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How to plan a family trip to Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula and Carbis Bay

Cornwall is set to be a family favourite for staycations this summer and combining a trip to Carbis Bay and the Lizard Peninsula takes in the best of the county’s north and south coasts.

Published 6 Mar 2021, 08:00 GMT
Carbis Bay is one of the county’s seven award-winning Blue Flag beaches and enjoys gentle surf, ...

Carbis Bay is one of the county’s seven award-winning Blue Flag beaches and enjoys gentle surf, making it the ideal family-friendly stretch of sand.

Photograph by Getty Images

Hit the beach

It’s not hard to see why Carbis Bay Beach is one of the county’s seven award-winning Blue Flag beaches — this windswept arc of sand is surrounded by sub-tropical plants and lapped by bright blue sea. Just a mile east of St Ives, it faces northeast with minimal surf, which makes it ideal for toddlers, while older children can make a splash in the rock pools at low tide. If you’re travelling with your four-legged friend, however, be sure to check ahead — a seasonal dog ban is in place during the summer months. Further south, on the rugged Lizard Peninsula, Polurrian Cove, Kennack Sands and dazzling Kynance Cove are well worth seeking out.

Ride the rails

Perhaps one of the most scenic train rides in Britain, the train journey from St Erth to St Ives may take just 10 minutes, but it’s a breathtaking moving picture show of coastal scenery, sweeping sands and towering cliffs. Jump on at St Erth, taking in Lelant, the golden sands of Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay, before pulling into St Ives — not bad for a £4 off-peak return.

Take a hike

Nearly all of Cornwall’s coast can be explored on the South West Coast Path, including the stretch from Carbis Bay back to St Ives. If you’re not hopping on the train, take it slow on a coastal ramble, appreciating the scenery and stopping off for an ice-cream along the way. Alternatively, a three-mile circular walk from via Porthkidney Sands takes you alongside the railway line high above St Ives Bay, through an area noted for its rare wildflowers and migratory birds. The route returns along the old pilgrim route, St Michael's Way, which follows the footsteps of one of the many saints who visited these shores.  

Get cultural

Book ahead for St Ives’ arty highlights. A must-see is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, located at Trewyn Studio, where the acclaimed sculptor lived and worked. Children will love exploring the garden and peeking into her faithfully preserved studio.
Meanwhile, Tate St Ives features work from the numerous artists associated with the area, including Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Alfred Wallis and Mark Rothko. There are also travelling exhibitions, such as South Korea’s Haegue Yang: Strange Attractors until May 2021.

Tuck in

Porthmeor Beach Cafe in St Ives is the place to be in the summer months. With a terrace overlooking the eponymous beach, its’ known for its build-your-own breakfast, as well as its lunchtime tapas menu, which features highlights such as the salt and lemon pepper squid with ginger dressing, and seared king prawns with chilli. Don’t miss the local bread or rosemary sea salt chips, either.

Where to stay

Una St Ives
This dog-friendly eco-resort features 29 self-catering lodges (from one to four beds) with open-plan kitchen-diner, a wood-burner and outdoor barbecue facilities. Select lodges come with hot tubs and terraces, but all are a short walk from the main reception, restaurant and swimming pool and spa. It’s also home to Una Kitchen at Una St Ives with its menu of Mediterranean-style dishes, such as Cornish sea bream with pea and lemon risotto, and slow-cooked pork belly with Parmesan polenta. Two-bed lodge from £150 per night during low season.

Polurrian on the Lizard
Set among 12 acres of mature landscaped gardens with views across Mount’s Bay, this 41-room hotel, which also has six three-bedroom villas, has a private beach, two pools and a health club. It’s an ideal jumping-off point to the South West Coastal Path (the Lizard to Coverack stretch) and Mullion Harbour is just a 25-minute walk away. There you can learn to surf, kayak and standup paddleboard, and try your hand at wild swimming lessons, too. From £119, B&B. 

Published in the March 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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