The wild land at the end of Britain is one of my favourite places in the world. Cornwall’s dazzling coastline and green valleys are ripe for exploring, but I’m also captivated by its fishing villages, artist communities and flourishing food scene. These dreamy spots picked for my guide with Seasalt are my best-loved places to explore, sleep and eat.
I’ve written a lot about adventurous and active Cornwall over the years, but my visit to the gardens inspired me to put together a travel guide to its more creative side. Visiting Heligan with Alex also gave me a chance to shoot the latest pieces I’ve been wearing from Seasalt Cornwall, including a seriously comfortable, wear-anywhere striped dress and smart, high-waisted trousers that make me think of those worn by the Land Girls.
Travel guide to creative Cornwall
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewen
A chance discovery of a door leading into a ruined estate lead to the rediscovery of Heligan 25 years ago. Time and nature had reclaimed a once-glorious Victorian garden – now it’s been nurtured back to its prime, and you can wander through 200 acres of walled gardens, kitchen gardens, a rare breeds farm and a sub-tropical jungle. Make sure you seek out the ever-sleeping Mud Maid (above).
Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle
This warren-like museum is one of the most fascinating I’ve ever stepped into, a weird and wonderful history of the occult. Beginning with the apparatus used to torture medieval enchantresses, the collection progresses past a recreation of a wise woman’s cottage, delightful witchy cartoons and sorcerers from vintage Hollywood, a huge display of herbal ointments and potions and the rather spooky rites and rituals of modern day Wiccans. My favourite exhibit are the lovely depictions of the clever witches of Boscastle itself, who used to sell ‘wind’ to the captains of becalmed ships. Read more about Boscastle
Leach Pottery, St Ives
You’ll feel sorely tempted to quit your job and move to the Cornish coast to become a potter after a visit to lovely Leach. First founded in the 1920s and one of the sparks that lit the fire of the St Ives arts scene, the pottery is now a charity and a hub for local potters and students, including exhibitions and classes and a little museum. They’re also the makers of Seasalt’s ceramics collection.
Tresco Abbey Garden, Isles of Scilly
Tresco is the jungle of the Scilly archipelago, and its Abbey Garden is a mecca for the green fingered. Described as a ‘perennial Kew without the glass’, this botanical haven is where the tropical plants that can live so happily on the islands are displayed in all their splendour. Spend a day wandering in the shade of palm trees and then eat at the driftwood-clad Ruin Beach Cafe on the shore. Read more in my travel guide to the Isles of Scilly.
The Roundhouse and Capstan Gallery, Sennen
A charmingly quirky gallery right by the sea. The roundhouse once housed a huge, man powered capstan wheel that helped winch boats up from the ocean – now it’s full of locally made and designed pottery, sculpture, paintings and trinkets. The perfect place to find a slice of Cornwall to take home with you.
The Tate St Ives
It makes sense that the Tate, usually found in London or Liverpool, should have an incarnation in tiny St Ives – the picture-perfect seaside town has been home to a thriving artists scene since the 1920s. Wander round the big and bold Jessica Warboys exhibition, on until 3 Sept 2017, and then stroll in the beautifully curated Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden.
Jubilee Pool, Penzance
Just typing the words ‘art deco lido’ make me feel extremely excited to visit Penzance’s newly refurbished Jubilee pool. A favourite spot for a dip since the thirties and forties, the lido has been restored back to its original glory after the winter storms of 2014. Dive into fresh seawater and then watch the swimmers with a cuppa from the cafe.
The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno
The Minack is an open-air theatre caught between the cliffs and the sparkling Cornish sea like something from a Grecian dream. This spellbinding and timeless place puts on everything from storytelling to Shakespeare, and you can even bring your own picnic. Last time I was here I saw the wonderful Seth Lakeman play his heart out on his fiddle as the sun set over the cliffs.
Chapel House, Penzance
Chapel House was the Penzance Arts Club in a previous incarnation, but after being lovingly restored by owner Susan Stuart it’s now a smart and pared-back townhouse. Susan’s got a seriously good eye for understated, luxurious charm, creating a space which feels welcoming, spacious and deeply relaxing. Think enormous baths in the bedrooms, Barbour jackets to borrow and a locally-sourced breakfast. Read my full review here.
Cornish tipi holidays, Port Isaac
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were living in a fairy story after a night at Cornish tipis, where a cluster of tents nestle in the woods and campers spend their days jumping into or boating across the limpid lake in the heart of the site. Posh camping at its best, and a firm favourite of Lauren over at The Enjoyable Rut, who has written a full review of her stay.
The Nare Hotel, Roseland
If you dreamt up the perfect coastal hotel full of old-fashioned comfort and charm it would probably look exactly like The Nare. You could imagine Agatha Christie setting a particularly stylish mystery here – inside is all roaring fires and high tea, outside there’s a tennis court, an aquamarine pool and a sweeping view of the beach. The hotel even has its own boat you can charter to sail up the Fal for a spot of lunch. My full review of this blissful place to stay coming soon.
Beach Retreats’ Harbourside Cottage, Boscastle
Beach Retreats hand pick especially delectable cottages and beach properties along the Cornish coast, and Harbourside Cottage might just be the snuggest of them all. Once an old fisherman’s cottage, it’s now a tiny, beautifully decorated bolthole for two in Boscastle, a stone’s throw from the sea.
Rum and Crab shack, St Ives
A big, big favourite of mine. I love rum. I love crab. I love laid-back, pub-style restaurants with windows looking out over the Atlantic ocean. So the cheerful Rum and Crab shack ticks all my boxes. Try the incredible Cajun shrimp or pop in for a warming tot of rum after a rainy walk.
Juliet’s Garden, St Marys
You can’t hop over to the Isles of Scilly without a lazy lunch at Juliet’s Garden, a beautiful terrace restaurant with views out over the harbour. The local mussels are to die for, and the cream teas are pretty special too. The wild birds here are so friendly that they’ll perch on your hand and eat crumbs from your fingers, Snow White Style.
Hidden Hut, Porthcurnick Beach
It may be hidden but this little foodie hotspot is seriously popular. Seek it out on Porthcurnick beach for the seafood lunch of your dreams, or book in (months ahead, they’re popular) for one of the spectacular feast nights, cooked on a blazing fire. Each feast is different, but coming up in August and September are lobster and chips and kashmiri lamb.
The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
Pop in to this cosy hotel’s airy downstairs bar on a weekend for coffee, cake and the Sunday papers with a side game of Jenga. Then stroll around Mousehole – this higgledy-piggledy fishing village is a maze of cottages and little lost alleyways leading to the peaceful harbour where red and yellow boats tug gently on their moorings.
Seasalt’s latest collection is perfect for cooler summer days and for exploring Cornwall when the first nip of autumn arrives. I’m wearing the Stay Sail dress, £59.95, Sailor top, £29.95, Buryas bridge cropped trousers, £55, and Palmaira sandals, £37.50.
Photos styled and shot by the super-talented Alex of Serpentine Shores Co.