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The Summer of UK Staycations & Road Trips: Cornwall & Devon

surfing in cornwall

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With the current pandemic and restrictions on international travel, "staycation" has become the latest trend to travel and stay safe this summer. Staying close to home or - better - exploring our beautiful country is as equally exciting as going abroad.

A couple of summers ago, I spent an entire month road tripping around the South of England, in particular Devon and Cornwall. Instead of spending a few days here and there, I decided to rent a private room in Exeter and made the charming city my base from which I would go out exploring the beaches, the breath-taking coastal walks and countless historic sights.  

Make Exeter Your Base For Your Road Trip


Renting a private room in Exeter did not only mean some savings on accommodation, but I stayed with a lovely couple and got local insights, recommendations and felt like a true Exeter resident which made my stay even more memorable.

Exeter itself is a charming town which can be explored easily by foot. The area around the Cathedral is seamed with little cafes and nearby shops which is inviting for traditional cream tea and perfect for a relaxed Sunday afternoon. But there’s more. 

Being one of the oldest settlements in Britain, Exeter has seen William the Conqueror and has kept many remains of its Norman Conquest past including a very well preserved city wall. More than 70% of the ancient wall is still intact spanning a history of more than 2000 years. There are 9 historical spots to discover if you decide to go on a self-guided walking tour which will take you across the majority of the inner city past lush gardens and medieval townhouses. 

If you have some more time, I can also recommend to see the Underground Passages, a medieval subterranean system to transport water deep below the city centre. The passages are well preserved and narrow which makes exploring even more adventurous. Exeter is also the only city in the UK to have these underground passages so make sure you don't miss out on them. 

North Devon and The Exmoor


Being close to the border to Cornwall, Exeter is a perfect spot to explore Devon and Cornwall alike. Driving distances to the North of Devon are all under 2h and there's a lot to do and to see to fill a few days. 

North Devon is home to my favourite beach in Saunton, the UK's largest sand dune site. You can also go surfing here, but I was told Bude and Woolacombe are the hot spots for surfers. If you like the sea but don't fancy a swim or a surf, a walk along the stunning coastline is best to do from Minehead or Morthoe. Especially the later is a super cute fairy tale village with adorable tearooms where you can enjoy traditional cream tea with scones and clotted cream. 

sam edwards cream tea in cornwall and devon

On another day I can recommend exploring the Exmoor National Park where you can spot wild ponies and observe all sorts of British wildlife. I'm a huge fan of owls and visited the Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre, a small sanctuary to meet those incredible creatures. Later that day, you could head back to Exeter and make it to Exmouth and admire the Jurassic Coast and go fossil hunting. Lyme Regis further East is also a prime spot for fossil hunting and Durdle Door is a spectacular natural beach site. 

durdle door in south england

The West and Further Down The A30


Before you enter Cornwall, you'll travel through the Dartmoor National Park. Similar to the Exmoor, there's lots of wildlife to see and nature to explore. Postbridge has one of Britain's oldest stone bridges still intact and nearby are lots of hidden tracks and hiking trails. Dartmoor also has many granite rock sites for climbing known as tors and hills.

A bit further west down the excellent motorway connection of the A30 lies Penzance. St Michael's Mountain, a towering castle settlement on a small island, is spectacular to explore during low tide. During high tide, there's a small speed boat that allows crossing the water, but the highlight is during low tide when a stone path leading from the mainland is revealed. 

stone path to st michaels mountain during low tide
close up of st michaels mountain in penzance

At the very end of England, you’ll find Lands End which is worth an entire day trip. You can spend hours walking along the coast and discover hidden beaches and coves. Sennen beach is a highlight and if the weather allows for clear views you can see the Scilly Islands or spot dolphins. 

Close by is Porthcurno which is known for the Minack Theatre, a circular amphitheatre built into the cliffs. It’s a spectacular experience to see a play here with its breathtaking backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Tickets are popular and are priced moderately at £10 so this is a wonderful experience not to be missed. 

Another place of interest to explore whilst I had Exeter set up as my base was Tintagel, King Arthur’s castle ruin built on a rough cliff side by the sea with stellar views and lots of history. Tintagel is quite a remote place to go to, so you'd definitely need your own car to get here. The place boasts with mystery, ancient history and the dramatic cliffs and coves offer lots of exploring. 

benjamin elliott minnack theatre and porthcurno beach
king arthur metal art work on the cliffs of tintagel castle
john ogroats lands end

Further south of Tintagel, near St Austell, lies Eden Project, a huge eco-park to showcase sustainable future living or Lizard Point England’s most southerly point shaped as the head of a sleeping lizard. Kynance Cove, one of Cornwall's well-known and most prestigious beaches is close by, so this would make another great day out on your UK road trip around the area. 

I’ve got very fond memories of my trip as the area is so versatile and offers a lot of activities. My final top tip to enjoy your staycation is to roam around the area and spend the day exploring beaches and hidden coastal walks. Devon and Cornwall are known for their stellar beaches and some are only revealed during low tide. On my trip, I bought a book called Secret Beaches by Rob Smith which points out hidden coves and secluded beaches in Devon and Cornwall. On some days I would travel around to explore caves, collect seashells and stones from rock pools or discover untouched sandy beaches. It is a lot of fun and also connects you with nature, as you will walk a lot and find the one or other treasure.

george hiles cornwall beaches and rough coastal line

I know Cornwall and Devon are usually the typical cliches when asked where to holiday in the UK, but both counties are stunning. They offer lots of activities if you're a nature lover like me and enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. 

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time,
Carolin

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