10 reasons why I love Cornwall

Back from holiday and missing it already, here’s an unashamedly elegiac tribute to where I stayed.

1. It’s a home from home
My Dad was born in Penzance so when we could take holidays, Cornwall was often where we’d go. After a gap of about seven years from the age of 16 to 23, I came back and the sensory memory-overload was incredible. The smells of the sea and the food; the sound of gulls and crashing waves; the views I’d seen so many times, the feel of the sand and the rocks and the gorse… it all came back to me; in fact it had never left. Several trips since with friends and family have brought more great memories. To have somewhere that isn’t home but that you know so well, and yet there’s always more to explore makes for a great holiday destination. All this explains my bias and informs the other reasons I give.

2. It’s so far from home
My journey down was a clear run, so it took six hours with one break. The drive back took eight. Double rubbish: leaving a precious place and taking ages to do it. But the distance is an effort worth making, a small kind of sacrifice that makes what you get all the more rewarding. It’s so far from all my other concerns, and there isn’t even good mobile coverage. You can feel detached.

3. It’s wild
Maybe I was indoctrinated against holiday resorts of any kind by parents who didn’t have the money or the inclination for such places but I just can’t understand the attraction when you could be here instead. By daring to thrust itself into the Atlantic, the peninsula has been carved and hewn into a place of enthralling wildness. Not wilderness, because there are people trying to make a living here, but the land still has its way. Boulders erupt in the middle of farmers’ fields, scrub grows where it pleases rather than where you’d prefer. Roads twist according to the contours of the land. Corpses of the mining industry mount lonely vigils. Strong winds and sudden showers shove you around. And of course, there’s the sea…

4. The sea
From surging, rippling muscles to hissing fury at the resistance of the cliffs to their inevitable erosion, the sea is the most wild thing of all. A couple of years ago I was on a promenade that looked out across a bay that was hurling seaweed and stones in metre-high waves over the prom and onto the road. Antonia Barber’s wonderful children’s story, The Mousehole cat probably tells this best. In the Revelation account of the glorious re-making of all things John says, “and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1). Exiled on the island of Patmos, I can understand why this was good news for John, for in Scripture the sea usually represents chaos and division. Can God have things even more power and wonderful than this prepared for us?! I don’t doubt it.

5. Sunsets
The same goes for sunsets: “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23). So I had better make the most of these too! Last summer a group of friends booked a cottage which had a cliff-top sea view. The first evening we sat in the garden astounded by an incredible sunset. So exciting was it that we spent most of our time taking photos of it rather than storing the moment in our own memories!

6. God has spoken to me here
A great place to watch the sunset from are the old mining works at Botallack. They are actually worth visiting at any time, and I try to make a pilgrimage whenever I’m down there because God spoke to me here once. As I was watching waves crash into rock, I felt a pang of loneliness. How much more wonderful would this be to have someone to share it with? Immediately I felt the whisper of God tell me, ‘If I’m in charge of these tides, am I not in charge of your life?’ What wonderful assurance, bringing alive the truth Scripture has told me again and again. Every time I visit I remind myself of this precious moment.

7. God has done amazing things here
Like the land they live on, the Cornish are a hard people. Yet you cannot go to a village, or even less than that, without finding a Methodist chapel. Admittedly many are now in a state of disrepair or have been converted into homes but it stirs my faith whenever I see this evidence of what God did in the hearts of so many people here. If you ever get a chance to read the story of Billy Bray, a simple man whose simple faith transformed his life and brought him and those around him great joy, take it! Charles Spurgeon heard him preach and admired him. I pray that God would have mercy on that land and bless it again. It's probably the only non-city location I could countenance moving to to start a church!

8. Summer is great too
Mine was very definitely a winter holiday but summer is equally wonderful. The light leaps off the sea as the sun warms the sandy beaches. The day ends with a barbecue on the beach, accompanied by one of the sunsets described above, and then a clear night reveals an array of stars unseen by those of us who live in the streetlight-clouded urban places.

9. It takes great photos
Just point your camera and click and you'll have something amazing. I've been doing this year after year after year after year after year!

10. Food and drink
Truth be told, I’ve still not found a great restaurant in the part of Cornwall I call home-from-home. But I always know I’ll eat well. A proper Cornish pasty (right) is a wonderful thing – all the more so when the hunger it sates has been caused by a coastal walk. For some reason they don’t taste the same east of the Tamar river – I’ve tried to export the best but to no avail. To bring some variety to my diet I go to Jewell’s fish and chips in Newlyn. Fish that were swimming in the sea the night before now find themselves in batter, and then in my stomach! What’s in the fat that the chips are cooked in I don’t know, but they’re the best-tasting chips I’ve ever eaten. Salt in the air and salt on your chips – amazing. And to wash it down? I love the taste of the tap water! That’s how completely perfect this place is for me.