The Ultimate Staycation Road Trip in Devon and Cornwall
July 16, 2021
Looking for the ultimate Staycation in Devon and Cornwall? Look no further than this epic guide I have curated detailing the best staycation road trip in the South West of England.
Last year gave me the opportunity to appreciate the great British countryside and the country that I have grown up in. I am originally from Dorset, have family in Devon and currently live in Cornwall. This blog post will guide you to local gems in Devon and Cornwall that are off the beaten path. Tropical day trips, historical manor houses with exquisite gardens, white sandy beaches and so much more. So where do we start with the perfect staycation in Devon and Cornwall? Read on to find out.
Staycation Spots in Devon
We start off our epic Devon and Cornwall staycation road trip in the South of Devon. In the small fishing village of Beesands to be exact. Known for delicious fresh crab and lobster with a stunning coastline. It is perfect for walking the dog or spending time with your family. Close by to the notoriously bustling resort town of Salcombe, Beesands is the retreat you come to, to escape.
Tow your sailboat, bring your fishing rod and make camp for the day. The mile-long shingle beach backs onto a nature reserve and offers a picture-perfect backdrop. My grandparents lived in one of the nearby villages and we visited Beesands often as a family when I was younger.
Why not hop over to the neighbouring beach of Slapton Sands, located between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth.
Stay: Stay beachfront in one of the beautiful Air BnB’s or grab a room in the local pub – The Cricket Inn.
Eat: Make sure you stop by Britannia at the Beach, a BYOB beach shack-style cafe that serves the catch of the day seafood on a beachfront location.
Locations to visit nearby: Salcombe, Dartmouth and Kingsbridge.
Bantham beach is part of South Devons area of outstanding natural beauty and has won awards from the Marine Conservation Society and Blue Flag. Not only is this a gloriously clean beach but it is also the perfect place to come for a surf. Hire a board from Bantham Surfing Academy or even join in on a lesson. The recent addition of colourful retro food trucks in the beach car park makes this the perfect beach for a day at the seaside. Not to mention a perfect staycation spot in Devon and Cornwall.
Come here to surf, walk the expansive coastline, kayak the estuary or even catch the sea tractor over to Burgh Island at low tide from nearby Bigbury beach.
Stay: You can stay in the local pub – The Sloop Inn and even stay overnight on Burgh Island at the Burgh Island Hotel. Alternatively, you can stay in the nearby town of Kingsbridge where there are more options for hotels, B&B’s and self-catering.
Eat: Enjoy food from the food trucks located in the beach car park and sit on the grassy banks. This car park isn’t your usual concrete jungle. It’s mainly sand and grass, very large and has beautiful places to sit.
Locations to visit nearby: Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Dartmouth
The port city of Plymouth has a great maritime heritage and a beautiful historic Barbican area. It is where I studied at University and so I have fond memories of living here. My favourite part of Plymouth is The Sound. Looking out to the breakwater from Plymouth Hoe you can see Drakes island and Mount Edgecumbe. This brings me to why I think you should visit Plymouth. To get out on the water. It is no wonder it made on to my staycation in Devon and Cornwall road trip guide.
Whether you go sailing or hire a stand-up paddleboard, being out on the water really gives you the best of what Plymouth has to offer. There are plenty of places to organise sailing in Plymouth as it is a favourite pastime here. You can rent stand up paddleboards from South West Sup at Royal William Yard, Plymouths trendy ex-Royal Navy victualling yard. They are located only steps from the ocean, where you can paddle over to the private Drakes Island. When you come back why not stop for lunch in one of the many restaurants in Royal William Yard, the perfect location for alfresco dining.
Stay: Plymouth has a wide variety of hotels and B&B’s and my favourite locations are the Barbican and The Hoe.
Eat: You can either eat at any of the restaurants in Royal William Yard or head to the Barbican for some seaside dining. Looking for some food on the go – grab something from Captain Jaspers on the Barbican.
Locations to visit nearby: Mount Edgecumbe, Whitsands, Cawsand and Kingsand. These are all located in Cornwall just across the bay from Plymouth accessible via the Torpoint chain ferry.
Staycation Spots In Cornwall
Just across from Plymouth Sound you can see the beautiful Mount Edgcumbe Country Park in Cornwall. It is one of Cornwall’s finest country estates and is absolutely the first place that you should stop when you cross the border from Devon. Mount Edgecumbe Country Park is over 860 acres and houses a grand manor house, a country park estate, galleries and cafes, manicured gardens and more. There are a huge variety of walks you can do here and I am going to share my favourite one with you so you can make the most of the location.
