Cornish Adventures

The dog friendly tale of Jess and artist Sasha Harding’s South West Coast Path walk.

On a chilly autumn morning, I found myself catching my breath while looking down on the harbour at Mevagissey. Sniffing around my feet was my companion, a six-stone Rhodesian ridgeback dog called Jess. She and I had set off on foot from Minehead in Somerset 26 days earlier. In just under four weeks we’d hiked 361 miles, but we still had a long way to go. Ahead of us stretched another 270 miles to reach our destination, the end of the epic South West Coast Path.

The SWCP is one of the longest national trails in Britain, making its way across vast beaches and along exposed cliffs, through forests and over moors. With every mile there is the chance to see an array of wildlife, seals and dolphins, choughs and lizards, not to mention the many species of wild flowers. But for me the best thing is that the whole path is dog-friendly. It’s quite something to be able to set off with your four-legged chum on a ramble that could potentially go on for months. And that is exactly what Jess and I did.

Walking side by side for seven weeks brought us together in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. We shared the same struggles, we slept together, ate (enormous quantities of food) together and limped in sync at the end of the day. We revelled when the sun came out and shrunk into ourselves when it rained, squeezed together under my umbrella. I looked out for her and she made me feel safe. On more than one occasion, as a lone woman, miles from anywhere, I was grateful to have Jess nearby. Her calm demeanour helped to dampen my overactive imagination, particularly my worries about the threat of werewolves whenever we encountered fog.

At the end of a gruelling day Jess was the perfect drinking buddy, in that she didn’t drink, so cost me very little. However her presence, curled up in front of a crackling fire, or begging for pork scratchings from a fellow punter, was a great way to start a conversation. I lost count of the number of times I heard “your dog’s gorgeous, what is she?” I loved being able to tell people that ridgebacks were originally bred to hunt lions. Something about the dichotomy between her fearsome heritage and laid-back demeanour made people smile.

At the start of the trip I had worried over whether Jess would be allowed in the pubs along the way, but we were never turned away, in fact Jess was often shown to the cosiest spot, invariably in front of a fire. At those moments I was happy to tag along as her sidekick and reap the rewards of the best seat in the house.

If the pubs were friendly, then the B&Bs and hotels we stayed in rolled out the red carpet for my furry friend. When the dining room was reserved for those on two legs Jess and I would be set up in a quiet corner of our own, from where we could happily watch the comings and goings of the other guests. More often Jess could accompany me into the dining room for breakfast, and would grab the opportunity to take a quick nap under the table. The only thing guaranteed to rouse her from her slumber would be the mouthwatering smell of cooking sausages, and on more than one occasion while I tucked into an enormous full English breakfast Jess was brought a banger or two.

We made the most of every mode of transport whilst on the coast path, from the steam train that raced alongside the River Dart, to buses and ferries and even a cliff railway at Babbacombe. Jess took each new vehicle in her stride and was soon leaping aboard ferries and jumping on and off buses like an 18 year old backpacker.

For all her poise, Jess did show her hunter’s instincts every now and then. One memorable time she ran full pelt towards the cliff edge after a herd of moth-eaten wild goats near Crackington Haven. Fortunately my panicked shout of “STAY!” stopped her in her tracks as the goats scarpered over a ridge. Another time, while walking through fields near Exmouth, she caught a young rabbit. Appalled, I screeched for her to “DROP IT!” and it bolted down the nearest hole, apparently unscathed. One afternoon, while I was sketching the fishing boats on the shingle shore at Budleigh Salterton, I heard an ominous crack and turned to see Jess treading on a crab. Luckily a nearby fisherman noticed the plight of the crustacean and pulled Jess off it before popping it back into a large blue bin.


There are an awful lot of animals, both domesticated and wild, on the South West Coast Path, and it’s vital to keep track of your dog, especially near cliffs. After the hair-raising experience with the goats I kept Jess on a lead unless we were on a beach.

Seven years on, I look back at walking the South West Coast Path with Jess as one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. She is nine years old now and starting to go grey around her muzzle, and our walks are no longer measured in miles but minutes. Recently we’ve acquired a new addition to our pack, a miniature dachshund called Peanut who, despite her diminutive size, has boundless energy. While I’m looking forward to rediscovering the South West Coast Path with Pea, seeing it afresh through her eyes, I’ll never forget my 630-mile walk with Jess.

