Beyond the genius of their founder, our two favourite Cornwall gardens have little in common. The Eden Project, opened in 2001, is a brilliant environmental experiment that transformed abandoned (and ugly) china clay pits into stunning ‘biomes’ housing delightful lessons in the importance of preserving and regenerating nature’s bounty – all so entertaining that you don’t realize you’re being educated. Eden’s miles of smooth pathways (served if needed by trolleys), demand sturdy shoes, plus rainwear, and
a gargantuan appetite to sample the goodies from all the various food halls. Lush gardens, including a hefty crop of hemp, climb the hillsides and gigantic statuary provides whimsical reminders of the power of nature. Entry is £23.50 ($37) or reduced to £21.15 ($34) on-line.
China clay is just one of Cornwall’s mining products – tin, copper and many other metals were mined here for some 3000 years. During the 19th century, Cornwall’s innovative mining techniques were exported around the world, including Canada. Today, from Bodmin Moor in the north to the extreme southwest, World Heritage designation preserves that proud history.
We especially enjoyed the Geevor Tin Mine, near Pendeen, a 67-acre heritage site, where retired miners tell their stories, explain the workings of the shaft, the winders, the cage and the rock drills and lead visitors underground to experience the mine firsthand.
Cornish food is understandably rich in seafood but lamb is another staple. For a hearty lunch, nothing beats a Cornish pasty, a circle of pastry filled with beef, potato, turnip and onion, folded over, crimped and baked.
The two-a-day closure rate of pubs all over Britain has taken its toll in Cornwall – ho-hum food, over-pricey beer, closet-sized unventilated rooms and rowdy catastrophes of yobs and beach bums.
Better by far, the farmhouse B&Bs that require a bit of a drive but deliver lovely rural settings with gracious hosts. Our all-time favourite was Treberthan B&B, ([email protected]) at the back door of the Eden Project, where Kathryn Langley shares her love of wildlife and nature and offers three beautifully appointed rooms and her traditional English breakfast with locally made sausages, jams and breads. A close second was the Old Vicarage near Penzance ([email protected]) where John and Rosie Daniels offer riding lessons along with therapeutic riding for challenged youngsters.
During summer, most B&Bs require minimum two-night stays – no problem, given the short distances between attractions.
The Cornish Tourist Board offers a free a guide at www.theguide-cornwall.co.uk .
Driving Cornwall’s narrow roads is challenging but essential to reach many attractions. However, excellent four-lane highways span the county and coach tours are available.