Cornwall is often considered one of the best places to visit in the UK, and it is easy to see why. Steeped in heritage and culture, Cornwall has it all: sandy beaches, tropical blue seas, lush green fields, beautiful woodlands and mystical Celtic landscapes. Almost completely surrounded by sea, Cornwall is famous for surfing and sunbathing and is hugely popular with tourists in the summer, but is equally magnificent in the winter. Visit during the colder months and you might be lucky enough to experience the spectacular sight of the mighty waves battering the coastline as the usually tranquil sea shows its dark and stormy side. Wrap up warm, enjoy a walk around the beautiful countryside and feel the satisfying crunch of frost-covered golden leaves beneath your feet before retreating to a quiet corner in a cosy country pub.
Whilst farming and fishing are key industries in Cornwall, vegan-friendly places can now be found all over the county, so we have put together a list of our top ten things to do. No matter what time of year you visit, we are sure that you will agree that Cornwall is truly delightful, or as the Cornish would say, ‘ansome.
- Eat a pasty – The humble pasty (1) has been considered the staple food of the Cornish diet ever since its invention centuries ago when tin miners needed a filling meal that could be kept warm and be easily transported down the mines. Traditionally consisting of meat, potato and swede in a pastry casing (miners would hold them by the crimped edges whilst eating to prevent transferring the arsenic on their fingers to the pasty), anything goes with modern pasties, and the good news is there are vegan options aplenty. Try Ann’s Pasties in the Lizard and Helston, Pengenna Pasties in St. Ives, Camelford, Bude and Tintagel, or Rowe’s, which has bakeries all over Cornwall.
- Become a cider drinker – Crisp, refreshing cider is the drink of choice in Cornwall and much of the Westcountry. Several varieties are made in Cornwall, and most are suitable for vegans. Healey’s Cyder Farm is open to visitors so you can see how their cider is made and sample the products on offer. Healey’s Cornish Rattler cider – named after the apples it is distilled from – is very popular with locals and tourists alike, and it also comes in berry and pear varieties. Most shops and pubs in Cornwall will sell Rattler so if you can’t make it to the farm then you are bound to come across it elsewhere during your travels. Other great local ciders to look out for include Polgoon and Cornish Orchards.
- Dine in Cornwall’s only vegan restaurant – Situated in the bustling harbour town of Falmouth, The Wildebeest Café (2) opened last year and has been a great success. Everything on the menu is 100% vegan, including the alcohol, plus there are plenty of gluten free options too. Wildebeest’s dishes are influenced by culinary styles from all over the world, particularly Japan and Mexico. Typical starters include hoisin seitan cucumber rolls or miso soup and seaweed salad, whilst mains might be chestnut, fennel and tarragon tortellini with cashew parmesan or Mex Mix – salsa, guacamole, refried beans, sticky onions, cashew cheese, corn and handmade blue tortillas. For dessert there is a great selection of cakes, cookies and raw cheesecakes as well as homemade ice creams and sorbets. Falmouth is also home to two other vegetarian eateries that have plenty of vegan options, so you could spend the day there and dine at a different café for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Pea Souk Café (3) specialises in Arabic cuisine and serves up delicious fare such as soups, salads, mezze, nachos, burgers, doorstop sandwiches, all day breakfasts and a selection of cakes. At Café Cinnamon you will find hearty cooked breakfasts, homemade soups, light lunches and a range of puddings and sweet treats. They also regularly host themed evenings including curry night and tapas.
- Indulge in a spa day – No holiday would be complete without some rest and relaxation, and we can’t think of anything better than a pampering day at the spa! The Scarlet is a luxurious, adults-only eco hotel in Mawgan Porth near Newquay featuring an outdoor cliff top hot tub and a chemical-free, reed-filtered swimming pool. The Scarlet boasts an Ayurvedic-inspired spa complete with a steam room, hammam, rhassoul mud chamber and a cosy relaxation room containing cocoon-like canvas pods to curl up in. Complete your spa day with lunch in the Scarlet’s restaurant, which enjoys breath-taking sea views and will happily cater for vegans. Alternatively why not book yourself in for a treatment at Tranquilla Rosa (4) in the ancient market town of Helston? Run by our very own beauty writer Jessica Sjoholm, Tranquilla Rosa offers a range of relaxing complementary therapies and holistic spa treatments to help restore balance to the mind, body and spirit. Treatments available include holistic massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, facials, back facials and spa hand and foot treatments. All treatments are carried out using only natural products that are vegan and certified by Cruelty Free International.
