Battling the crowds in the Costa del Cornwall.
Updated: Jan 30
With the constant changes to government travel guidance and a growing list of countries being added to the quarantine list, often with only 24 hours' notice, more and more people have opted to spend their summer holidaying in the UK. Whilst this is great for promoting British tourism, it also means that some already-popular destinations are becoming increasingly fraught - dealing with the crowds now plays a pivotal part in any British-based holiday. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the sought-after destination of Cornwall.
Despite this, there are plenty of reasons for making the journey down to the south-west, along with the thousands of others who are drawn to beautiful Cornish shores every year: for me, it is the promise of sand, sea, surf and (if luck is on my side) that elusive summer sunshine. Below are some great options for Cornish surf beaches along the north coast that I visited on my most recent trip. And, best of all, they remain dog-friendly all year round!
Some extra effort and forward planning may be required for a visit to Cornwall in the summer months, but it's worth it.
This was the first dog-friendly surf beach that my partner and I visited on Saturday. This was after a failed attempt to find parking at Perranporth, where we got stuck in a gridlocked one-way system - but what else did we expect on a weekend in the middle of summer?! We had additionally made the mistake of leaving it until lunchtime to go to the beach; although this is the best time to catch the surf, it meant that parking spaces were like gold dust. However, we were unbelievably lucky to get parked in the beach car park as we happened to arrive just as another car was leaving! There is a steep climb over the sand dunes to access the beach, but lots of space once you get near the sea so you can safely distance from those around you. There are a few facilities, such as a surf school with board rental, a lifeguard station and a cafe on the beach. There are also plenty of caves to explore and inlets for safe paddling near the rocks, where you can even snorkel when the water is deep enough!
After the parking fiasco on the previous day we decided to be slightly more organised on Sunday, arriving at Holywell Bay beach car park by 8.30am and taking food with us to enjoy breakfast on an almost-empty beach. At this time there in the morning there were ample spaces - by the time it got to 9.30am there was already a queue coming out of the car park, which was pretty much full. My advice would be to choose your beach for the day and ensure you arrive early! There is a cafe and pub right next to the beach car park, with toilet facilities a short walk away, so you can easily set up here for the whole day. There is again board rental on the beach and a strong lifeguard presence to ensure that you safely enjoy the surf.
Sunset at Fistral
A trip to northern Cornwall wouldn't be complete without a visit to the iconic Fistral Beach. We waited until late afternoon/early evening, when the majority of people had left after spending their day on the beach. At this time there were plenty of spaces in the car park and we arrived in time to enjoy a walk along the beach with its various rocky outcrops and rock pools, before heading back to the main complex for dinner and drinks. There are plenty of eateries to choose from and lots of outdoor seating areas, so you can enjoy the sea breeze and the sound of the surf whilst watching the sun go down.
Where to stay: The Track
The main problem you will find when visiting Cornwall during the peak summer months is finding accommodation. Places book up months in advance so you will generally find that everywhere is either full or overpriced. This problem has been exacerbated by some Airbnbs and campsites remaining closed due to the problems posed by Covid restrictions. We bypassed this problem by camping in the back of our van at The Track at Portreath (https://the-track.co.uk/), a bike park popular with mountain bikers and BMXers that caters for freeride/slope style/dirt jumping. Morning and evening riding sessions run throughout the summer, with evening sessions for some nights included in the price of camping. The camping facilities are very basic but serve a purpose for a few nights, and the friendly owners, Steve and Fiona, are very welcoming and accommodating. There is a cafe serving hot drinks and food during the day, and the local takeaways will deliver if you're staying into the evening. Kerno Hydro (https://kernowhydro.co.uk/) is also situated on the same site, a hydrotherapy centre with a heated mineral salt pool for all the family to enjoy.
To appreciate Cornwall's beauty at its best I would definitely recommend visiting outside of the peak summer holiday period - the beginning of June and end of September are ideal. However, if July and August are your only options then look to stay outside of the usual hotspots - and remember that you will have to plan ahead to beat the summer crowds!
(Note that all recommendations and reviews within this blog are genuine and no money has been received through advertising.)