While Cornwall has sub-tropical gardens and all sorts of family attractions, what visitors really flock here for is the beaches: from gaping sandy bays to deserted smugglers’ coves and wild shale strands battered by the Atlantic. So it’s little surprise that, come summer, the most popular beaches are crowded by bucket-and-spade brigades armed with bodyboards and beach barbecues. However, if there are just the two of you, and you’re looking for somewhere a little more romantic and peaceful, there are plenty of lesser-known beaches where you couples can bag your own patch of pearly sands. Indeed if you’re looking for a romantic break in Cornwall, come and explore its secret beaches whilst staying at a Classic holiday cottage for two.
For romantics: Diggory’s
With its mussel-clad towers of granite rising from the sand, Bedruthan Steps attracts plenty of camera-swinging visitors to snap its beauty from the cliff tops, but many are deterred from the beach itself by the 140-something steps and low tide access. Few that do make it down the cliff stairs are even aware that, at very low tide, you can venture beyond the biggest hunk of granite – Diggory’s Island – to reach a secluded corner of the beach where deep blue lagoons await at the foot of Park Head.
Parking: National Trust Car Park at Carnewas, or Park Head NT car park
For dog walkers: Porthkidney Sands
While tourist droves descend on neighbouring beaches of Carbis Bay and Hayle Towans, the less accessible Porthkidney Sands remains untouched by the masses. In fact, this mile of empty, dune-backed sands is often the domain of just a handful of smug dog walkers; which is why the locals have dubbed it ‘Happy Dog Beach’. And once you’re ready to get back amongst a livelier seaside scene, it’s only two miles along the South West Coast Path to St Ives.
Parking: St Uny Church, Lelant, or walk along the SWCP from Carbis Bay.
For sub-tropical scenery: Durgan
Part of Durgan’s magic is getting there through the sub-tropical jungle of Glendurgan Garden. Once you’ve bashed through bamboo groves, got lost in the cherry laurel maze and been dwarfed by giant Gunnera plants, you eventually emerge on this tranquil crescent of shingle and sand, where there is very little to do other than spot birds, skim stones and watch sailing boats bobbing along the Helford River.
Parking: National Trust car park at the entrance to Glendurgan Garden
For baring all: Pedn Vounder
Its white sands and an iridescent-blue lagoon backed by towering cliffs, Pedn Vounder is, reputedly, home to some of the purest air and water quality in Britain. Overlooked by the famous Logan Rock from the east, it has many reasons for retaining its looks and keeping the crowds at bay: Firstly it’s a low-tide beach and, except on a spring tide when you can walk from neighbouring Porthcurno, it’s accessible only via knee-wobbling cliff path. It’s also, unofficially, a naturist beach.
Parking: Treen village or Porthcurno
For Caribbean beauty: Gwenver
Stroll east along the beach from Sennen Cove and eventually you’ll set foot on the more rugged, more secluded Gwenver, where serious beach lovers sprawl on sugar-white sands, scramble over wave-hewn boulders and dip in unforgiving waves. Fortunately, unless you’ve strayed from Sennen on a low tide, the steep cliff staircase is a good deterrent for anyone less serious about beach life.
Parking: There is a cliff car park above the beach
For rugged terrain: Duckpool
At the foot on the Coombe Valley – north of Bude’s busier beaches – awaits a wilder, more desolate coastline yawning towards the border of Devon. Here you will discover Duckpool, where vast cliffs collapse into a rocky beach and, eventually, pockets of sand. There are no trappings except for an ice cream van, and with no lifeguards, only hardy swimmers and surfers are encouraged into the pounding shore break.
Parking: There is a small car park beside the beach
For wild swimming: Nanjizal (main pic)
A two-mile walk south from Lands End, Nanjizal is a wild and mystical cove that epitomises the rugged beauty of West Cornwall. When swells rage the sea is inaccessible yet awesome to watch as it crashes through the rock arch. But when a calm ocean laps the low-tide sands, a plunge pool is exposed under the arch and there are three sandstone caves to explore at the bay’s northern end. No lifeguards.
Find yourself the perfect Cornish holiday cottage by a sandy beach.