- Take a trip to St. Ives – The seaside town of St. Ives is home to not one but two vegetarian restaurants. Located within the Coast Vegetarian Bed and Breakfast, The Bean Inn (5) is a cosy, candlelit restaurant that bases its menu on local, seasonal ingredients. Typical vegan starters include griddled tofu with sweet potato wedges or garlic mushrooms on toast, and mains include potato cakes with pea curry and tarka dahl or spaghetti with red pesto and roasted vegetables. There is a range of decadent desserts on offer including dark chocolate and raspberry mud pie or seasonal fresh fruit crumble. Spinacio’s has an ever-changing menu that uses home grown produce and offers a range of dishes such as beetroot, broad bean and cannellini bean pates with toast as a starter, chickpea, coconut and cashew curry for the main course and carrot, coconut and lemon drizzle cake with ice cream for dessert. Both restaurants are only open in the evening, so a day spent pottering around St. Ives’ cobbled streets browsing the many art galleries and quirky shops is sure to work up your appetite ready for your evening meal.
- Stay in a vegan guesthouse – Situated just over a mile from Tintagel in north Cornwall in the pretty hamlet of Treknow (pronounced tre-no), Michael House is a vegan guesthouse offering mouth-watering breakfasts as well as delicious evening meals to guests and non-residents. Local, fair-trade, home-produced and/or organic produce is used where possible, and a selection of vegan beers and wines is available. Breakfast choices include homemade muesli, fresh fruit salad, freshly baked bread with preserves or a cooked breakfast complete with scrambled tofu and potato rosti. Typical evening meals include mushroom, puy lentil and walnut pate or carrot and coconut soup to start; spice crusted tofu with maple syrup and lemon glaze or butterbean and mushroom filo parcels for the main course; and steamed ginger and fruit pudding with lemon and ginger sauce or chocolate and pecan tart for dessert. Michael House is a short walk from the beach at Trebarwith Strand for those who like to spend lazy days surfing, swimming and sunbathing, or for those who like to explore there are plenty of interesting places to visit in the area. Just down the road from Michael House are the medieval remains of Tintagel Castle, which is said to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. A little further afield you will find the picturesque village of Port Isaac – the backdrop of the British television series Doc Martin, and the Eden Project, an eco-friendly attraction featuring artificial biodomes that are home to plants from all over the world as well as the world’s largest rainforest in captivity. Further down the coast in west Cornwall you will find Bleujennow (Cornish for flowers), a vegan bed and breakfast situated in the town of Penzance. Bleujennow is very eco-friendly – waste is recycled, upcycled or turned into compost, solar panels adorn the roof and water and energy use is reduced as much as possible. Visiting Bleujennow by public transport is encouraged, thus a free pick-up and drop-off service to and from the train and bus station is provided. Breakfast is included in the room price and picnic lunches and evening meals can also be provided, using locally grown fruit and vegetables where possible. Penzance is filled with shops, pubs, galleries and cafés, including Archie Brown’s Health Food Shop & Vegetarian Café, which can also be found in Truro (see 14). Places to visit nearby include the beautiful villages of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) and Lamorna as well as the famous signpost at Land’s End, the most westerly point in mainland England. To the east is the seaside town of Marazion which is home to St. Michael’s Mount, a small tidal island featuring a castle and sub-tropical gardens. Further along the coast to the west you will find the Minack Theatre, a spectacular open-air theatre located on the clifftop at Porthcurno.
