11 November 2022
Remember being that wide-eyed kid, taking everything in for the first time? Mary Hannah Hardcastle decided it was time to ignite that feeling in her own backyard
Why is it that we often believe the further we are from home, the better the adventure is? Is it the sense of accomplishment or the feeling that with each mile we’re pushing further into the unknown? The thrill of being that much further outside of our comfort zone? Or, could it be the desire for exploration that’s so deeply rooted in our human DNA? Whatever it is, it’s something that any Land Rover owner has probably daydreamed about at some point and time.
The last two years, however, have challenged this way of thinking and encouraged us to explore and embrace experiences that are closer to home. The possibilities abound for any outdoor enthusiast and there’s certainly no shortage of bucket list destinations here on British soil. That said, if you’re anything like us, creatures of habit to a certain degree, you may find yourself gravitating towards the places that you’re most familiar with. That’s where, I believe, the opportunity for true close-to-home adventure lies: it’s all about shaking up your regular routine and embracing something new. And so off to Cornwall we head, on the hunt for remote beaches, coastal roads and secluded wild camping.
1. Wild camping
Wild camping lets you experience a different side of Cornwall
It’s Thursday and we can taste the weekend. We pack up our Defender and hit the road south with a loose plan and a vehicle full of excitement. As we cruise down the M5, I hunt down camping spots for the evening. The options are plentiful, but we gravitate towards farm stays for that sense of freedom that’s often lost at perfectly curated campgrounds filled with campers, motorhomes and holiday goers. And then, I see it: a perfectly-situated riverside farm 20 minutes off the motorway. Even its name is inviting – Little Silver Stream Wild Camping. Coming off the motorway, we wind through miles of lush, Devon farmland, before arriving at a humble entrance and make our way down the long dirt driveway towards the barn, just as the sun is setting. A lovely woman pops out of the house and greets us with cheerful conversation, points us down the trail, and explains the choice is ours for where we’d like to lay our hat. We navigate through two fields, on the prowl for the perfect place to call home for the night.
I see a hidden gem of a spot, tucked away in the back of the open fields, right below two giant oak trees. By the looks of it, our closest neighbours will be nearly out of sight – just the way we like it. We pull in, get set up and are soon re-greeted by the owner, now on her ATV that’s piled high with ready-to-light firewood. We crack open a beer, light the campfire and exchange stories before she rides off into the night once again. After cooking up steaks on the open fire, and stargazing into the night, we scour our map and bounce around ideas for the day ahead.
The next morning we wake to the sound of birds, make some coffee and enjoy a slow and easy morning under the trees, taking in the sunrise over the lush green fields that we now have entirely to ourselves. Although we’re on private property, it feels like we’re in the wild and we can’t help but think this was the perfect way to start off our trip.
2. Land Rover Falmouth Group
Red, on the right, from the friendly Land Rover Falmouth Group
As we hit the road, we decide to head to the coast and link up with the man behind the Land Rover Falmouth Group, boasting over 400 active members. We wind our way south for two hours, before arriving at a perfectly-situated coastal lunch spot called Pandora Inn. It was recommended to us by a fellow Land Rover enthusiast, and as we round the final bend it’s easy to see why. It’s a stunning 13th century waterside pub, with a floating dock that gives visitors a perfect 270-degree view of Restronguet Creek.
Before long, we spot a beautiful 50th Anniversary Defender 90 pulling into the parking lot. This must be Red. From the moment he steps out, he’s charismatic, incredibly welcoming, and just as passionate about Land Rovers as we are. Needless to say, we hit it off immediately. He started the Falmouth Land Rover group back in 2018, as a way to connect with other enthusiasts in the area and it’s since grown into the largest Land Rover group in the region. It’s the group to link up with in Cornwall if greenlaning, Land Rovers and good times are all your cup of tea.
I celebrate my first look at the Cornish coast with a local cider and we grub down on burgers and chips, exchanging musings about anything and everything on four wheels, before heading to the parking lot to admire each other’s Defenders and aftermarket set-ups. It’s this sense of community that we love finding on the road and after this lunch date with Red, I can’t wait to come back down and meet the rest of the group. Hopefully, next time it’ll line up perfectly with one of their infamous gatherings or greenlaning trips so we can get
off-road and explore the coast together.
