How the county of buckets and spades became Kensington-on-Sea

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The Independent Online

The wealthy families who are turning parts of Cornwall into Kensington-on-Sea are drawn to a county that is now far removed from its traditional bucket-and-spade image.

The wealthy families who are turning parts of Cornwall into Kensington-on-Sea are drawn to a county that is now far removed from its traditional bucket-and-spade image.

Where once it may have been associated with sand castles, bed and breakfasts and not much else, its appeals are now more related to quality restaurants, art and water sports.

The area around Padstow is a favoured destination for the well-heeled families who desert their city homes for a second holiday in the west of England. It is generally a second holiday as the family's main trip will be abroad. They will visit their holiday home in Cornwall merely as a rehearsal for the main event.

Rock, with its sheltered position on the Camel estuary, the golf, beaches and watersports, has become a main centre for such holidays and its pre-eminence was confirmed by the visit of Prince William and Prince Harry.

There has been a corresponding surge in property prices, with the most desirable homes being bought at a level beyond the reach of most locals. In Rock, 75 per cent of the properties are second homes. Estate agents have scores of people waiting to buy a five-bedroom home in the £500,000 market.

Cornwall now has all the facilities that metropolitan professionals require to sustain them through a week or two in a county whose wildness once inspired Daphne du Maurier.

There is the Tate at St Ives, from where visitors are treated to a magnificent view of the harbour without having to brave the wind and rain. The port also offers the Barbara Hepworth sculpture park.

In St Mawes there is Olga Polizzi's much admired new hotel, the Tresanton, which markets itself as a combination of yacht club and country house. Its menu concentrates on local fish, while the rooms are unapologetically expensive.

Elsewhere are the Lost Gardens of Heligan for city visitors who want to try to recreate the appeal of the county in their urban plots, and the Eden Centre near St Austell, a Millennium project whose "biome" greenhouses are yet to open.

Paradoxically Cornwall is one of the most deprived regions of Europe and some visitors remark unhappily at the down-at-heel nature of parts of the county. Newquay nightlife may not be as sophisticated as some visitors might be used to but surfing and the areas other attractions are enough to keep their offspring happy.

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