Cornwall: Glorious in Sun or Rain
Cornwall is perhaps England's most unique county. Marooned on its own peninsula in the far south-west of the island, Cornwall has developed a unique culture in a magnificent landscape. In days gone by, the Cornish earned their living fishing, farming and mining. Nowadays they play host to hundreds of thousands of visitors from both the UK and abroad.
Why do generations of holidaymakers choose Cornwall? For many different reasons, and that is part of Cornwall's appeal—its diversity. Cornwall can offer laid-back country cottages or action-packed extreme sport surfaris. Hikers will love the miles of coastal paths and garden lovers will be spoilt for choice amongst gardens large and small. Most visitors just come in search of a sun-drenched holiday on the beach, and Cornwall does have beautiful beaches in abundance. What it doesn't always have, however, is sun! So, what can you do when the clouds roll in and you glumly scuttle off the beach?
Kids And Cornwall in the Rain
Actually, small children don't mind a bit of rain on the beach, but it's not much fun for the grown-ups! Why not head towards Newquay where you will find Dairyland - they've got a huge indoor playground, The Bullpen. It's full of fun for little ones (and not so little ones - plenty of adults screaming down the "demon drop"!) You can also watch the cows getting milked under cover, pet some little animals, and there's a small museum. If the weather clears up, there are outdoor attractions too.
I've spent many hours sheltering from bad weather inside the Bullpen, kids love it. You could also tie it in with a visit to nearby Trerice, an beautiful Elizabethan manor house. The house is owned by the National Trust and is open most days. There are small gardens, a large indoor cafe in a converted barn and ample car parking.
If the rain just won't go away, head off to Newquay's Lighthouse Cinema for an afternoon or evening of movie action in a brand new state-of-the art multi-screen cinema.
The Eden Project: The Great Outdoors, Indoors
The success of the Eden Project has been truly phenomenal and richly deserved. The transformation of a disused clay mine into a world-class attraction has been miraculous. I have visited the site numerous times, first during its construction and then after its completion. Whether I have visited with friends, family or groups of school children, we all agree: it's awesome. Now, "awesome" is an overused adjective but, in this case, totally justified.
If you haven't heard of the Eden Project it is an enormous, global garden, partly enclosed in two huge biomes. One of the biomes houses the tropical zone, the other the Mediterranean zone. More than just a garden, the Eden Project is an educational charity, educating people about their world and its ecology. Everything from the plumbing to the catering has an environmentally friendly focus.
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Why is so good for a rainy day? Well, there is a huge area to explore under cover in the biomes, and it ranges from positively steamy in the tropical dome to pleasantly balmy in the Mediterranean dome. Plus there is an education centre, cafes and a shop to visit. A great day out, inside.
What to Do In Cornwall in the Rain? Surf!
Cornwall and surfing go together like fish and chips - it's just something you do on holiday (although some people find it becomes a way of life and stay once the summer ends - a hand goes up in my household!). Forget board shorts and rippling bronzed abs though - surfing in Cornwall is hardcore. Even in summer, you need a wetsuit, by mid-autumn you need boots, by January you are suited, booted, gloved and helmeted. The benefit of those wetter, colder days is that the crowds are gone, so more waves for you. In addition, once the lows start rolling in from the Atlantic in autumn, the waves pick up. So, better surf too.
So really, why waste a sunny day sitting on a board in the ocean getting sweaty in neoprene when you could be on the beach preening in your bikini? Save the board and wetsuit for wet days - if you are going to get wet, get really wet!
Things to Do in Cornwall in the Rain: Go to Ground
The Cornish have been mining for tin, copper and silver for centuries. The impact of Cornish mining has been worldwide - it's been said that at the bottom of any hole, anywhere in the world, you will find a Cornishman! In 2006, UNESCO recognised the importance of Cornwall's mining heritage by designating several areas of the mining landscape as a World Heritage Site. It may be that most World Heritage Sites are at their best basking in glorious sunshine, but frankly, several hundred feet underground, who cares? So when the heavens open, go native and go to ground.
One of the best-preserved mines in the UK is Geevor Tin Mine in Pendeen. The site covers a couple of acres and is dedicated to celebrating Cornwall's mining heritage. The highlight of a visit to Geevor has to be the 18th Century underground mine tour, but that isn't the only attraction. There is a geological museum, panning for "gems", listed buildings and an insight into the lives of ordinary miners—all set in a dramatic coastal location. Don't think it is just for adults; there are plenty of children's activities too.
What to Do in the Rain in Cornwall: Get Indoors
Cornwall may not have any stately homes on the scale of Blenheim or Chatsworth, but it does a generous scattering of grand houses. Many are owned by the National Trust, a few remain in private hands. They range from the relatively small to huge estates, from medieval to Regency. All are worth a visit, but here is my favourite for a rainy day.
Lanhydrock is a beautiful house and estate near Bodmin. There are over fifty rooms to explore, a long gallery designed for rainy days and a small museum. The highlight is perhaps not the grand "upstairs" but the far from ordinary "downstairs" - the kitchen and dairy area. It really is a marvel of Victorian ingenuity and utterly fascinating. There are a couple of cafes serving Cream Teas and a small shop. Don't forget to visit the charming adjoining estate church.
If beautiful Stately homes aren't your style, you could always get indoors at nearby Bodmin Jail - scary, but at least there's a dungeon to keep you dry!