I've been a regular visitor to Watergate Bay for the last 6 years. There's a a very good reason for this - it's a stunning place with accommodation right on the beach and it's perfectly located for visiting lots of other lovely places in Cornwall. This post has been a long time coming, as I keep getting asked for recommendations for places to go, but it's taken me a while to sort through the 1,000 or so photos I took on our last trip in April....
It's a long one, so why not make a cup of tea and get comfy first?
- Watergate Bay itself
- Cliff path walk to Mawgan Porth and Bedruthan Steps
- Holywell Beach
- St. Ives
- Godrevy & Gwithian Sands
- Sandymouth Beach, near Bude
- Chapel Porth & the tin mines near St. Agnes
- Cliff path walk to Newquay
- Fistral beach in Newquay
- Japanese Garden in St. Mawgan
Read on for lots more information and lots of beautiful photos....
1. Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay is a beautiful sandy beach not far from Newquay, popular with surfers and dog owners (dogs are welcome year round). I love to amble along, paddling in the waves, taking in the sights and sounds around me. Nothing quite like the sun on your face with a vast blue sky and glistening waves to lift the spirits. I think my favourite things have to be watching the surfers as the sun goes down (preferably with camera in hand!) and watching happy dogs running around after balls and frisbees. Although we have visited many, many times, I never tire of the beautiful view and love how different it looks depending on the tide and weather and time of day... And I'm really looking forward to heading back there with our very own (recently adopted) dog, Misty :)
If you fancy having a go at surfing yourself, the Extreme Academy offer lessons and hire out surfboards and wetsuits. Or if lounging and pampering is more your thing, the Watergate Bay Hotel offers spa days which includes use of their heated pool overlooking the beach. And there is of course the famous Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant right on the beach if you enjoy fine dining.
We usually stay in Watergate Bay in self-catering accommodation with Beach Retreats (see their Blog for lots of useful info and ideas for things to do). It's a brilliantly central place to base yourself for visiting lots of other lovely places (see the rest of this post!) and I think there is nothing lovelier than actually staying right by a beach so you can pop down whenever you want - especially good when the weather is really changeable. We'll often go back to our apartment to crash out for a while then grab our cameras and leg it down to the beach when the sun comes out. The Waves apartments are very reasonably priced - we stayed for a week in April for less than £400 (although we always stay out of season to keep costs down), but there are lots of other options too. There are also lots of eating options if you don't want to cook or drive anywhere. My favourite is the Beach Hut, with views right over the beach. But there is also the Living Space at the Hotel and the Phoenix pub.
The photo below shows the Fifteen restaurant with the Beach Hut underneath it (foreground) with the Hotel behind and the eco village behind that. To the right is the Waves apartment block.
By the way, this is not a sponsored post - I'm just sharing the things I love and have found useful.
I have so many photos of Watergate Bay (this is a tiny sample!), so if you'd like to see more, head over to my Watergate Bay Album on Flickr - or click through the embedded album below.
2. Cliff path walk to Mawgan Porth and Bedruthan Steps
Apart from running down to the beach as soon as we arrive, the first thing on the list to do is always a cliff path walk. I just love getting away from it all. The cliff paths are always so peaceful and the views are amazing. And there's something so lovely about leaving the car behind and exploring on foot.
The walk to Mawgan Porth (and onwards to the Bedruthan Steps if you have the energy) is my very favourite. One time, we walked all the way from Mawgan Porth to Harlyn which was amazing and took in so many beautiful places, but it was absolutely knackering! I still remember taking off my walking boots and dipping my walk weary feet in the sea at the end, to this day :)
I think it's worth choosing a sunny day for this walk as it just transforms the landscape into a technicolour dream. You'll pass green rolling hills and fields full of sheep as well as hidden coves with sheer cliffs and nesting birds, inaccessible by foot.
