Things to do in Cornwall – a week in photos

Rob and I have just returned from a week in Cornwall. It was his first trip but I’ve been many, many times as my grandparents lived there when I was young. Family holidays consisted of all 5 of us squishing into our red Rover and spending what seemed like half the week sat in traffic jams across the Tamar bridge then down the A30 as it took 8-10 hours to travel from Buckinghamshire to Falmouth.  I have even more admiration for Mum and Dad who managed to take themselves, 3 kids and all our associated paraphanalia South West for a week or two every summer without totally losing their minds. These were the days pre-rear seat seatbelts so my brother used to sleep on the parcel shelf – I guess that freed up some space.

It seems times have changed and we made the trip in 4 and a half hours with a stop. It was a relevation: Cornwall is now do-able in a weekend! No more being dragged out of bed like that one time when we were woek at 3am to miss the traffic and be in Penryn in time for a fish n chip breakfast. I kid you not.

Here are some photos from the week with a few reviews of our favourite places and tips for money saving.

We booked The Tannery Loft through Cottages for You and used our Tesco Points to reduce the cost by £100. The Loft was in a little linear village called Grampound which was perfectly centrally located, no more than 45min-1hr to all the major hotspots and only 10minutes from St Austell and Truro for supplies.

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We pre-booked out tickets for the incredible Eden Project 2 weeks ahead online. Picking a day saved us 20% but picking a window saves you 10%. If you pay full price, you can convert your ticket into an annual pass at no extra cost. If I lived closer it would be a no brainer. What a boon for locals! Plans are to do a separate blog on the Eden Project.

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Truro Cathedral is a must see. It’s a very young building, the foundations were laid in the 1880s. Entry is free.  Sweet gift shop and lovely cafe with homemade cakes.

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Can the fact I asked people on Twitter what we should do on our last day and 2 people repsonded with the same answer mean I can call our activity CrowdSourced? Maybe? OK. We took the Falmouth to St Mawes ferry across the Carrick Roads, a 20 minute, blustery journey to a quintessential Cornish fishing village with a castle and shops to explore. Rob just loved the ferry ride – anything with a motor keeps him happy. The trip felt a bit pricey at £10 a head but that was return and you get glorious views of two castles, the working boatyard, harbour and if you’re lucky you can see seals and maybe even dolphins.

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One of our favourite things to do on family trips to Cornwall was to disappear to the North Coast, to one of the seaside bay villages and eat our fish n chips off our laps in the car watching the sun go down from the car park. I’m sure we did sit on the beach to eat sometimes, but my memory is sitting in the car. We did the same in Perranporth and had probably the best fish n chips I’ve ever had from Haddock’s End chippy.

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Mevagissy is the picture postcard fishing village you’ve probably see images of. It has the higgledy piggledy streets you’d expect and a plethora of great places to eat. I loved the fish of the day grill (4 types of fish and a fish cake) at the Wheelhouse and were entertained by the fusion of seafood and Americana at the Sharkfin.

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I have to confess to not being dead keen on visiting the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek but it was top of Rob’s to do list. I was fighting memories of a cold, bleak, windy, fishy set of pools with nothing to see in them, a memory from way back when. So I was delighted to find a mouch more welcoming and informative animal sanctuary, with woods and wildflower meadows to stroll through as well as plenty of animals to watch and coo over. Oh yes, and tey have otters too before anyone queries the photo below! This is Starsky and Hutch, the resident otter pair. Discounts available online.

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An absolute delight and unexpected highlight of the week were the Lost Gardens of Heligan. As the name suggests, these formal and informal gardens were left to ruin until the early 1990s when they were brought back to life. Visit the the pigs, look for natural sculptures and cross the rope bridge over the Jungle floor.

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St Michael’s Mount was our first National Trust property and another boat ride. Look for the giant’s heart and steel yourselves if you’re not good with heights – the castle at the top is worth the climb but our nerves were certainly tested. We would have loved to have walked the causeway to and from the island but the tide times were against us.

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Next National Trust was Trerice, a very small but sweet house and garden on the way to Padstow.

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Fistral Beach at Newquay, with a lunch stop at Rick Stein’s: Fistral for Thai. Yummy, and much better than his famous chips from the take away in Padstow which we were both underwhelmed by.

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Last National Trust was another blast from my childhood past – Trellisick Gardens. A few weeks late for the rhodedenron blooms but bang on for the wisteria.

