Cornwall's Hidden Gems

Whilst most visitors to Cornwall flood to the beaches or walk the South West Coast Path, there are others who return year after year to the quieter areas, the hidden gems.

Now the dilemma we have is that if we tell you where all the hidden gems are, they won’t be hidden anymore. So, we will be a little bit general in our suggestions, and let you discover those gems for yourself.

We will start with the Tamar Valley, precisely because it tends to be quiet and hidden away. The valley itself starts for most people upstream of the Tamar Bridge, where you cross into Cornwall from Plymouth. Go through the tunnel and climb up to a roundabout where you turn right onto the A388. This road heads to Launceston, Cornwall’s ancient capital, and for much of its route any roads leading off right will eventually take you to the Tamar River, the border between the two counties.

It's a valley full of woodland, industrial heritage and hidden villages, all linked by the snaking river as it gently makes its way to the open water of Plymouth Sound. Search out the pretty village of Calstock, with a couple of pubs down by the river and several shops and cafes to peruse. There's a vibrant arts scene and you may be lucky to coincide with a concert or exhibition. It also has its own railway station on the Tamar Valley line, giving access to Plymouth and other villages in the valley. People looking to stay in the area should check out Todsworthy Farm Cottages in the nearby village of Albaston.

The north coast of Cornwall is famed for the family friendly resort of Bude with its large sandy beaches, beloved of both surfers and those that just want to lie in the sun. But either side of the town are lesser known spots tucked away between high cliffs, including Morwenstow. There’s not much there but a tearoom and the church, it’s the location that makes it special, and its connections with a Victorian vicar.

On the south coast it’s not always easy to get away from the crowds, but if you are brave enough to negotiate steep narrow lanes, then there are some hidden gems on the Roseland between Mevagissey and St Mawes. Caerhays Castle and Porthluney Beach can be busy in the main summer months, but out of the main season can be magical. Likewise the village of Porthscatho tends to be quieter than many of the better known fishing villages on other bits of the coast.

At one time St Ives was a quiet fishing village, now it’s difficult to describe it as a hidden gem! But take the coast road heading west and take a left up onto the high moors of West Penwith and you will find yourself in a landscape that in places hasn’t changed for 4000 years. Put on your walking boots, grab a map and go exploring. Not only are the views stunning, but chances are you will have the place to yourself.

That’s the thing about Cornwall, when the beaches are busy at the height of summer, there’s no better escape than to a landlocked beauty spot. Take the vast expanse of Bodmin Moor, wild and rugged, all windswept tors and hardy livestock. It’s not hard, and just a little thrilling, to imagine smugglers seeking refuge here or Gothic murders (thanks, Daphne du Maurier). On the north-west side of the moor a carpark gives access to walks up to Roughtor (pronounced Row Tor, as in cow). The hills broken and shattered rock formations rival any of Cornwall’s coastal locations, so don’t be put off by the climb!

Alternatively, head for one of the leafy woodland valleys on the edge of the moor. Near Liskeard, Golitha Falls is a stunning spot, where the Fowey River tumbles off the high moor, while just outside Bodmin, Cardinham Woods (Forestry England) offers walks of varying lengths, as well as family trails and routes for horse riders and cyclists.

Finally, Cornwall has plenty of towns to explore, but take a tip from a local. Don’t wait for a rainy day to visit, as you’ll find yourself surrounded by disappointed beach-lovers. Beat the crowds by going on a nice day, and feel justifiably smug.

Take Lostwithiel, it claims to be Cornwall’s antique capital, its medieval streets lined with shops full of treasures. Head down to the river and have a picnic beside the bridge, it’s as good as any beach. Or head to Launceston with its ancient castle and a busy shopping centre for a large area of North Cornwall, while Wadebridge, inland from Padstow, excels at independent shopping, and Helston has a fascinating folk museum and trails that take you down to Loe Pool. Bodmin has Cornwall’s only full-size steam railway to take a ride on, with the military museum just across the road from the station, and of course there are any number of tucked away villages waiting to be discovered.

And as for the picture that heads up this blog, the only clue we are going to give is that it's tucked away inbetween Falmouth and the Lizard...

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