After trying out the new flights from Cork, Brian Moore is surprised to find that Cornwall, on the UK’s south west tip, feels just like home
WHEN you step off the short flight from Cork Airport to Newquay in Cornwall, there is a comforting feeling of familiarity.
Maybe it’s the rolling landscape, the green fields or the vibrant hedgerows? Or perhaps it’s the picturesque little fishing villages and sandy beaches dotted along the beautiful shoreline?
Maybe it’s a combination of all of these? But there was something else, a feeling that only intensified after I picked up my car from Hertz and set off on my four-day Cornish adventure.
I had never been to Cornwall so, apart from expecting tea and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, pirates in Penzance, Poldark at Porthgwarra, Doc Martin in Port Isaac and of course Rick Stein in Padstow, I really didn’t know what to expect.
As I headed for my first port of call, the beautiful Cornwall Hotel and Spa, just outside St Austell on the south side of the peninsula, I was ready and eager to get out there and experience all that the most southerly county of England has to offer.
Before I could get started, I decided I needed to acclimatise. I made my way along the coast road from St Austell to Carlyon beach where, surrounded by the sound of gentle waves and bathed in the yellow glow of the setting sun, I sat and enjoyed a delicious cream tea.
I soon discovered that Cornwall has a lot more to offer.
For example, everybody seems to have a surf board. I didn’t find a single beach without a ‘Surf Shack’ where you could get lessons or rent a board. Another short drive from my hotel, I discovered the world-renowned Lost Gardens of Heligan.
This 1,000 acre estate and gardens was all but closed-off and forgotten for decades until, in the early 1990s, work began to restore the gardens and open them to the public.
After a delicious lunch at the Heligan Kitchen and Bakery, I had another wholly unique horticultural, environmental and world-famous project to visit.
The Eden Project with its five bio-domes, or ‘biomes’, sitting like huge bubbles nestled into the side of what was once a disused quarry, will take your breath away when first you see them.
Each bio-dome has been created to house some of the world’s most beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables, with each one recreating the environment these plants need to survive.
In the rainforest dome, you’ll not only see beautiful orchids, tropical flowers and fruits, but you will experience the heat, the humidity and even the sounds of the jungle.
In the Mediterranean biome, there are grape vines, lemon and olive trees and an almost perfect recreation of the climate enjoyed in Spain and Italy, or California and Chile. It is a truly amazing place.
Next, I decided to explore Land’s End and the little villages hugging the coast along the very tip of the Cornish peninsula.
I stopped at the postcard village of St Just for a pint of real Cornish ale, and watched as yachts and kayaks glided slowly across the blue-green water far below the high cliffs at Land’s End.
Then it was on to the majestic Headland Hotel and Spa, perched high on a ridge overlooking Fistral Bay. From here I experienced the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen.
Fistral Beach, or ‘Surfer’s Paradise’ as it is locally known, is only a few steps away from the hotel and, while surfing looks like fun, I had my mind and taste buds firmly fixed on eating fish and chips by the sea at Rick Stein’s famous beach restaurant.
Delicious if a little pricey, but another item ticked off the bucket list, for sure.
Fed and watered, I headed to the Cowshed Spa in Trebetherick for a massage before another hectic evening of sunsets and sauvignon at the Headland Hotel.
I had a fantastic time discovering Cornwall and with twice weekly flights with Aer Lingus from Cork to Newquay for the summer season, I’ll definitely be back again. In fact, if the UK was lucky enough to have anything close to its very own West Cork, it would be Cornwall.
• Aer Lingus Regional departs each Saturday and Wednesday from Cork Airport for Newquay in Cornwall. Fares start at €34.99, one-way, including taxes and charges. Visit www.aerlingus.com.
• The first exhibition, in what it is hoped will be an ongoing exchange between artists based in West Cornwall and West Cork, is on view at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen, until July 8th. Featuring the work of three leading artists from the West of Cornwall, it is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4.45pm, all welcome and free admission (donations accepted). Full details on www.westcorkartscentre.com or phone 028 22090