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With foreign jaunts fraught with the jeopardy of potential quarantine restrictions, the world and his wife flocked to the UK’s favourite holiday county this summer. The roads were gridlocked, people were practically passing out in the queue for a cream tea, and the prices were so high you could have done a fortnight in the Canaries for less money – except you couldn’t. But now is the time to head to Cornwall. The crowds have gone and while the sunshine might be sporadic – but hey, it’s sporadic in August – you won’t be sharing all that rugged beauty with the masses. Here’s how to have a lovely Cornish time even when there’s an autumnal chill in the air.
What to do
Or should that be Padstein. Time was Rick Stein simply owned a seafood restaurant in this pretty harbour town near Newquay – now he has four restaurants, a bistro, a deli, a café, a patisserie, a gift shop and a cookery school (oh and a hotel, rooms above the restaurants and cottages to rent). Enjoy walks along the Camel Estuary to Wadebridge. Or take the ferry to Rock to see how the other half live in the village dubbed Chelsea-on-Sea.
Whatever the weather is up to it doesn’t matter when you’re spending the a afternoon in a giant biome with the climate of a tropical rainforest. Just outside St Austell, a 40-minute drive from Newquay is the largest indoor rainforest in the world, featuring greenery native to everywhere from Malaysia to Senegal – there are coffee plants, rubber plants, giant bamboos and all sorts of other exotic flora. The second smaller biome is dedicated to all things Mediterranean, and it’s all quite an incredible spectacle.
It might not seem the most obvious thing to do outside of the summer season, but when you’re wet, well, you’re wet. And some of the best surfing conditions can come about through less desirable weather, afer all. Newquay’s vast Fistral Beach is the UK’s best known surf mecca, and people of all shapes, sizes and ages are out there giving it a go. There are certain sections of the beach where the waves tend to be kinder to beginners, and a two-hour lesson with an instructor will have most newbies standing up on a board at least once – we did it with two young kids and even the six year old was riding the smaller waves, which was most unexpected. A beginner group surf lesson costs from £35 per person for two hours (including a wetsuit to keep out the cold). Visit fistralbeachsurfschool.co.uk or call 01637 850737.
Where to stay
If you’re not a natural camper, might we be able to persuade you with a giant Mongolian yurt that is quite probably comfier and cosier than your house? Thought so. Super spacious and sleeping six in three double beds, with huge duvets and high quality mattresses, when we visited in September we were so toasty we actually had to de-layer and take our socks off – unheard of in camping circles. But for chilly nights, you get your very own log burner inside the yurt, as well as a fire pit next to your own covered outdoor kitchen – well it sure beats a disposable barbecue. Lovely for a cuppa with a view when there’s a nip in the air. There are also proper indoor bathrooms – no portacabins round these parts – a gorgeous kitchen with an Aga and all the facilities to share with other guests – think high-end youth hostel – including a pizza oven, and a telly and games for drizzly days. And the Fir Hill glamping site is only a stone’s throw from Newquay, yet feels like the remote wilderness being deep down those windy, single-tracked, high-hedged lanes the region is so famous for. Perfect in every which way.
Yurts cost from £120 per night (sleeping six). For more information and to book, visit the rhill.co.uk or call 07831 800701.
What to eat
12 beach road
Overlooking the famous Towan Beach in the centre of Newquay, warm up with a view of The Island – containing a luxury holiday home with its own private suspension bridge – over a steaming bowl of Cornish mussels or some tasty tacos with popcorn shrimp or slow-cooked beef with pickled chilli and red cabbage. Visit 12beachroad.co.uk
The Jam Jar
Amazing coffee, smoothies and breakfast bowls, as well as toasted bagels and fab homemade cakes, there’s a lot of love put into the wholesome yet hearty offerings of this lovely café. A great way to start the day. Or end it, for that matter. Visit jamjar.cafe
Zacry’s at the Watergate Bay Hotel
A super-stylish boutique hotel restaurant overlooking the famous bay – another surfing mecca, more refined and low-key than Fistral. Follow crispy Atlantic prawns with Asian slaw and gado gado dressing with pan-fried hake with Romesco sauce and corn salsa, or a good- honest hearty shepherd’s pie with green beans. Two courses for £39. Visit watergatebay.co.uk
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