While I was walking the road to Santiago a few months ago I travelled with some folk who lived in Cornwall—England’s south-west-most county—and insisted I visit during my time in the UK.
After leaving, I cannot help but be staggered at how FEW international travellers were there in what still is English ‘summer’. Cornwall is a holiday getaway for the English. It has a small population with its own culture and history. And it could not seem any less like the rest of England (and the UK). But there were next to no international travellers there at all.
Cornwall, or ‘Kernow’ as it is known in the Cornish language, is believed to be the first place in the UK in which people settled. Since then Cornwall has become a proud Celtic nation that has contributed much to industry in the UK.
Some believe that the contribution of Cornwall to the overall wealth of the UK deserves more restitution. Some (in fact many) within Cornwall believe Kernow deserves independence from England in the same sense that Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are. Regardless of your political leanings, Cornwall is an absolute gem and a visit to Kernow is absolutely unlike a visit to England… unless your in Newquay on the weekend when all the stag- and hens-do’s bring the worst of English culture to the area.
In Cornwall, I discovered my new love: Newquay. This coastal surf town is a lot like Byron Bay in Australia. I’m not the best stereotype of an Australian abroad (not the worst thing) particularly in that I am not an avid surfer. But I am learning. Though I haven’t surfed this year even, I managed to group up with a bunch of keen surfers on the beaches of Newquay that is, when taking the weather out of the equation, is a utopia! Different areas on different beaches all provide exciting conditions for daily surfing. I can see myself improving with every wave, big and small.
An average day in Newquay involves waking up to an energy-packed breakfast, waiting for the waves to rise, then descending to the beach from town to surf until the tide physically brings you to the serrated rock cliffs. Then the name of the game is drink until your body quits. Repeat the next day! Perfect.
During my time down south, I spent the better part of a week hiking and camping on the South West Coast Trail—funnily enough another path on the Camino de Santiago. The winds are brutal, the air is cold, the sun shines, then it doesn’t and it hails. The Cornish coastal weather (yep, still summer here in England) is more back and forth than anywhere I’ve ever seen and I am from near Melbourne: a city whose people continue to be so shocked and appalled about now-characteristically unpleasing weather changes. No use getting upset about what you can’t control on the trail here. When a problem comes along, you must whip it! And it makes for incredible experience.
Cornwall’s pride in joy is the pasty. Observed in many former English colonies today, the Cornish pasty is a pastry pocket traditionally including minced beef and basic vegetables. More gourmet variants include chicken, chorizo, mint, ricotta and chili among others! A pasty is breakfast, lunch and dinner when you like it. There’s big ones, small ones, spicy ones, cheesy ones, meaty ones and veg ones. For around 3 Pounds, your meal is set and it will have you up and surfing in no time, without bloating you to the level of illness as other hefty pastries can. The pasty is God’s messenger in Cornwall.
It’s almost worth visiting just to eat one made by an award-winning small business tucked away in the county’s most non-visited places.