A 10 Day self-drive Itinerary

Cornwall is located on the South West coast of England and is known for its rugged coastline and quaint fishing villages. Cornwall makes for a fantastic road trip, especially in the summer. I visited in August and started in Bath, spent 10 days in Cornwall, then ended in London. If you enjoy seafood, scenery, history, old pubs, and cute villages, you will love Cornwall.

Itinerary

Fistral Beach 2 nights – St Ives 4 nights – Fowey 3 nights

As it was the height of summer, we had to pre-book our accommodation. We didn’t want to be traveling too much, so we picked three areas to stay.  We settled on 2 nights in Fistral Beach, 4 nights in St Ives and 3 nights in Fowey. We did day trips and explored the surroundings of each town. We began our journey in Bath, where we picked up our rental. We dropped off the rental car in Exeter, before catching the train to London.

St Ives beach

Fistral Beach – 2 nights

Fistral Beach is located outside Newquay, a popular coastal town. Fistral is the most famed surf beach in Cornwall. We stayed at an excellent coastal inn, Lewinnick Lodge, on the cliff-top above the beach. Their restaurant was packed, thanks to the excellent food, spectacular views, and a lively atmosphere. We walked the coastline and did the Pentire headland walk. We drove for 30 minutes to Watergate Bay, a lovely area for a meal, coffee or stroll along the beach. If you surf, this is the town to visit!

Must see: Fistral Beach, Watergate Bay, Pentire headland walk

Stay: Lewinnick Lodge – they even have family suites with multiple rooms

Eat & Drink: Lewinnick Lodge, The Fish House Fistral

The view from Lewinnick Lodge at Fistral Beach

St Ives – 4 nights

St Ives is the most popular town in Cornwall. It’s large with a picturesque harbour village and multiple beaches. St Ives has many galleries and museums, the highlight being The Tate, an excellent collection of modern art. It has a bustling nightlife, with countless pubs and sea-view restaurants. In the summer it’s essential to book dinner reservations. The restaurant at Pedn Olva was a highlight, thanks to the view, friendly service, and great food. The Hub is also a fun spot for a drink. We did a few day trips, including a coastal drive to the charming village of Mousehole, which is well worth a visit. Combine a visit to Mousehole with St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island that features a castle and parish. We also visited Lands End, the most south-westerly point of England. While there is a nice coastal walk, it didn’t live up to the hype as the biggest attraction in the area. The boat trips from St Ives are a great way to see seals, dolphins, and whales, if you’re really lucky!

Must see: The Tate, Boat trip to see marine life, Mousehole, and surrounding villages, St Michael’s Mount

Stay: St Ives Harbour Hotel & Spa, rent a beach house

Eat & Drink: HARbar at Harbour hotel, Porthminster Beach Cafe, Pedn Olva, Hub

Fowey – 3 nights

Fowey is a lovely village located between St Austell and Polperro, 2 hours south of Exeter. It’s smaller than St Ives but packed full of shops, restaurants, and pubs. The Ship Inn is a great example of an old English pub with a friendly crowd. The restaurants are a highlight in Fowey, it’s too easy to find a table with a water view. The food and patio at Bufala make it a winner, for excellent tapas, try Pintxo. The quality coffee and baked goods at the Cornish Bakery must be tried. The boat trip around the harbour leaves frequently and lasts just over an hour. It’s a great way to see the area and learn some history. You can also take boats to the other villages. This includes Polperro, which is one of the cutest towns in Cornwall. It’s well worth a day trip from Fowey.

Must see: Harbour boat trip, Polperro, enjoy a waterview meal

Stay: Haveners, rent a beach house

Eat & Drink: Pinky Murphy cafe, The Cornish Bakery, Bufala Fowey, Fitzroy, Haveners, Pintxo, The Ship Inn

Other towns to stay in

There is an abundance of seaside towns to choose from and you likely can’t go wrong. We picked based on advice and location for exploring. There were two other towns that stood out on our trip, Polperro and Mousehole.

Polperro

Polperro would be a great alternative to Fowey. It is a pedestrian-only fishing village that’s possibly the most picturesque of them all. It’s mid-sized and packed with galleries, shops, and pubs. The Blue Peter consistently wins the best pub in Cornwall. It’s cozy and cute, with tables outside overlooking the water and friendly staff. Take the boat to Fowey to explore!

Mousehole

I enjoyed wandering the lanes of Mousehole. It wasn’t as busy as St Ives and had more of a locals feel to it. I imagined renting a cottage and writing a novel, visiting the bakery each day for coffee, and the pub in the evenings. There are lots of vibrant businesses, the most impressive being the artist galleries. Rockpool cafe in Mousehole is worth a visit for ‘cream tea’ and a panoramic view. The tea consists of scones with clotted cream, tea, or coffee.

Travel tips for Cornwall

Weather: The best weather is from June to September. Otherwise, it can be windy and cold. 

When to visit: June, July and September are the best months to avoid crowds and enjoy good weather. The summer holidays are very busy and run from the end of July until the end of August. Many businesses shut down in the winter.

Accommodation: You must pre-book in the summer months. There are plenty of old inns, hotels and Airbnb options. For couples, hotels work well. For 3 or more people, Airbnbs will likely be the most affordable option.

Swimming: The water never exceeds 20 degrees, but that doesn’t stop locals from swimming!

Getting around: There are a few trains and bus options, but a rental car is the most convenient way to travel around Cornwall. Avoid driving in London.

Parking: Book rentals that include parking, as parking can be expensive and scarce.

Driving: It’s all about the scenery on the backroads. They are narrow and windy, so give yourself plenty of time to get from place to place.

Regions: No need to pack up every day, that’s exhausting, just book a couple of places that are spread out around the region. Then do day trips from your bases.

Recommended add-ons: Bath is a 2-hour drive, it’s a great place to start or end your trip. The Cotswolds are an hour north of Bath. Chichester, Totnes, and Somerset are all charming towns on the way to London. Dartmoor is a good addition, also known as the Moors.

Bath is a great town to add to any itinerary

In Conclusion…

I really enjoyed our trip to Cornwall. It’s a safe and easy place to travel. The only downfall was that we were there in August and it was REALLY busy. Some restaurants were booked out and there were kids everywhere. I would recommend visiting in July or September instead of August. The other thing to note is that everything is in GBP, so it was a little on the costly side. The price of meals was high, as with anywhere in the UK. Unless you happen to be earning the British pound!

Overall, we loved it. The locals were friendly and welcoming, we always managed to strike up a conversation at the pub. It felt as though we were in a piece of literature, there is so much history in Cornwall. I was also surprised by the beauty of the beaches. It wasn’t warm enough for me to swim, but it sure was stunning!

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