Though student life has kept me very busy, I have had a few chances to branch out and explore what Cornwall has to offer. Travelling around can be tricky if you don’t have a car, although most popular destinations are reachable by bus. Luckily, through a mix of friends and visiting family members, I have been able to hitch a ride to some of Cornwall’s most beautiful destinations. Going by category, here are a few of the places that I recommend most highly…
- Godrevy Beach on the west coast. I went here with my parents when they came to visit. It was the first warm and sunny day we had after a cold and rainy March, so I was fully embracing the long-awaited start of spring. But to be honest this beach is beautiful enough that I think it would be worth a visit any time of year. The big attractions are the lighthouse, perched on an island just off the coast, and the cliff edge that overlooks a colony of seals.
- The Lizard on the south coast. My first time venturing out to the Lizard was with Exeter’s Expedition Society, where we made our way from Cadgwith to Mullion Cove on an 8 mile hike. The most exciting part of the journey was reaching the most southern tip of the United Kingdom, as advertised so enticingly by The Most Southerly Gift Shop. There is also a lighthouse that you can get a tour of. My favorite part was scrambling to the rocks below the cliff face, trying to reach the actual most southern point of the land (side note: you can also visit the most western tip of England at Land’s End. This is a nice place to go as well, though I found it was trying a bit too hard to be a tourist attraction which diluted the natural charm that I find so endearing about most destinations in Cornwall).
- Marazion Beach and Saint Michael’s Mount not far from Penzance in the southwest of Cornwall. I got to see two sides of this site. The first was low tide, sunny and warm. In these conditions there were hundreds of people and dogs on the beach and in the nearby town. Saint Michael’s Mount is a castle located on an island that can only be reached at low tide. Though I didn’t end up getting a tour of the actual site, just walking to and visiting the island was a fun experience in itself. Also fun fact: Saint Michael’s sister castle called Mont Saint-Michel in France was used during the Harry Potter films! As a huge fan of Harry Potter, this made the trip all that more exciting. My second encounter was about 5 hours after the first. As is often the case with Cornwall weather, the conditions were completely reversed: cold, foggy, and very stormy. We pulled up to the beach to see a very dark and dreary image of the monetary, the high tide now completely blocking any access from the beach to the island, and the fog giving the whole site a very ominous look. Though I very much enjoyed the sunny morning on the beach, there was something poetic about the image of a mysterious old monastery trapped on an island, obscured by rain and fog.
I have only been to a handful of towns in Cornwall, and can’t really say anything bad about any of them. Someone who has lived here longer than a year would probably have a bit more to say about the best places to go in Cornwall, but based on where I have visited I think the following three would be my favorites.
- St Ives would probably be my favorite town in Cornwall so far. Just like Falmouth, is very quaint and has a lovely ocean view. It is a good place to go for snacks and treats, as it is famous for its fudge, ice cream and candy shops. There is also lots of good sea food and, as always, many good pasty shops. Since it is located right near Godrevey and Gwithian, Saint Ives makes for a good combined trip to the beach.
- For a while I just thought of Truro as the last tiresome layover stop when traveling from London to Penryn, or simply a place to shop for something I can’t find in Falmouth. But now I’ve gotten the chance to spend a good bit of time wandering around Truro’s central shopping hub, and I’ve discovered how nice it is. There are a number of good restaurants. As an American I quite enjoyed going to Hubbox to have a cheeseburger with chilli fries and a milk shake for a good reminder of home. There is also the impossible-to-miss Cathedral that towers magnificently over the town. Though I have not been inside it, the view from the outside is quite beautiful and acts as a cool landmark.
- Penzance is a fairly large town, at least as Cornwall standards go. I must admit I didn’t spend much time here, but from what I saw there seemed to be lots of good shopping and restaurants. Penzance is also not too far from a lot of really cool attractions in Cornwall, like St. Michael’s Mount and the Minack theater, so I definitely think it would be a good pit stop during a tour of the southwest corner of Cornwall.
For the environmentalists
As I am completing my master’s in conservation, there are a couple spots in Cornwall that I greatly appreciate for their ecological value. However you definitely don’t have to be studying a biological science to appreciate these places, and I would recommend them to anyone.