3. Wild beaches and secluded coves
Porthcurno Beach: a slice of Cornish paradise
To date, I’ve only heard the rumours about the pristine beaches and towering cliffs that await in Cornwall. But today it’s time to finally see them for myself. We press on with our eyes set on Porthcurno Beach. Described by many as paradise, I’m keen to see what all the hype is about, yet hopeful that the cool day may ward off the crowds. As we roll up to the amusement park-sized parking lot, we’re shocked to see a mere three cars actually occupying spaces. We jump out and make our way down the steep trail to the white sand shores and take it all in.
As promised, the cliffs tower over us and, although we’re outside of England’s official Jurassic Coast, there’s a sense that we’ve gone back in time here, hidden away from the rest of the world. A dirt trail catches my eye, as they usually do, and I can’t resist the urge to see where it leads. Off I go, climbing the cliffside much like a mountain goat. As I reach the end of the footpath, I turn back to see a spectacular bird’s eye view of the pure, white sand beach behind me with the powerful waves crashing ashore. I’m in awe. How is this England? These are the moments I was hoping for out of this trip. I feel like a kid again, and knowing that this is one of hundreds of coves like this makes me giddy with excitement to come back down and explore them all one by one.
4. Towns and landmarks
Two years ago, on our North Coast 500 trip, we reached John O’Groats, the most northeastern point in Great Britain, and now, 838 miles away, we were a stone’s throw from another famous mile-marker: Land’s End, the most southwesterly point in the UK. For us, the touristy spots don’t usually hold much attraction, but we still love taking part in the fun and are suckers for a geographical milestone.
When I think of Land’s End, I usually think of that classic signpost shot, with a 100 people in line itching to get the same photo. Land’s End, however, exceeded our expectations in large part because of the miraculous lack of tourists. It seems that when the tourist traps close at 5.00pm, the holiday-goers head out too, for when we arrive at 5:30pm, it’s a ghost town. We park Tango for the obligatory picture, and take in the salty air and seemingly endless Atlantic ocean, still in shock we’re standing here alone. What a way to end our first day.
Pavilion bakery in Newquay serves coffee and cakes
The following morning, we head into St Ives, one of Cornwall’s most celebrated towns, for a taste of the local cuisine and culture. As we get closer, the roads start to narrow and we soon find ourselves in a perfectly perched seaside town, overlooking the ocean. Below us, we can see a quaint string of restaurants and shops, begging for us to come down and explore. We park at the top of the hill, and make the rest of our way on foot, knowing the bulky Defender we’re in is not made for the alarmingly small cobblestone streets of St Ives.
We find a cosy waterfront restaurant aptly named Beach Cafe Bar and enjoy some freshly baked goodies, while admiring the array of boats bobbing in the harbour. As we’re finishing up the last crumbs on our plates, we notice that the tide has rushed out in its entirety, and the previously floating boats are now sitting atop the sandy shore. It’s the perfect time for us to hit the road again and explore the miles of coast that stretch before us.
5. Coastal roads and walks
Cornwall's coastal roads and walkways await
Our plan for the next few days is simple: find the best coastal roads and trails. We head north, stopping at overlooks as often as we can to take it all in. There are three stretches of road, in particular, that stand out as must-sees: Perranporth to Padstow, Wadebridge to Tintagel, and Boscastle to Bude, and we’re determined to hit them all.
Every single turn and bend keeps us guessing, with each delivering another epic view and perspective of the coast. The white sand beaches, rolling pastures and steep cliffs are all competing for our attention. St Agnes Heritage Coast, Perranporth Beach, Holywell Bay, Fistral Beach, and finally Newquay – the perfect place to grab an early afternoon bite. It’s a surfers paradise and, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was in the beachside town in California, somewhere near Laguna Beach. The only giveaways are the accents and plentiful array of Cornish bakeries. We grab a coffee at Pavilion, a local bakery, and head down for a stroll on the beach. There’s a massive swell on its way in, and surfers paddle out for their chance to enjoy their piece of nature’s pie. Satisfied and refreshed, we trek back up the hillside to our trusty steed and hit the road, for the final stretch to Bude.
