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Moving to Cornwall

Moving to Cornwall

After having spent the last 20 years in Australia, I decided to share a new exciting chapter in my life, about moving to Cornwall, the most south-western point in England.

On a practical note, if you are considering a visit to Cornwall (why wouldn’t you be?) it’s worth mentioning that it’s much cheaper to stay here between October-April as many properties are empty, with their owners returning from May onwards.

Home to pasties, legends of King Arthur (see image included), pirates, mermaids and now moi. 

 

Cornwall has long provided rich inspiration for so many writers and artists with its stunning beauty.

It has the most pre-historic ancient sites in Britain, copious amounts of gin, so many magic wells, locally-crafted ales, leylines, filming locations for shows such as Poldark and Doc Martin, fishing villages and beautiful beaches. There are apparently more than 300 beaches and coves on the Cornish coast. So no matter where you are, the sea is not far away. No wonder there are so many mermaid stories.

Cornwall has something for everyone. You may not want to leave and given the fact that half of the homes here seem to be investment properties, Cornwall seems to work her magic on most visitors.

Our current home is Falmouth, a vibrant, pretty, colourful harbour town that has unsurprisingly been voted one of the best places to live in Britain. 

I can certainly see why and ssshhhh don’t tell anyone, but I almost feel like I’m NOT in England. I’ve also been so surprised by how mild and lovely the weather has been, on the whole. Ok certain locals may be taking things too far by surfing and gadding about in sleeveless t-shirts, but still…

Whilst we were seeking a base for 6-12 months, we rented a cosy, furnished apartment via Cornish Holiday Cottages. A quirky building which is an old school converted into 8 apartments. We stayed in the Old School Room, which we loved and it has a bath, which is always a bonus (see link above for interior photos and more information). A lovely touch was that we were greeted by fresh scones with jam and cream, upon our arrival. Needless to say, they were rapidly demolished and much appreciated. 

It was ideal for our first month in such a brilliant location on Clare Terrace, high up on the hill, with Falmouth Docks in the distance. And yes this photo below
is taken from the road we were staying on. As it’s up on the hill it’s a great look out point, sweeping down over the town below. So much to see, do and explore.

This is around the corner from the infamous Jacob’s Ladder: a steep flight of 111 granite steps constructed in 1840. I attempted to count them on a couple of occasions and the total was more than 111, but maybe that was just what it felt like! Maths is not my strong point…

Created by local, Jacob Hamblen, so that he could move easily between his business at the bottom in The Moor, and his property at the top. 

Fortunately, as you arrive at the top of the steps you will see facing you, a pub of the same name, in case you find yourself in dire need of a celebratory drink for having made it! Brace yourself. I fantasised about a chair lift and oxygen mask on more than one occasion. 

Door-to-door it’s a few minutes walk down the steps into the town centre. Such a handy, location, especially as we were sans car. (Oh look, how lovely it looks from the top….don’t be deceived!).

Check out the mermaid door-knocker on the blue door at the top of the steps. Since arriving in Cornwall I have become obsessed with noticing nautical-themed door knockers!! If you have any suggestions of where I can buy these, then please let me know in the comments box below, as I’ve not spotted any in the shops. You can see more of these that seemed to be everywhere in the lovely town of Fowey, as mentioned further below.

The other local pub is The Seaview Inn, on Wodehouse Terrace, a convenient 2 minutes walk from the front door. Dating back to the 1800’s it does indeed have a sea view and you also get a glimpse of Falmouth Docks. I think this would also be a great place to stay overnight and it provides bed and breakfast.

It was such a novelty that the pub grub included a vegetarian menu. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food is! Gone are the days when everything was just blasted in a microwave. I loved the spinach and ricotta cannelloni.

After having being ridiculously spoilt in Sydney with amazing coffee and a competitive cafe culture, I had zero expectations for finding good coffee here. After having that as ‘the norm’ it really makes everywhere else seem rubbish, when travelling. Yep I know #firstworldproblems.

 

On previous visits to England in recent years, I’ve experienced an abundance of too milky, too burnt or too bitter coffee from machines, with people serving that seem to have little or no knowledge about how to make it. And no, chains like Costa or Starbucks don’t count, so don’t even go there. Yes Sydney spoilt me and turned me into a coffee snob. 

