St. Ives, England // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): Plymouth, England // © 2015 iStock
Artists and authors have long flocked to Devon and Cornwall, inspired by the beauty and quiet of the two side-by-side counties in Southwest England. I also found it a haven, thanks to Cornish Welcome Tours. For a relaxed vacation, the operator will curate any trip to Devon and Cornwall, including my itinerary below. There’s much to see and do in the counties’ dramatic landscapes, from kayaking to perusing small museums.
Here is an ideal week in Devon and Cornwall that caters to well-rounded travelers.
Once in Devon, I began my tour in Plymouth, where the Mayflower first began its journey to the New World and where visitors can now enjoy many watersports. For lunch, try Boathouse Cafe, which serves sustainable fish caught by the restaurant’s own boat. If guests go fishing, the cafe will even cook their catch.
After lunch, head to Plymouth Gin Distillery to taste Plymouth gin, the key ingredient in the first dry martini recipe ever recorded. For more mixology, retire to Refectory Cocktail Lounge, conveniently located in the distillery.
Once I checked into 16th century Boringdon Hall Hotel, my hardest decision was choosing between the VIP eight-course chef’s table experience or dining at Gallery Restaurant on cured venison and, of course, more Plymouth gin.
Spend the morning touring Riverford Organic Farm to see what’s in season. The farm’s Field Kitchen has a fresh, mouthwatering lunch menu that changes daily. Book in advance for events, which include farm walks, secret suppers and cooking classes.
Once lunch settles, get some afternoon exercise at the nearby, infamous Dartmoor National Park, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Make sure to wear layers — the weather changes mysteriously fast out on the moors.
After working up a healthy appetite, head to Treby Arms, which serves Michelin-starred pub grub in an amiable environment. Anything on the menu is great, but for whimsy, I recommend ordering “Pip’s pick your own asparagus” or “This little piggy went to the Treby.”
Roll through South Devon the way Agatha Christie would have traveled: on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. The quaint port of Dartmouth is a quick foot-passenger-ferry ride across from where the train stops. I grabbed a quick bite at Rockfish, famous for fish and an appealing beer list.
The Greenway Ferry will take Agatha Christie fans to her famous summer house, dubbed the “loveliest place in the world” by the Queen of Crime herself. Be sure to head to the boathouse, the scene of the crime in “Dead Man’s Folly.”
Lugger Hotel in Portloe is a destination unto itself. Once owned by a real smuggler, this historical property is cozy and elegant. The trip takes a few hours, so stop along the way at one of the small seaside towns. Dinner at Lugger has wonderful views, and the dishes complement the scenery.
From South Devon, I journeyed to the picturesque seaside Cornish town of Padstow.
Here, I advise signing up for a class at local legend Rick Stein’s Padstow Seafood School. The one-dish workshops, featuring meals such as Singapore chili crab, are perfect for travelers on a schedule. Not in the mood to cook? Dine at Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant.
Set on a cliff, Headland Hotel in Newquay conjures images of vintage postcards and turn-of-the-century holidaymakers. “Spa Gerys-Da” is Cornish for “Renowned Spa,” so take advantage of the beautiful facilities at the hotel. After a full body massage, hunker down for happy hour and dinner.
In Newquay, the nurturing, skilled guides from Koru Kayaking Adventures led me along Helford River. Afterward, I recommend savoring lunch at Buddock Vean on the patio overlooking the grounds.
Leaving Newquay coast, drive along the country roads to St. Ives. Although touristy, there are worthwhile museums in the area. Tate St. Ives is a compact extension of the London museum, and Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden house her famous modernist works.
At Rosemergy Barn, take tea and munch on scones outdoors on a rolling lawn overlooking the sea.
Finally, for your last evening, stay at Goldolphin Arms, a family-owned boutique hotel with comfortable, chic rooms, and enjoy the views of St. Michael’s Mount. I stayed up late to watch the moonlight illuminate this tidal island.