Even in the mid winter, the West Country has lots to offer those who make the effort to get off the sofa, put on some wellies and explore. It’s also less busy and you can usually still find at least one cafe open offering hot drinks and comfort food.
Even in the depths of winter, signs of spring are everywhere if you look, daffodils in December, snowdrops, lambs and crocuses….and on a sunny day it can almost feel like summer!
Wrap up warm and head to the coast for a wild day out – it’ll be worth the extra effort.
Banish those winter blues – now is the time to start house hunting if you are thinking about making that move to Devon or Cornwall you keep promising yourself. Can’t get time off work to view properties at the moment? Contact us to see how we can help you. We can do all the hard work for you!
Who knows, you could be in your dream home by the summer…..
A couple of weeks ago the pretty village of St Neot, on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, held its Village Festival. As this event is only held every four years we decided to go along and enjoy some of the sights.
Villagers and flower arrangers decorated the church, cottages, gardens and village with amazing floral and artistic displays. There were also exhibitions of art & history, music, and cream teas supplied in various locations.
Above: displays around the village
The flowers in the church complimented the stunning stained glass windows St. Neots is famous for.
St Neot also has a yearly flower festival as well as Oak Apple Day which was featured on the Channel 4 programme ‘Hidden Villages’ with Penelope Keith.
Check out St. Neot’s comprehensive website for information of events and walks around the area:
The delightful village of Calstock on the river Tamar in south east Cornwall is well worth a visit if you like quirky riverside villages away from the tourist traps. The village has an arty Bohemian feel, with an interesting art gallery, popular pub and a speciality ice cream parlour. There is also free parking!
There is also an interesting walk along the Tamar valley to the Cotehele House and Gardens (National Trust), it takes you under the dramatic railway viaduct, past quaint cottages along the river (don’t miss the pottery shop), uphill through some woods and onto Cotehele Quay and House.
Once through the woods, there are lovely views into the Cotehele gardens from the path, and back towards Calstock.
Below: Cotehele House from the footpath
The whole return walk takes about an hour, but why not stop and enjoy a drink or cream tea at the Edgcumbe Arms tea room at Cotehele Quay or look around the house and garden (entrance fee for non members of the National Trust). The Quay is free to look around.
Woody and I had a peaceful morning walk on a disused miners’ railway track on Caradon Hill near Minions on Bodmin Moor. We had a cuckoo, sky larks, gentle cattle and sheep for company.
The area is a World Heritage Site due to the historical mining remains and archaeological sites.
It’s the perfect place to walk your dog, but dogs must be kept on leads, especially during lambing season.
More information on the area – Caradon Hill walk
The day before the spring bank holiday was a perfect day for dawdling around Looe soaking up the sun, lazing in cafes and enjoying the breathtaking views. It all started at 8.30am on the coast path at East Looe, where even at that hour I met several chatty dog walkers and felt it was almost too hot to sit in the sun, even in the early morning mist.
Above: The coast path at East Looe affords delightful views toward Looe Island and the beach
At that time of day and being a Sunday the beach was deserted, almost. The sea was dead calm, and several couples were swimming away from the beach and a few families were already staking their day’s pitches in the sand. I had to have a paddle in the crystal clear water, so icy cold it hurt my feet, but so spine tingling refreshing. I sat on the sea wall for as long as I could handle the ever increasing sun strength and gave in to the desire for a coffee.
The first place that I came across (and there are many cafes in Looe) was the quirky Kitchenside Bakery, with china teacups and teapots dangling in the window and rustic nostalgic interior. Forties music added to the atmosphere. The cakes looked scrumptious and affordable so I vowed to come back for afternoon tea. As it was not a decent time for cake I settled for a coffee with cream – again not expensive, and watched the steady trickle of sun worshipers making their inevitable migration towards the beach, and reflected on how lucky I was to have experienced the peace and quiet by getting here early. By the time I left the cafe the trickle had to turned into a torrent, so I had to fight against the flow as I made my way up through town. The shops were open by then, so I browsed a few and decided to make my purchases on my way back so I need not carry them around all day in my rucksack.
Above: I explored the harbour area before crossing the bridge over to West Looe.
If you want a quieter, less hectic piece of Looe to relax in, it’s worth walking around to Hannafore (or driving, as the parking is free on the road). Most tourists don’t make it around here, so it’s a good little local secret. (Or was!) Dogs are allowed on the beach too. It is mostly rocky and seaweedy, perfect for rockpooling, bird watching and enjoying the views of Looe Island (aka St. Georges island). At very low tides twice a year it is possible to walk over to it. The flat promenade makes a perfect place to stroll even in the winter. The rest of the coast path can be accessed at the end of the road if you want to carry on walking.
