- Cornwall

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For the sake of simplification Cornwall can be divided into two coasts, the south, with its warm breezes and semitropical air, and the rugged north coast, where the wind whips off the Atlantic onto rocky headlands and draws surfer-seekers and walkers like a magnet.

The South West Coast Path follows the coastline through breathtaking scenery, past tiny fishing villages and old smuggler's haunts like Mousehole to popular resorts like Looe and Penzance. It passes through Tintagel, legendary home of King Arthur's castle of Camelot. Though the association with King Arthur may be debatable, the ruins of 12th century Tintagel Castle are remarkable. The castle is perched precariously on rocky headland above the pounding surf, and it is hard to imagine a more romantic spot.

More modern is the county town of Truro, notable for its quietly dignified Georgian buildings and its Victorian cathedral, whose triple spires dominate views of the town. From Truro it is a short river trip to Falmouth, where Henry VIII's Pendennis Castle stands on a headland above the town.

Cornwall is notable for its abundance of ancient remains. One such is the Iron Age settlement at Chysauster, near St. Ives, Here, settlement began about 200BC, in the form of a cluster of 8 huts at the foot of Castle-an-Dinas. The prehistoric tomb of Lanyon Quoit, near Madron, is another site worth seeing. The Quoit is the remains of a Neolithic chambered tomb dating from about 2500BC. One of the strangest prehistoric relics in the West Country is without a doubt Men-an-tol, near Lanyon. This peculiar site is comprised of two uprights either side of a rounded stone with a circular hole in the centre. Although we don't know its original significance, local legend has it that if you climb through the hole nine times against the setting sun, all your injuries will be cured.

More modern but still of historical interest are the superb country estates of Cotehele House, Lanhydrock, and Anthony House. The mild climate, especially in the south of Cornwall, has produced several superb gardens as well. Trewithen, near Truro, is remarkable for its variety of subtropical plants. At Trebah, rainforest plants cling to the steep sides of a deep ravine, while at Lanhydrock park, woodlands, and formal gardens surround the Victorian mansion.

Land's End remains a popular tourist attraction, though in truth there is little to see beyond the headland of tumbled rocks that mark the most westerly point of mainland England. More spectacular are the striking medieval remains of St. Michael's Mount, a fanciful castle perched atop an island in Mount's Bay across from Marazion. The Mount, now administered by the National Trust, is an island at high tide, but is accessible by a stone causeway at other times.

Tourist Attractions

Land's End
There really isn't a lot to see or do at Land's End, though the most westerly point of mainland England is visited by hordes of tourists each year. Most obediently have their photograph taken beside the signpost by the cliffs, with arrows pointing to major centres around the globe. Land's End Hotel has done its best to become a tourist attraction in its own right, with upgraded facilities, sound and light shows, a suspension bridge, play areas, exhibition halls, and a Lost Labyrinth attraction. The cliffs at Land's End stand 200 feet above crashing waves, though the cliffs tumble down to nearly nothing at the furthest point of land.

Around the point from Land's End is Sennen, where a very popular beach draws visitors in search of sun and sand.

St. Michael's Mount Marazion, nr Penzance
What can you say about St. Michael's Mount that would do justice to this romantic island location? There was a Benedictine Priory here, built in the 12th century as a daughter house of Mont St. Michel in Normandy. St. Michael's Mount is an odd mix of house, religious retreat, and fortified castle. It was a pilgrimage centre in the Middle Ages, converted first to a fortress, then to a house after the Civil War by the St. Aubin family.

Within the castle are comfortable family rooms, with paintings by Gainsborough, among others. The former refectory of the priory is now the Cherry Chase Room, with a 17th century frieze depicting hunting scenes painted on the walls. Other features of the house include a weapons collection, Chippendale furniture, and 18th century clothes worn by the St. Aubin family. Reached by a boat (in summer) or via a causeway that is covered by water at high tide. The causeway is open for 2-5 hours daily.
Open: April-end October Mon. - Fri. 10:30-5:30, Nov.- March Mon., Wed., Fri., times depending on tide and weather.

Trebah Gardens Mawnan Smith, nr Falmouth
One of the great gardens of the world, Trebah is a ravine garden covering 25 acres. Subtropical plants at the top of the ravine give way to rainforest below, including bamboo and bananas. The ravine falls for 200 feet down to the Helford River. A further two acres of hydrangeas provide colour throughout. There are exotic plants gathered from all over the world, including glades of subtropical tree ferns. Best in: March-October.

