Ten Things You Need to Know About Cornwall
Published: Sunday 9th Feb 2014
Written by: Alice de Courcy-Wheeler
Cornwall is an ancient county at the southernmost tip of England. Almost completely surrounded by the surging Atlantic Ocean, the county is a heady blend of dramatic natural beauty, enthralling history, and friendly people.
Cornwall’s identity has been formed over a tumultuous three thousand years. During that time the Cornish landscape has been called home by Celtic tribes, Romans, Saxons and Normans.
The wide open moors of central Cornwall fall away to dramatic clifftops and spectacular beaches. On the south coast you can explore the secluded coves and tree-lined creeks while on the north coast the wild grandeur of the craggy cliffs will take your breath away.
While Cornwall will always be associated with pasties and cream teas, Cornwall has reinvented itself over the past twenty years and is now a haven for foodies. A sizzle of celebrity chefs have restaurants here, including Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Raymond Blanc. Camel Valley is one of the UK’s top vineyards, and the local area is becoming increasingly famous for its produce.
Kernowek, the Cornish tongue has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, and is widely considered an important part of Cornwall’s identity. It was officially extinct by the 19th century, but a concerted effort saw the language declared alive in 2010. There are now books, films, songs and even Cornish road signs.
Mix 300 miles of coastline with the full force of Atlantic tides and winds, and you’re going to end up with some spectacular waves. Surfers from around the country flock to Cornwall to hit the water and master waves that regularly top eight feet. The biggest waves have been known to reach thirty feet!
As well as surfing, rugby union is a big draw in Cornwall. The county also has its own unique sports, Cornish wrestling and hurling. The former, known colloquially as wrasslin’, requires the combatants to wear thick jackets and attempt to throw their opponent flat on their back. Cornish hurling differs from its Irish namesake and resembles a mob game such as traditional football. The goals are two miles apart and large teams attempt to get the silver ball into the opposing goal or across the Parish boundary by carrying, throwing, passing or kicking it. It’s a very traditional sport and involves many rituals and much drinking of beer.
When you set foot in Cornwall you’re walking in a land of legends. This is the place that claims to be the home of King Arthur, and Tintagel castle makes a very convincing case. Keep an eye out for the footprints of the giant Cormoran, or see if you can spot the mermaid of Zennor off the shore.
As you’d imagine with Cornwall’s coastline it’s an excellent place for spotting marine wildlife. Basking sharks are common, as are sightings of dolphins and seals. Even the occasional whale drifts by. Cornwall is also on a migration route so has many guest birds, and you can spot all sorts of winged wonders including unusual birds like hoopoes and wrynecks.
9) Dynamic Art Scene
Cornwall has become a hotbed for contemporary artists of late, galleries and alternative spaces are opening all over the county and the many festivals draw in artists from across the country and beyond.
10) Industrial Heritage
Tin was wrested from the Cornish hills for thousands of years from approximately 2150BC to 1998 when the wheels in the South Crofty tin mine turned for the last time. It transformed the county into an economic power during the Bronze Age, and tin from Cornwall can be found in Mediterranean artifacts dating back to pre-Christian times. This mining heritage can be found across the county, in caves and crumbling mining houses, and in 2006 the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was given World Heritage status by UNESCO.