Several years ago I was unable to leave the United Kingdom for a holiday abroad while I waited for Visa paperwork to be processed. Friends suggested I take a weekend break in Cornwall, an area of England with it’s own unique feeling and exotic beauty. For many years Cornwall had been high on my “wanderlust” list for the United Kingdom, and therefore I jumped at the opportunity to spend a weekend there with dear friends.
A weekend break in Cornwall made for a great escape from London. It provided a beautiful change of scenery, charming villages, and incredible food. We stopped at two of Cornwall’s biggest sites, but didn’t push ourselves to see everything in one trip. It gave us time to explore the area at a leisurely pace and not be rushed to get back on the road on Sunday evening.
We chose to travel by car to give us flexibility in Cornwall. Though there are trains around the area they are infrequent and often do not reach the main attractions, and take forever to get there and back. The train to Exeter, located on the way to Cornwall in neighboring Devon, takes 3 hours. From Exeter it can take a lot longer to reach various spots in Cornwall, for example it’s another 2.5 hours to get to St Austell, which is only about halfway into Cornwall.
A train from London Paddington to Penzance can take almost 6 hours, and though the drive is still over 5 hours there are places to stop off along the way and visit.
Luckily for me the friends I traveled with had a (seriously comfortable) car, and were willing to drive. This made the decision very easy for us. We chose to head off early on Saturday morning and return later on Sunday. This meant that the driving could be done within daylight hours – convenient for the drivers and for me to gaze out at the gorgeous landscapes.
Though we could have packed a lot more into the trip we opted for a leisurely pace. There was so much more to see and I took a lot of notes of what I would want to go back to one day (soon).
Cornwall, and neighboring Devon, are enchantingly beautiful parts of the country that should be on everyone’s bucket list. They are some of the best of what the United Kingdom has to offer its visitors (and locals) and comes as no surprise that over 4 million people flock to Cornwall each year.
Saturday – The Eden Project
Driving to Cornwall
The drive was relatively long, taking almost four hours in each direction. Thankfully it was outside of peak season or it could have been longer, since there are only a few roads that head into Cornwall.
Though the A303/A30 route into Devon and Cornwall is very scenic and beautiful, much of it is a single lane and there is often traffic near Stonehenge (tourists trying to get a glimpse without stopping to see the site properly).
The alternative route covers the M4/M5 and eventually connects with A30 in Devon. Maps often show this route as being slightly longer, as it drives past Bristol (west and then south), however it often goes a lot more smoothly since it is at least a dual carriageway all the way to Exeter.
The drive for us was pretty painless – we did take the A303/A30 route and I snapped a quick photo of Stonehenge as we whizzed past. I’ve visited it several times in the past but it was a bit of a novelty to see such a famous landmark from the road for me.
The moment we crossed into Devon the rain began and plagued us for a portion of the journey, seemingly leaving us as we entered Cornwall. The rest of the afternoon was overcast but pleasant (and delightfully dry).
- Eden Project: https://www.edenproject.com/
- Opening Times: 9am – 6pm
- Ticket Prices: £28.50 (Adult) |Annual pass costs the same as a Single Entry Ticket
My friends were avid gardeners and they had been keen to visit the Eden Project for some time. That was our initial motivation in visiting the Eden Project, but even as a non-gardener I thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
The Eden Project is an expansive botanical garden that exists within two biomes and across a large swath of landscape in southern Cornwall. The biomes were separate and each had a unique and specific climate, one more tropical than the other. The 30 acres around the biodomes had expansive gardens in their own rights, and the entire location was idyllic and charming.
The first biome that we visited was the Mediterranean climate, complete with charming white washed building and colorful flowers. Throughout the exhibit there were also sculptures interspersed throughout.
The second biome was a rainforest climate and had exotic birds, as well as plants, and a raised walkway that passed through the tall branches of the trees and provided another unique experience.
During the Evening
After we finished at the Eden Project we headed directly to our hotel near Bodmin, just in the middle of Cornwall. I’d searched for a location that would be between our two destinations for the weekend and found this to be a charming area during my research.
We stayed at Tredethy House near Bodmin, a gorgeous country manor converted to a hotel. It was very charming, the staff extremely welcoming, and they had a lovely breakfast included the following morning. They were located in the countryside and had some lovely paths nearby for a short ramble.
For dinner we traveled to nearby Wadebridge, and visited the quaint Ship Inn. They served incredibly fresh seafood and traditional pub fare. We had a fantastic meal with them before retiring back to Tredethy House to play a few games, have a drink, and eventually head to bed.
Sunday – Tintagel Castle
- Tintagel Castle: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/
- Opening Times: 10am – 6pm
- Ticket Price: £14.50 (Adult)
English Heritage maintains this incredibly historic castle on the north coast of Cornwall. It’s classified as a medieval fortification built on a peninsula of Tintagel Island, which is partially connected to land by a tiny strip.
This breathtaking castle has a long history and an association with the legends of King Arthur; there’s even a unique sculpture built to honor those legends located on Tintagel Island. The first records of the castle date back to the 1100s, but the remains of the current castle on this site only date back to the 1400s, when the 1st Earl of Cornwall built it.
The expansive ruins of the castle span over a large ravine between the two, and beneath Tintagel Island is a cave known as “Merlin’s Cave”.
We spent the better part of the morning exploring this expansive castle and grounds. At the time the only way to get from one side to the other was to climb down a very step set of stairs and then back up the other side. Since we’ve visited the castle has built a large modern bridge to bridge the gap and make this a far friendlier site.
The entire site for Tintagel Castle encompasses more than just ruins:
- Tintagel Castle ruins – a set of ruins on either side of the bridge
- Tintagel Island walk – lovely green area on the island to explore with incredible views
- Tintagel Castle Bridge – the new modern bridge that expands the ravine to link together both sides of the site.
- Tintagel Castle Beach – beautiful beach at the base of the castle with crystal clear waters.
- Merlin’s Cave – located next to the beach, you can explore inside the caves
- Exhibition Space provided by English Heritage
- Gift Shop by English Heritage (tip: check out their craft alcohol offerings & jams)
Cornish Pasties in Tintagel
After exploring the castle and it’s grounds we returned to the main street within Tintagel, and sat down for a quick Cornish pasty at Pengenna Pasties.
Naturally I’ve eaten my fair share of pasties since moving to the UK, but I can confirm that these were the nicest (largest, and fullest) that I’ve had. It was definitely something that I’d recommend having while in Cornwall.