This limited edition map of Cornwall, beautifully illustrated by Sasha, shows many of the locations she visited.  Check out Polpier’s Instagram Feed for the chance to win it.

Sasha Harding is an artist and author based in Cornwall. Sasha wrote and illustrated a book, A Brush With The Coast,  about her adventures on the South West Coast Path. A new revised edition is available from her website here.


Mevagissey Feast Week

We love Mevagissey Feast Week. As well as being the oldest saint’s celebration in Cornwall, it is a fantastic celebration of present day community as a gang of local volunteers create a week of family fun.  From a fancy dress extravaganza through the streets, to live music on the quay decorated with flags, a fish auction, stalls selling local food and a firework display, it is a real chance to join in with an authentic Cornish experience.

Mevagissey Feast Week also holds a special place in our hearts because of weddings where the couples and their guests have broken off from their reception to join the parade. They’ve also gathered on Polpier’s front lawn in the evening to watch as colourful fireworks are reflected in the harbour water. Holiday guests have enjoyed al fresco drinks on the terraces with the sound of live jazz, sixties favourites or the Mevagissey Male Choir drifting up to entertain them.

Hub of activity on the Jetty photo ©2012 Paul Williams

This year Mevagissey Feast Week runs from Sunday 24th June to Saturday 30th June and promises to be better than ever. We still have some availability should you want to have a holiday with entertainment laid on. Please check out for this year’s programme details.

Fireworks over Mevagissey ©2011 Sally Mitchell

Ten Top Tips For Self-Catering In Cornwall During the Summer Holidays

Summer is a wonderful time to visit Cornwall and self catering gives both privacy and freedom. However, years of holidaying with children, relatives and friends has proved the following tips can make for a happy experience for everyone.

  1. Information is power: check out your venue’s website. This should help with everything from what you pack to planning days out. Our website has descriptions of the bedrooms so you can have the arguments to hand about which is best for you. The chief booker gets a handbook with information on all appliances and how to use them and it’s a good idea if someone in the party reads it before arrival. If there are any concerns, for example asthma and bedding, it is much better to email beforehand so special requests can be dealt with.
  2. Set off very early. Later the motorways are going to be jammed, literally, so shove the kids in their pyjamas in the back of the car at dawn and just go. With luck, they will sleep all the way and you can wake them for a late breakfast in Cornwall. In self catering, check in will be in the afternoon (ours is at 4pm) but this is a chance to explore near your accommodation. We recommend a relaxed wander around Heligan Gardens. You can feel extra smug as friends and relatives send text announcements about delays, engines over-heating and children rowing.
  3. For those who choose to leave later in the day, have some fun games for keeping the kids amused as they will be awake the entire way saying, ‘When are we going to be there?’ We used to play ‘Spot the caravan.’ How we laughed. It’s a good idea too to have bottled water for long delays on hot days and the empties are useful for small boys who are caught short between service stations.
  4. Take a map. Vital for when the SatNav breaks down and there’s a diversion on the motorway, particularly if the driver is male so it’s a point of honour to never, ever to stop and ask for directions. A map is also vital for your stay because there may be no mobile phone signal and SatNav will not show that the shortest route is down a narrow winding lane where your car’s paint work could suffer along with your nerves.
  5. Nothing leads to bad temper faster than hunger and low blood sugar, so have your first meal sorted. We are happy to take supermarket deliveries before guests’ arrival, so you are well stocked up, and welcome guests with a Cornish cream tea. Our Property Manager Amanda Craze does yummy ready to cook meals or there are delicious fish and chip takeaways in Mevagissey. A good supply of alcohol is also vital to sooth frazzled nerves. Do not plan a mega trip the next day for the children as the first night can turn into a party.
  6. While having the basics delivered from a supermarket is sensible, self catering is an opportunity to enjoy local produce. Not only will it be fresher, it will add to the experience of being somewhere different to home. In Cornwall, this can mean anything from bakery Cornish pasties and Kelly’s ice cream, to bbqs with farm shop meat and vegetables or visiting harbour fish stalls to pick your fish of the day. There are also plenty of local drinks to choose from, including Cornish Orchards juices and cider and the famous Camel Valley sparkling wine.
  7. To give the head chef a break, plan some meals out. Cornwall has wonderful restaurants, but if you want to get in at Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw or Paul Ainsworth, book well ahead. It can also be more relaxed to visit restaurants and pubs you can walk too. No worries about drink driving and if you are in a mixed age group, there’s also the flexibility of splitting if some want to head back to base while others enjoy another coffee or nightcap.
  8. Eating out can be expensive though and self catering is perfect for stepping back in time to the more frugal 1950s and taking a picnic for the beach. Those innocent Enid Blyton escapades can amuse even the most sophisticated teenager because of their novelty. Just be careful you pick a less popular beach so they don’t bump into their cool friends when they are rock pooling and have a total melt down. The less popular beaches do involve driving down narrow lanes or walking from the car park across fields but you’ll feel you deserve your picnic after the effort.