The view of Mawgan Porth from the cliff path is something very special indeed. You'll find toilet facilities as well as several eating places there (the local shop has a really nice deli and good coffee). But our favourite thing to do is picnic on the beach. You could easily spend a day here. If you fancy staying, there are a couple of hotels: The Scarlet Hotel and The Bedruthan Hotel and Spa - both also have restaurants.
If you want to carry on, cross the beach to join the cliff path heading towards the Bedruthan Steps, a stunning piece of coastline in the care of the National Trust, with huge rock stacks. There is also a National Trust Cafe here if you fancy some tea and cake.
The cliff path walk is very straightforward, but if you'd like to read/see more, take a look at the South West Coast Path website:
3. Holywell Beach
Holywell beach, near Newquay, is a new discovery for us this year and an absolute hidden gem. We'd tried to visit on numerous occasions in the past, but for some reason it was always pouring with rain when we arrived, so we never got further than the local pub. But I'm so glad we persevered!
Holywell is a stunning, vast beach, with huge sand dunes (one of my all time favourite things). There is also a shipwreck and caves housing a natural holy well (hence the name). It is under the care of the National Trust and you can pick up a brilliant booklet from their hut in the car park with some lovely walks.
We had the best morning pottering along the beach and dunes in the sunshine with our cameras, marvelling at the huge amounts of pretty shells. The tide was low, so we got to see the holy well and the caves. And we met lots of friendly dog walkers who shared some tips with us. We followed the cliff path over to Porth Joke (above), which looked stunning. I'd have loved to have gone further, but our tummies were rumbling as we hadn't bought any lunch with us. Never mind, this is top of the hit list for a day long visit on our next trip! Hopefully we'll also make it over to nearby Crantock beach - there's never enough time for it all, is there?!
Below you will find some shell art I created with some of my beach "treasures". A lovely reminder of a super lovely day.
You can find more photos in my Holywell Beach Album on Flickr or by clicking through the embedded album below.
4. St. Ives
Everyone knows about St. Ives, but I just had to include it here as it's such a special place. And very accessible from Watergate Bay - about an hour's drive. So well worth a day trip - but definitely best to visit out of season if you can as it gets VERY busy. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny (but quite cold!) day - anyone would think we were in the mediterranean from the photos. It's very easy to see why it's such a draw for artists. Some of my favourite things to do are:
- Potter round the beaches, ideally stopping to sit in the sunshine and have a paddle. My favourites are Porthminster beach and Porthmeor beach.
- Wander round the tiny streets, marvelling at the pretty houses and popping in and out of art galleries and independent shops (and then losing your way and ending up at yet another beach ;).
- Sitting in one of the many cafes, watching the world go by. I love Porthmeor cafe right on the beach (of course!).
- Eating! So many wonderful restaurants here. Favourites include Porthminster Beach Cafe (amazing views over the pristine beach), the Seafood Cafe for fish and chips on the main street, and Blas burgerworks if you fancy something other than seafood.
- Visit the Tate (currently closed until spring 2017) and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery.
- Walk to Carbis Bay (and onwards to Porth Kidney Sands if you have time). You can always catch the train back - it's a really scenic route. See the South West Coast Path website for more walk ideas, including this one from Carbis Bay train station to Porth Kidney Sands, returning via train from Lelant.
For more photos, have a browse through my St. Ives Album on Flickr or click through the embedded album below.
5. Godrevy and GWITHIAN Sands
Godrevy is the iconic lighthouse made famous by Virginia Woolf in her novel To The Lighthouse. There are great views of it from Porthminster Beach in St. Ives. There is a lovely beach at Godrevy with some beautiful sand dunes (Gwithian Sands) above it. The land is in the care of the National Trust and there are some beautiful coastal walks here and plenty of wildlife to see. When we visited in April, we were lucky enough to see seals. I can also highly recommend the Godrevy Beach Cafe for coffee, cake, cream teas and lunch.