From the road to Hannafore I could see how busy the beach had become
There are plenty of opportunities for watersports and fishing around Looe Bay
Above: Peace and quiet at Hannafore
Above: As promised, back at the Kitchenside Bakery tearoom to wind down the day, a delicious chocolate brownie and Cornish tea in a bone china tea cup – bliss!
Above: St. Cleer village & dressing the Holy Well
St. Cleer is an attractive old mining village on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor, nestled on the side of a valley. There are two pubs, The Market Inn and The Stag, a community center called Open Doors (Tuesday and Thursday mornings for drinks and cakes) and a village shop with local produce, everyday supplies, deli, ice-creams and takeaway drinks and snacks.
The medieval parish church is set within a beautiful churchyard carpeted with flowers, starting in early spring with crocuses and celandines, followed by primroses, daffodils and then bluebells – the scent is heavenly. There has been a place of worship on the site since the early Christian French monk St. Clarus built a wooden church around 800AD and healed the sick in the nearby Holy Well, although there are other versions with different Saints of a similar name – St Clare stories…
There are several circular walks in the area, this one is about 3 miles long and follows lanes with high Cornish hedges, wild flowers and lovely views. The lanes are quiet and narrow, you may only see one car pass you, but please keep dogs on leads as this is primarily sheep farming country. In spring there are lots of lambs to enjoy. The walk also takes you through a farm, so be prepared for cow dung in the road!
The walk starts at the junction on Fore Street where the Chimney Sweep and Forge is situated, (follow Fore Street in the direction of Common Moor). Turn left at the Forge, and take the right hand fork (Treworrick Lane).
Follow the lane enjoying the many hedgerow flowers and serene views across the rolling hills. The lane goes through the middle of friendly Treworrick Farm and you may see cows in the cowshed. The old granite barns and farmhouse are particularly attractive, situated in a delightful rural setting.
Continue following the lane downhill and turn left at the junction. The lane carries on downhill towards a wooded valley with a gurgling stream and a cottage on the left.
At this point turn left at the junction (Lampretton House is on the right).
The lane winds uphill for sometime, you will spot a standing stone marking the start of the drovers track on the left (you may have seen the spot where the track joins the road earlier – don’t be tempted to walk up or down it, as at the time of writing it is very rough walking with deep channels gouged out by rainwater and a lot of rubble.)
Carry on up the hill until you finally come out at the place you started your walk.
There are many interesting sites around St. Cleer to explore including the Caradon World Heritage Mining Area, the Hurlers stone circles and the granite tor known as the Cheesewring at Minions, and Trethevy Quoit, a Neolithic dolmen burial chamber near St. Cleer. The most interesting way to reach this is to walk up the ancient track from Higher Tremar known to date at least from Roman times. The path starts next to Roman House across the road from the foot of Well Lane that leads out of St. Cleer. Link for more info – Trethevy Quoit.
Above: The Cheesewring & The Hurlers stone circles at Minions
Above: Trethevy Quoit
Above: Derelict Phoenix United Mine engine house & Minions Mining Heritage Centre
Trelissick House and Garden is a wonderful National Trust property situated near Feock on the Fal Estuary. It’s the perfect place to have a relaxing day out, with 30 acres of of gardens to explore with winding paths among woodland plants, hydrangeas and rhododendrons.
The wider estate includes dog friendly walks with five miles of paths to enjoy. There was an Iron Age settlement here, but the actual house was built in 1750 by John Lawrence, and has recently been left to the National Trust having been the country home of of various industrialists including the Copelands of the Spode Copeland China Works. The house has an important collection of Spode Copeland China.
The house is still being renovated by the National Trust and is very much a work in progress, and at present only the ground floor is open to the public. There is also a tea room and terrace with marvelous views out across the Fal estuary.
The estate also includes the Crofters cafe, interesting art gallery, gift shop and plants sales. There are also six holiday cottages to rent, including the water tower which resembles a fairy tale castle.
As you stroll around the garden you will spot the King Harry Ferry through the trees. The chain ferry was established in 1888 and connects the Roseland Peninsular with Truro and Falmouth avoiding a 27 mile road trip. There has been a ferry here for at least 500 years.
