North Cornwall offers dramatic coastlines, culinary delights and daredevil surf. Its most definitely not for the faint-hearted and yet definitely for the foodies.
We managed to squeeze in visits to surfy Newquay, pretty Padstow and the fisherman’s favourite, Port Isaac.
Over the years, Newquay has earned itself the title of the ‘Capital of the Surf Scene’, with surfers coming from all over the world to witness the waves at Fistral Beach – and schools of newbies learning the art of reef riding.
Everywhere you look there’s a surfer somewhere – whether in the water or walking through the streets with their board tucked under their arm. Many of the shops are dedicated to the art too, including the ‘Fat Willy’s Surf Shack’ brand that has been a Cornish favourite since the 80s!
Rightly or wrongly, Newquay has also earned itself a reputation as a stag night and hen do haven due to its raft of boozy bars offering 2-4-1’s and the numerous nightclubs that lace the town centre. It’s the busiest of all Cornish towns in the Summer months – after all, it’s so accessible – it has its own airport.
But it’s not all surf scene and party central if that’s not your bag; There are actually some really lovely walks to be had in Newquay! Venture up high onto the cliff tops and the views easily rival anywhere else you’ll find in Cornwall. We were also lucky enough to spot a grey seal soaking up the sun on a rock – apparently they are quite rare?
Newquay has also invested in some fancy hotels and holiday cottages, complete with jaw-dropping views across the turquoise waters. Rick Stein, too, has chosen Newquay for one of his restaurants and take-outs – and what better way to enjoy posh fish and chips than to be sat on a sandy beach?
So next time some ‘wise old out-of-towner’ tells you to avoid Newquay at all costs, take their advice with a pinch of salt. Whilst you may not want to stay for weeks, it is most definitely worthy of a day trip at the very least!
If we are saying that Newquay brings in the most crowds, I’d hazard a guess that Padstow comes a close second.
But unlike Newquay, Padstow is an old fishing port, centred around a stunning harbour that looks over to Rock (a favourite of the very rich, where Gordon Ramsay owns a mansion).
Alongside the water sits numerous restaurants, cafes, hotels, holiday lets, souvenir shops, old pubs and pasty shops. Some people believe that Padstow – once a sleepy fishing port – has been ruined by too much tourism. However, I felt that there was still a lot of charm about the place when you escaped the harbour front – who can resist pretty pastel houses, after all?
According to those who think Padstow is over-commercialised, two well known celebrity chefs are to blame – Rick Stein and his younger competitor, Paul Ainsworth. Between them they must have the majority of Padstow in their portfolios – Ainsworth especially, who appears to have his name to multiple businesses, not solely seafood (see what I did there?).
It would have been rude of us not to sample some fine dining for ourselves whilst in Padstow and so we booked a table at Rick Steins Cafe (reserve a table well in advance to avoid missing out).
I can honestly say that Ricks were the best moules mariniere I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating (and I’m a big fan!). My partner had the hake laksa which he said was awesome too.
I loved our trip to Padstow – spoiled or not – and it’s definitely a place I’ll be returning in the future.
Those of you who have seen the film ‘Fisherman’s Friends’ or watched the TV show ‘Doc Martin’ will no doubt already have heard of this Cornish fishing town, just a few miles from Padstow.
It’s definitely not huge, in fact rather small in comparison to Padstow – but it’s still attracts the tourists, fans and foodies (yes, like Padstow, Port Isaac has its own celeb chef in residence – two Michelin star Nathan Outlaw).
On a sunny-ish day in May Port Isaac was busy enough – so I can only imagine what it can get like in the high season, filled full of visitors keen to sample fresh seafood, get a photo outside Docs cottage and looking to catch a glimpse of a Hollywood backdrop!
Non-fans can expect to find the quaintest of all villages, with a handful of craft shops, souvenir shops, independent cafes and welcoming pubs. There is a lovely air of innocence in Port Isaac, paired perfectly with the salty sea air from the medieval harbour.
After you’ve eaten your weight in Cornish ice cream, you might fancy a leisurely stroll along the coastal path to Port Gaverne – where yet another stunning harbour awaits!