Stretching out towards the Atlantic in the south-west, Cornwall is one of the UK’s most beguiling counties. I’ve been spending summers there since I was just a few days old and, on a blue-skied day, I think there’s nowhere quite like it. From its sheltered coves in the south on the ‘Cornish Riviera’ to the more rugged north, a surfer’s paradise, Cornwall has it all.
With stylish new boltholes, restaurants, and stores generating dynamic creative energy, the Cornish staycation is always gathering fresh allure. Taking in tropical gardens, Italianate terraces, pretty vineyards, and chic stays, here’s the ultimate road trip itinerary through my beloved Cornwall.
Start your road trip in South Cornwall at Fowey, one of the county’s most fashionable seaside towns. Pretty as a picture and surrounded by gorgeous countryside, it has a buzzing restaurant scene that punches well above its weight. The place to go is North Street Kitchen, where the freshest catch is accompanied by an open-air vibe, frozen margaritas and views of the river. After a quick dip around the corner at Readymoney Cove, head for the Lost Gardens of Heligan near Mevagissey. A romantic wandering around its botanical acres starts off your Cornish immersion, following pathways planted more than two centuries ago that guide you from Italy to the Alps via New Zealand.
Nearby is ritzy St Mawes, where you should check into Olga Polizzi’s Hotel Tresanton. Wonderfully chic, it’s Conrwall’s best impression of la dolce vita and there’s a hint of Il Pellicano about it. The next day, spend the morning out on its vintage Italian racing yacht Pinuccia before a rosé-fuelled lunch on the terrace and a languorous afternoon spent at its beach club overhanging the water. For dinner, if you’re lucky the Hidden Hut, overlooking Porthcurnick Beach near Portscatho, will be hosting one of its fabled feasts on the beach that evening. If not, take a short stroll to Idle Rocks for seafood dishes with a serious backdrop.
Next up is the West Coast, where you will be lured by the magnetic force of Land’s End and its surrounding beauty. After driving along the Lizard Peninsula, drop your bags at the beautiful Chapel House B&B overlooking Penzance harbour. With just six rooms and two suites, it’s deliciously private and very stylish. You’ll be tempted to sink into the bath, but beautiful beaches await. Only 20 minutes by car, Sennen Cove is a great wide sweep of icing sugar-soft sand that feels more like California or Australia. Take a picnic lunch and make the most of the water because there are so many special places to have dinner locally later on. After freshening up back at the ranch, head around the corner to Newlyn to the Tolcarne Inn. Helmed by Ben Tunnicliffe, it’s a paradise for seafood lovers while being a proper, Cornish pub.
Finally, it’s time to make your way up Cornwall’s northern coastline, where things take a turn for the rugged and wild. The drive through Poldark country, towards St Ives, is immense. Take the B3306 (the scenic route) and you’ll wish you had a classic convertible. Stop at Zennor for a pint, before steaming ahead towards Padstow. This lovely fishing village was put on the map by Rick Stein and his seafood restaurant but it has ever-more strings to its bow. Nearby is the lovely Trevibban Mill vineyard, where you can taste its ciders and wines among the vines; comfy rooms at The Pig at Harlyn Bay and the new Atlanta Trevone Bay, a series of Hamptons-esque lets that opened this summer. Take dips at Trevone Bay or walk round Stepper Point to Padstow, before lunch at Prawn on the Farm (just make sure you book well ahead for this one). The next day, drive around the Camel Estuary, stopping in at Daymer Bay for a high tide swim, before lunch at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac or a little further on at the Rocket Store in Boscatle.