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3 weeks in Cornwall and Devon

I have 3 weeks in May and would like to spend time in Cornwall and Devon. I am from Canada and don't want to drive so will be depending on train, bus and taxis. Would rather spend more time getting to know a few places rather than fleeting time in many places. Likely fly into London then train to Exeter and then not sure the best plan. Would like to see Port Issac. Any ideas? Thanks, Susan

Posted by
2953 posts

What is your attraction to Port Isaac? (Not a criticism, just wanting to understand the kinds of things that interest you.) Cornwall has lots of beautiful destinations! Personally I think the most magical place in Cornwall is St. Michael's Mount, which lies in the bay just off the village of Marazion. Marazion is reachable by bus from the Penzance railway station.

Maps of rail routes can be found here

http://greatscenicrailways.co.uk/

and here

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=17vpxQOiayY0UA0OSPnxpctR1hD0&hl=en&ll=50.60043815339252%2C-4.268864500000063&z=8

You can examine maps of bus routes here https://www.firstgroup.com/cornwall/routes-and-maps/network-maps

Posted by
21996 posts

I didn't get to Port Isaac this year but ran into lots of other tourists throughout Cornwall, apparently due partly to the Poldark Effect. Port Isaac, of course, gets the Doc Martin fans. I think the area will be much less busy in May; my trip was in August. Although I don't think you have to rush to nail down lodgings--assuming you don't insist on the most charming possible places, I found that making reservations only a few days ahead of time absolutely did not work in Devon and Cornwall during the summer. May might be perfectly OK for spontaneous travel. Or not.

One thing to keep in mind is that the area is cool, overcast, and potentially rainy even in mid-summer. Add in coastal wind, and you really need to be properly attired so you can enjoy being outdoors.

I especially enjoyed St. Ives, but it is definitely Tourist Central. It was worth it to me because much of the town is picturesque, and there are quality art and craft galleries to browse.

There are many nice gardens throughout southern England, The Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan are close to St. Austell and are also visitable from Mevagissey.

One good thing about being stuck with public transportation in the area is that double-decker buses are used on a lot of the coastal routes. Ride upstairs and you'll have a good view over the hedges that otherwise often block motorists' views of the countryside.

If you can pin down your schedule to the extent of buying your rail tickets in and out of London well in advance, you stand to save a lot of money. I met a gentleman during my trip who said his son had just been summoned to London for a job interview, and the last-minute round-trip train fare was about £250.

Posted by
3602 posts

Understanding your reticence about hiring a car , and your desire to see Portwenn ;--) , trying to include Port Issac will be inconvenient , to put it mildly . Bus service is sporadic , and even so the bus leaves you at the top above the village , with a considerable walk down to the harbor , and a bit of a climb back up . On my trips to Cornwall , I had a car , and , even though I felt like the Doc , driving there in the beginning , it was , for me , the best way to tour Cornwall .

Posted by
21996 posts

I didn't look for one, but I'll bet there are day-trips that include Port Isaac. That might be an option if you are adamant on the car-rental issue and find the public buses seriously inconvenient.

Posted by
1991 posts

If you intend too use public transport, don’t stay in villages like Port Isaac - you need to stay in a transport hub. In Cornwall, Truro is central and likely to offer a wide range of bus routes. It is also on the main railway that runs down the spine of the peninsula.

For trains:> www.nationalrail.co.uk (From Truro, I would suggest train to St.Ives and possibly Looe).
For buses:>http://www.traveline.info

Posted by
4843 posts

One thing to keep in mind is that the area is cool, overcast, and potentially rainy even in mid-summer. Add in coastal wind, and you really need to be properly attired so you can enjoy being outdoors.

That's not typical Cornish weather. The area is the mildest in the UK due to the gulf stream and the Scilly Isles are almost tropical. I've been there over Easter and we had glorious warm sunny weather throughout the duration. I have friends who visit relatives in Falmouth and pretty much they are almost guaranteed great weather.

In the autumn and winter months it does bear the brunt of many Atlantic storms but spring and summer are great times to visit. It would appear that you were unfortunate to experience a spell of bad weather but it's certainly not indicative of the average.

I would also recommend booking ahead for May. Depending on the dates they may fall within the school half term holidays plus May is a popular time for non child constrained visitors.

Posted by
21996 posts

Sorry, JC. Perhaps I was a bit unlucky. I didn't find the weather "bad", just overcast enough that I carried a rain jacket and/or an umbrella around with me just about every day. Perhaps I was mistaken in assuming that since temperatures were on the cool side during August and the first half of September, more of the same should be expected in May. People kept telling me that the western side of the island tended to be wetter than the east, and it did seem there were fewer clouds as I got away from the west coast.

I should know better than to extrapolate from one recent experience. I guess it was especially noticeable to me since I spent time in Normandy, Brittany and the Channel Islands before traveling to southwestern England, so I had a very, very long period of that weather.

Posted by
1278 posts

If you watched "Doc Martin" you'll remember most had to hire a taxi to get to Port Issac and back if they didn't have a car. There is a bus. Maybe there is a local Uber driver. If you look on a map you will see that Port Issac is out of the way. St Ives is a beach location that can be reached by train from Exeter. It is close to St Michael's Mount and Lands End. If you are traveling with someone else that can drive it may be worth it to rent a car if you want to see remote locations...it is not that difficult to adjust to driving on the left. You may have to pay a little extra for automatic. Most rentals now have GPS so you won't get lost. Check the National Trust UK web site for info on great places to visit.