Cornwall off season: a touching walking break without the crowds

“Would you like to book a shower for your arrival in Cornwall?” The host on the sleeper train to Penzance asked me as I boarded the Night Riviera at Paddington Station in London on a cold Friday evening. I declined the offer, telling him I was planning a wake-up bath at the Jubilee pool in Penzance, a short walk from the train station where we would arrive before sunrise.

Early the next morning, as the steam from the geothermal heated outdoor pool enveloped me, I knew I had made the right decision to leave that long winter weekend in Cornwall. I had slept well in the sleeper train, but diving into this exquisite Art Deco swimming pool was only the winter awakening ordered by the doctor.

Take a heated dip in the Jubilee swimming pool

(Jubilee Pool)

One of the wonders of taking the sleeper train is saving time on your vacation. Instead of spending my first morning listening to Tannoy’s announcements and drinking lukewarm tea from paper cups, by noon on my first day in Penzance I had been swimming, steaming, and stuffing my face in coffee. of the swimming pool. I had even checked into the boutique hotel Chapel House, a beautifully restored Georgian townhouse so beautiful you have to book about a year in advance to get a room in the summer.

Treat yourself to a stay at the Chapel House boutique hotel

(Catherine Mack)

I had three simple hopes for this three-day solo escape: the hike, Hepworth, and the open space. The hike is easy and, unsurprisingly, heavenly from Penzance. The town itself is true Cornwall, with a working fishing port and bargain shops outnumbering the shops. I loved him all the better for it. There are also some gastronomic gems starting to sparkle there, like 45 Queen Street, a converted warehouse where the team serves tapas-style dishes and house gin. It looks more like Queens, NY than Queen Street, Penzance, and they also treat you like royalty.

Best of all, the Southwest Coast Trail stretches east and west of this little corner of the world. I could see the highlight of my first walk towering in the distance from my bedroom window: St Michael’s Mount, the fancy walled tidal island that’s run by the National Trust. By checking the tides I knew I could reach the cobblestone causeway which gives you just in time access. An advantage of visiting in winter is that access to the port, village and cafe is free. The causeway is still free, however, and utterly fantastic – topped only by an ice cream from Copper Spoon on Fore Street in Marazion, the village overlooking Mt. A much needed shot of sugar before the four mile return.

I could see the highlight of my first walk towering in the distance from my bedroom window: Mont Saint-Michel, the fortified and fanciful tidal island

I didn’t think I needed a big pick-me-up on my second day of hiking, after Chapel House’s splendid breakfast of fresh smoothie, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and homemade bread. My destination was Lamorna Cove, five and a half miles from Penzance, just far enough away to enjoy some secluded cliff top stretches and a quick dip, followed by the obligatory coffee and cake at the Cove Cafe. But by the time I had walked west from Penzance to the ridiculously pretty fishing village of Mousehole, the sea air had whetted my appetite again, practically forcing me to walk into Jessie’s Dairy to slip a pie into my backpack. These towns swarm in the height of spring and summer, but you’ll find them in a spellbinding state of calm out of season, with no queues to navigate.

This wintry silence means it can feel quite wild and remote along some stretches of the path – so much so that I would let the folks at The Chapel know where I was going. It was also very muddy in places so good boots and a walking stick were a must. However, this Lamorna walk is one that I will never forget, as I climbed old smuggler paths, crossed gorse-covered headlands and dived under the pines and cypresses of the Kemyel Crease nature reserve.

My next stop was St Ives. Visiting her peaceful and quirky museum and sculpture garden Barbara Hepworth had long been on my wish list, and I had high hopes for it. What I didn’t expect, however, was the Riviera-esque train journey from Penzance to St Ives. Make sure to remove your nose from your book to peek out the window when you get to St Erth – the views after this point over Carbis Bay and the wild waves and white sands of St Ives, are truly soothing to the soul.

Off season does not necessarily mean gloomy, as the arrival at St Ives station proves

(Catherine Mack)

I braved another dip in the still inviting waters just below St Ives station before my midday slot at Hepworth. My off-season timing meant no line-up and hardly anyone in the garden which really is the best way to see this unique art museum. The great English sculptor Barbara Hepworth moved there in 1949 and tragically died there in 1975. It was here that she wanted her work exhibited. its garden and the seascapes of St Ives framed from different perspectives.

Coming to Cornwall out of season gave me a very different and more positive outlook on life there. From the Cornish cocoon of the sleeper train to the gentle rhythm of towns and tourist sites that are not in summer, it was a joy to be there. Without crowds, the paths are peaceful and its rugged nature is perhaps even more impressive, with the eerie, glowing sky. I will definitely think twice before going back in the summer.

Travel essentials

Getting There

Book the Night Riviera sleeper train, operated by GWR. Cabins for solo occupancy from £ 90, excluding train tickets. Book as early as possible to get the cheapest rates.

stay there

Rooms at the Chapel House Hotel are priced from £ 160 to £ 220 per night, B&B. For a budget rather than a boutique option, head to the Premier Inn, right next to Penzance Station.

More information

Jubilee Pool, Penzance is open year round, with a geothermal heated (35C) cold seawater swimming pool, both outdoors. The reservation of the geothermal swimming pool is recommended, in all seasons. Entrance £ 6 main seawater pool, geothermal pool £ 12.

About Marco C. Nichols

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