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Cornwall England from London to Lands End

In this travelogue, I venture out with my girlfriend to visit the furthest southwest county of England.

While many foreign visitors and tourists may just visit London to see such famous sites as Big Ben or the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11 a.m. each day, there is a countryside escape that lies just under five hours via train from London, Cornwall.

Over the decades, Cornwall has become a very popular destination for Londoners seeking refuge from the daily city grind and peace and tranquility.

We spent a week there this May, exploring the world-famous gardens, ornamental plants, and flowers that this part of England is known for.

Disembarking the train in Truro, we rented a car to begin our trip of exploration and scented inhalation.

We stayed at Hay Barton, a B&B near Tregony, about a 30-minute drive from Truro. The husband and wife team offers a lovely breakfast, including freshly collected eggs each morning and typical British tea time.

Having visited England and Cornwall for the first time 40+ years ago, I realize one must have a rental car to get around.

Driving is on the left-hand side. As for me, having lived for a while in Bermuda and also driven in Scotland, where driving is on the left, these back country roads in Cornwall present the most challenging driving I’ve ever done. The back lanes, in some cases, are only 10 feet wide. On either side are 4-foot-tall stone walls covered in shrubbery. Driving can be very stressful, especially for the passenger who hears the shrubs rubbing up against the side of the car.  I realized that while the stonewalls have not moved in centuries, cars have gotten larger and broader, making for some very tight squeeze-throughs and, in some cases, the need to reverse and back up to a broader part of the road. On our trip, we “kissed” side mirrors several times.

Our first venture was to visit Burncoose Gardens and Nursery,

which has many flowery colors. It is recognized as one of Britain’s top cultivators of plants and flowers.

The following day, we visited Caerhays Castle and Spring Gardens. Designed by British architect John Nash in the latter part of the 19th century, they offer tours rich in history, a view of the Celtic Sea, and a small beachside café. The castle has also been the setting for some of the episodes of the Poldark TV series.

We checked out from our B&B and visited St. Mawes, a small quaint fishing village geographically located at the tip of a small secluded peninsula. I am still determining who this Saint is, but it is heavenly.

In the past, it also hosted members of the royal family.

From there, we transversed from the south coast to the West Coast of Cornwall to visit St. Ives—a beautiful town with some hotels right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. We decided to stay there, take in the scenery, and visit the Tate Gallery and its rotating collection of art.

I would recommend that if you plan to stay in one of St. Ives’s seaside hotels or B&Bs, you consider parking just outside the center of the town due to the narrow streets and tight turns. Then, have one of their local taxis take you to the door of your hotel or B&B.

Departing Saint Ives, we drove to Penzance, located along the south coast. While we did not see any Pirates, we visited the town. Just outside the city is the beautiful St. Michaels Mount. Located just off the beach, it has the unique distinction of being able to walk during low tide.  With the tide changing, the stone walkway disappears underneath the water.

If you get caught there during high tide, boats will ferry you back to the parking lot on the mainland. It is very picturesque, and I recommend giving yourself half a day to experience this unique place. Overall, the town of Penzance was not as quaint as I had imagined.

Locals informed us that Lands End, a 40-minute drive from Penzance, is merely

lookout point to the sea. So instead, we diverted to visit the Minack Theatre. Hanging on the edge of a cliff on the south coast, it hosts various musical performances and plays from late spring to early fall.The setting of this outdoor theatre is quite dramatic, with stair-stepped seating and a downward view of the stage and the sea in the background. As a side note, it is not handicap friendly.

Our journey to Cornwall was quickly coming to an end. It was time to head back to Truro. We spent the afternoon exploring the city and one night before catching the early train back to London, Heathrow, for our 3 p.m. flight back to the United States.

The final takeaway and advice is this: if you have a strong passion for Horticulture and history and enjoy beautiful seaside and countryside scenery, then Cornwall would be a destination to put on your bucket list.

About the author John Kaiser:

As a lifelong traveler, I have had the good fortune to have visited more than 35 countries. By the time I turned 18, I had lived in three different countries, Germany, Spain, and Bermuda, and had visited nine others. My favorite destination in the world is the Greek Islands. Carnival in Brazil stands out for me as the most incredible entertainment experience. Regarding artificial beauty, “La Recoleta” cemetery in Buenos Aires is a moving architectural and sculptural masterpiece.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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