Hidden gems that can remain secrets!
With the advent of the internet, there are a less and less secret places to get away from it all and enjoy a little piece of uninterrupted beauty. Some do still exist, but they are few and far between. Not only this, but most are a some way off the beaten track, or the nearest car park at least.
In this article I've chosen a few of my favourite spots in West Cornwall where you might still find some solitude, even in the summer. Situated within a stone's throw of St Ives, Penzance, Land's End and Hayle a more intrepid explorer, armed with an OS map may be able to find some of these, but I'm not giving any hints...
The Perfect Rugged Cove
This hidden gem of a beach is fairly remote, as far as it goes in West Cornwall. Accessed by something of a scramble down the cliffs, visitors will be greeted with perfect sand, crystal clear turquoise waters and a backdrop of rugged cliffs.
On the scale of secret to holiday favourite, this little cove is closer to the middle; unsurprisingly, it is pretty popular with locals and the limited parking tends to go pretty early. Of course if you don't mind a hike you'll have no trouble finding a parking spot back in civilisation a mile or two away...
A Hidden Valley
West Cornwall is home to a number of coastal valleys which have been carved into the landscape by streams running down from the moors above. All are dramatic in one way or another, with some running through woods and others through old mining country, as they tumble down towards the sea.
This valley falls into the latter category with some interesting mine workings dotted along its length right down to where it meets the sea. What I like about this valley is how it towers over you before dramatically opening up into a wild, rock-strewn bay dominated by a massive headland.
South Coast Secret Beach
This is another little sandy beach that not a lot of people know about. Tucked away behind an imposing headland it is easy to miss, especially when the tide is in and the beach all but disappears. On a busy day you'll find a few families down here but it never gets crowded. It's a great spot for exploring with rock pools galore, caves and hidden patches of sand between the rocks.
Besides being a little out of the way, one possible reason not too many people make it down to the beach is the scrabble down the cliffs - something of a theme amongst these hidden beaches! This one isn't too bad, but it looks more precarious than it is.
A Tower on a Hill
Not exactly hidden, this little tower sits on a hill overlooking both coasts and can be seen for miles around. The thing is though it is quite a long way from any road, so most people wouldn't even know what they were looking at even if they did happen to spot it from afar. Getting here for a closer look is also something of a challenge; even if I was going to tell you where it was, I couldn't really tell you how to reach it! I suspect mine wasn't the official route as it involved climbing over some barbed wire...
The tower itself is a folly dating back to the end of the 18th century. From the outside it appears like one of those slightly more elaborate sandcastles - the ones with the four turrets. Inside you get a break from the relentless wind that blows up here and can enjoy the spectacular views across the bay.
A Well Hidden Cove on the North Coast
This is one of my favourite little hidden coves in West Cornwall. Tucked away between (insert name here) and (insert name here) this sheltered cove sits at the bottom of a shallow valley which makes pleasant spot for a walk in itself. En route you will pass the remains of a 19th century water-powered tin stamp as you follow the stream down to the little bay.
There is a beach here, but at any time apart from low tide it consists mostly of rounded granite rocks and boulders. However, time it right and you will have a few hours of picturesque sandy beach, possibly to yourself.
One thing I love about this spot is how it changes with the seasons and weather. On a sunny summer's afternoon it is postcard perfect, but catch it on a stormy winter's day and there is a definite air of foreboding.
Cornwall's Most Beautiful Cave!
This hidden gem was a secret for many years - you would see photos of this incredible cave with golden light pouring through the rock arch, lighting up the shallow lagoon, but its location was a mystery. Nobody said where it was, but a fair few of us knew. But inevitably someone couldn't help themselves and before long they were making books of "secret" places and it was cropping up in Sunday supplements on a regular basis. I'm not going to name it here, but I'm sure you can find out fairly easily.
The rock arch is actually just a part of what is a stunning bay with a beautiful (sometimes) sandy beach. As with most of the other beaches on this list it is access that helps keep this spot hidden. Whilst you won't break your neck scaling cliffs to get here it does involve a bit of a hike across private land to get here.
An Idyllic, Secluded Cove
Set on the rugged north coast, this picturesque cove, with its calm, clear turquoise waters and numerous rocky platforms, is a paradise for messing about in the water. Perfect for snorkeling, swimming, rock-hopping or just basking, this is one of my favourite summer escapes.
As the tide goes out a perfect little sandy beach is revealed at the other end of the bay. Separated by a rocky outcrop, you'll need to do a bit of scrambling to get there, but nothing scary.
One thing I love about this place, besides the dramatic backdrop, is the sense of history. There are old mine workings, bits of old fishing gear and it is even overlooked by an Iron Age hillfort.
A Tiny, Tucked Away Fishing Hamlet
Nestled at the end of a steep-sided wooded valley is this diminutive little fishing hamlet. You are probably more familiar with fishing villages than hamlets, but this collection of a handful of cottages and a slipway doesn't really qualify for the former. It isn't really a secret either, yet on the other hand nobody seems to be shouting about it from the rooftops! I'm glad they aren't but on the other hand the little cove here is far more charming than many places you will have heard of in Cornwall.
I doubt this little gem will stay of the radar for ever, particularly as it has been used as a location for some fairly high profile filming over recent years. But for the time being I won't be naming names!
A Big Sandy Beach No One Knows About
Whilst every other square inch of sand might be occupied on an August afternoon in Cornwall, you won't have any trouble finding somewhere to throw your towel here. This is a beautiful, good-sized stretch of sand, but has never really caught on beyond the locals.
There are a few possible reasons the beach here remains quiet. It is a bit of a walk wherever you might manage to park your car, the last bit is a little tricky too. Also, if nobody told you there was a beach here why would you bother looking! Another factor which certainly used to keep numbers down was the talk of jagged metal in the sand from a shipwreck - put me off for years. No one seems to mention this anymore and I've never spotted any.
In addition you won't find any facilities here. So, if you fancy an ice cream, get caught short or need rescuing you are pretty much on your own.
There's a Reason Some Beaches don't get Crowded!
Firstly, I have to admit I've never actually been all the way down to this hidden spot on the North Coast. Frankly I value my life too much, but the climb down doesn't seem to put everyone off. That said, I did hear a story about someone literally being in tears about having to make the climb back up.
The sheer terror of the sheer cliffs(!) aside, this is a beautiful secluded sandy cove that never gets busy. Just a quick heads up though - the inaccessibility of this beach make it popular with naturists.
At the end of the day, even if you are a bit of a mountain goat, you'd still have to find this spot - which isn't that straightforward. But for those who persevere the reward is a rarely pristine Cornish cove.