Last-minute UK holidays – just as good as going abroad!

Last-minute UK holidays – just as good as going abroad!

10/07/2019 Off By Deborah Welsh

I don’t do anything last minute. I hate surprises and I need to plan absolutely everything I do and everywhere I go with military precision. You might think that’s a bit boring but honestly, folks, I have no control over my need to forward plan my every move, let alone something as important as a holiday. I wish I was one of those people who just go with the flow…life would be so much easier!

Not only have I just been on a last-minute break but I also managed to tick off a wish-list destination. Win win.

Where did I get to, you may ask? I spent last week in Cornwall. I’ve always wondered if it really was a beautiful as everyone said it was and just about every travel feature I’ve read on this area has told me that food, drink and sunshine were high on the agenda here in the beautiful south. Promising.

Cornwall beach

My urge to visit Cornwall has been heightened recently, having enjoyed the tv mini-series, Delicious, starring two of my favourite actors, Emilia Fox and Dawn French. This hit show was filmed in Cornwall and great storylines aside, the scenery looked stunning and the locations all looked so inviting.

So, back to why this was last minute and unexpected. I hadn’t planned a summer holiday this year (I know…what’s that about?) A number of reasons really but bottom line, I was expecting to stay put, at best venturing into my garden if the weather was kind. However, with just days to go before my precious week off from work, I became restless…almost agitated because I had nothing planned and when push came to shove, I just had to get away. Even though my heart was yearning for the Tuscan countryside or the French Alps, it just wasn’t going to happen this year.

Cornwall beach

On the beach in Cornwall

A random Google search led me to Beach Retreats – a self-catering holiday rental company who specialise in Cornwall. Bingo! Within about 10 minutes I had reserved an apartment on their portfolio. The news was met with muted response from my travel companions. I pick and organise every trip we go on and it’s usually much further afield, i.e.; overseas. The biggest shock for them though was the fact that I had booked something so late in the day. Normally I’m shoving brochures and web links under their noses at least six months in advance – sometimes more.

So, with little time to bother about shopping for any new clothes, reading reviews on where to eat, things to do or any of that, my case was packed and the car was loaded up, ready to head south.  Driving to a holiday has the added bonus of being able to take more stuff. As you all know by now, I cannot travel light and my love of shoes and accessories knows no limits. I have zero discipline when it comes to capsule wardrobing or packing essentials only. I have NEVER flown with hand luggage only – even on domestic flights. There’s no hope for me.

Suitcases in car

Let’s get down to business. You want the lowdown on where to stay, things to do and where to eat, right? Let me share my top tips from my experience and if you’re thinking of a last-minute break in the UK, consider making the journey to this utterly delightful part of the world.

What’s it like?

In a word? Gorgeous. Basically, it’s miles of glorious coastline with some stunning beaches – perfect for water sports enthusiasts. We saw loads of folk windsurfing and paddle boarding. There was a couple of training schools dotted around if you fancy some lessons. The area is ideal for walkers too – beautiful coastal trails offering spectacular views and oodles of fresh air.  Cornwall has been a Great British bolthole for years and this is largely due to the unspoilt beauty of the area as well as the fine weather, which is fairly reliable for a British seaside holiday. Our weather was great and I even managed to pick up a wee tan.


Surfing in Cornwall

In Cornwall you can have your holiday your way. It really ticks all the boxes for a proper ‘get away from it all’ holiday yet there’s still loads to keep you occupied, especially if you have young kids in tow. Choose from active seaside fun and frolics to long relaxing walks, admiring the scenery or take in some of the great attractions this area has to offer. Cornwall is also packed with some fine cafes and restaurants where you can spend lazy evenings lapping up the fresh seafood which has come straight from the fishing boats that day and of course no trip to Cornwall would be complete without sampling the world-famous pasties! You can always work off the excess calories with a swim or a brisk walk!

How to get there:

By car – We drove – and yes, it was a long journey but considering it took the same length of time as it would have done to fly to Florida, it passed fairly quickly and the further south we got, some of the scenery was a treat. I also had the distraction of BBC Radio 2’s coverage of Kylie playing at Glastonbury to pass a wee hour. We practically drove past it!

Journey time from Glasgow should take roughly 8/8.5 hours (approx. 530 miles)

Plan your journey to Cornwall from anywhere in the UK with AA route planner.

Rail –  Or you could let the train take the strain and book a rail journey with Cross Country who offer services from Glasgow Central to Penzance with many calling points along the way. Again, the journey time is pretty hefty (roughly 11 hours) but think of the relaxation of sitting for that length of time reading or listening to music. Might be a nice option.