As we cruise atop the cliffside, it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever driven, with lush green hills on one side and ocean views, extending for miles, on the other. The final stretch puts our engine and brakes to the test, climbing abruptly before plunging down to meet the rocky shores. An overlook catches our eye and we swing in for a look. It’s time to crack open a couple of cold ones and take it all in. As the sun sets, a few other locals join us, and we quickly learn that we’ve happened upon the go-to camping spot in the area. It’s official: this is home for the night.
Cornwall’s beaches attract surfers from all over the country
The following morning we wake up and head down to the beach. A friend of ours came to greet us and brought a couple of extra wetsuits and surfboards, knowing we can’t turn down the opportunity to be thrown out of our comfort zone. As we paddle out, the sun comes up over the horizon, offering a perfect morning glow for breakfast. After a few ambitious yet failed attempts, I ride the waves back into the beach, take a hot shower out of the back of the Defender and get dressed for a run. It’s time to explore on foot. My plan is to run a short two-mile section of the South West Coast Path, England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath, stretching 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. But with every single mile I’m completely captivated by the landscape: each time I’m about to turn around, another peak, green pasture, beach or cliff catches my eye and I press on to experience it up close. After three miles in one direction, I land in the town of Bude, and realise that I’ve clearly gone much further than my planned one mile each way jaunt. As I turn around and begin the journey home, I can’t help but daydream about one day completing the full 630-mile trail for myself. Topping my charts of paths I’ve traversed, this trail alone is a reason to visit Cornwall.
Author Mary Hannah Hardcastle rates Cornwall’s coastal paths as the best she’s ever walked along
As we head out of the region, and onwards into Devon, we squeeze in a few last-minute stops on the way out of town including a peek at Croyde Bay and Woolacombe Beach, a three-mile hike to Morte Point and a pit-stop at Wringcliff Bay. We’re under no illusion that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Cornwall has to offer, and that’s exactly what makes it a must. We could road trip down here 100 more times and still not see or experience it all. If you’re looking for miles of awe-inspiring landscape, bucket list-worthy coastal roads, hidden coves, towering cliffs and the sweet taste of adventure, it’s time to add Cornwall to your 2022 road trip list. We promise, if your trip is anything like ours, you won’t be disappointed. We may even see you down there.
• To find farm stays, search ‘wild camping’ or ‘farm campsite’ on Google Maps to pull up a list of great options.
• Be sure to bring cash. Many campsites are cash-only.• Many of the farm stays do not offer a shower, so if you’re planning to do this, be sure you have a portable shower on board or be prepared to grab a hotel along the way.
• To avoid the crowds, check out Land’s End after the main attractions close (5.00pm onwards)
• If you’re looking for the southernmost point in mainland Britain, you’ll want to add Lizard Point to your list, but with a shortened timeline, we opted for the Cornwall classic, Land’s End.
• Be sure to pack a swimsuit and some good trainers. You never know when you’ll want to pop out for a hike, or take a dip in the sea or countless tide pools.
• Check the tide times! Because the tide goes out so far in some areas, it completely changes the look and feel of some coves, beaches and towns.
• If you’re coming to Cornwall in the summer be sure to pre-book accommodation if you’re planning to have any hotel/self-catering stays,
• If you’re wanting to avoid the crowds entirely, October is the perfect time – just after the summer rush, but still pleasant weather.
• Most importantly, be sure to try a genuine Cornish pasty.
• Little Stream Wild Camping, South Molton: thelittlesilverstreamwildcampingdevon.com
• Pandora Inn, Falmouth: pandorainn.com
• Land Rover Falmouth: facebook.com/groups/1110960365727678
• Beach Bar Cafe, St Ives: beachcafe.bar
• Morte Point Hike: nationaltrust.org.uk/trails/morte-point-and-bull-point-walk
• Land’s End Landmark: landsend-landmark.co.uk
• South West Coast Path: southwestcoastpath.org.uk
• Pavilion Coffee Shop, Newquay: wearethepavilion.com
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