I’ve often thought that a gourmet coffee brand with professionally trained baristas (not pressing a button on a machine) would be a great business opportunity as the bar is so low. How hard can it be?

Let’s face it. We Brits are a nation of tea drinkers and haven’t always been at the forefront of gourmet food and drink, have we? I’m delighted to report that is no longer the case. Or not in Falmouth anyway…

The past few weeks I have been sampling coffee and brunch at all sorts of places, particularly those that are vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Already I have a few favourites. One thing that has been an adjustment: the day starts later here. After many years of living close to the beach or harbour, I’ve become used to being able to go for a walk and have a coffee from 6:30am or 7am onwards. Not so in old Blighty. There are a couple of places that open during the week at 8:30am but it’s more likely to be closer to 9-9:30am. On the weekend, it’s more like 10am. 

Good Vibes Cafe on Killigrew Street: Aiming to serve “positive refreshment” it’s become a fast favourite with their gourmet vegan breakfast and avocado on toast. They also create divine vegan and gluten free cakes that change daily. I’ve sampled delights such as raspberry and coconut roulade, cardamom cake, black velvet chocolate Guinness cake and more.

Get yourself in there. You won’t be disappointed. They seem to favour a 90’s sound track and I’ve had a few nostalgic moments listening to Bonnie Tyler, The Smiths, Human League and T’Pau. Cheerful, chatty staff too. They also have another outlet called “Wild Vibes” at Argal Lake in Penryn, that I will visit very soon.
 

The Cornish Bakery: Located on Arwenack Street, an award-winning bakery with decent hot coffee with fresh pastries, baked delights and pasties. Sit inside at the back by the window and you may well be greeted by the next door neighbour’s lucky black cat. Let me know if you have the surprise of the cat tapping on the window to say hello as you sip your coffee and munch on a pain au chocolat. Very entertaining. I’m not joking.

The Natural Store cafe (upstairs): Using local produce, they create a smorgasbord of organic, vegetarian delights including wholesome soups, quiches, smoothies and sweet treats. It’s a great people-watching spot as you can sit by the window and look down towards the pier, where there are a selection of boat and ferry trips.

I love their oat milk lattes. It’s also one of those places where I seem to end up with a full shopping bag on my way out as I go back out through the shop. And it’s pretty much impossible for me not to succumb to the selection of organic chocolate, incense, beauty products and veggies. 

Espressini: a hipster-style, artisan coffee house which reminded me of some of the cafes in Bondi. My only comment here is that although it tastes great, the coffee is never hot enough for me. Despite requesting ‘extra hot’ on a few occasions it always remains the same, as though it’s cooled down for 10 minutes, even though it’s just been made. Just personal preferences. I’m guessing the machine must be at a set temperature. I like my hot drinks properly hot and the my cold drinks cold. What can I say: I’m a woman of extremes! I’ve enjoyed a couple of innovative, veggie breakfasts here and staff are friendly. I prefer the smaller outlet, Espressini Dulce, close to the docks end of town.

Picnic Cornwall:  perfect for a quick coffee, pastries, deli food and picnic hampers and hello extra bonus points as the cups match my journal.  I laughed when the barista placed my cup on the table. What more could an Instagrammer want?

Dolly’s Tea House & Gin Palace: A dog wearing a pearl necklace in a tea house, serving cocktails in tea cups that turns into a gin palace at night with tapas. What more could any reasonable person ask for? Did I also mention the book shop downstairs? 

Dolly’s has got to be one of my favourite experiences in Falmouth thus far. On our first visit, we arrived at 6pm and had the place to ourselves for about 30 minutes whilst we perused the gin menu (more than 200 to choose from) and listened to jazz. Perfection.

They also serve flights of gin, where you can test 4 different ones and their accompaniments. It’s mind boggling the variety of botanicals that are included in some of them. So refreshing. Dolly’s also host regular gin-tasting events, amongst other activities.

It inspired us to come up with some of our own combinations whilst we were tasting them. Like raspberry and rose, ginger, honey and lime, rosemary, thyme and lemon and aaah it’s endless. And fascinating fact, am I the only person in the world who didn’t know that you make gin from vodka? Yes? I suppose I hadn’t really thought about it before as I was too busy enjoying it.

