So many fond childhood memories are decorated with images of Cornwall.
Sliding barefoot over silky moss while twirling nets in rock pools; colliding with frothing, angry waves then sprinting to the shelter of a windbreak; breathing sea air, licking lips and delighting in a taste tangier than a packet of salt’n’vinegar crisps.
And it’s no surprise many people are grappling for a slice of summertime nostalgia in these uncertain times.
Cornwall is one of the most popular staycation destinations this year, with Falmouth and St Ives already experiencing a surge of visitors.
Accompanied by two friends, I’m determined to find some secluded spots. Eager to explore both coast and countryside, I’ve chosen a base inland at Southern Halt holiday park, near the village of Dobwalls.
It’s an area where winding roads weave through a labyrinth of hedgerows, lined with open-air larders selling fresh eggs, jams and sweet, ripe tomatoes in exchange for coins dropped into an honesty box.
Tucked behind meadows and farm fields, a collection of wooden cabins is scattered around an area of gardens and ponds; some are available for rent, others can be purchased as holiday homes. Set in the far corner, my two-bedroom property is shielded by tree boughs and wildflowers.
Given a code to unlock the front gate and access a door key, I sidestep any human interaction to enter. Named iGames, the new-build is a play arena for adults and kids. A blacked-out indoor cinema has reclining lazy boys with cup holders, while a games room features a pool table, darts board and arcade machine hosting 1980s classics like Pac-Man, eliciting whoops of joy from my 40-something gamer friends.
Dinner is prepared in a kitchen looking out to a golden barley field and eaten on an open deck.
When we can’t muster the effort to cook, there’s The Old Mill restaurant on sister site Stonerush (a 20-minute drive away). Recently reopened with social-distancing measures in place, the calm waterside space serves a menu of decent local dishes.
Numbers are limited, surfaces are constantly cleaned and one-way systems are in place. Staff give a friendly, upbeat greeting – even if smiles are hidden behind masks.
Then it’s back to the lodge to score a bull’s eye, rescue a digitalised damsel, or watch an Attenborough documentary in full HD.
However, Cornwall’s real entertainment lies outside. Rising from lime-green grounds, Bodmin Moor’s prehistoric stones are wrapped in mystery.
Three adjacent stone circles make up The Hurlers, thought to be Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments – a 10-minute drive from Southern Halt. Walking around the ring-a-ring of granite roses, I’m struck by the stillness. A short walk away, in a quarry surrounded by 19th Century tin and copper mining debris, granite tor the Cheesewring has a similar effect. The stack of miraculously balanced flat stones is supposedly a result of weathering, but I prefer a legend suggesting it was the work of a giant’s hand.
Only a few people drift across the moor and, although there are more crowds when we visit fishing village Polperro later that afternoon, it’s a fraction of the number typical of this time of year.
However, other Cornish sites are filled to the brim. The castle of Tintagel is only allowing 900 visitors a day, and tickets are in demand. Although only remnants of the site remain, gaps can be filled with imagination. Regardless of whether there’s any truth to stories of the sword in the stone, it’s fun to make believe.
Tickets aren’t required to explore caves below the castle so, to avoid inevitable crowds, we head north along the coast towards Bude, in search of a quieter beach. We reach a steep drop looking out to the sea and, taking a roller-coaster bend to the bottom, we find the only possible parking spot available on a grass verge.
Millook Haven Beach is empty. Hungry waves gorge at the shoreline, but hunkered into the folds of Penalt cliff, we still find calm in pockets where smugglers may once have hidden their treasures.
Peaceful, wild, harbouring so many secrets – this is the Cornwall I remember. What a relief to know some things never change.
In the 19th Century, Cornwall was home to 2,000 tin mines, before the industry fell into decline. They included Botallack Mine on the Tin Coast cliff, which was used as a filming location for hit drama Poldark.
Stay at the iGames lodge for a three-night break from £429 for up to four people. Visit sykescottages.co.uk or call 01244356695.
Tickets for Tintagel cost £16 adults, £9.60 children.
Book ahead at english-heritage.org.uk.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe