Things to do on a Rainy Trip to West Cornwall
Updated: Jan 19
West Cornwall is a fascinating part of the U.K., with a glorious coastline, an interesting history of industry, and some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. However, it is in the U.K., and the chances of it raining at least once on your Summer holiday are pretty high, (like it did for our entire trip). But fear not, in this blog post I will try to convince you that you can still enjoy the beauty of the Cornwall in a bit of drizzle, and why you should visit it in Summer 2021!
Now, being from Devon, county rivalry dictates that I shouldn't like Cornwall. Our preference over whether the jam should go on the scone before or after the cream is a debate that many have fought and died over. Likewise, which Southwestern county has better beaches, cuter villages or a more dramatic coastline are all cause for a good pub brawl too.
But, truthfully, I don't care, I love Cornwall. And if that means that Devonian farmers will be knocking at my door come sunrise, pitchforks ablaze, then so be it.
With our options limited for travelling in 2020, and our flat becoming more claustrophobic by the day, my boyfriend and I decided to visit Botallack this summer, a tiny village in West Cornwall near the old tin mines that the TV show Poldark made famous.
Spot the old tin mines in the background of the promo shot
Where to stay
Luckily we were able to stay with family, but there are some great places to stay in West Cornwall, such as Penrose Farmhouse B&B and this Airbnb in Bollowal, right by the coast path (both recommended by a certified Cornishman).
Penzance, which is about 20 minutes away, is the largest town in West Cornwall, and has more options for restaurants and things to do.
A quick gander on TripAdvisor recommends these hotels as the best ones, summer 2021 prices:
Hotel Penzance (£179 a night)
Premiere Inn (£55 a night)
The Queens Hotel (£190 a night)
The Dolphin Tavern (£115 a night)
Walks to do
If the Cornish witches, of which there are two in West Cornwall, have cast a rainy hex on you don't fret, throw on the waterproofs and get lost on one of the many coast paths nearby. The best way to experience Cornwall is to walk around it, and after all, we get 133 days of rain in the U.K. every year, so it's probably more of an authentic experience anyway.
The most obvious place to venture to first is the cliffs right by Botallack, which lead you along the coast path to Botallack Mine and other buildings from Cornwall's mining past. The mine was in use from 1815-1914 and was placed so dramatically near the coast to gain access to the rich resources underneath the Atlantic sea bed.
If you're staying in Botallack itself you can walk to the coast path by walking towards the Count House. If you're driving there is a car park by the Count House, and if you're staying in Penzance without a car you can catch the A17 bus that stops at Botallack and then walk through the village towards the Count House.
Map of 1 mile circular walk, courtesy of National Trust
Once you get to Count House you can either turn left towards Cape Cornwall, which is the most westerly point of the county (and the windiest) where the Atlantic current divides, or turn right down to Botallack mine. As you traverse this area, try to stick to the National Trust paths, because there is the odd mineshaft dotted around.
Though glorious in the sun, the walk is darkly romantic in the rain, with mist gathering at the bottom of dilapidated mine buildings, and coating the wild flora and fauna in delicate dew drops. As the waves crash against the rocks below and the wind batters your skin you realise that this is not sunny touristy Cornwall, this is real rugged Cornwall, meant for tough Cornishmen and women who eat pasties and tame wild Choughs (the national bird of Cornwall). Speaking of which, along this coast path and other areas of Cornwall, Choughs have recently reappeared after a period of absence, due to hunting and habitat loss. They are difficult to spot, but if you look hard enough you can see their crow-like bodies and red beaks soaring and tumbling near the bottom of the cliffs.
If you'd like to learn more about the Chough, listen to this audio documentary!
I enjoyed our initial walk so much, that I went out the next day early in the morning to try and take photos of the morning mist with my Lomochrome Purple film, which produced some mystical results.
Another nearby walk that you can do, which made me realise how unfit 4 months of lockdown had made me, takes you up to Cape Cornwall. You can get to this walk by driving to the car park at the bottom or continuing on from the earlier walk after you reach Porth Ledden (the rocky beach below) towards the hill with a distinctive chimney at the top (the hill in the distance in the second photo). The chimney is a remnant from Cape Cornwall Mine in 1894, which was used to extract tin and copper from the sea.
