Spending your summer holidays in England might sound like a paradox or even the epitome of wasting precious free time for some, but is actually an excellent opportunity to experience the European island a little closer and escape the burning heat of summer in other countries. In 2018, every European country suffered from an unnaturally hot (for most) July and August, Britain was no exclusion, but in September, temperatures have dropped down to manageable levels so one can enjoy the sun without the fear of being burnt alive. For this holiday, we chose the southwest coast of England and spent twelve days traveling the coastal cities and sights in Cornwall and Devon before making our way back to Dover with a short stop in Hastings.
For those planning a trip to England from one of the more central European countries, it might be worth considering how long it would take to drive the car down to Calais (or any other port thats nearby) and take the ferry to Dover. This way, any complications involving get used to a new car could be avoided because switching from driving on the right side to driving on the left might turn out to be complicated enough. Arriving in Dover (when its sunny) is phenomenal. The white cliffs can be seen very early and are a true welcome into the holiday.
Torquay and Greenway Estate
For all of us who want to walk in the same path as the famous author Agatha Christie should visit Torquay on their way to Cornwall. As the heart of what is called the English Riviera this former spa town lies directly by the sea which is surrounded by palm trees and promised a Mediterranean climate. To be fair, modern Torquay is probably completely different from the Torquay of the 20th century but between modern and new buildings, interesting sights can be found and a bit of the flair from times long gone can still very much be felt.
The Agatha-Christie-Mile, a path through important events and places in the life of the author, is a great chance to step into her footsteps and explore the remains of her world. Here, the biggest stop surely is Greenway Estate, the summer residence of Christie and later the all-year residence of her daughter, which was donated to the National Trust in the early 21st century. Apart from the astonishing property, a huge garden, boathouse, and glasshouse can be visited. All places hold interesting information on the life of Agatha Christie and her family, but also tell stories about her characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. A great way to set the mood is taking the steam train or steam ferry from and to the estate. Another estate, not far from Torquay, is Cockington Village. This open-air museum is formed of a village that dates back to the 16th century and has not been changed since. Connected to the estate and park are artisan cottage which produce jewelry and other art.
Dartmoor National Park
Probably the most beautiful way to Cornwall leads straight through Dartmoor. Away from wide, multi-lane streets, the narrow and roads through Dartmoor are amazing for experiencing the wild nature first hand. Countless recesses next to the roads are perfect for stopping the car and observing the wide and diverse nature from up close. Cows, sheep, and horses running free are part of the every-day life in Dartmoor which makes the already adventurous drive through the nature reserve a bit more exciting, since they especially like standing very close to the street (or on it) to see if someone will stop and feed them.
St. Michael’s Mount
Upon arrival in Cornwall, there are enough things to do to be kept busy for months without having seen everything. Listig all the highlights would take far too long. One spectacular monument however, is St. Michael’s Mount, a tidal island on the Atlantic side of the Channel. Paired with the famous Mont St. Michel in Normandy, it is the landmark of Cornwall. When the tide is low, the castle can be reached on foot on a bumpy street, but when the tide is high, a boat is needed. The castle was used until the 1950s before it was donated to the National Trust. The interior still looks the same as it did 70 years ago, and a lot of information on the restoration and preservation of the site can be found. During summer, the Mediterranean garden along the slopes of the castle can be visited as well.
Another castle, Tintagel Castle, is found on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall. Surrounded by rocks and the sea, Tintagel is the birthplace of Arthurian legend. Ruins of several phases of construction as well as several other building complexes and walls can still be seen today on the peninsular that was formed through erosion, wind and weather. It is no difficulty to feel the magic that inspired legends such as those of Merlin and Arthur. Apart from actual ruins, mythical places such as Merlins Cave, which recount the story of King Arthur, can also be found.
Those who want to visit the past need to prepare for plenty of stairs and uneven paths, but the view from the ruins is worth every step. If you’re familiar with the Mists of Avalon, you know exactly what to expect!
The South-West-Coast path is a 1014km long trail along the southwest coast of England, from Somerset to Dorset, along the coast of Cornwall and Devon. From the coastal lines, the flora, the sea, and the history of England can be traced and experienced.
The path describes the longest National Trail in England and can be used for everything from a nice evening walk to an adventurous, multi-day hike. The path fulfills almost every wish in terms of vegetation and view, and its visitors can enjoy the diversity and variation of English nature. It can be found of Google Maps but signs are also along the pathway.
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Especially convenient located for people on their way back to Dover, is Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Hastings. The site itself dates back a long way but is predominately known for its landscape garden. The property was bought in the early 1930s by author Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson. The author herself is known for her relationship with Virginia Woolf. The garden is a masterpiece, built from Harolds planning and Vitas creativity. Orchards and a vegetable garden help feed its visitors then and now and for those especially keen on walking can explore the outside areas of the property on one of the many walks through the adjacent forest.
Naturally, this is only a fragment of the things, southwest England has to offer but all of them are worth the visit! With a bit of luck, the weather is just the way you want it, or at least dry.
Greenway Estate: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway
Cockington Village: https://www.englishriviera.co.uk/explore/cockington-villagep1297643
St. Michael’s Mount: https://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk
Tintagel Castle: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/