Weekend getaways are the perfect way to escape busy city life but they often can be a costly affair with air travel and hotel expenses adding up. The Mediterranean is popular for the weather, cuisine and seaside, but what if we told you that you could experience all the sun and sandy beaches without leaving Great Britain?

Armed with our shiny red Vauxhall Corsa Turbo, we took to the road to discover the UK’s very own coastal paradise situated on the scenic southwestern tip of Cornwall. In a mere 5 hours, you can wave goodbye to the perils of the Monday-Friday rat race, and enter the dream world of the Cornish Riviera, filled with picturesque villages, stunning beaches and endless nature.

Armed with our trusty sat nav and a desire to stop at every service station along the M4, we headed for seaside heaven. To get us there, we decided to take the new Vauxhall Corsa Turbo for a spin. This really is the car for a cross country adventure; a super slick ride, with a touchscreen entertainment system, in-car WIFI, reduced road and engine noise, cruise control, a leather clad steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and classy upholstery. Seriously, this car is the bees knees. A plucky piece of kit, and agile enough to withstand hours trudging along motorways. 

If you’re journeying from London, the drive time is just shy of 6 hours (traffic depending). Now, being fans of overpriced snacks and big eat packets of crisps, the lure of the service stations is one we can’t battle. We recommend stopping at Fleet Services (aka the mecca of the motorway), which is conveniently situated around the half way mark. Here, you can sample the delights of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Waitrose Food, and KFC treats. 

Falmouth Guide: The Lowdown

Falmouth looks like it has been plucked straight from a seaside TV drama. Boats of all shapes and sizes gently bob in the harbour, while independent boutiques and local cafes line the pedestrianised streets of the town. There’s a real community spirit here, and the people of Falmouth are proud of its maritime heritage. Being home to the world’s third largest natural deep-water harbour, Falmouth is the country’s first and last port – with a stream of vessels coming in and out of the harbour year-round.

Falmouth Guide: Where to Stay

For Sea Views: The Chain Locker

The Lowdown: The Chain Locker is an historic listed building with pub grub, Cornish beers (St Austell Brewery owns the premises) and bed and breakfast accommodation, situated right on the harbour front. One of Falmouth’s prime hotels, The Chain Locker can not only brag about their sea views (which hits it peak when the sun goes down), but the food and overall laid-back atmosphere makes it the coziest place to stay in the area. 

The Accommodation: With rooms situated on the upper levels of the building, all you have to do is simply roll out of bed, and you can be soaking up the sea breeze on the balcony in mere seconds. Rooms pay homage to the seaside; pictures of boats line the walls, while curtain ties have been replaced with sailor knots. It’s the twee details that really make this hotel a homely stay – think bold colours, quirky vintage furniture and luxury toiletries.

Where: Quay St, Falmouth TR11 3HH

Falmouth Guide: What to Do

For a Taste of the Seaside: The National Maritime Museum

The Lowdown: Falmouth’s seaside location makes the National Maritime Museum fitting as its location is right on the waterfront. A visit to the museum allows you to discover Cornwall’s naval history first hand as sailboats hang from the museum’s ceiling. Ideal for a family day out, the museum is home to an array of children’s workshops and interesting exhibitions in which you can immerse themselves in naval history (the museum is currently home to a Titanic exhibition which is well worth checking out). There’s also an impressive gift shop which sells everything from sailor hats to toy boats, and key rings. 

Where: Discovery Quay, Falmouth TR11 3QY

Falmouth Guide: Where to Eat

For Seafood: Rick Stein’s Fish 

The Lowdown: Seafood from the Cornish coast is irresistibly fresh as its served straight from the sea to your plate within a matter of hours. With TV chef and seafood connoisseur Rick Stein dominating Cornwall with his successful fish restaurants, a visit to Rick Stein’s Fish which sits overlooking the harbour is a must. The menu features a mixture of British classics, including thai fishcakes, mussels and, of course, everyone’s all time favourite: fish and chips. 

Where: Maritime House, Discovery Quay, Falmouth TR11 3XA

Photo Credit: David Griffen Photography

For Afternoon Tea: Dolly’s Tea Room and Wine Bar 

The Lowdown: Tea, scones and cake are a quintessential afternoon activity after a long walk along the seaside. The kitch looking Dolly’s Tea Room will satisfy all those sugar cravings with its extensive menu of afternoon teas and sweet treats. If tea isn’t your thing and you’re looking for something stronger, Dolly’s has a naughty secret as it doubles up as a hidden hotspot for a cheeky afternoon tipple. The flowery pink decoration and up-cycled sofas make the tea room undeniably easy on the eye – Mary Poppins herself would certainly approve. However, next door is where you’ll discover a bar which bares an outrageously enormous selection of international gins. A visit to Dolly’s is truly unforgettable whether you’re sipping tea or even something stronger in those quaint little tea cups. 

Where: 21 Church St, Falmouth TR11 3EG

St Ives: The Lowdown

St Ives feels like you’ve entered a scene from a picture perfect postcard. The colour of the water is a dazzling blue, and when the weather plays ball, the sea is dotted with surfers and paddle borders. Bright coloured shop fronts and bustling restaurants hug the coast of St Ives and there’s a slightly hippy atmosphere to life as everything seems to go at a slower pace.

St Ives: What to Do 

For Modern Art and Culture: Tate St Ives 

The Lowdown: A visit to St Ives would be incomplete without admiring the artwork at the Tate. Although it seems like an unusual location for a major art gallery, its content features plenty of colourful beauties much like its vibrant surroundings. The gallery presents some of the best abstract and modern work from British artists, and the building itself is an architectural wonder. There’s always new exhibits to visit, so if you fancy getting inspired make sure you book yourself a ticket.

Where: Porthmeor Beach, Saint Ives TR26 1TG

Photo Credit: Tate St Ives 

St Ives: Where to Eat

For Pasties: The Cornish Bakery 

The Lowdown: Visiting Cornwall and not sampling a Cornish pastry is like visiting France and not wolfing down a croissant. Pasty shops in St Ives are ten a penny, with everyone claiming their flaky wares are better than their neighbours. In times like these, you have to go where the locals frequent, and that’s The Cornish Bakery. All pasties are made fresh every day, and their pasty perfection arises from the ingredients used. All of the potatoes, onions and swedes are grown on Cornish farms, and their beef, wherever possible, is reared here too.

Where: 9 Fore St, Saint Ives TR26 1AB

For Local Dishes: Alba 

The Lowdown: One of the best restaurants in the area, not only for their dazzling views, but the incredible global wine list, Alba is a gem in St Ives’ dynamite food scene. The menu, designed by award winning chef and proprietor Grant Nethercott, showcases natural, eclectic flavour combinations. There’s everything here – from crab linguine to Fowey Mussels, and not forgetting the homemade bread with salted Cornish butter. Eat three courses, take in the panoramic vista, have some wine and enjoy every single bite.

Where: Old Lifeboat House, Wharf Rd, St. Ives, Cornwall TR26 1LF