Secret UK: Cornwall

Fishing boats heading out into the Celtic Sea from Port Isaac, North Cornwall

3 April 2014

Mmm… can you smell the sea air… or is it a freshly-baked Cornish pasty…?

This week, we travel to the southwestern tip of the UK –  the home of cream teas, summer beach parties and surfers. Our mission: to ask international students for the lowdown on this fabulous county (and maybe eat a scone or two along the way).

Join us as we unlock the student secrets of Cornwall…

Cornwall: Key facts

Location: Southwest England
Population: 536,000 (2011 Census)
Administrative centre: Truro
Famous for: Beaches (and the longest coastline in the UK!), King Arthur, ghost stories, folk music, the Eden Project, Land’s End (the westernmost point of England) and the Lizard (the southernmost point of the British mainland)
Sports: Watersports (especially surfing), hiking, cycling, coasteering, horse riding
Taste of Cornwall: Cornish pasty, Cornish cream tea (with scones and clotted cream), ice cream, fish (try Stargazy pie, with fish heads poking through the crust!), Cornish hevva cake, Cornish fairings (biscuits), fudge
Cornwall in literature: Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot by Arthur Conan Doyle; Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier; parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling… and the fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer!
Famous Cornish people: Sir John Betjeman (poet), Lord Seb Coe (British athlete and London Olympics 2012 committee chairman), Dawn French (comic), John Opie (painter), Rosamund Pilcher (novelist), Sir Walter Raleigh (explorer)
Nearest airports: Newquay Cornwall Airport, Land’s End Airport, Exeter Airport
Train to London (from Truro) takes: 4 hours 20 minutes, direct
Train to Edinburgh (from Truro) takes: 9 hours 20 minutes, with changes

Speak Cornish! People in Cornwall speak English as a first language… but some also speak the historic language, Cornish. Try these phrases for starters:

Ha soce! – Hello, mate!
Fatla gena whye? – How are you?
Bolla tay/coffy – Cup of tea/coffee
Pesk, Kober ha Stean – Cheers! (literally means ‘Fish, copper and tin’)
Onen hag Oll – ‘One and All’ (the motto of Cornwall)

Meet the insiders

Name: Busayarin Bussayajirapong (Proy)
From: Thailand
Age: 22
Studying: BA (Hons) Illustration at Falmouth University
Cornwall in one word: Unique


 Sarthok Rahman
From: Bangladesh
Age: 22
Studying: BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology and Ecology at the University of Exeter (Penryn campus)
Cornwall in one word: Charismatic


What’s the best town or village to visit in Cornwall?

Sarthok: St Ives is the most beautiful place. It has a stunning seaside, little hills, good places to eat and lots of art galleries.

Proy: St Ives and Penzance are small but very beautiful, and each has its own character.

What’s the best way to travel around Cornwall?

Sarthok: I like to travel by train.

Proy: Walk, bike or take the train to other towns – enjoy the journey!

What’s the best thing to do in Cornwall on a sunny day?

Proy: Go to the beach, have a barbecue, swim in the sea or walk along the sand. Gyllyngvase Beach is my favourite because it’s walking distance from my campus, but I also like going to Swanpool for swimming as it’s less busy.

Sarthok: Ice cream at the seaside – what else? My number one beach ice cream shop (actually, my number one ice cream shop in Cornwall) is the Gylly Beach Café on Gyllyngvase Beach.

What’s the best thing to do in Cornwall for free?

Sarthok: Again, the beach – the sun costs nothing!

Proy: There's a free gallery at Falmouth Library which I think is very neat. They have sculptures and some monthly exhibitions. The Poly is also a very good gallery, and has free exhibitions showcasing local artists and the work of some students. It also puts on shows and workshops that sometimes cost a little bit extra, but are very good.

Where’s the best place to go shopping in Cornwall?

Proy: Falmouth has some lovely little boutique shops.

Sarthok: Truro - head for the high street as that's where most of the good shops are.

What’s the best thing to do on a night out in Cornwall?

Sarthok: My favourite nights out are always at our campus bar, Upper Stannary. They’ve got cheap food and drinks, and there are different activities on pretty much every night – regular quiz nights and film nights, and one-off events like summer festivals and a baking championship.

Proy: There are some great bars in Falmouth – I usually go to Mango Tango.

Where’s the best place to go for a spot of culture in Cornwall?

Sarthok: The art galleries are very impressive in St Ives – the Tate is my favourite. The Eden Project is a nice day out for nature lovers. The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is also interesting.

Proy: The Front pub in Falmouth – they have Cornish dancing on a Monday night.

What’s the number one food you have to taste in Cornwall?

Sarthok: A Cornish pasty, of course! I'd recommend Rowe's Cornish Bakers – they have lots of branches around Cornwall.

Proy: A Cornish pasty... but not any old pasty. Your own, homemade Cornish pasty – at JH & M Choak, you can make your own! The ones you buy there are good too, though a bit different from all the other places I’ve tried in Falmouth – the pastry is more like bread, which I think tastes more homemade. But the best place to buy a pasty in my opinion is Pasty Face, where they taste really traditional.

What will you miss most about Cornwall when you leave?

Proy: The sound of the sea, the sound of the gulls and all the outdoor activities I do – hiking and rowing. And of course, all the friends I’ve made at university and at the Falmouth Watersports Association.

Sarthok: The natural environment, and the seaside.

And finally, what’s the most memorable experience you’ve had in Cornwall… the one you’d tell your grandchildren about?

Sarthok: Watching seals at Godrevy point during a field trip.

Proy: There can’t be any one moment – I’d talk about the people I have met here, how living abroad teaches you to grow as a person and my involvement with the university as an ambassador, as well as my friendships with other international students.

For more information about events and attractions in Cornwall, go to Visit Cornwall.

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