Now I’m going to have to research a gin-making course. So please any recommendations below if you know where I can learn this in Cornwall?  Absolutely inhaled the delicious tapas too – far too quickly to snap a photo of them for you – sorry! You will just have to visit.

The Greenbank Hotel: In arguably one of the most picturesque locations in Falmouth as it’s absolute waterfront at Stratton Place. With its popular hotel, cocktail menu and restaurant it’s really worth staying a night or popping in for drinks if you are here for a short visit. 

We had dinner in here one evening and chose the vegetarian options. To be honest, we both came away hungry. 4 pieces of beetroot tortellini does not a main course make, despite being tasty and looking pretty on the plate. 

After having sampled lunch on another day in the bar (and a very glamorous bar it is), that seemed more substantial and better value. It was also more entertaining.

The efficient, friendly young waiter kept calling us ‘ladies and gentlemen‘ and making us giggle. We kept looking around to see who the others were. Could he see dead people? Our ancestors? Or maybe our spirit guides? We were not certain but it was amusing. So we will return, but for lunch in the bar, with or without our invisible friends.

The Working Boat  Downstairs, in the same building as The Greenbank is the fabulous ‘Working Boat’ and I have to say I’m leaning towards it a bit more than its posher sister upstairs. With around 15 different beers and ciders on tap, there is definitely something to satisfy all tastes. Stunning views of the harbour, as it’s a waterfront location are very pleasing to the eye – as the yummy food is pleasing to the belly. Hearty food, including a Goan Vegetable Curry won me over. This is seriously one of the beautiful locations in Falmouth. Run, don’t walk.

The Star and Garter

Located at 52 High Street in the town centre, overlooking the harbour, it’s always a great start when you walk in and they say “It’s cocktail happy hour. Would you like two cocktails for 10 quid?” 

I’m starting to sound like a gin fanatic and yes I had the Gin Garden cocktail. It has cucumber in it so that’s very healthy yes? Perfect for vegetarians?

We’re yet to have dinner here but I’m sure we will at some point in the not-too-distant future. There’s also accommodation here, so if you fancy a cheeky weekend here, this is a great location with gorgeous views thrown in. This is literally a minute’s walk, on the same side of the road, as The Greenbank Hotel, mentioned above. So yes a pleasant evening (or afternoon) could be spent popping in to both of these establishments, as they are so close together.

Further afield: 

It is so worth the 20 minutes drive to Constantine to Potager organic gardens and cafe. I fell in love with this place, which is a gorgeous greenhouse building, and I wanted to move in! Can you blame me? What a lovely business this is!

They serve organic, wholesome, delicious veggie meals, soups and cakes and you feel immediately healthier as soon as you arrive. Again, sorry but we inhaled our soup and salad so no photos!

We had a pleasant wander around the gardens, where they also host some botanical art workshops. 

I also read about some regular nature-based community events including guided walks they host for those with dementia. Participants also create art work and exhibit their creations on site. Such a lovely environment for these worthwhile projects. There are also plants and herbs for sale.

Definitely have a drive out here and let me know what you think.  You could then continue on with a drive to the Helford River and pop into the beautiful valley of Trebah Garden. There’s also the delicious South Cafe, nestled in the village of Manaccan, if you are out exploring in your car for the day. A very pretty courtyard cafe that’s perfect for morning coffee and some of the best chocolate brownies I’ve ever tasted. Also keen to go here for dinner as the menu sounds divine.

St Mawes

The cutest ferry award in the world has to go to the St Mawes Ferry – absolutely adorable. After having lived in Sydney, with regular travel around the harbour, I love a good old ferry trip. Seriously if you can show me a cuter one, I’d like to see it! Ferries run 3 x hourly from Falmouth, 7 days a week and it only takes 20 minutes. I can see that this is going to be a regular, favourite outing. Short and sweet.

There’s nothing quite like being on the water for inducing feelings of peace and calm (unless you suffer from sea sickness I guess). 

Of course we did laugh at the crew’s pasty fund. Thank you ferry much. Not a bad way to spend the day working on here, moving back and forth between two picturesque harbours.

We had a meander up to St Mawes Castle, past some dreamy houses overlooking the harbour. After enjoying some freshly made sandwiches from the fantastic Mr Scorse Gourmet Deli, we sat and watched the world go by, next to the giant anchor. You can’t miss it.

