23 JUNE 2014

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Article from BTNews 23 JUNE 2014

ON TOUR: Surfing in Newquay - And Cornwall too

The Editor has been to the South West

Newquay is a very long way from London, 300 miles by road, and 50 more if you want to go on to Penzance.  First Great Western provides a rail service from Paddington, but, as you may have read, this is susceptible to weather disruptions and seems to take ages.  This summer Flybe offers services from both Gatwick and Southend airports, one hour in the air with seats still available in August from less than £60 return inclusive (except for a £5 airport tax).  All the major car hire firms are represented at Newquay Airport.

I managed to cram in quite a lot in a three-day visit, but at least a week is really needed.  The Cornish roads are narrow and busy.

Often called “The Cornish Riviera” Newquay has the finest surfing beaches in the country, but if it is just sand and putting your toe in the water it is never going to get that busy. 

Once the popular stay for Queen Victoria’s Prince of Wales, Edward IV, the Headland Hotel overlooks the world famous Fistral Beach.  It is a magnificent pile, bang up to date inclusive of a top quality spa with outdoor and indoor pool area plus brand new Courtyard rooms, ideal for the family.

There is a nine-hole golf course too.  An out of town alternative is The Bedruthan, ideal for children and under the same management for 50 years. 

Cornwall is famous for its gardens and country houses, some of the finest in England, many under the National Trust (free to members) including Lanhydrock (Bodmin), Trelissick (Truro) and Glendurgan Garden with its maze (near Falmouth).  St Michael's Mount, on the southern side of the Cornish isthmus, is a castle built out into the English Channel, not to be confused with Mount St Michel, on the other side of the water, near the French port of St Malo.

An eco attraction The Eden Project shows just what can be done with imagination and hard work.  A former clay pit, it opened to the public in 2001 and is now mature.  It also offers the Skywire, for the brave (but not your correspondent) a 600m long 40mph, 50m high view of the two huge bio domes. 

If you and your family’s interests are of a more technical nature three attractions should be noted. 

Just across the airport from the passenger terminal is Classic Air Force with its collection of early post war aircraft, mostly flyable.  You can book a trip on a vintage de Havilland Rapide, a quick way to get an idea of what Cornwall is all about.  The National Martime Museum Cornwall is located harbour side at Falmouth and features the Tidal Zone a quite unique way of learning about the way the sea goes up and down.  The emphasis is on small boats and Cornwall’s links to the sea.  Nearby is Flambards, yes a commercial theme park but good value including the Victorian Village Experience (indoors) with some 50 shops, cottages and businesses together with all the attendant trades necessary for Victorian Village life including cobbled streets, the butcher’s shop, the bakery, the blacksmiths and the sweet shop.  There are a variety of rides, for the brave (Canyon River Log Fume), and the not so brave (the Classic Teacup).  Get there early to make the value of the day.

No visit to Cornwall is complete without a mention of food, and of Rick Stein with his enterprise in establishing the first of a series of fish restaurants at Padstow, on the north coast near Newquay, with his then-wife, Jill, in 1975.  The business now operates four restaurants, a bistro, a cafe, a seafood delicatessen, patisserie shop, a gift shop and a cookery school with an Australian outlet too.  His impact on the local economy of Padstow is such that it has been nicknamed "Padstein".  To give you an idea of prices the set lunch at the main restaurant is £38.50 for three courses.

The Minack Theatre is open air and by the sea at Porthcurno, 4 miles (6.4kms) from Land's End.  Established in the early 1930s it runs a series of plays throughout the summer, but do dress warmly.  The August programme includes Oh what a Lovely War, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Love’s Labour’s Lost.  There are special morning presentations for children.

You can also take a day out to St Mary’s and the Isles of Scilly from both Newquay and Penzance airports.  On a nice day the airborne views are worthwhile for themselves.  www.visitcornwall.com

Malcolm Ginsberg

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