A Non-Surfer's Guide to Cornwall
'There is more to Cornwall than simply sun and sand...'
Gigi St John | 5 November 2016

Cornwall is undoubtedly one of the most popular British summer holiday destinations. Thousands of Londoners every year take the long five hour trek down to the western coastline for the chance of catching some rays on the Cornish beachside. Simply the word ‘Cornwall’ elicits an image of surf, sea and sand.

It is undeniable that surfing is an integral part of Cornish culture, and to take this away would be no less than an injustice. One only needs to visit a cafe or restaurant to be bombarded with an eclectic mix of surfing memorabilia: surfboards on walls and wetsuits in windows are not an uncommon sight. However, for the non-surfers among us, the question is this: does Cornwall have anything else to offer?

I can firmly state that the answer is a resounding yes. Cornwall is an area of great cultural and historical wealth, home to some of the most famous castles and theatres in the world. Cornwall has a constant buzz of action unlike anywhere else in the UK. Here are a few of my favourite spots…

  1. Padstow

Imagine a small, picturesque town, filled to the brim with ice cream parlours, souvenir stores and temporary tattoo stalls. Then add some sun and a sailing boat dock, and you should have something close to Padstow. You’re never more than 3 metres away from someone with a hair braid, and there is an unwritten rule that it is a crime to wear any footwear other than flip-flops. This beautiful town offers a perfect escape from the stresses of city life, with a vibe of relaxation like no other.

  1. Minack Theatre

All it takes is a simple Google search of “famous open air theatres” in order to stumble upon Cornwall’s Minack Theatre. After having performed there myself, I can safely say that it has the most beautiful wings and green room in the world. This theatre does not only bring joy to those who perform in it, but even more so to those who watch a show there; the backdrop is a natural masterpiece, with a view of the sea that stretches out for infinity paired with a stunning blue sky - it’s enough to make any heart skip a beat. Whether you’re a drama fanatic or not, the Minack Theatre is a place worthy of a visit.

  1. Retallack Resort

I was fortunate enough to spend a week this summer at the Retallack Resort, a hub of summer sporting activities. Anyone who knows me will be aware that sports are hardly my forte, but this place managed to get the inner thrillseeker out of me; I couldn’t resist jumping head first (quite literally) into the activities on offer there. One particular highlight was the FlowRider, a wave simulator that allows you to surf and bodyboard - minus the salt water. Unfortunately, the wetsuits were still a necessity (couldn’t get away from them that easily!) but this didn’t stop us from having a whale of a time.

  1. Eden Project

Picture your local garden centre. Now multiply that image by approximately one thousand, and you should be getting near to the Eden Project, a centre dedicated to conserving the rainforests and promoting environmental values. This should be top of the list for all plant-lovers and tree-huggers as you will never have seen so many plants in your life - trust me.

  1. St Michael’s Mount

Last but not least, I have a recommendation going out to the historians amongst you. St Michael’s Mount, twinned with France’s Mont Saint Michel, is a historic castle town on a small island just off the Cornish coast. Much like the French equivalent, the island becomes cut off from the mainland at certain times of day due to the changing tides. My advice would be to climb the castle, soak in the history and enjoy the views - but keep an eye on your watch, or you might just get stranded!

From these five simple suggestions, it is plain to see that there is more to Cornwall than simply sun and sand. It is undoubtedly an area enveloped in strong seaside culture, but there is more than meets the eye - next summer, why not give Cornwall a try?


Original Images by Honor Gulliford and Gigi St John

James Routledge 2016