May 29, 2012 5:38:36 AM
Six great Cornish experiences
It’s not all about the pasties! In an excerpt from Lonely Planet Magazine, we share six unmissable things to do in picturesque Cornwall.
Cornwall’s ecological cause célèbre has its tenth birthday in 2011, and things have come a long way since it opened in 2001. The three space-age biomes are still very much the main attraction, housing exotic plants from all over the globe, but these days Eden is a year-round destination. In winter, a full-size ice rink springs into life during the Time of Gifts festival and, in summer, big-name acts play in the shadow of the biomes for the popular Eden Sessions (2011′s line-up included Brandon Flowers and The Flaming Lips). An enormous gift shop means you’re unlikely to go home empty-handed.
Once a quiet north coast lobster port, Padstow is now the epicentre of Rick Stein’s ever-expanding culinary empire, which encompasses restaurants, a deli, a gift shop, a fish and chip shop, a seafood school and several hotels, plus another chip shop and seafood bar in Falmouth and a newly acquired pub in St Merryn. There are, however, pretenders to the Stein throne: Nathan Outlaw, just across the estuary in Rock, received a second Michelin star for his eponymous restaurant in January, while Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 Restaurant in Padstow is a name to watch.
Cornwall is awash with stately homes, but few can match the all-round splendour of Lanhydrock. The ancestral home of the aristocratic Robartes family has been owned by the National Trust since 1953 and offers a fascinating insight into life above and below stairs in Victorian England. Much of the house was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1881, but parts of it date back to the 17th century, including the 29-metre Long Gallery and its ornate plasterwork ceiling. Around the house, more than 800 acres of woodland and landscaped gardens roll all the way down to the River Fowey.
Cornwall’s mining heritage has left an indelible mark on the county’s landscape. Crumbling buildings that once housed the steam engines for the mines pepper the horizon. For a proper insight into the unimaginably tough lives of Cornwall’s hard rock men, you need to head underground. Knowledgeable guides – some of them ex-miners – lead fascinating expeditions into the murky mineshafts that burrow into the rocks around Geevor. Claustrophobes, however, should probably stick to the mine museum above ground.
Budding Bear Grylls can hone their survival skills with an all-day bushcraft course at South Penquite Farm, in the wild surroundings of Bodmin Moor. Appropriately, its website warns, ‘Please do not rely on any satellite navigation device you may have as these do not work with our postcode.’ The day covers the basics – fire lighting, shelter building, foraging, cooking on an open fire – and introduces the moor’s natural habitats and unique wildlife. For something more sedate, there are art workshops, fly-fishing and walks around the organic farm.
This old tramway between Portreath and Devoran was originally built to carry copper ore from the mines around Gwennap, but it’s now been converted into a superb bike track that runs for 11 miles between the north and south coasts. It’s mainly flat and level, and passes through atmospheric industrial ruins that form part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, a Unesco World Heritage Site established in 2006. You can hire bikes at both ends, or there’s parking if you’d prefer to bring your own.
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