Why Penzance and West Cornwall is the perfect autumn road trip

From West Country secrets to Cornish pasties, this is why you should steer to the west

Hertz has teamed up with British travel expert Sally Shalam to reveal the hidden hotspots of Britain with a new series of curated itineraries. In the first of their Inspired British Breaks, Shalam explores the West Country. To do this drive in style, check out the Hertz Dream Collection which includes Bentley, Ferraris and Jaguars.

Some boutique B&Bs deliver such comfort that tearing yourself from their confines takes effort. Handsome Chapel House in Penzance is just that kind. Pristine acreage of pale-painted floors enhance Georgian proportions. Rooftop and harbour views are framed by lofty sash windows, and the balance of antique and mid-century modern furnishings is spot on. It feels a very grown-up place to stay indeed.

In season, owner Susan Stuart lays on convivial ‘kitchen suppers’ around a long table in the moodily dark basement dining room, a contrast to the light-flooded upper floors, and since non-residents can also book, an opportunity is presented to rub shoulders with whichever local inhabitants turn up, and glean valuable touring tips in this far-flung corner of Cornwall.

Why Penzance and West Cornwall is the perfect autumn road trip

There is no likelihood of missing Land’s End, the splendour of Penzance’s Art Deco Jubilee Pool or St Michael’s Mount – best viewed from the terrace at the Godolphin Arms in Marazion over a sundowner (followed by dinner at Ben’s Cornish Kitchen across the road). The inside tip, though, was to drive to Cape Cornwall.

The cape is the wild, wild west of the county. Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the English Channel. Here, the wind whipped and the sea crashed and hurled itself against a rocky shore. From the sturdy, granite village of St Just (where McFadden’s butchers on the market square dispenses fresh Cornish pasties), a skinny lane led to the headland and a weather-beaten National Trust carpark which, on the blustery day I’d set off, provided a perfect vantage point from which to munch contentedly, watching the blue waves swell, below.

Why Penzance and West Cornwall is the perfect autumn road trip

If the turning to the headland is missed, the road from St Just traces the coastline, across moorland, eventually reaching The Gurnard’s Head. No longer a Cornish secret, this lonely inn sports garish orange exterior paintwork, a fanfare for the confident cuisine offered within. 

It’s a welcome port after traversing Poldark country, Cornwall’s Tin Coast. Copper and tin were extracted for more than 2,000 years and now the stark ruins of engine houses, chimneys, and no fewer than three National Trust sites (including a restored beam engine at the Levant mine) stand testament to an industrial past in this World Heritage Site.

Why Penzance and West Cornwall is the perfect autumn road trip

Considerably more manicured but equally memorable, was my next port of call, Tremenheere Sculpture Garden. Despite leaden skies, its grassy hillsides, woodland walk and exotic planting provided an alluring backdrop to large scale modern sculptures. Michael Chaikin’s perspex constructions which flutter and whirl like tropical birds are new installations this year and Penny Saunders’ Restless Temple is so extraordinary it is virtually a destination in its own right.

Columns of tensioned steel, clad in cedar, conjure up an ancient ‘temple’. By feat of engineering, they are controlled by pendulums, and the columns sway from side to side so gently that at first you question whether you’ve just witnessed a ‘building’ move.

Why Penzance and West Cornwall is the perfect autumn road trip

Art is as integral a part of this region as the granite which defines the landscape. In Penzance, Penlee House, set in lush gardens, is an elegant gallery and museum housing room upon room of glorious work by the Newlyn School of 19th-century artists who settled here and formed a colony. 

Newlyn itself, a working fishing port, is abuzz with tiny shops and cafes (snap up edible souvenirs, Cornish Gouda from the deli and crab from W. Harvey & Sons), a stylish Filmhouse in a former fish merchants, and the Newlyn School of Art, in which a modern-day colony of artists works in studios and tutors a multitude of weekend and short courses.

Why Penzance and West Cornwall is the perfect autumn road trip

Perhaps it is no surprise that hip hotel group, Artist Residence, has its westernmost outpost down here, too. Just moments from Chapel House, here is an altogether different bolthole. You might find work by Peter Blake or Tracey Emin in your bedroom and new rooms have just been added, including a loft suite called The Lookout. Downstairs, good food and wines are served in the low-lit, laid-back reclamation chic of the bar and Cornish Barn restaurant. Penzance might be the end of the rail line but it is also very much a gateway.

For more information, visit hertz.co.uk or call 08708 44 88 44 

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