Mount Edgcumbe Walk
Start by parking at Maker Church – the car park is by donation and is only a 5-10 minute downhill walk to the manor house. There are closer car parks but they will cost you more and this one is closer to the start point of the walk I want you to experience. The map below will show you where to walk and it follows public footpaths the whole way. In the car park, walk through the gate on the righthand side as you are looking at the ocean. From there follow the map. This will take you along a beautiful coastal path, past Picklecombe Seat, and onto Mount Edgcumbe Folly.
Take a short break here to admire the breathtaking view over Plymouth Sound and climb the Folly. Then follow the path on the map around to Mount Edgcumbe House. The walk then follows down to the seafront where you can visit the Orangery and the manicured gardens filled with tropical plants. Stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the alfresco garden of the Orangery. The end of the walk goes back to the car park, which is only a short 10-15 minute stroll uphill.
Stay: Rent an Air BnB in the nearby fishing villages of Kingsand or Cawsand. There are properties for couples to large families available, all within a stone’s throw of the beach. Mount Edgcumbe also offer glamping shepherds huts for a unique experience.
Eat: The cafe at the Orangery serve lunch and delicious tea and cakes. Alternatively, grab a pub lunch at The Edgcumbe Arms.
Locations to visit nearby: Plymouth, Whitsands Beach.
Around the corner from Mount Edgcumbe Country Park is the stunning Whitsands Bay. The cliffside views here are incredible, especially at sunset. Come here to surf, walk the coastal paths that make up the South West Coastal Path, have picnics on the long sandy beaches and generally have a good time. If you are feeling fancy, stay here overnight in one of the beach chalets that adorn the cliffs. You cannot beat the sea views here!
Eat: There are no restaurants or cafes at this beach however a short drive away you will be able to find places to pick up food. Even better, bring a picnic!
Stay: Check out the luxury chalets available for hire on the cliffs here.
Locations to visit nearby: Kingsand, Cawsand and Mount Edgecumbe.
Cotehele National Trust
I am very lucky to have Cotehele National Trust only minutes from where I live in Cornwall and I absolutely adore it. All National Trust properties to me are worth visiting as they are beautifully maintained and often in the most picturesque locations. Cotehele not only has a stunning medieval manor house that you can visit but their gardens are exquisite. There is a public footpath that runs through the estate so you can even visit the area without being a member. The best walk goes from Cotehele to Calstock with wonderful views of the River Tamar. Bring a picnic blanket and sit on the river’s edge at Cotehele Quay followed by a country walk. The ultimate staycation in Devon and Cornwall spot.
Stay: As Cotehele is located in the countryside I would make the most of the location and choose somewhere to stay close by. Maybe in a unique countryside Air BnB. Alternatively, you could stay in the nearby beautiful town of Tavistock who offer boutique hotels.
Eat: Stop for a picnic on Cotehele quay or head for a pub lunch in Calstock at the Tamar Inn.
Locations to visit nearby: Tavistock, Plymouth, Whitsands.
Another wonderful National Trust estate to visit is Lanhydrock just south of Bodmin in Cornwall. This sprawling estate has acres of land for walks and an incredibly beautiful Victorian manor house to view. The gardens are, of course stunningly maintained and this location is a wonderful place to visit for the day. Discover the ancient woodlands and tranquil riverside paths. You can even hire a bike to make the most of the grounds. Beautiful in all seasons, Lanhydrock is the perfect road trip addition to your Devon and Cornwall vacation.
Stay: You can stay at the Luxury Lanhydrock Hotel and Golf Resort or find a more boutique self-catered property in the outskirts close by to Bodmin. Alternatively, you can pass by Lanhydrock on your way to Newquay from Cotehele. The drive is only 1 hour and so you can make the most of your day trip to Lanhydrock and skip a nights accommodation.
Eat: Lanhydrock is the perfect place to come with a picnic.
Locations to visit nearby: Newquay, Cotehele, Bodmin Moor.
The popular seaside resort of Newquay has something for everyone. Whether you like to walk the beautiful coastal paths, surf in the ocean or relax on the beach. Newquay is a fantastic place to come for your Devon and Cornwall staycation. I used to visit Newquay a lot when I was in University at Plymouth and now I visit even more living in Cornwall. I am going to share my favourite places to visit that are hidden gems and off the beaten path. You won’t need to wonder why it made it into my guide to the ultimate staycation in Devon and Cornwall.
For the best sunset spot, you want to head to Little Fistral. You can either sit on the beach or do like I do and pop your picnic blanket down on the grass cliffs edge. Bring a bbq or picnic and it’s the most beautiful way to spend the evening. For the best parking for Little Fistral, search for Towan Headland Car Park. This Cornwall council car park is not only cheaper than the privately run Fistral car park but it has beautiful views.
Take a walk along the Harbour to Little Fistral past the Huers Hut. The 14th Century hut was built as a place to keep watch for shoals of fish so the local fishermen could be alerted of their location. The white stone hut resembles the architecture of a Greek building and is a unique spot to view.