Highly recommend this place which is full-to-bursting of all sorts of Cornish gourmet delicacies and gift hampers. I dare you to go in here and not leave with a bulging bag of goodies to take home! 

St Mawes is a beautiful fishing village and if you are a writer or artist seeking inspiration, it’s a perfect location (like many places in Cornwall).

I can just imagine JK Rowling (aka Robert Galbraith) here on holiday, deciding that this is the place where her fabulous character, Cormoran Strike will hail from. Why wouldn’t you want to do research in a location like this? Of course it must be extremely hard work, but we all have our crosses to bear. I’m happy to put my hand up for the role of research assistant, should she need one!

I love the books about the veteran-turned-London-based private detective. Cormoran is named after the Cornish giant. Cormoran (the giant, not the detective) is said to have built St Michael’s Mount. I couldn’t help but smile as purely by chance, we found ourselves in a winding lane and saw The Victory, Cormoran’s favourite pub (the detective, not the giant). 

Additional fact for book lovers: it’s been recently turned into a BBC series and we watched it avidly and agreed that yes, it was surprisingly good casting.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s often it’s a major disappointment to see the film of a book that you’ve enjoyed. However, they have adapted this very well and Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger fit the bill. There is, naturally, much more detail in the book and subplots that are left out on screen, but that’s always the case.

So on your next trip to London (and Cornwall) get yourself the 3 novels and immerse yourself. I love to read books when I’m in the location they are set in, don’t you? Hence my current devouring of novels based in Cornwall, but that’s another post! Anyway I digress, so back to St Mawes. 

We enjoyed a coffee at the pretty Hotel Tresanton and had the terrace to ourselves, as it had just opened for the day. We felt very spoilt. It also has its own private beach club entrance for guests, which looked lovely. It doesn’t take much to imagine it is extremely popular in the warmer months. 

I look forward to returning here soon for longer. It’s a gorgeous place and I know, I know I’m repeating myself, but seriously I’m delighted to say, we have been spoilt for choice. I would love to stay here overnight.

I love the mosaic floor inside the hotel. Any idea who this is?

As we wandered around I was drawn down a little laneway and stumbled across this 5th century well, established by St Maudez. He was originally from Bretagne (Britanny), in France. The archway and church are obviously a lot older. He’s rumoured to have banished snakes. 

I don’t know much more but with my fixation on the water element, holy wells and sacred sites, it  was an interesting surprise to stumble across it. I‘m looking forward to exploring many more of the sacred wells around Cornwall and along the Michael Leyline, so let me know below if you have any suggestions. 

 

Tintagel

Ok so I’m sure you’ve heard of Tintagel, legendary conception place of King Arthur, he of the Knights Templar fame and Round Table stories.

The castle ruins go back to the 12th century right on the edge of the coast – a stunning beautiful and wild place. Geoffrey of Monmouth made the first claims about King Arthur’s birth links to here. There are the remains of houses built here, right back to the 5th century.

Connected to the legends of Avalon and Morgan Le Fey, including the best-selling classic “Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer-Bradley. Get it here from Book Depository with free worldwide postage!  I read this book more than 20 years ago but I had to get myself a copy, here in Tintagel Castle, as I just couldn’t resist. Of course, now the symbolism of it all is much more meaningful for me.

Be warned: Tintagel is also the home of 10,000 steps, and so it really is a full-on work out, walking around here. 

By the time you have walked around the ruins, you will be well and truly ready for a snack in the Beach Cafe.

I highly recommend the lemon, lime and orange cake with a pot of Earl Grey, sitting outside and taking in the ocean views. It really does feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Read a few chapters of ‘Mists of Avalon’ whilst sitting here and let yourself be transported back to another time. 

St Michael’s Mount

You cannot come to Cornwall and not visit St Michael’s Mount (one of the sacred sites on the Michael Leyline). Home of Cormoran, the aforementioned giant, you are also able to see his heart, in the stones as you walk around the garden.

When I was at school and also later as an au pair in France, I visited Le Mont St Michel in Normandy, but I hadn’t been to the Cornish equivalent in Marazion (try and pronounce that without getting laughed at!).

It didn’t disappoint and we had a delightful 24 hours there. We spent the night in The Godolphin Arms, a beautiful boutique hotel, pub and restaurant, directly facing St Michael’s Mount. What a stunning location! It was also a full moon the night we stayed so we felt very special. 

