Oh to be in England. A famous quote, and for me, a familiar feeling. As an Englishman living abroad, with a Slovenian wife, the temptation to return home burns brightly.
So now we go every September on our own adventure, and for my partner the more quintessentially English the trip, the better. Why September? Well the kids are all back at school and the weather, whilst never predictable (and likely you won’t need your swimsuits) can surprise with it’s calm, cool beauty. May or June are also nice just avoid the school summer holidays as the roads get busy. The nice thing about visiting England is there’s so much to see and do, so you can tailor any length of trip and make it work.
As for your vehicle, well a good motorhome like the Coral is perfectly set up for two but the English also love their caravans!
From the White Cliffs of Dover to Land’s End in Cornwall. There’s never been a better time to visit England. We take an adventure, packed with quintessentially English charm, eccentricity and down-right beautiful places.
THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER
Vera Lynn’s iconic cliffs at Dover are a must see, if for no other reason than it may help you understand the English. Here like nowhere else in the “sceptred isle” that is Great Britain, the notion of it being an island nation becomes clear.
With the White Cliffs in your rear view mirror head onwards to Cornwall, the reason for our recent trip. Southern England has much to offer but in the spirit of “being very English” we picked out two special stops on the way.
HIGHCLERE CASTLE – THE REAL DOWNTON ABBEY
En-route to Cornwall, why not stop at Highclere Castle, the quintessential privately owned stately home and setting for the TV series, Downton Abbey. The set of all 6 seasons of the Golden Globe winning TV series, as the home of the fictional Crawley, family tracing the years 1912 to 1926.
EXPERIENCE THE BOMBAY SAPPHIRE DISTILLERY
Ok so you must think about the driving element and have a nominated driver but if you’re interested in gin, then the Bombay Sapphire visitor experience is one for your itinerary. Gin has been a quintessential English drink since the 1600’s its popularity heighted in the British tropical colonies where it was drunk to disguise the taste of quinine, the anti-malarial compound. Gin and tonic was born and included some quinine, fast becoming a cocktail favourite.
THE ENGLISH CREAM TEA
Arguably after fish and chips, the Cream Tea is the most quintessentially English dining experience. Drinking tea with baked scones, jam and cream can be dated back to the 11th century but it became popularised in the 1930’s and remains so today. The Cornish method means you apply the jam before the cream, and is often the traditionalist’s preference but the ‘jam or clotted cream first’ argument rages on in tea rooms across the country. You’ll find cream teas served throughout Cornwall. Delicious!
WELCOME TO CORNWALL
For us the gateway to Cornwall and where we felt our holiday started was Truro. Here at last we found an English town we both could envisage actually living in Mevagissey. Cornwall is full of quaint little harbour villages, untouched by time. Our favourite was Mevagissey and dinner at the excellent Fountain Inn, a proper little pub, with great seafood (arrive early!). The English love a good garden. So take two days and visit the extraordinary Lost Gardens of Heligan, perfect for a stroll in the extensive woodlands and exotic gardens. Nearby, the Eden Project is a different experience, with its giant biospheres, taking you from the Tropics to the Mediterranean.
Next drive to The Lizard peninsular for stunning bays and scenery and then to Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. One of Cornwall’s most iconic sights is the Abbey on this tidal island. Catch a small ferry or better still, walk the cobbled path across the bay. “What’s more English than walking across the bay to visit what was once a privately owned Englishman’s home”.
Minack – The real theatre of dreams
Just three miles from Land’s End this gem of a place with such a curiously, eccentric history. Carved into the crags overlooking Porthcurno Bay and azure blue Atlantic, this amazing clifftop amphitheatre was the life’s work of local Rowena Cade. Her dream in the 1930’s to build a natural al-fresco theatre which she oversaw until her death in 1983. You can still enjoy live theatre here too!
St Ives – Perfect beachside town with an extensive harbour and five beaches and so picturesque. Wander the cobbled lanes, browse in the artsy shops and grab some fish and chips
Newquay – A modern town, lacking in charm but with surfing beaches. There’s a nice coastal path heritage trail just a few miles to the north at Saint Eval, with stunning sunsets.
Land’s End – Stop for the fridge magnet if you must, but spend your time elsewhere. Nearby Whitesand Bay is a great walk and rewards your arrival at ‘the end of the world’.
Padstow – “If there is a food heaven in England, it could well be Padstow”. A cosmopolitan village in a perfect harbour setting, where the main attraction is food. Most head for celebrity chef Rick Stein’s places, but we found Prawn on the Lawn. A micro kitchen and fish shop, where the meal surpassed all others on this adventure. Perfect food, how quintessentially un-English. There’s plenty of good pubs too!
Our Cornish adventure took us three weeks, we had two days of rain and many long days of blue skies and good temperatures for this kind of meandering holiday. We found some great campsites, mysteriously busy but never full. Of all the holidays we’ve had, this is the one we cherish the most.