A great beach to visit in Newquay is actually a few minutes drive away at Watergate Bay. The clifftop views on the way here are stunning and there is even a waterfront hotel you can stay in. It is aptly called the Watergate Bay Hotel. But if you are looking for something a little quieter then why not head to Holywell Bay. The large sand dunes are beautiful and it’s a National Trust site. There is no surprise at how stunning it is.
For the best surf in Newquay head to Fistral Beach where you can hire boards for beginners. I like to park at South Fistral because it has free on-road parking overlooking the ocean. This part of the beach is often quieter too. It has great surf and a cute cafe called Sea Spray serving up delicious coffees and instagrammable grub. It is also on the same road where the awesome luxury Fistral Beach Hotel is.
Stay: We stayed at the Fistral Beach Hotel and it was absolutely amazing. Their staff were incredible and the spa is awesome. The views aren’t too bad either. There are plenty of Air BnB’s in Newquay. The Headland Hotel also has a brand-new incredible spa overlooking the ocean.
Eat: Grab a Pizza at The Stable on Fistral Beach followed by a drink at Fistral Beach Bar, both located overlooking the ocean and where the sunsets. The atmosphere is amazing then. If you fancy something a little more luxurious then head to The Headland Hotel for a cocktail on their terrace. Fun fact about The Headland Hotel- it was the filming location for a very famous movie. The hotel is featured in Roald Dahl 1990’s Movie – The Witches.
Locations to visit nearby: Perranporth, Padstow, Gwithian and Godrevy.
St Ives is a well renowned and popular seaside fishing harbour and is busy with tourists for a reason. However, the areas surrounding St Ives are why I particularly loved coming here. From breathtaking coastal path views to witnessing nature at its finest. I will guide you on a mini road trip from St Ives past the must-see locations. Securing it as a top spot in my guide to the best staycation in Devon and Cornwall.
Start off by staying in St Ives, surfing Porthmeor Beach, and strolling the harbour shops. Then hop in your car and drive to Gwithian. This is a National Trust spot and I recommend parking at Godrevy point. From here you can access Gwithian beach and also Godrevy Point. In the car park make sure you walk to the lookout and keep a keen eye on the shoreline. Here you might be lucky enough to see the local seal colony. They sunbathe on the shore here and from the clifftop, it makes a wonderful sight.
From here drive along the closest road to the coast to Hells Mouth. The view at Hells Mouth is simply breathtaking and an absolute must-see! From Hells Mouth you can continue on to Bassets Cove and Chapel Porth Beach. Head back to St Ive’s for sunset and enjoy cocktails on Porthmeor Beach.
Stay: Accommodation in St Ives gets booked up well in advance so you may need to stay out of town in a nearby village. We had an Air BnB near Camborne and it’s within driving distance. You can also get the train into St Ives if you don’t want to park your car. It can be difficult to find parking in the town in peak season so plan your journey in advance.
Eat: Grab lunch in St Ives at West Beach Cafe or Porthmeor Beach Cafe on Porthmeor Beach. Order Fish and Chips at Hells Mouth Cafe and take them to the cliffside to witness Hells Mouth itself.
Locations to visit nearby: Newquay, Perranporth and Penzance.
Isles of Scilly
Take a day trip to my favourite place in the entire country – The Isles of Scilly. A group of tropical islands 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. You can visit by boat, plane or helicopter. If you have time I would recommend staying here for a week or two. This way you get a real feel for their unique and incredible nature. But, if you only have time for a day – take advantage of the day trips that start from only £30 pp return. Coming to the Isles of Scilly makes the perfect location for your staycation in Devon and Cornwall.
The Isles of Scilly endure a microclimate that supports the growth of thousands of tropical plants. It also sees the migration of exotic bird species. Making this a popular location for bird watchers. The reason that I used to love to come here every year for 20 years is hard to describe. Whether it’s the endless empty white sandy beaches, the beautiful turquoise ocean or the countless coastal paths. Somehow the Isles of Scilly just feel like home and give you a real sense of peacefulness. There are 5 inhabited islands – St Marys, St Martins, Tresco, St Agnes and Bryher. All are unique in their own way and offer something for everyone. Check out my guide to the best day trip to The Isles of Scilly here.
Tips for Planning the Perfect Road Trip Staycation in Devon and Cornwall
Research and pin your locations on to Google Maps for future reference. That way you can see what places you want to visit and can plan the distances in between. You can add all of the locations in to the directions section one after the other to plot your route.
Take the advice of locals as they will often know the best hidden gems to visit.
Ensure you have good breakdown cover – there is nothing worse than breaking down when you are far from home. It does make it a lot easier when you have someone to come rescue you. Some even come with a replacement car so you can continue your journey.
Be prepared to go off schedule. You might find places along the way you want to visit so ensure you can be flexible.