: ukgardenphotos/Flickr)
But with this welcome sense of foreignness came a definite sense of provincialism in Cornwall. It was hard, to put it frankly, to get a decent meal anywhere, apart from a half dozen expensive hotels and restaurants.
All this has changed in the past few years as a new generation of ex-rat racers — mostly Londoners — have decamped to Cornwall, importing a healthy dash of sophistication and bohemia to England’s most far-flung southern province. Good food is standard in all pubs now. And while the area still retains all of its tradition and heritage, there is a healthy cosmopolitan strand running alongside and complementing the old ways.
Sunset at Polzeath, looking out toward Newland & Rainer Rocks. (Photo: Robert Pittman/Flickr)