Trelissick Garden is easy to find, just outside of Truro on the Falmouth Road. Follow the signs for Feock and the gardens are on the right. Enjoy your visit!
For more info see – Trelissick Gardens
Glendurgan Gardens, owned by the National Trust, is set in a wooded valley sweeping steeply down to the Helford River estuary, culminating at the tiny village of Durgan, and is famous for its Victorian maze and subtropical plants. It is close to the village of Mawnan Smith.
Glendurgan is stunning anytime of the year, but in spring and summer the azaleas and rhododendrons are at their most spectacular along with swathes of bluebells and primroses.
There are two main paths running down through the garden, and a map is provided showing paths best for pushchairs, or where there are steps etc. The laurel maze designed in 1833 and Giant’s Stride are two features of the garden that are particularly popular with children.
The dream like vista awaiting you as you reach the village of Durgan on the Helford River is unforgettable, the perfect place to relax before the walk back up the garden, have a picnic and paddle your toes.
The village is also owned by the National Trust, and is therefore is totally unspoiled by tourism or development.
After a sojourn in Durgan, you can then complete your walk back up through the garden, enjoying views of the ‘cattle rush’ and maze.
After you’ve enjoyed exploring the garden relax in the tea room for light snacks, cakes and drinks. The shop has some lovely gifts and plants for sale too. We can guarantee you’ll love Glendurgan Gardens!
More info:- Glendurgan Gardens
Living in the West Country isn’t just about summer fun! Winter is wonderful too as you can see from the photos below, all taken in winter.
Below: Noss Mayo, Devon
Below: Trebarwith Strand
Below: Cotehele House & Quay, National Trust
Below: Fowey & Seaton
Below: Charlestown & Boscastle
Below: Port Isaac
Below: Lewis’s Deli at Rock
Below: A winter walk at the Cheesewring, Minions, Bodmin Moor
As you can see, great fun to be had in winter too, so make that move now – what are you waiting for? The sun to come out?
If you are looking to fill up a day out near Newquay, why not combine a morning at the Elizabethan Trerice Manor (National Trust), followed by an afternoon walk around the headland at nearby Pentire Head, finishing up with a delicious Cornish ice cream from the kiosk.
Trerice Manor is a small Elizabethan country house owned by the National Trust with delightful gardens, barn restaurant and local plants, art & gifts for sale. Try out some Tudor outdoor games – Kayling and Slapcock – on the bowling green!
Trerice Manor is in Kestle Mill near Newquay. For more information here is link to the National Trust website: Trerice House
After lunch in the Barn, head off for a walk to Pentire head, just a short drive around the edge of Newquay. There is a car park with toilets and a kiosk selling drinks and ice creams. The views around the headland are breathtaking – Crantock Beach with its huge caves and sand dunes to the west and to the east the magnificent surfing beach at Fistral, not to mention the towering cliffs and bird and plant life to spot. You may be lucky enough to spot seals, dolphins and sharks too!
St. Mawgan, near Newquay is one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall. Despite being near Newquay Airport, it is quietly nestled in a peaceful river valley that flows down to the enormous sandy beach at Mawgan Porth. A footpath follows the valley and is one of our favourite walks. There is free parking at St. Mawgan behind the village shop, so we suggest starting your walk in the village. Another good reason to start here is a coffee and snack at the village tearoom! The tearoom is run by the owners of the shop and post office and is utterly delightful with vines growing in the conservatory and a pretty garden to sit in.
Above: St Mawgan village, including the 6th century Celtic monastery now home to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate (bottom right).
Opposite the church the road turns right, follow this road past the Japanese Gardens until you come to a dead end road on the left signposted footpath to Mawgan Porth. The single lane road carries on past some delightfully located houses and takes you onto the footpath along the peaceful Menalhyl Valley.
The path carries on past a farm tea garden, open on certain days in the summer, then crosses a country lane. The path eventually leads onto the edge of a quiet holiday park where it joins the road for a short stroll into the seaside village of Mawgan Porth. By this time you’ll probably want a rest before exploring the beach – when the tide is at its lowest the beach is huge and will add about two more miles to your walk!
Time for a rest at the pub!
We walk back the same way, but a circular walk is described in the link below, but is a bit longer.
