If you ask anyone to picture the Cornish landscape, what first comes to mind? Rugged cliffs, golden beaches, Doc Marten-esque harbours… We have all those things in bucket-and-spade loads – however, sometimes it’s worth turning your back on the coast. To appreciate the real variety of the Cornish landscape, wrap up warm, head inland and discover some beautiful, unspoilt places, which can be even lovelier off-season.
This part of Cornwall is surprisingly verdant. With small but gorgeous woodlands and undulating valleys, this is probably the most traditionally “English” looking area in the Duchy. At The Cornwall, we’re lucky to have the best of both worlds – close to the coast, yet inland enough to give a sense of peaceful remoteness.
Aside from our own 43-acre estate, the closest haven to explore is Pentewan Valley, lushly wooded and gently winding down to the sea. King’s Wood is a particularly lovely mixed woodland section for a year-round walk or cycle ride.
You can pick up the Pentewan Cycle Trail at The Cornwall (or part of “National Cycle Network Route Number 3” as Sustrans calls it, helpfully but rather less poetically). This takes you through the valley, around Heligan and all the way to Mevagissey. Part of a disused railway line, the trail is nice and flat, allowing cyclists of all abilities to enjoy the flora and fauna, rather than have to focus on things like breathing and staying upright. If you are considering visiting Heligan, walking or cycling along this route has to be the most enjoyable way of getting there.
For an entirely different sort of landscape, try exploring the local industrial heritage. People searching for Cornwall’s mining history often head west, lured by the famous silhouettes of the old engine houses. Here around St Austell, the industrial scenery is rather different, carved from the china clay industry and featuring the distinctive spoil heaps known as the “Cornish Alps”. The Clay Trails are a series of multi-use trails through this wonderfully varied scenery – sometimes panoramic, occasionally strangely lunar.
Wheal Martyn, a museum dedicated to the history of china clay, is two miles north of St Austell. Industry meets nature with some wonderful trails around the 26-acre site. Many people come to this area to visit that most famous former clay pit, The Eden Project; however to get a true understanding of where Eden came from, spend some time exploring the china clay environment at Wheal Martyn. The “Green Corridor” is a 1.9 mile path that takes you from the museum into St Austell. (Note – the path arrives in town close to the St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre. Now there’s an idea for an inland trip out…)
If you still want to explore more china clay connections, setting out from the hotel to Charlestown harbour (mainly along roads, although there is a – very – long way round featuring the Cycle Trail and the Coast Path) gives another insight into this once-thriving trade.
These are just a few inland suggestions, based on the area immediately around The Cornwall. A short drive away, Bodmin Moor is there to explore – again, not the largest stretch of moorland in the country, but a pleasingly varied and beautiful one. There is a huge sense of satisfaction gained from getting to know Cornwall from the inside out. Many people never even think about the county’s inland countryside, which is both a shame, and a marvellous opportunity for the more intrepid to find their own Cornwall.
In the end, we appreciate that most visitors come here to see the sea. If you absolutely have to get your coastal fix, Porthpean Beach is just two miles away from The Cornwall. It’s a lovely sandy beach with great rock-pooling opportunities – and it has a car park. However, it’s far more rewarding to leave your motor at the hotel and set off on foot…