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Explore the hidden gems of North Cornwall

The scenic route of the Atlantic Highway offers dramatic seascapes, historic attractions and a host of natural features as it makes its way down to Newquay's surfing beaches
The coast of North Cornwall which borders the Atlantic Highway offers dozens of tiny rocky coves and secluded beaches along this rugged shoreline. Further inland there are miles of countryside dotted with isolated farmhouses and small hamlets while larger villages are clustered around the obligatory church and pub. Everywhere there is a sense of living in the past, with little changing apart from the arrival of motorised transport in these slow-paced communities.

Starting in the northeast of the county, Stratton was the seemingly unlikely site of the Battle of Stratton which took place in 1643. It was a famous battle front during the English Civil War but the town dates back much further and was even mentioned in King Alfred’s Will of 880AD. Discover the beautiful beaches of Widemouth Bay and Crackington Haven before detouring to see the ancient motte and bailey castle at Launceston.

Heading south, discover King Arthur Country around the ruins of this 12th century castle, built on a 300-foot high cliff which has evidence of a much older fortress, possibly the legendary home of King Arthur in the 5th century. The slate-built village of Tintagel makes this a delightful day out discovering the history and legends of the area. The nearby harbour and fishing port of Boscastle is also worth exploring on foot.

Further southwest is Camelford, the start of the Camel Trail which offers a 17 mile (27 km) recreation trail for hikers, cyclists and horse riders along the disused railway line from Padstow to Wenford Bridge.

Bordering Bodmin Moor with its 1,375 foot peak of Brown Willy are more historic attractions – The Hurlers Stone Circle near Minions is a Bronze Age Temple showing this area was inhabited as long ago as 1500 BC. The nearby granite tor called the Cheesewring is the focus of many ancient tales of saints and giants in its long, dark past.

Jamaica Inn, Colliford Lake and Pencarrow House and Gardens make this a charming area to stay. Port Isaac and Port Quin share this coast with their more famous neighbour, Padstow, a delightful harbour town famous for its fish restaurants and TV chef, Rick Stein.

The Atlantic Highway runs on past the lighthouse at Trevose Head, the Iron Age Cemetery at Treyarnon and the National Trust owned Bedruthan Steps, towards some of Cornwall’s best-known resorts. Newquay, Holywell Bay, Perranporth and Fistral Bay have been accommodating surfers and families for decades.

As the Atlantic Highway peters out at St Columb Road, the road to Land’s End continues, passing delightful St Agnes, Portreath, Carbis Bay and St Just. It is almost an anti-climax to reach Sennan Cove and Land’s End itself; barely more than a signpost and an amusement arcade mark this geographical landmark.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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