6. Sandymouth beach, near Bude
Sandymouth beach is at the Northern edge of Cornwall, close to the Devon border. It's about a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Watergate Bay, but I really think it's worth the trek. It's a huge sandy beach, with the most amazing pebbles (I have a bit of a thing for smooth round pebbles!), fascinating rocks, cliffs and caves. It's popular with surfers (there is seasonal lifeguard cover) and dog walkers (you can walk dogs year round). You have to clamber over lots of rather large pebbles to reach the sandy beach, so this is only one for the sure of foot. It's also really worth checking the tide times, as the tides vary enormously here and at high tide there is no beach to walk on.
I love to simply walk along the beach, enjoying the space. It often feels like one giant mirror, with a small film of water on the sand reflecting the sky, making it feel even bigger. And of course, there must be time to sit on the sand and play with the pebbles :)
There are some beautiful cliff path walks too. We really enjoyed the very scenic route to Northcott Mouth.
There is a National Trust cafe, toilets and car park near the beach, but otherwise no facilities. And pretty much no phone signal - so make your arrangements in advance if you're meeting people!
7. Chapel Porth Beach and the Tin Mines (Wheal Coates) near St. Agnes
Chapel Porth is another beautiful sandy beach, in the care of the National Trust (who also run the car park and small cafe here). The tides are rather extreme here too, so definitely check tide times before you visit. We timed it badly for several years, always arriving at high tide, and never got to see the huge sandy beach. It's another beach popular with dog walkers (although dogs are banned from Easter day until the end of September) and surfers.
8. Cliff path walk From WATERGATE Bay to Newquay
The stretch of coastline between Watergate Bay and Newquay is very picturesque and the cliff path walk passes through lots of beautiful beaches, including Whipsiddery, Porth and Lusty Glaze (which now hosts events and weddings and has a restaurant). It's another get away from it all day, even more so if you take a packed lunch and don't venture into Newquay itself, which is very busy.
The walk is about 3.5 miles one way and you can return on the bus if you don't feel like walking back. For route details and more information, see iwalkcornwall.co.uk.
9. Fistral Beach, Newquay
Fistral is my favourite of all the Newquay beaches and is renowned as being one of the best surfing beaches in the UK. You'll find a surf school and equipment hire, as well as lots of restaurants and shops. It hosts events and competitions and is pretty much always busy.
10. Japanese Garden in St. Mawgan
The Japanese Garden is really near Watergate Bay and well worth a visit. It's always quiet and peaceful and a lovely place to come and reflect. You'll find lots of Acers and water features and serenity. It is also a bonsai nursery, with a great selection of bonsais and succulents for sale, with very knowledgeable staff who can advise you about how to care for them.
For more photos, take a look at my Japanese Garden Album on Flickr, or click through the embedded album below.
And a few other ideas.....
...because 10 places is never enough!
- If you have a wet weather day, head to Hawksfield off the A39 (a 20 min drive north). There's a fabulous Cafe there (I can vouch for the breakfasts!), plus some lovely interior shops and a deli. You could then move on to Padstow.
- Padstow for foodie heaven and a spot of shopping - about a 25 min drive north.
- Perranporth for a long sandy beach and more sand dunes (in case you haven't seen enough!); also dog friendly year round - about a 25 min drive south.
- Marazion for the iconic St. Michael's Mount - about a 1 hour drive south (also worth a visit to Prussia Cove and Praa Sands whilst you're there)
- Porthcurno beach and the Minack Theatre - this is a 1 hour 20 min drive south down some very hairy, narrow, windy lanes - but it's the most stunning beach with white sand and turquoise water. And watching the sun go down whilst watching a performance at the Minack Theatre is an experience you will never forget! But perhaps best visited if you are staying further South near Penzance.
- The Eden Project (about a 40 min drive) and The Lost Gardens of Heligan (also about a 40 min drive). They are very close to each other, so you could combine both into a day trip.
Well, I hope that's been helpful. I'd love to know what your favourite places to visit in Cornwall are, especially any hidden gems - do let me know in the comments below :)