  9. Deciding what attractions you really want to see is good in terms of both finances and time management. A few carefully selected days out can heighten the holiday mood but no one wants to over spend or feel they are on a tread mill. Factor in distance, parking and pre-booking tickets for popular destinations like the Minack Theatre or Eden Project. It’s also a good idea to check their websites to see what’s on. We once set off at dawn to visit the St Ives Tate – four adults and five children – to arrive and find an obscure Japanese artist was being featured rather than Alfred Wallis. Not quite the Cornish experience we’d had in mind.
  10. Take a chill pill. You are meant to be on holiday so this is the time to turn off social media and ignore emails. If you feel you can’t, then select a once a day slot for checking out what’s happening and stick to it. Don’t fret about everyone being ‘together.’ Family time is precious, but it can be a shock to be 24/7 with your nearest and dearest. A little time apart can make it sweeter, whether it’s going for a solitary pint, indulging in a long, hot bath with your favourite author or couples heading off to make use of their National Trust membership. When you gather for meals there will be more news to exchange. And don’t forget to play some board and card games or do a jigsaw – nothing says holiday more than that.

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Autumn in Cornwall

The departure of one million visitors means Autumn is time for the Cornish to take back their county again, while those of you who are holidaying here can savour the colours and mild temperature and enjoy the attractions more easily. No more having to plan when you travel and avoiding using a motorway on changeover days or worrying about finding a car parking space. Many of the beaches also relax their dog restrictions once the summer is over too.

Watergate Bay in Cornwall, England, UK

Our local attractions of the Lost Garden of Heligan, which you can walk to from Mevagissey, and The Eden Project still buzz with activities, but try exploring further afield. Trebah Garden at Mawnan Smith has a lovely walk through tropical gardens to a tiny beach. Dramatic rolling waves on North Cornwall beaches make a change from South Cornwall’s calmer waters. Fantastic if you are keen on surfing or fancy strolling along Watergate Bay, with breakfast at The Beach Hut or lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, where tomorrow’s chefs are trained.


Lovely St Ives also has a swathe of golden beach, but it is most famous for its artistic heritage. Only about an hour away in Autumn, it is still vital to check websites before visiting. We turned up at Tate St Ives once anticipating fisherman painter Alfred Wallis, only to find an obscure Japanese artist on show. Not the celebration of Cornwall’s culture we were hoping for. Opening times for many places may also have been changed, as illustrated by Tate St Ives being closed until Spring with around town art tours substituted.


Just down the road from Tate St Ives, The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is still very much open though. While in an intimate setting at her former home and studio, it is a world class collection of her work with a fascinating history of her life and tragic end. Like so many museums today, it is also family friendly with a Hepworth Family Activity Trail, a great idea which means today’s children have a happier introduction to the art world than those of us with memories of being dragged around galleries.


Throughout Cornwall there is a fantastic collection of museums, including Helston Museum on social history – they also welcome dogs – The National Maritime Museum  at Falmouth and The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. They all work hard to provide interesting exhibitions and interactive events that make a first time visit fun and a return visit worthwhile. So no excuse for sad faces if the weather turns and beach time is not an option. Although they do say in Cornwall there is every type of weather every day and as the county with the longest coastline, there will be a beach near wherever you have a day trip.