Even if you only have a drink here, you will love it. Try a local Tarquin’s gin (can you see the theme here) and yes we were thrilled to have this corner table inside. Tarquin’s actually won the award for ‘world’s best gin’.

This is an absolute must if you have time (make the time). We loved it here and will definitely stay again. There is also something magical about sitting inside having breakfast and watching as the tide goes out and reveals the path from under the sea, that you can walk over to St Michael’s Mount on the opposite shore. There is also a little ferry you can get, but it’s much more fun to walk over and only takes about 10 minutes.  

Fowey (rhymes with Joy)

Some Cornish friends fell around in hysterics when I said we had been there (as I pronounced it Foweee). With its winding lanes and cobbled streets it reminded me of some French villages. This is about an hour’s drive from Falmouth.
 
One of the best spots for lunch that is open all day, is Havener’s Bar and Grill, which is absolute waterfront. We had a beautiful afternoon in Fowey and enjoyed a delicious late lunch here and I took this video clip for you. Pretty special hey? We watched the sun go down and all felt right with the world. 
 
Fowey is ridiculously pretty and also home to the fabulous Dawn French, whom I adore. I was disappointed not to see Dawn, waiting on the streets in Fowey to greet us, on the occasions we were there. Busy with her life maybe? After stalking her (on Twitter) I saw that she was filming the second series of Delicious (also filmed in Cornwall), so I let her off.
 
Next time however, I would love her to be available to have a scone with me and tell me her thoughts about Falmouth University, where she is the Chancellor.
 
Check out this wonderful video of her giving a hilarious speech, in typical Dawn style. This alone has convinced me I want to do a course there. I look forward to spending more time in Fowey (at Dawn’s place obviously) and I think it’s an ideal spot for a special weekend, or just ANY weekend really. 
 

I also developed a weird obsession since being in Fowey. For yes, (mainly) nautical door knockers.

I’ve always had a thing about doorways and now it’s the actual knockers themselves. What the? I have scanned the shops but not really seen anything as great, so I’m guessing maybe online antique places. Any suggestions in the comments box below please! 
 
We also had a pleasant wander around Port Isaac, home to the filming location for Doc Martin with Martin Clunes. Another pretty coastal town (hard to find anywhere that’s not really).
 

We had a pint of a local beer Doom Bar at The Old School (used for filming outside of the actual school in Doc Martin). Spot the doctor’s house on the far side of this photo!

It’s been mortifying to realise that we are constantly pronouncing most places here incorrectly. Oh the shame! My Modern Languages degree has been no help whatsoever.  The locals laugh their heads off and give us the accurate way to say something – which usually sounds nothing like it looks! I’m looking at you: Marazion, Manaccan and Fowey A bit embarrassing, but at least we are brightening up someone’s day!

 

I better leave it there as I feel I’m just saying how pretty and gorgeous everything is – but yes it really is. I haven’t yet run into Aidan Turner but I live in hope.

There are other places that we’ve visited and loved but I’ll never get this finished! And no, I’m not yet working for the Cornwall Tourism Board but never say never! A pretty easy job – I reckon!!  

This rainbow photo was a highlight at Tintagel and proof that Cornwall suits me!

I always seem to experience them in very special places and this is no exception. 

Hopefully you have enjoyed this snapshot of my first weeks here. I will share more (if you would like) over the coming weeks and months.

Are there any places you recommend that I must visit?

Where else would you like to learn about in Cornwall? Are you planning a visit?

If you have been here, where your favourite spots?

Like this? Let's stay in touch

2 Responses to Moving to Cornwall

  1. What a fantastic run down of places, Michelle!!! I can’t believe how many places you’ve visited since you’ve been here! I love Dolly’s Gin Palace in Falmouth too – it was one of the first places we went to when we arrived in Falmouth and was v impressed by the quirk 🙂 Glad to see you’re loving Cornwall so much. Some more places for you to check out: Hooked restaurant on the beach in Swanpool, Emily’s cafe in Truro, Box & Barber in Newquay, Tom Thumb in Newquay xox

    • Thanks so much for these recommendations Fran. Will add these to my list. Must get to Newquay soon as not been since I was a child. Thanks lovely xxx

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