Here is a link to other walks in the area: St Mawgan area walks
The village of St. Mawgan (full name St. Mawgan in Pydar) is perfectly situated between the popular towns of Newquay and Padstow, and not far from the A30 and A39 main roads. If you are a regular user of Newquay Airport, you could not ask for a more ideal location to buy a home. With its post office, shop, pub, tearoom, church, village hall, playing field, Japanese Garden, Convent, pre-school and a school for the 4-11 age group (Outstanding Ofsted report) you have all the facilities for the perfect village lifestyle, not to mention the added bonus of the beach just two miles away!
OK, homes are not cheap here and don’t often come on the open market. Which is what we are here for – to find your perfect home. Very often top properties are discreetly marketed – we have access to these exclusive properties just for you. £350k to £875k would be starting guide to prices in the St. Mawgan area. Come and see for yourself how peaceful and quiet beautiful St. Mawgan is.
If you like getting out in the fresh air then the West Country has an enormous amount to offer from walking to zip wires depending on your adrenalin requirements!
If you enjoy hiking, the South West Coast Path, Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor provide excellent opportunities for all abilities.
The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and stretches all the way around the coast from Minehead in Somerset to South Haven Point in Dorset and takes in breathtaking scenery all the way. You don’t need to tackle the whole path in one holiday although many do, stopping off at youth hostels and b&bs. The following website will give you information about short walks, pub & tea room walks and all the latest news etc: The South West Coast Path
Hiking on the wide expanses of the West Country’s moors is especially rewarding if you like to get away from it all – Exmoor National Park alone has over 1000km of paths to suit long or short distance walkers and gentle strollers. For more information see: Walks Around Bodmin Moor Circular Walks on Dartmoor Exmoor Walking
Horse Riding & Pony Trekking
If you are more interested in letting a horse do all the work, then the Moors offer plenty of exciting opportunities for riding and pony trekking for all abilities – hourly rides, day rides and longer holidays are all on offer. What better way to enjoy the stunning scenery and landscapes? If you can’t drag yourself away from the coast then try Trenance Riding Stables in Newquay where you can enjoy beach and coastal treks around the Gannel Estuary.
You can’t really avoid water sports in the West Country – they are a part of its culture, so if you’ve never tried any why not give them a go this year? Beginners’ surfing lessons can be found at Harlyn Bay & Newquay in Cornwall, and Croyde in Devon plus many other locations. If you are worried about not looking cool, well we all have to start somewhere, and you can hire all the apparel too.
Above: Yachts moored at Fowey, Cornwall Above: Surfing at Trebarwith Strand, Cornwall
Newquay is famous for its fantastic surfing beaches such as Fistral and Watergate Bay. Many international surfing events take place here every year: Newquay Surfing Events
Above: Fistral Beach, Newquay
Above: Polzeath, North Cornwall
Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Coasteering
Stand Up Paddle Boarding is a new water activity that is gaining in popularity, although it has been around in Hawaii for centuries. Many of the surf schools offer tuition. Kayaking is also gaining in popularity and is a great way to explore the coast. If you prefer calmer waters how about canoeing the creeks and backwaters around the River Fowey? You can hire canoes or take guided tours: Canoeing on the Fowey River
If you want to be really adventurous how about Coasteering? Go Coasteering offer this activity in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset plus many other outdoor activities such as Gorge Walking and Bushcraft: Go Coasteering. What is coasteering? Basically it involves jumping into the sea off a rocky coast and making your way, by climbing, scrambling and swimming along the edge of the sea. Even children can do it, it’s not just for adrenalin junkies, apparently! Here is what Wikipedia says about it: Coasteering. Kayaking and Coasteering in Dorset: Jurassic Coast Activities
If sailing takes your fancy, the west country is a sailor’s paradise. If you have your own yacht there are plenty of delightful places to drop anchor around the coast such as St. Mawes, Padstow, Torquay, Fowey, Dartmouth and Poole. Many places have their own Sailing Clubs and Regattas such as The Royal Fowey Regatta and The Dartmouth Royal Regatta. If you want to learn to sail the Camel Sailing and Power Boat Centre offers tuition at Rock (opposite Padstow on the river Camel.) Learn more here: Camel Sailing. If you are serious about sailing then St. Mawes in Cornwall is the place for you, with moorings, lessons, races and a 94 year old sailing club. St. Mawes: St. Mawes info and sailing
More watersports can be experienced at many of the lakes run by the South West Lakes Trust. Siblyback is one of them, and is situated in a peaceful site on Bodmin Moor. Many activities are on offer here, including wakeboarding, rowing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, climbing, cycling, angling, Segway and walking plus there is a cafe and parking. More info: Siblyback Lake
Above: Siblyback Lake
If you prefer dry land, perhaps cycling is for you. The most famous cycle route in Cornwall is the 18 mile Camel Trail, now open from Wenfordbridge, near Bodmin to Padstow via Wadebridge. It follows the site of an old railway track and between Wadebridge and Padstow runs along the magnificently scenic Camel Estuary. A nice flat route, walkers also use this path. Cycles can be hired at Padstow, Wadebridge and Bodmin, including add-on trailers for toddlers, child seats, tricycles, tandems and even dog trailers. More info on the Camel Trail: The Camel Trail.