- Get walking – Whether it’s a ramble along part of Cornwall’s 300 miles of breath-taking coastal footpath (6), a hike across the rolling hills of Bodmin Moor or a gentle stroll through the peaceful countryside (7), there is no shortage of amazing places to walk in Cornwall. Walking is an excellent cardio workout and the fresh, clean Cornish air refreshes the mind and body. Cornwall boasts many gifts of nature that can be found in abundance all around you (8). Get yourself a foraging guide book and see how many edible freebies you can gather on your walk to experiment with in the kitchen. Delights such as rock samphire, dandelion, sorrel, bilberries, blackberries, elderflower, fennel, mint, chamomile and nettle await you, ready to be devoured in a tasty salad or homemade soup, or brewed up for fresh herbal tea.
- Explore Britain’s most southerly point – Lizard Point is the most southerly point in mainland Britain, and is situated on a peninsula that is composed largely of unique serpentine rocks (9). Several idyllic villages can be found on the Lizard Peninsula, which possesses a warm climate that enables the growth of sub-tropical vegetation and colourful wild flowers and is home to several of Britain’s rarest plant species. Stay at the Lanherne Vegetarian and Vegan Bed and Breakfast in Mullion (10), which provides delicious breakfasts and evening meals using organic wholefoods where possible. A visit to the trendy Kota Kai (11) restaurant in Porthleven is a must. Whilst not exclusively a vegetarian restaurant, they will cater for vegans with notice, and they do it exceptionally well. For starters you might be offered miso soup or tempura vegetables with sweet chilli dipping sauce, and for mains you should expect outstanding authentic vegetable curries and lentil dahl. Finish your meal with a refreshing trio of fruit sorbets washed down with a cooling cocktail before enjoying a leisurely stroll around the harbour and along the beach, passing Porthleven’s iconic clock tower (12) on your way. If you fancy something light then pop in to the Twisted Currant tea room for a slice of homemade vegan cake. If you visit Cornwall in the spring, be sure to catch Flora Day (13) in Helston on May the 8th (or the Saturday before if the 8th falls on a Sunday or Monday). This ancient festival is one of the oldest British customs still practised today and celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Shops are decorated with greenery and blue bells, and the local people dress up to dance through the streets and gardens lead by the town’s brass band. Also included in the day’s festivities is the Hal-an-Tow, a pageant that tells the history of Helston through a musical mini-play.
- Visit the Monkey Sanctuary – The Monkey Sanctuary in Looe is an active rescue centre for Capuchin Monkeys, Woolly Monkeys and Barbary Macaques. The Sanctuary provides a safe environment for monkeys who have not had the best start in life and may need time to recover and progress physically, emotionally and socially. During your visit you will get the chance to meet some of the monkeys and learn more about them and the daily care they require. You can sponsor a monkey or make a donation, with 100% of income going towards the Sanctuary’s charitable work. It is also has an eco-friendly vegetarian café, where you will find goodies such as veggie burgers and sausage sandwiches, soup, hummus and vegetable sticks as well as a selection of cakes.
- Explore Cornwall’s only city – It may be a lot smaller than the cities you are used to exploring, but Truro is still a city, and a lovely one at that. Truro is the retail centre of Cornwall, and you will find a diverse range of independent shops and big name stores – be sure to pop into Cornwall’s only Lush store whilst you are there. See a show at the Hall for Cornwall, take a look around Truro Cathedral or learn about Cornwall’s rich heritage and history at the Royal Cornwall Museum. There are plenty of places to find great vegan food in Truro, such as Archie Brown’s Health Food Shop & Vegetarian Café (14), which also has a café in Penzance. Stock up on your favourite snacks and cruelty-free products in the shop before settling down in the café to enjoy a bowl of warm homemade soup, a super-healthy salad or a vegetable farinata followed by an indulgent cake with ice cream. In the Secret Garden Café you can find delicious soup, veggie burgers, quesadillas or homemade roast squash falafel, or visit Fodders for a nut roast salad, spicy chickpea, toasted coconut and rice salad pitta or a slice of cake.
Photography by Jessica Sjoholm and Kathy White