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Other highlights and tips:

  • Padstow and a walk from the centre to the war memorial overlooking the River Camel to Rock.
  • Porthtowan, another north coast bay town with rough seas and great for surfing.
  • Falmouth Town, a town of two halves, one the perfunctory high street with WH Smiths and the banks and another half full of gift shops, local artists and crafts, pasty and bakeries and cafes. We loved the tea and cake at Ragamuffins and had a feisty, cheap lunch at Cribbs, where you go for Caribbean food in the south!
  • The App for Cornwall is useful, with links to vouchers and discount codes for entry.

Books I loved in 2014

I use Goodreads to record the books I read and rate them, but I don’t tend to write reviews. I struggle to explain to someone else why I have or haven’t enjoyed a book, because I would have to describe myself and that’s a long story and generally impossible! But here are a few books I read and loved in 2014. Perhaps you’ll find something to enjoy and I’d like to hear any recommendations of books you think I might like.

foxglove summerThe Rivers of London series by Ben Aaraonvitch. The Rivers of London series was recommended to me by a friend as we were discussing Harry Potter and how the underhand division found in that universe between the magic world and the muggle world was always a bit hard to believe and stomach. These books work the other way round; magic exists in the world I live in which as a reader makes for much fun. The series details the adventures of Police Constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, intelligent, witty, and dangerously brave. The 5th book was released in November 2014 and the next should be out in 2015. Adult content – not for kids! Find out more at The Folly.

“Knowing your limits is not an aspiration in magic – it’ a survival strategy.”

“The night might be dark and full of terrors, I thought, but I’ve got a big stick.”

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch at Foyles.

to be a catMatt Haig’s To Be a Cat. I came across author Matt Haig at Greenbelt Festival last summer and have devoured his published works ever since. The Humans drew a lot of praise and rightly so. I am really looking forward to his next release, Reasons to Stay Alive which Matt talks about in this blog. Matt has a way of writing about the painful and hysterical human condition which I envy and adore. I bought To Be a Cat for my niece and nephew at Christmas, which I found in the children’s section of the book store, but I read it and recommend to all ages. Did you know something like 1 in 4 people have been a cat, and conversely, 1 in 4 cats have been people? Neither did I!

“You see, the space in your brain for ‘things you are prepared to believe’ gets smaller as you get older. Each year the area shrinks, like the age rings of a tree in reverse and Barney’s Mum was now forty-three years old which left her with quite a small circle of believability.”

“And you know when people say ‘I just don’t know where she (or he) gets it from’ – the ‘it’ meaning imagination or talent or nastiness?You ca be pretty sure he (or she) gets it from having been a cat somewhere along the line. Or knowing or loving someone who used to be  a cat.”

To Be a Cat by Matt Haig at Foyles. 


walking homeClare Balding’s Walking Home.

Clare Balding presents a show on Radio 4 called Ramblings in which she joins interesting people on walks through the British countryside. I’m a long distance walker, but a frustrated one following a knee injury this year, ironically sustained by walking across the Lake District in six days. Walking for me an exercise that produces health, both physical and mental so while I was unable to ramble much myself, I enjoyed listening to the show and reading this book which is autobiographical as well as a record of some of the most moving and fun encounters and adventures Clare has had on the series. Her insights will ring true with anyone who likes people, the outdoors and walking:

“Day three of a long-distance walk, it starts to hurt. You are over the feeling of invincibility and the novelty has worn off.”

“Walking. It can be a medicine for grief, a key to love, a therapy for illness. It can lift your spirits from the depths.”

Clare Balding. Walking Home: My family and other rambles at Waterstones.

a directors cutA Director’s Cut: An Abbot Peter mystery by Simon Parke

I came across Abbot Peter in Desert Ascent and was overjoyed when I heard Simon was writing more of the Abbot’s adventures. Simon Parke is one of my favourite author’s and his trilogy (so far) of murder mystery novels are no exception. Abbot Peter used to run a monastery in the desert in Middle Egypt but moved to Stormhaven, a coastal town in Southern England. In 2014’s thrid installment, A Director’s Cut, he joins again with his niece, DI Tamsin Shah to investigate the murder of the director of a local theatre group. Abbot Peter views the world in a way very few people do. You can also follow Abbot Peter on Twitter.