Cornwall is also increasingly famous for its artisan food and drink producers and the Cornish Winter Fair in Wadebridge on Saturday 19th November is a great family day out. Taste samples at the array of foodie stalls and either treat yourself or start your Christmas shopping at the craft stalls stocked by talented artists of all types. There are plenty of farm animals, including the prime stock show, and you can have a go at milking a (mock) cow or grooming a pony. Entry is free, so you can go for as long or as short a time as suits you without feeling you have to get your money’s worth.

Every budget can be catered for at this time too for those who want to experience the creations of Cornwall’s exceptional chefs. It is easier to get reservations and there are special menus which explore seasonal produce and are very good value for money. In Padstow, Rick Stein’s St Petroc Bistro has three course charity lunches for £12.50, while Michelin starred Paul Ainsworth at No 6 has three course lunches for £26. Fans of Nathan Outlaw should sign up to his Grub Club on line before visiting his Port Isaac Fish Kitchen to find out about special offers and get ten per cent off meals.

Autumn really is a fabulous time here: truly accessible in every way.

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A Visit to Cardinham Woods

img_6882Holiday makers to Cornwall dream about beautiful beaches, wide coastal views and historical tropical gardens, but Cardinham Woods is a lovely hidden secret waiting to be discovered.  Set in a lush green valley near Bodmin and imaginatively managed by the Government’s Forestry Commission, the multi-coloured mixed woodland makes a perfect day out for all the family, including dogs.

Explore four winding waymarked walking trails, identifying trees, the remnants of the old mine and clapper bridge across a free flowing stream, using the free ForestXplorer app (available for iOS and Android). Alternatively hire mountain bikes from Trailmunki and take their advice on the best routes for your fitness level through miles of quality single track left by the mining industry.



For children and parents, Badger Forest School and Outdoor Learning is a great introduction to new types of play, adventure and skills, including campfire cooking. They will even teach you how to light your own fire using just a steel and lighter. Great fun as either another holiday activity or for an unusual birthday party.


The woods have a large car park, loos and children’s playground at the entrance, with plenty of seating for picnickers and free barbeques for those who want to create their own feast. Alternatively, try the charming Woods Café, nestled below soaring trees. In winter, they have a roaring fire indoors, while their large outside seating area makes a lovely spot for dog walkers to enjoy cakes and coffee or a cream tea.


We had a lunch of pea soup with feta cheese, followed by sausage rolls made from well seasoned Cornish pork, a seasonal salad and homemade spicy apple chutney. There is a selection of drinks, including local bottled beers, but glasses of tap water are freely available (and the Cornish tap water is very drinkable.) It was an absolute bargain at £5.95 a head – unlike many tourist locations where a catering monopoly is an excuse to rip off visitors. The water bowls for thirsty dogs were appreciated too.

It is so easy to sit and relax at the café that we recommend site seeing and exercising are best taken before a refreshment break. It is a lovely way to end a visit by treating yourself to some fresh homemade food using the best of Cornish produce while chatting about your latest discovery. This is definitely a place which justifies return visits, particularly as the woods reflect the season changes. There are also specially designed activities, with the Autumn Activity Trial now open and a woodland community canvas to display the natural materials you discover on the forest floor.

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Welcome to our blog

I am thrilled to start our blog by sharing some of our fantastic guests’ reviews. From family parties ( to silver panthers ( and stylish trend setters (, they all found something to love about us and Cornwall.


Based in the Cornish Riviera surrounded by miles of stunning beaches, I am looking forward to letting you know our news and highlighting the events and activities which make holidays here such fun – fun that includes dog guests. In addition, as it is a famous foodie county, I will be passing on recipes that make the most of our wonderful local produce.

Weddings and parties are also a big part of our life and, after several years’ experience, the team is happy to offer tips of the trade to help make such special events joyful. Every celebration is unique, but we know planning cuts the stress and makes all of them run more smoothly.

I would be delighted to get your feedback and suggestions on information for making your visit to Cornwall a great one. Leave a message on our Facebook or Instagram page and I will do my very best to feature your request in a future blog post.