Long-favoured as a seaside getaway by the English, Cornwall was one of the first places I slotted into our self-drive tour of Britain. After seeing the jagged coastline and rolling green hills of Cornwall on TV many times, I was looking forward to finally visiting the south westerly part of England.
With only the weekend to explore this region, we decided to wait until we arrived at our accommodation before deciding exactly what we’d like to see and do. My parents, who were travelling with us, are fans of the TV series Doc Martin, so a visit to Port Isaac, where the show is filmed, was one of the places we definitely wanted to see but, apart from that, we were open for suggestions.
After collecting our hire car in London around 11am on a Friday morning, we headed south towards our destination of Lawhitton, about 390 kilometres (and four and a half hours drive) away.
This was the first time we’d used the brand new GPS we had purchased in London so it took a bit of getting used to, and combined with the narrow, hedge-lined lanes that we had to negotiate as we drew closer to our destination, our arrival took a little longer than expected.
Once we arrived, though, it was worth the effort. I’d booked a two night stay at Primrose Cottage, a lovely property located just outside the small hamlet of Lawhitton, and Louise, the friendly hostess was there to greet us on arrival.
After settling in, we headed to the Springer Spaniel, a local pub that Louise had recommended, where we enjoyed a huge, delicious meal and the atmosphere of a typical English pub.
Next morning, the sun was shining as we ate breakfast in Primrose Cottage’s lovely breakfast room, and Louise offered some suggestions of what to see and do. We’d agreed that Port Isaac would be our main destination for the day but there was plenty of else on offer, too.
Our first stop was in the busy town of Bodmin, on the edge of the famous Bodmin Moor. We enjoyed wandering the main street with the Saturday morning crowd and visiting the local Tourist Information Centre where we picked up some maps and brochures about the area.
From Bodmin it was just a short drive to Restormel Castle, one of the four main Norman castles of Cornwall. Dating back to the 1200’s, the castle is in remarkably good condition and sits on a spur above the River Fowey. We spent a good while walking around the old castle (both inside and out) and enjoyed our morning tea whilst taking in the fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.
Leaving Restormel Castle, we headed towards the coast to Port Isaac, about 50 minutes away. Port Isaac was everything I’d imagined an English seaside village to be like. Quaint cottages lined the steep, narrow streets which led from the main car park down into the village and the harbour. There was a good selection of eateries and a few souvenir-type shops and we enjoyed a tasty fish and chip lunch by the harbour.
A fairly steep, narrow path on the opposite side of the harbour to the car park, took us to Doc Martin’s house. This is the house whose exterior is used as the residence/surgery for the grumpy doctor in the BBC TV series. From here, the views back over the village and the jagged coastline were lovely.
After watching fishing boats bobbing in the harbour and huge seagulls battling against the strong sea breeze, we made our way back up the hill towards our car. A lovely path winds along the cliffside offering spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.
As our route home took us back through Bodmin, we stopped at a steam engine show at the local railway station. Unfortunately we were too late for the last steam train ride of the day, but we were still able to see a wide range of steam engines that were on display which my Dad particularly enjoyed.
After a full day of sightseeing, we headed back to Primrose Cottage where we ate our dinner (purchased from a Bodmin supermarket) on the terrace, overlooking the beautiful scenery.
Day two’s initial plan was to visit one of the many gardens in the area before continuing our journey on to Bath after lunch. Unfortunately it was raining heavily by the time we set off so instead we went into Lawhitton to have a look at the local church, St. Michael’s.
One of the church’s parishioners, Bill Cole, showed us around the church and told us lots of history about it (it dates back to at least the 13th century), including the story of one of Lawhitton’s residents who became one of the first convicts sent to Australia.
With the rain still coming down heavily, we departed Cornwall having only had a glimpse of this lovely region but very impressed with what we saw. It’s a region I would definitely like to spend some more time in.
Need to know
Restormel Castle, situated at Lostwithiel, is part of the English Heritage sites. Entry fee costs £3.60 per adult, £3.20 per senior and £2.20 per child. (Prices subject to change.) It is open from April 1 to late October.
Where to stay in Cornwall
We stayed at the lovely Primrose Cottage near Lawhitton, close to the Cornwall/Devon border. Unfortunately the property has since been sold (2017) and no longer operates as a B&B.
Where to eat in Cornwall
The Springer Spaniel Pub offers a cosy atmosphere and huge meals. It’s located at Treburley (near Launceston), about a ten minute drive from Primrose Cottage. Mains start from around £11.