The British Riviera doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the French version but if golden beaches, palm trees and fabulous food are your thing, look no further than “the south of Britain”.
Cornwall is the closest point of the British Isles to France, and, like its sister the Scilly Isles, there’s something about the scenery that’s rather exotic. Palm trees thrive in the warm Atlantic breezes, the beaches could give the Cote d’Azur’s a run for their money, and there are plenty of idyllic villages to explore – in fact there’s so much on offer that a week might not be enough.
So, in no particular order, here are just some of the reasons Cornwall’s the crème de la crème:
Cornwall’s coastline is windswept, dramatic, and in parts almost Mediterranean – and it’s long. 200 miles of coastline mean that wherever you stay you’ll always be close to some of its main seaside spots. The region is long and narrow so you’ll never be further than sixteen miles from the nearest beach. It’s 320 km long, twice the length of the Costa del Sol.
Newquay on the breezy Atlantic is where the surf action happens, and if you book ahead you might be able to squeeze in a memorable meal at Jamie Oliver’s legendary Fifteen restaurant which is set by rocks just steps from the water.
Heading from the Atlantic coast, if you stand in the harbour at Fowey (pronounced “foy”) and look straight ahead, Guernsey, Jersey, St. Malo and Cherbourg are across the water. This part of Cornwall is the region’s official Cornish Riviera, with its chocolate shops, waterside pubs, fish restaurants and antique book stores and the Daphne du Maurier festival is held here each year. She was one of the area’s most famous residents and lived in a house in the village of Par, visible just across the water.
As Alan Titchmarsh would tell you, Cornwall has an amazing variety of gardens, the most famous being The Lost Gardens of Heligan just minutes from St. Austell. Thanks to its mild climate Cornwall is the unexpected home of exotic flora and fauna – including palm trees – not usually seen in the UK. The region even produces its own wines and champagne, by Camel Valley Vineyards, and tea from the world-famous Tregothnan Estate. (You can buy the tea online at http://tregothnan.co.uk ).
If Paris is the food capital of France, then Cornwall’s is Padstow. Rick Stein made Padstow famous – he became a local celebrity after his food programmes aired on TV, while nearby Rock became the new Riviera for young royals and well-to-dos. The sandy beach at Rock is a favourite with Prince William and Harry, and now there are four Rick Stein-owned restaurants in Padstow: The Seafood Restaurant, St. Petroc’s Bistro, Rick Stein’s Café and last but not least one of the most popular fish and chip outlets in the country, Stein’s Fish and Chips.
Cornwall was one of the original pioneers of organic food and what really sets Cornwall apart from the rest of England is its incredible variety of top quality local produce – from locally made cheeses and ciders to fresh seafood straight off the quay you can be sure that when eating in some of Cornwall best restaurants you will be eating the freshest and finest produce in Britain. Even the Cornish pasties are legendary. Originally created for the miners, the pasties were their “sandwiches”, packed with potatoes and carbs and chunks of meat to sustain them during a hard day’s work.
St. Ives is the heart of Cornwall’s art scene. Food rule here, too, and it’s home to the famous Tate St. Ives art museum (the sister gallery of the Tate in London) as well as one of the area’s best-kept secrets, the St. Ives museum, a great place for children. It really captures Cornwall’s history, with its displays include agricultural heritage, fishing, mining, the Cornish kitchen and more. St Ives was recently voted the UK’s best beach resort and number six in a league of the best beach destinations in Europe according to Trip Advisor.
Theatre goers will probably already know that Cornwall also has one of the world’s most unique theatres: the Minack is an extraordinary open air theatre carved into the cliffs by one local woman. It took her her entire life to finish it and Shakespeare has been performed here ever since…
For more ideas, www.visitcornwall.com