Above: The River Camel Estuary, Padstow
Staying in Cornwall, Cardinham Woods near Bodmin, owned by The Forestry Commission, has some excellent mountain biking trails suitable for more experienced cyclists. You can hire bikes here too. There are also walking trails, activities for children, barbeque area and Woods Cafe – they have a delicious menu, particularly vegetarian dishes. Links: Woods Cafe Cardinham Woods.
Above: Woods Cafe
A new 17 mile route called The Caradon Trail, enabling cyclists to enjoy the South East part of Bodmin Moor, has been created with sign posts and maps. The Caradon Mining District as it is known is a World Heritage Site and historic tin and copper mining area. On or nearby the trail you can see The Hurlers Neolithic stone circles, Minions Heritage Centre, King Doniert’s Stone, Golitha Falls Nature Reserve, Trethevy Quoit, St. Cleer Holy Well, Long Tom standing stone, The Cheesewring, Daniel Gumb’s Cave as well as numerous relics and ruins of the mining industry. Click here to download a map: www.visitliskeard.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Caradon–Trail-Leaflet-2.pdf
Above: The Cheesewring, near Minions, from a distance and close up
Above: Part of the Hurlers Stone Circle and United Phoenix Mine, Minions
Above: King Doniert’s Stone and Trethevy Quoit
Above: Golitha Falls, near St. Cleer
Above: St. Cleer Holy Well
In Devon the 11 mile Granite Way offers a level traffic-free cycling and walking path along a disused railway between Lydford and Okehampton on the northern edge of Dartmoor. Lydford is a lovely village with the remains of a Norman castle, and the ruins of a later medieval castle. The ancient church has Celtic and Saxon origins, and there is a mound that marks the banks of the old Saxon town. Nearby is Lydford Gorge, owned by the National Trust, a spectacular river valley walk with a 30m waterfall, wooded gorge and wildlife to enjoy. There is also a cafe and shop. More info: Lydford Gorge. The Granite Way offers stunning views of Dartmoor, and crosses two viaducts. There is a Norman castle at Okehampton to explore too.
Above: Lydford Castle
Above: Sourton, along the Granite Way
Why not try Drake’s Trail Cycle Route, a 21 mile, mostly level, path that also follows a disused railway between Tavistock and Plymouth. For more information on both these trails, plus walking and horse riding in Devon see this website: Granite Way and Drake’s Trail.
If you are an adrenalin junkie then these airbourne activities might just fit the bill! The west country has two of the best zip wires in the country. The new SkyWire based at the Eden Project in Cornwall is the longest in England at 660m, with speeds up to 60mph. Eden Project admission isn’t necessary. The zip wire takes you for a bird’s eye view of the massive biodomes. There is also a giant gravity swing to try out.
The Adrenalin Quarry near Liskeard, Cornwall boasts the Maddest Zip Wire in the UK. It crosses a 490m long flooded quarry at 50m high, with speeds of up to 40mph. The Adrenalin Quarry also has a giant swing, plus many other outdoor adventure activities.
Just into Devon, at Gulworthy, near Tavistock in the Tamar Valley is the Tamar Trails Centre where you can zip wire through the trees, try the High Ropes, archery plus much more.
Above: Tamar Valley
At Lusty Glaze, a private beach in Newquay, Cornwall, you can try out cliff-side abseiling and the Terror Tight Rope walk plus beach games etc.
Height, weight, age and health restrictions apply to the activities for safety reasons. Please see the relevant websites below for detailed information and prices.
If you are into taking flight with no anchor, then hang gliding, paragliding and paramotoring are a fantastic way of experiencing the amazing land and seascapes in the area. Cloud9, based in North Cornwall, cover Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Avon and Dorset – here is link to their website: Cloud9
Links to Zip Wires and other exciting things to do:
Links to other outdoor adventures information:
Outdoor adventure activities: Adventure Okehampton
Things to do in Exmoor National Park: Exmoor National Park Activities