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Travel
March 18, 2005

A Cornish Renaissance

Text by Sumitra Senapaty. Photographs courtesy: Cornwall Tourist Board

Gleefully trumpeted as the English Riviera, Cornwall counts Pierce Brosnan and Prince Charles among its repeat guests. And soon, probably Camilla Parker Bowles, its new duchess. Verve drinks in the panoramic gardens, wind-washed beaches and bustling seafood eateries, on this southern strip of seaside chic

Outside, a milky dawn blurs the horizon. Slowly, the gauzy curtain begins to lift and the view clears to reveal the Cornish coast, with its inky-black cliffs plunging headlong into treacherous waters; its dazzling gardens with their mess of scrambling flora; its picturesque, boat-strewn harbours and coves; its windswept hillsides and rivers, interspersed with glorious summer weather – long, blindingly blue days and lingering twilights.

The jagged little peninsula is suddenly the epitome of seaside chic, reinventing itself with the visionary success of the Eden Project, ultimate freedom of the Extreme Academy, the discreet aura of Hotel Tresanton and the clever things Rick Stein does with fish and chips. But whatever became of those much-loved staples of Cornish holidays – crouching on a wet, grey beach eating pasties, high-sided lanes clogged with caravans and gift shops with their baskets of shell souvenirs. Well, the good news is that they’re all still there. It’s still possible to stop by a fish and chips stall, to leave the crowds and walk for miles without seeing another soul.

Gardens play a starring role in Cornwall, not least the ones you happen upon in villages along the way. It’s a heady horticultural brew. For floral spectacles on a dizzying scale, visit heritage gardens such as The Lost Gardens of Heligan near the bustling little harbour town of Mevagissey or Trebah on the Helford River. Perhaps the most spectacular displays are those at Trewithen, an estate halfway between St Austell and the town of Truro. In March and April these gardens are a firestorm of colour.

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