- The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is situated in Gweek, just a 20 minute drive from Penryn. I came here on a field trip as part of my Marine Biodiversity module, so the experience was filled with thoughtful conversation about the role of rescuing and rehabilitating stranded animals in the greater context of conservation. But if you are more in the mood to just gawk at some adorable baby seals there is plenty of room for that too. There are also penguins, sea lions, and otters, all equally as cute and fun to watch. My favorite experience at the sanctuary was two weeks ago when I was volunteering for a Conservation Education event that the sanctuary was hosting. The seal tank needed to be cleaned out, so the staff temporarily drained it of water. There are few things more amusing than a pile of baby seals flopping and rolling around at the bottom of an empty pool. When the water finally started filling up again, the seals started playing slip and slide and splashing about in their newly cleaned pool.
- The Eden Project. This was another place I visited with my parents. The concept of it is quite fascinating, as it used to be an old china clay pit that is now turned into a maze of diverse gardens and biodomes. The construction of the project involved such a mass quantity of building materials that it is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. The whole layout is very artistic and generally very pleasant to walk through. The “rainforest dome” was definitely my favorite attraction, filled with a diverse range of beautiful plants and avian wildlife. It also featured a bridge walkway where you could see the whole landscape from above. Though I was most fascinated by the innovative and sustainable conservation value that this site holds, it is really a fascinating site for a range of disciplines and hobbyists, from landscape architects to botanists to environmental educators.
Close to Home
If you do get stuck without a car, there are a number of fun places to go near the Penryn/Falmouth area that are walking distance. Out of all the local places I have ventured to so far, these are my four favorites:
- Pendennis Castle. Coming to England I knew I would have to visit at least one castle, and this one is both a lovely attraction and very close to home. I am not really a history buff, but I enjoyed exploring Pendennis castle and learning the story of its construction and use over time. You do have to pay to enter the castle, but even if you would rather not pay it is worth having a trip just to see the castle from the outside, hanging on the edge of a cliff quite magnificently. And it is right on the edge of Falmouth, so pretty easy and quick to get to compared to other landmarks around Cornwall.
- Gylly Beach. It is almost impossible not to go here as a student at Exeter or Falmouth. There are a number of activities you can rent out equipment for, including kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing. But more than anything, Gylly is a good place for hanging out with friends and getting outside when the weather is nice. Now that summer has nearly arrived the beach gets pretty crowded, but it’s still one of my favorite local places to visit.
- Argal Reservoir is about an hour’s walk from Penryn. I’ve enjoyed biking there for some exercise and fresh air when the weather is nice and I am tired of just sitting in a library day after day. There is a nice pathed walk around the reservoir as well as a café at the northern end. I definitely recommend a visit, though if you are crunched for time or transportation the College Reservoir is a bit closer and very lovely as well.
- Pandora Inn. A couple of friends and I decided to go on an adventure one day and walk to Pandora Inn near the town of Mylor. It probably took us about an hour and half to get there, though we made a couple of pits stops for tree climbing and rope swinging. It’s a lovely walk and not too difficult, plus there is the reward of getting to eat or grab a pint at Pandora Inn before walking back. If you don’t feel like walking and are able to drive, I would at least recommend having a meal at Pandora. The chips are really good, and if the weather is nice you can eat outside where there is a nice harbor view.
As I plan to stay here until August, I am hoping to expand my list of visited sites in Cornwall and see what other beautiful towns and beaches the Southwest of England has to offer. Though I do love my home town of Philadelphia, I think the busy traffic and constant rush of city life will leave me aching for peaceful and scenic countryside that I have grown attached to while studying here. But I think what I will miss most about Cornwall is the people – not just my friends and lecturers but the whole community of people living in Cornwall. Through my travels and volunteer work around Cornwall I have met so many genuinely kind and interesting people, all of whom add to the unique character and charming personality that runs so deeply through Cornwall culture. Though I will be sad to go, I always know that I will be welcomed back to Cornwall by all of the wonderful people I have met while living here!
June 15th, 2017
Cornwall, Exploring Devon and Cornwall, International, Life in the South West, Miscellaneous, Penryn Campus, Undergraduate