It's a moderate walk up to it, but it's beautiful in summer, with heather, thrift and other wild Cornish flowers sprouting out all over the cliff.
Once you reach the top you'll be able to see a strange rock formation out at sea called The Brisons, which my boyfriend said looks like a chubby man lying down in a bath tub. Make sure to get a photo with him!
The third walk I recommend takes you to Treveal Cove, which you can get to by driving to Wicca farm. If you don't drive, you can still get to the cove, but you will have to take a different route, as the bus does not stop by Wicca farm. You can get the 7 or 16A bus from Penzance and stop at the village of Zennor, then walk this route.
Once you're at the farm, walk up the country lane you just drove down until you come to a crossroad, then take a left down the lane leading towards the sea. The walk to the cove is pretty straightforward from here, but can be overgrown in places, with the odd boulder left in a field here and there, from Cornwall's quarrying days. Coupled with the mist, it feels like you're exploring an untouched part of Cornwall trapped in a prehistoric era.
Also, I 100% thought this sign said 'help me', but my pessimistic eyes were just playing a trick on me.
Cornwall is a fascinating place for wildlife, and while we were eating our picnic down by the cove we saw grey seals bobbing about in the water! Unfortunately we didn't have binoculars, so if you're a wildlife buff make sure to bring them with you on your walks to really get in close without disturbing them. We also heard them singing, which was a first for all of us, and the sound was both beautiful and mournful, similar to the sound I'd imagine a siren singing to lure a sailor to his death. Though I struggle to imagine a blubbery seal seductively doing that.
The final place we explored was Boat Cove, a sandy little beach near Pendeen Lighthouse. Simply drive to the lighthouse and turn right when you approach it, there's a car park next to the path down to the cove. If you don't drive, you can get the A17 bus from Penzance to the village of Pendeen and then walk 19 minutes to the lighthouse. The route is outlined here.
By some miracle the sun came out on our final day, and we had a lovely hour frolicking about in the shallows. It's quite a secluded beach, but when the tide is out you can get to Portheras Cove opposite by climbing over the rocks next to the cliff. It's also a working cove, and a few small fishing boats still fish from there, which can be fun to watch.
If you like to have something to do on your walks, I'd recommend an activity I only learned about by stumbling across one on my first visit to Cornwall - Geocaching! This delightful hobby is basically a mini treasure hunt, except you don't get to keep the booty. The fun comes from following the directions on the app to find the caches, which are full of interesting things, and then adding something to the collection, a note or object for example. There are quite a few lying around Cape Cornwall with various difficulty levels, but the feeling you get from finding one is exhilarating. It probably speaks to the inner pirate buried deep inside all of us.
If COVID wasn't around, there would have been more things we could have done, such as visiting the Newlyn Art Gallery in Penzance, and the iconic Minack Theatre, which is an open air theatre literally carved out of a cliff face!
Hopefully in Summer 2021 things will have returned to normal, and I really recommend, if you are from the U.K., to try and visit more local tourist spots like Cornwall next year, as COVID has hit them hard, and they would appreciate the support.
I had quite an experience getting the Lomochrome Purple roll of film I took to Cornwall developed. Originally I sent the roll to AG Photolab, who are a brilliant photo developing company in Birmingham. However, it seems their scanning machines can't handle colour altering films, such as Lomochrome Purple. The results I got back where... interesting to say the least. Below on the left are the scans I got from them, and opposite are from Eyeculture in London.
After talking to some of my followers on Instagram, it seems a few other people have had this problem, where the colours are too intense and the detail is lost. If this has happened to you too, I would strongly recommend to get your negatives rescanned at another photo developing company. Or, better yet, if you have a Lomography store in your city take it to them! They know how to handle their film best. I'm still mourning the loss of the London branch.
Ignoring the developing palaver, I am pleased with the photos, but over the years of shooting with Lomochrome Purple I've come to the realisation that it performs best in bright light, i.e midday. Although moody, a lot of the photos I shot with it in Cornwall were dark and dull, and this has happened to me before when I took a roll to Copenhagen in February.
I still love the film, but I think the remaining rolls I have of it in my fridge will be reserved for holidays in the sun.