Fly – If you want to get there a little faster, check out Flybe who offer both direct and indirect flights to Newquay from a number of regional UK airports. I think I’ll consider this for my next visit (wonder what the baggage allowance is ha ha)

Places to visit in Cornwall:

St Michael’s Mount – The most famous of Cornwall’s landmarks has a fascinating history and is steeped in legend and folklore. It has stunning panoramic views and a castle, complete with impressive gardens. We spent a memorable afternoon here and another wish list destination ticked for me. If you come to Cornwall, please don’t miss this. I felt a strange feeling of peace and contentment during my short visit – maybe it was the weather, the views or maybe it was the delicious Cornish ice cream I scoffed but there’s something pretty magical about this spot and I am so glad we went. Be sure to time your visit though. You walk over a causeway from the beach when the tide is out but there are boats to ferry you across too once the tide rises. The walkway is cobbled and uneven so my top tip for this attraction is sensible footwear. This is definitely not one for the stilettos, trust me.

As you arrive back on the mainland, you’ll find a charming eatery for a spot of lunch or a refreshing beer. I was glad of this oasis after the hike in such warm weather. Try out The Godolphin Arms.  For more information and planning your trip check out the official website

St Michael Mount causeway

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

Eden Project – An exciting attraction and a top family day out. The Eden Project is home to fun and educational activities as well as the world’s largest indoor rainforest.

Tintagel Castle – Tintagel Castle is steeped in legend and is said to be the birthplace of King Arthur… a magical day out for all the family.

Minack Theatre – A magnificent open air theatre that puts on a full programme of drama, musicals and opera every summer. Enjoy a performance under the stars!

Truro – A lovely spot we discovered along the way is Truro. Truro is Cornwall’s only city and a delightful place to visit. Beautiful architecture and quaint little shops and cafes give it almost a continental feel yet it was also very traditionally English if you can imagine that. A highlight for me was the magnificent Truro Cathedral. We were lucky enough to catch a short lunchtime cello and piano concert – I only went in to look around and maybe light a candle – something I’m prone to do when visiting churches on holiday and ended up being treated to some Saint-Saens and Rachmaninov. Divine!

Padstow – if you love good food and fresh seafood in particular, this is the spot for you. This pretty town is packed with great places to eat and they all have one thing in common – local, fresh produce. Obviously, fish is big on the menu here and if you want to push the boat out, try and book into Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant.

Another great little place we dined in was Burgers and Fish, one of Padstow’s top gourmet restaurants – quirky décor and mouth-watering food. I had the whitest (and biggest) piece of fish I’ve ever eaten -simple yet delicious food. Great wine list and a superb choice of gins too.

Padstow Cornwall

Padstow, Cornwall

Where to stay:

Now that you know how to get here and all the great stuff you can do once you arrive, you’ll want to know where to stay. I can only offer my opinion on the area we stayed in which was Watergate Bay. My plush digs for the week came in the form of a luxury coastal apartment which was a real home from home – only with better views and better weather!

Whoever designed this complex thought it out well – chic décor and reverse living (bedrooms downstairs and open plan living space upstairs) – making the most of the sea views and a lovely big balcony for soaking up the sun.

If self-catering isn’t for you, there’s a cracker of a hotel a few minutes’ walk down the hill. The Watergate Bay Hotel is super stylish/coastal chic and I must admit, I sneaked a wee spa treatment to myself – would you expect anything less?

This pocket of the bay has some fantastic places to eat and drink too. Within walking/staggering distance of the apartment we were able to choose from The Beach Hut, WAX, Living Space (within the hotel) and Fifteen Cornwall – Jamie Oliver’s Cornish offering.

My absolute favourite watering hole was The Watchful Mary – a super cool bar on the water’s edge – sort of like Cornwall’s equivalent of Ibiza’s Café del Mar. This is the perfect place for a wee sundowner at the end of a perfect day.

Watchful Mary Cornwall

The Watchful Mary, Watergate Bay

This trip exceeded my expectations on many levels but mostly I was able to give myself a little pat on the back for being slightly spontaneous (ok, a few days prior to departure isn’t exactly proper last minute dash) but for someone like me who doesn’t know the meaning of the word rush and who can’t go anywhere without meticulous attention to detail, it was a big deal. Am I now able to go with the flow a little more and enjoy surprises? Do I really need to pack enough clothes for a month?  Who can say but if you’re needing to experience a quieter, lazier and more relaxed way of life, Cornwall is the place to let you do it. I genuinely loved the place and we had weather to rival that of any of its Mediterranean counterparts.

Oh…and I didn’t need the five pairs of shoes I packed. I wore flip flops for a week.