A taste of Cornwall

Karla Baker enjoys a coastal tour of England’s most southerly and westerly county, discovering hidden treasures and great, wheelchair-accessible beaches along the way

Looe harbour

Known for its rugged coastline, sandy beaches and quaint towns, Cornwall is one of the UK’s most popular touring destinations. However, my partner and I had explored very little of the county… until last September, when the country was bathed in glorious late-summer sunshine.

After heading west, we arrived at our first port of call, Looe Club Campsite on Cornwall’s south coast, to 30º temperatures and the scent of barbecued sausages. To us the site has a European feel, which is only enhanced by facilities such as crazy golf and a swimming pool.

After a quick and refreshing dip in the pool, we headed out for an evening in the picturesque and charming fishing town itself, which is divided into two distinct parts (West Looe and East Looe) by the River Looe. After wandering for a while, stopping in a couple of quirky shops along the way, we headed to East Looe Beach with fish and chips in hand.

I had expected to enjoy Cornwall’s famous soft, golden sandy beaches from afar, but East Looe Beach was fairly firm, allowing me to manoeuvre my powerchair along it – it was a novel experience for my partner and I to stroll down to the shoreline together.

Exploring a little farther afield, both historic Bodmin Jail and the Eden Project –, where you can immerse yourself in one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests – are reachable in 35-40 minutes by road from the campsite.

Silence is golden

Karla and partner Stephen at The Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell

Hugging the coastline farther west for nearly 40 miles, we soon arrived at our second stop, Merrose Farm Club Campsite in Trewithian. As we pitched under a bushy tree for shade, we noticed how peaceful it was – birdsong providing the only soundtrack. Away from the busier tourist spots, this site is a great place to escape from it all, while still offering easy access to the harbour town of Falmouth and some secluded beaches.

Porthcurnick Beach is the perfect example of this. We took the 1.5-mile drive there (it is walkable from the site) as the sun began to set and, other than a lone dog walker, there wasn’t a soul around.

While enjoying a stay at Merrose Farm, may I urge you to visit The Lost Gardens of Heligan just 11 miles to the east? Here you’ll find more than 200 acres of gardens, rare breeds farmland, woodland and even a jungle brimming with interest and intrigue.

We began with a quick lunch at the cafe, before the scent of herbs bewitched us in the kitchen garden and the buzzing of bees enticed us into the colourful flower gardens.

It is a feast for all the senses. Although not recommended for wheelchair users, we ended our visit in The Jungle. The paths are steep and narrow in places but, despite this, it was the highlight of our day. Bamboo formed tunnels, exotic plants hung low and clouds of humidity clung to the air around the ponds, transporting us to faraway lands.

After intense thunderstorms cleared the air overnight, the next day we hopped onto the King Harry Ferry, crossing the River Fal to the rhythmic clinking of chains, and headed south.

Ever since reaching the most northerly point in mainland Britain (Dunnet Head) back in 2018, we’ve wanted to experience the most southerly tip, Lizard Point. We were excited to finally be ticking it off our list.

Arrive at the Point’s National Trust car park and you are greeted by far-reaching sea views, but the best is still to come.

Reach the tip of this exposed peninsula, and your rewards are panoramic vistas across the dramatic cliffs that have been shaped by the Atlantic for millions of years. A sight to behold.

Breathing in the fresh sea air, we looked down and spotted a whiskery seal snout bobbing in the water and wondered what else lay under the shimmering surface.

Ocean views

Illustration by Louise Turpin

After a peaceful last night at Merrose Farm, drifting off to the gentle hooting of owls, it was time to head up to the county’s north coast. Arriving at St Agnes Certificated Location, we were warmly greeted by the owners, who have clearly used their personal caravanning experiences to aid` in the design of their site. The spacious pitches are well equipped and all look out across the never-ending ocean. One of my favourite things about this CL is the freshly-laid cycle track nearby, which is as smooth as butter and links the site to the village of St Agnes.

Not only are you situated on the edge of a National Landscape (previously known as an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty), but the St Agnes mining district is a Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. So, as well a plethora of independent businesses, dog-friendly beaches and pubs selling locally-sourced food and drink, you will find a rich mining history waiting to be discovered.

If you enjoy a fruity cider, a visit to the nearby Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm is a must. Its museum, tasting stations, cafe (serving traditional Cornish cream teas), farm animals and tractor rides contribute to a great day out for all ages. We loved learning about the history of apple farming, and found it fascinating to see the contrast between the ancient presses in the museum and the modern, sterile machinery that was hard at work as we toured the factory.

Although the cobblestones contributed to a bumpy ride, wheelchair access was very good. I don’t feel like I missed out on any of the experiences on offer, which included a vintage tractor-trailer ride through the orchards.

As much as I wanted to leave with a couple of the pygmy goats, we opted for some Rattler cider and the best cloudy apple juice I’ve ever tasted. A drop of Cornwall to enjoy back home.

You may have noticed that my partner and I like to conquer geographical extremes, so while we were within reaching of it, we couldn’t miss out on visiting Land’s End (close to Trevedra Farm Affiliated Site). Although we were on another stretch of exposed coastline, the weather was wonderfully still. Sunshine glistened on the turquoise water as we enjoyed a steaming hot Cornish pasty by the iconic signpost. Another item checked off the bucket list.

Amble to Treamble 

Newquay is within easy reach of Treamble Valley Club Campsite

Moving farther north, we found our next campsite nestled in an old quarry.

Treamble Valley, although relatively large, features tiers and cosy cul-de-sacs, which, along with the enveloping greenery, give it a fantastic, intimate feel. The surrounding area offers plenty of opportunity for exploring, with the much-loved seaside town of Newquay and other surfing hotspots on its doorstep. 

Perranporth draws the wave lovers, but it’s also fantastic for those who prefer to stick to dry land. Parking on the hill overlooking a vast expanse of sand, we were in awe of the picture-perfect view.

Cloud shadows danced across the grassy dunes as the tide hit the shore. It’s no wonder Cornwall is an artist’s paradise. Grabbing an ice cream en route, we headed down for a closer look, discovering a shallow ramp onto the flat, hard-packed sand – it was one of the most easily-accessible beaches I’ve ever found. We could have happily sat there all day.

Perched perfectly atop a cliff near Tintagel, Trewethett Farm Club Campsite brought our celebration of this wonderful county to a stunning close. Its location offers breathtaking vistas and vivid sunsets, making it an attraction in its own right. But if you can drag yourself away from the site your rewards are equally as impressive.

Directly from the site, a section of the South West Coast Path is a gift for hikers, leading to the pretty and historic villages of Tintagel (with its 12th-century castle steeped in Arthurian legend) to the south and Boscastle to the north.

Slightly further afield you’ll find Padstow, made more famous in recent years by celebrity chef, Rick Stein. We spent a memorable afternoon exploring this quaint harbour town, soaking up the relaxed atmosphere, before discovering a disused railway line called the Camel Trail, an 18-mile stretch of smooth asphalt that’s ideal for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users alike.

With almost a third of the county classified as an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s no wonder Cornwall is so popular with holidaymakers. I just can’t believe it took us so long to discover it for ourselves – it won’t be too long before we return, though, I can assure you.

About the author

Dunree Certificated Location, PL33 9DY, Cornwall, Camelford, CL owner, 2020, sunset, beach, sea