It is easy to forget how small the UK is. A miniature country, our little island would fit inside the United States over 38 times and into Russia an incredible 69 times. It’s so small that you can cycle from top to bottom in just ten days, covering a total distance of 874 miles. It really is tiny.
It’s ironic, then, that for those of us who live in central England, driving to Cornwall on England’s South West coast, feels a little like flying to Australia. Perhaps even worse.
In the build up to our weekend away, colleagues winced and commented on what a long journey it would be; my Dad anxiously reminded me to put more air in the car tyres and make sure the oil levels were OK; my Mum suggested taking some sandwiches in the car; and I stared obsessively at a route planner and did some shoulder rolls, all ahead of the big drive. All four and a half hours of it.
The reality is that in the UK, we are spoilt. In the time equivalent to most Americans visiting their nearest neighbouring city, we are able to drive from sprawling London down to the sandy beaches of South West England; a place of rolling moors, rugged coastlines and coastal villages. A perfect place, really, to spend a weekend.
And so last Friday, off we set, on our mammoth pilgrimage south. Courtesy of Unique Home Stays, we would be staying near the coastal town of Bude, in the small but perfectly formed ‘The Little Charcuterie’. As Claire was busy this weekend, I roped in the boy I was still hoping to impress – inviting him along with me. Because what better way to test a new relationship, than by ten hours in a small car together, navigating winding country lanes with no real landmarks?
If you are visiting the UK and taking a drive South West, there are plenty of towns and cities to stop at en route. Our first destination was beautiful Bath. A city best known for its famous Roman Baths and natural hot springs, Bath was an eighteenth century hotspot for trendy Georgians. Today, it’s still just as beautiful, with its original Roman Baths and new baths, open to the public. We only had a couple of hours here unfortunately, but definitely be sure to dedicate at least a few days if you visit. You’ll want plenty of time to wander around the streets (definitely take a look at The Royal Crescent and The Circus), and to browse the pretty boutiques and antiques shops.
Our power walk around Bath over, we set off on the remainder of our journey down to Cornwall. As we drove down through Somerset, Devon and eventually into Cornwall, it got darker and darker. By the time we reached the winding country roads, the hail had begun and the wind was making my little car rattle. By this point, I had no idea where we were and I had about as much vision as a mole. But did I let on? No. Never.
After an hour or so of confidently driving down the same road, turning around and driving back the other way, we finally found Waterstone Farm: home of Jan and Chris, and our little weekend sanctuary. As we climbed the steps (the apartment sits over Chris’ butchery!), we creaked open the front door to the cosiest of scenes.
With exposed beams, a wood burning stove, a kitchen filled with colourful tiles and pots and pans, and a big double bed tucked away in the corner, The Little Charcuterie is exactly the sort of place you’d want to stay on a wet and windy night. After a couple of hours of styling it out as an off-road rally driver, I was also shattered and therefore thrilled that Unique Home Stays had left a lovely big hamper of food for us. Having safely arrived, I slipped into something a little more comfortable (literally: tracksuit bottoms and a jumper), lit the log burner and sat down to eat most of the contents of the hamper.
Life was pretty good.
Having stayed in a few Unique Home Stays cottages, one thing that is apparent is their attention to detail. More than offering standard holiday accommodation, their properties feel like real homes. Each is beautifully decorated, full of small touches and their own personality. The Little Charcuterie was no different: it felt like the world’s smallest farm house, squeezed inside a beautiful little loft. It was bijou living at its best!
The next morning, the rain cleared and we finally got some Cornish sunshine. Hurray! We also got to meet Chris and Jan, our hosts. Most importantly, these were possibly the friendliest hosts I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. After meeting their three excited dogs, they showed us around their lovely farm, before giving us plenty of tips on where to visit in the local area.
First stop was breakfast at The Weir (where Chris’ sausages made their debut in and amongst our Full English breakfast!), before a short drive down to the picture-perfect Port Isaac.
A small fishing village, Port Isaac has sat proudly on the Cornish coast since the fourteenth century. Having parked at the top of the village, the walk down to the harbour was a winding one; weaving in and out of the white weather-beaten cottages that line the hill. A small stream runs through the village, appearing suddenly along streets and under small bridges, before joining the sea at the bottom. As it was still down-season, the Port was incredibly peaceful. People milled quietly about in the Saturday morning sunshine and just one fishing boat bobbed gently on the water. I was living the Cornish dream.
After a little explore around the village, we visited the brilliant Kiln Studio (if you love Scandi home interiors, you’ll love this place), before leaving. It’s a definite place to drop in to if you’re in Port Isaac!
Our next stop on our coastal adventure was Padstow. A town that has long been a holiday hotspot, Padstow still had its fair share of tourists, even for early March. The town is perhaps best known for being home to the chef, Rick Stein’s, many restaurants and outlets (I did wonder at one point if he owned the entire town). We immediately went to Stein’s fish and chip shop, before finding somewhere to sit on the harbour to eat. Like a complete novice, I decided to walk with the lid open; cramming the chips in my mouth like a total fatty whilst we walked. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before I heard a rustle of feathers behind me and I was smacked around the head by a couple of greedy seagulls, who grabbed my precious chips before flying away. I guess I had it coming.
After a walk around Padstow (pretty, but perhaps not as pretty as Port Isaac), the rain set in and we headed home to our little bolthole, before dinner at La Bouche Creole in Bude. When you first think of Louisiana cooking, you perhaps don’t immediately think ‘Cornwall’, but that’s exactly what this restaurant offers: a little slice of New Orleans, nestled on the edge of the Cornish coast. Make sure you pay this place a visit if you’re in the area and definitely try the pork belly!
This was sadly a bit of a whirlwind trip and after a final night at The Little Charcuterie, it was already time to make the (mammoth) journey home. We had just enough time for a blustery walk on Widemouth Beach (home to a few hundred excited dogs), before we said goodbye to Chris and Jan, and headed back up the coast. There are some fantastic places to stop and see on the way, including Lynton and Lynmouth (two beautiful coastal towns, separated by one large cliff and a Victorian cliff railway) and the medieval village of Dunster (with its very own castle). Again, please dedicate more time to these places than we had; it’s worth it!
We arrived home on Sunday evening, a little tired, but mainly happy after a weekend of sunshine and chips at the seaside. Cornwall is a beautiful place to visit and to do it justice, please give yourselves at least a week to explore all it has to offer. Full of tiny fishing villages; white-washed cottages; slate clad houses; colourful fishing boats; rolling hills and fantastic food, it’s a special part of the UK. And it’s not even that far way – promise!
Thank you to Unique Home Stays for a lovely stay, and to Chris and Jan, for being the perfect hosts.