At the foot of the garden is a private beach, a good spot for picnics and swimming. Children's activities include educational trails, two play areas and a paraglide.
Open: Daily from 10:30am-5pm. Tel: 01326 250448

South West Coast Path National Trail
Easily the longest and, in places, the most arduous, of England's National Trails. The path is actually the amalgamation of 4 paths; the Somerset & North Devon, Cornwall, South Devon, and Dorset Coastal paths. The route is quite popular, and it can be crowded in the summer months, though there are always long stretches where your only company will be a chorus of sea birds.

The trail can be windy - the prevailing wind is from the southwest, and numerous river estuaries along the way require ferry crossings. This means that a good guidebook with tide and ferry timetables is essential equipment for walkers.

The path has an interesting history; it is based on a footpath established by Coastguards who patrolled the entire length of the South West Peninsula - on foot, every day - watching for smugglers. This sentry activity was carried on right up until 1856, and the length of the path is dotted with coastguard cottages at convenient intervals. Lulworth Cove, Dorset Because the coastguards needed to be able to investigate every cove and inlet along the way, the path hugs the coast closely. This allows today's walkers superb views, but it also means that there are frequent changes in elevation.

The path is best enjoyed in May, for then the wildflowers are in full bloom. In full summer it may be difficult to find accommodation, so from that perspective the spring and autumn months are preferable. If you are willing to put up with the crowds, walking in the summer allows you to go swimming in the warmed water of the sea!

Tintagel Castle On Tintagel Head
For sheer atmosphere it is tough to beat Tintagel. The 13th century castle is a romantic ruin constructed on a windswept point of rock, with waves crashing all around. The castle is surrounded by Roman and Dark Ages remains, but more thoroughly surrounded by legends of King Arthur, who is said to have been born here. Alternate legends claim that Tintagel is the site of Camelot, Arthur's court, though that honour is also claimed by a dozen or so places throughout the British Isles!

The fortifications are divided into two sections, the upper and lower wards stand on the edge of a sheer cliff on the landward side, and the inner ward clings to a narrow ridge reaching to a small island. The castle was originally joined by a causeway to the mainland but erosion has destroyed much of the causeway and access is now by two steep stairways.

The site was in use long before the castle was built. The Romans engaged in tin mining here, and by the 5th century Tintagel was a stronghold of the Cornish kings. Below the castle is Merlin's Cave, where the wizard Merlin was said to dwell.
Open: Daily from 10am-6pm, 15th July to 27th August open until 7pm. Tel: 01840 770328

The Eden Project
In these huge covered conservatories, known as Biomes, you can visit the majestic rainforests, the Mediterranean, South Africa and California and in the Outdoor Landscape discover more about the plants and places that share the Cornish climate.

A fascinating look at the world of plants and people; see plants as you've never seen them before. A truly unique experience enabling you to explore the amazing relationship that exists between the human population and the fascinating world of plants - and the extent that we depend on plants for our very existence. Highly recommended.
Open: March - October 10am - 6pm (last entry 5pm), November-February 10am - 4.30pm (last entry 3pm)

Cornwall Tourist Information Centres

Cornwall Tourist Board
Pydar House, Pydar Street, Truro. Tel: (01872) 233900

Bodmin Tourist Information Centre
Shire House, Mount Folly, Bodmin, PL31 2DQ. Tel: (01208) 76616

Bude Tourist Information Centre
The Crescent, Bude, EX23 8LE. Tel: (01288) 354240

Falmouth Tourist Information Centre
28 Killigrew Street. Tel: (01326) 312300

Newquay Tourist Information Centre
Marcus Hill, Newquay, TR7 1BD. Tel: (01637) 854020

Padstow Tourist Information Centre
Red Brick Building, North Quay, Padstow, PL28 8AF. Tel: (01841) 533449

St Austell Tourist Information Centre
By-pass Service Station, Southbourne Road, St Austell, PL25 4RS. Tel: (0l726) 76333

Truro Tourist Information Centre
Municipal Buildings, Boscawen Street. Tel: (01872) 274555

St Ives Tourist Information Centre
The Guildhall, Street an Pol, St Ives, TR26 2DS. Tel: (01736) 796297

Penzance Tourist Information Centre
Station Approach, Penzance, TR18 2NF. Tel: (01736) 362207

Destination guides by kind permission of Britain Express

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