The English Seaside...
Cornwall has been on my ‘to do’ list for years but we were really put off by the 5 hour drive – which apparently can drag out to 7-8 hours in traffic. We’d also heard that ‘there’s no point in going if the weather is nasty.' But I must say, having been here, I totally disagree! There is so much on offer in Cornwall – and it’s huge! We were totally taken aback by how big this part of England is – and how many beaches there are. You could easily spend a month or two here and only see a fraction of them. We chose Falmouth on the east coast and Newquay up north – and spent a night in each place.
We arrived in Newquay on a particularly blustery day in September. Fistral Beach is renowned as Surfers HQ – it’s not as sheltered as a lot of other Cornish beaches but there’s a definite vibe about the place which we loved. We walked along the wind-swept cliffs to Rick Stein’s fish and chips restaurant. On a night like tonight, where we barely saw a soul outside, we opened the door and could barely squeeze our way in for all the people waiting for a table. We eventually grabbed a couple of spots at a share table and crossed our fingers that our efforts would be worth it. And they were. The fish was crispy (battered in beef dripping) and perfectly complimented with crunchy but not too crunchy chips dipped in tartare sauce. It’s a very laid-back, casual feel – perfect for families and we returned the next morning for breakfast. We then explored Whipsiderry Beach just north of Porth beach, which we very nearly had all to ourselves – and the clear blue water proved too tempting for the kids who dived straight in. They also loved climbing the rocks and playing in the rock pools before we continued onto Watergate Bay where we stopped for lunch at the Beach Hut. We jagged a table in the sun next to the window where we sat back and watched the beachgoers battle the winds and crowds!
Falmouth is quite the opposite of Newquay. Its beaches are much more protected from the wind and have few waves. Gyllyngvase Beach is perfect for young families and you can see Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII in the 16th Century. Falmouth is famous for its harbour and river – of which our room at the Greenbank Hotel had fabulous views. This hotel is a bit of a Falmouth institution and boasts names like Florence Nightingale amongst its past visitors. The staff went the extra mile to ensure added comfort by providing things like a coffee plunger in our room as well as crabbing kits for the children so that we could throw in a line when the weather turned nasty. We loved the town of Falmouth – it's 'so English' and there’s something really appealing about its High Street ... aside from the fresh aroma of Cornish pasties. Dinner was unbeatable at the Star and Garter, a historic maritime pub with unspoilt views of the harbor and a menu to match.
Where we stayed: Esplanade Hotel at Fistral Beach (Newquay)
Greenbank Hotel, Falmouth
How we got there: Drove a hire car from London
What worked: Loved the English seaside. Fabulous vibe
What didn’t: I thought I’d be able to just ‘pop down’ to St Ives or Penzance but they were much further away than I expected - doable without kids but not so much with them. So both of these towns are on the list for next time - and I’ll definitely be staying longer!
Other English Beaches
Hastings: This is a fabulous (pebbly) beach, much closer to London than Cornwall. If it's too chilly to swim, there's lots of exploring to do in the seaside town, including the castle ruins of William the Conquerer. The gorgeous town of Rye is just around the corner and well-worth exploring - especially if you like antiques!
Camber Beach is a 20 minute drive from Hastings and is all sand, glorious sand. It was a bit too chilly for swimming when we went in September (although the kids still dived in) but we all ran ourselves ragged on the sand dunes behind - loads of fun for all the family. We stayed in a very modest little room at Astral Lodge in Hastings.
There are also plenty of beaches not far from London that are doable in a daytrip:
Durdle Dore: Feels like you're on the Italian Riviera - stunning scenery! Highly recommend!
Brighton: Fun day for the family, particularly with the carousel rides - and quite easy to do.
Whitstable: Native oysters are amazing here - and the walks along the seafront are very calming!
Norfolk: This one is next on my list for a weekend getaway as Holkham Beach comes highly recommended