The tea connoisseur’s guide to Cornwall

So, after two years of going without a holiday, this year, actually this month, I’m lucky enough to have two – one stateside, and the other, a staycation.

As a fan of all things cream tea, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking a 3 night trip to Cornwall was my shout, but to tell you the truth, when I booked it I could have taken or left it, I really booked it as a treat for my mum who’d been dying to go for years. Little did I know that by the end of the trip, I’d have fallen in love with the place, and I can’t wait to go back.

And go back I most definitely will! If not least because there’s so much to do and see that 4 days simply isn’t enough – but here are the highlights of what I did get up to which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Steam engines and smuggling

We started our trip, literally with a short journey on a steam engine at Bodmin and Wenford Railway and I was in my element as I’ve always adored the golden glamour of vintage travel and have long wanted to go on a good old fashioned choo choo. Sat in our own private car, I found myself imagining I was aboard the Orient Express one minute, and bound for Hogwarts the next, as I took in the local Cornish scenery. My only regret is that we sadly missed the event season, where you can book train trips complete with Cream Tea or Murder Mystery from just £17.50 – check out the website for more details and their full calendar of events.

Burlesque Bakery, Witney, Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

Back at the station we continued our exploration of Bodmin and headed towards the moors to visit the infamous Jamaica Inn. This was in fact the real reason for our trip initially as mum had always wanted to go, but had no plans to stay the night as she wasn’t keen on the idea of being woken up by one of the many resident ghosts. Instead we opted to stay in St Austell which was perfect. A seaside spot, St Austell is a stones throw from the sea, and surrounded by small fishing ports, whilst less than 10 miles away from attractions such as The Eden Project and Heligan Gardens, or the many other popular tourist spots such as Newquay and Bodmin which are less than a 40 minute drive.

Whilst we whimped out on staying the night, we did make the most of everything else the Inn had to offer, including a stop off at the gift shop where I picked up a bottle of Cornish fudge liquor, and a look around the Daphne du Maurier Museum followed by dinner.

As you’d imagine, the gift shop, like all gift shops in Cornwall is stocked full of pretty much every kind of Cornish confectionery you can think of, as well as a vast selection of Daphne du Maurier novels and an array of other slightly more traditional gifts that you wouldn’t expect such as handmade soap by Bomb Cosmetics.

The Daphne du Maurier Museum was a particular highlight – as well as providing a brief history on the author, complete with some of her belongings, there’s a fabulous collection of smuggling paraphernalia. Artefacts include a custom corset used for smuggling diamonds which naturally appealed to my burlesque alter ego, a hat for transporting hash and an assortment of tea ephemera like a Chinese tea brick.

Art Nouveau and afternoon tea

For our second day, we decided to discover the coast, starting, and well ending with Newquay. When we first arrived we planned on stopping off briefly for about 20 minutes before heading onto a whole host of other places, naively thinking Newquay was just a surfing mecca, but by the end of the day we realised it was so much more.

Now I’ll warn you, Newquay does have its drawbacks – it’s not what you call the prettiest port, it smells like a wet dog, the beach is often covered in crab legs and due to its surfing popularity, it does attract a lot of stag parties… However its boat trips, fine hotels, dining spots and intriguing history more than make up for that.

We opted for a two hour sea-life tour – sadly in spite of a tip off that the local dolphins had been spotted in the area, we didn’t seen anything save the odd and very obscure heads of a couple of sea lions occasionally pop up, but we did get a great insight into the coastal history from our guide, which was particularly impressive considering she’d only been doing the job for a week! She told us about the Tea Caves, where Victorian folk used to hold extravagant tea parties during low tide (they even used to have their grand pianos winched down to the spot!) and tales of legendary smuggling tunnels, which ironically were rumoured to lead to the basement of the pub that we’d had our lunch in! Our guide also tipped us off to The Atlantic Hotel, where all of the London scenes for the TV series Doc Martin are filmed. Naturally, as another motivation for our trip was to go to Port Isaac (where the series is filmed) we decided to have a nosey around the hotel, and I must say this was the highlight not only of the day, but for me, the entire trip!

The Atlantic Hotel, Burlesque Bakery

The Atlantic Hotel

Opulent and grand, The Atlantic combines Art Nouveau and Art Deco themes to create a stunning hotel, boasting a ballroom, 2 pools, beautiful bars and a luxuriant lobby, as well as gorgeous boudoirs complete with breath-taking coastal views – I cannot believe this place only has 4 stars, it’s simply exquisite! The dining options also include a variety of cream and afternoon teas and a small selection of cocktails. I’ll be honest, as a lady who likes her afternoon tea, at under £9 for a sharing selection of sweet treats and scones, my expectations weren’t that high – in Cornwall I figured tea was ten a penny and most places probably had it on the menu out of necessity, but this tea was fabulous, and a total bargain. I’m not a brownie person, but The Atlantic make the best brownies I have ever tasted, they literally melt in the mouth. If you don’t do anything else in Newquay, go to The Atlantic and have tea – and a cheeky rum cocktail, well it would be rude not to, you are in Cornwall after all!

Gardens galore

Whilst I confess I wasn’t too fussed about Cornwall before we went, I did have one place on my list I wanted to visit – The Lost Gardens of Heligan. As well as it’s array of beaches, Cornwall is famous for it’s wealth of gardens, but let me tell you, if you think there’s no such thing as a free museum in Paris, then be prepared, because there’s no such thing as a free garden in Cornwall!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Burlesque Bakery

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

With over 200 acres of estate though, including a jungle, sculptures, Italian gardens, animals and tearooms, the £12 entrance fee is money well spent with well over a day’s entertainment at your green finger tips.

If you’re not afraid to splash the cash and you truly are a tea connoisseur, then you might consider investing in a guided tour around Tregothnan, the UK’s only tea estate. Private tours need to be booked at least a couple of days in advance, and aren’t available at weekends, and at £65 per person they really are a luxury best saved for tea fanatics. Sadly my budget couldn’t stretch to a tour on this occasion, but as a provider to some of London’s most prestigious hotels such as The Langham, and so good at the tea game that they’re exporting their tea to China (yes China!) I’d hazard a guess a trip would be well worth the money. If like me though you can’t afford all the tea in Truro, never fear because you can find Tregothnan tea stocked in many a local Cornish gift shop and café, including the tea rooms at Heligan.

Tregothnan, Burlesque Bakery

Tregothnan tea

I’m looking forward to visiting Cornwall again some day and discovering the many fabulous things I’ve yet to experience – not to mention knock up some lovely new Cornish inspired recipes…

But for now, I have a flight to catch ;)

The Burly Baker x