“It seemed unlikely to the Abbot there was comedy in heaven. He wouldn’t be telling Reggie’s family this, but how could there be? Most jokes arise out of sadness, anger, self-importance or the misfortune of another – this is the stuff of comedy, yet not the stuff of paradise.”

Simon Parke: A Director’s Cut at Waterstones.



sane new worldSane New World: taming the mind by Ruby Wax

I was unaware that comedian Ruby Wax had given up stand up and retrained at Oxford University in a field that helped her tackle her severe depression. In Sane New World she thoughtfully her education, her experiences of poor mental health and the benefits and methods of mindfulness based cognitive therapy. To use a cliché, I laughed and cried while reading this book. Mindfulness is gaining importance in mental health care. If you’ve ever suffered from any mental health condition, I highly recommend this. If you know someone who has, I also recommend it.

“There is a big difference between experiencing something and being aware.”

“Another reason [paying] attention is the road to freedom is that it allows you to see things as if for the first time, and novelty is a component of happiness.”

“The opposite of self-criticism is self-compassion and this can be cultivated.”

“On the toilet, no one is a star. Remember that and you will go far in life.”

Sane New World by Ruby Wax at Foyles.


Other books I really enjoyed in 2014:

Fathomless Riches: Or how I went from pop to pulpit by Richard Coles

Walking Backwards to Christmas: Stephen Cottrell

The Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø

Gift ideas for Christmas #3 Kids special

nesboSomething often overlooked as Christmas presents for children are books! Don’t forget book tokens or even second hand stores.  Oxfam have a great range of books for children online.




chamelonFrom dinosaurs to science exploration kits, via make your own bow and arrow, to glow in the dark star maps, Ethical Superstore has everything imaginative (and that’s all of them) kids could want. Plus, you know, ethical!




owlShared Earth sell a gorgeous range of handmade, fair trade crafts including puppets, sensational mobiles and wall hangings, rucksacks and more. Their products come from all over the world including Asia, Africa and South America.



And finally the popular Horrible Science sets from Galt Toyhorrible sceince s are fantabidosie! Bouncy Eyeballs, Violent Volcanoes and Slippery Slime will keep children entertained – and you get to join in and have fun too!





lettoysYou may have noted my suggestions are all from companies that don’t categorise their toys by gender. Have a look at the fabulous Let Toys Be Toys campaign who explain better than I can why this is important. They have a list of retailers who have received their Toymark Good Practice Award.

See more ideas for Christmas presents:

Gift ideas for Christmas #1

Gift ideas for Christmas #2

Gift ideas for Christmas #2

choc calendaI scoured the High Street looking for a fair trade chocolate advent calendar for my better half. Couldn’t find one. Thankfully the ever wonderful Traidcraft have a lovely range and only £3.99. They’ve got  a sale on their Christmas decorations. Have a look!

Earlier this year I won a Mothering Sunday hamper from Artisan Valley mum and hamperwhich as you can see, my Mum loved. Artisan Valley support small scale food manufacturers and farmers at a local level as well as working with businesses to help them grow their own market. On top of that, their food and drinks are scrummy. If you’re local to the Chilterns and the Thames Valley or want to experience some of our delights, these hampers are for you!

hollyThe overwhelming smell might give you a migraine as you pass the shop, but there’s no denying Lush goodies are a wonderful treat for the body and mind. The Christmas range is full of sparkle and ironically alcohol free (in most instances.) I first encountered Lush a few weeks before my 21st birthday and ended up under a mountain of presents from them as I begged everyone I knew to treat me! Still ethically aware  with vegetarian goods, excellent packaging ethos, ethical buying policies, animal friendly, with lots of oat, soya and almond milk alternatives and utterly gorgeous and fun.  I still miss their hot milk solid bubble bath….bring it back!

How about treating someone to an Adult Education course? My County Council support a dazzling array of courses. Someone you know might be struggling with low self esteem or loneliness and a course could help them meet people and encourage them through building their confidence in their own abilities. Or maybe you know someone looking to develop a new skill to begin a business that could bring in a few extra pounds. The courses include  from flower arranging, photography, dressmaking, yoga, cookery, hairdressing, English language,  foreign languages, maths, IT, exploring local history, cake decorating, plumbing, writing, woodcarving… I could go on! Maybe you could go along with someone before Christmas and learn to make wreaths, jewellery and decorations.

See Gift ideas for Christmas #1 here. #3 will be a kids gift special.