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How to have a responsible holiday in Cornwall

With anti-tourist feeling on the rise in Cornwall, here's how the locals would like you to behave on holiday

Ed Costa
Wednesday 19 July 2017 12:20 BST
Cornwall relies on tourism - but tread lightly, says our writer
Cornwall relies on tourism - but tread lightly, says our writer (Visit Cornwall)

Cornwall hit the headlines this weekend for all the wrong reasons, with the news that a group calling themselves the Cornwall Republican Army has claimed responsibility for a fire at Rick Stein’s restaurant in Porthleven, promised to target second home owners, and even threatened that they have a female suicide bomber ready to die for the cause.

Although nobody is saying this is reasonable, obviously, with growing tension between locals and tourists in popular places from Barcelona to Bodmin, perhaps 2017 should be the summer of remembering to tread lightly and practise responsible travel.

Beyond the cream teas and idyllic views, there are serious problems in Cornwall around poverty, inequality and opportunities for local residents. Tourism, of course, is the pulse of the Cornish economy – but there are ways to stimulate local coffers rather than let them stagnate. You may be happy shopping at Tesco at home; but on holiday, you might want to recalibrate your behaviour to contribute a little more.

Having lived in Cornwall most of my life, spent many a summer working in the tourist industry and currently managing a holiday cottage, here’s my five-pronged plan for making your stay one that works for Kernow as well as for you.

Stay local

Second homes are a huge issue in Cornwall, of course – but equally, holiday lets are what allow a lot of locals to earn money. Cottage rentals can be what keeps some farms afloat; they also allow other people to remain in Cornwall by providing an income that they’d otherwise have to move out of the county for. It’s possible, as a tourist, to rent a cottage without contributing to the problem – but do try to check whether it’s owned locally or if it’s a second home sending your money the other side of the Tamar. Also, to be really responsible, think about the location – a remote rental, or one in a purpose-built location for tourists, is doing much less damage to local communities than staying in a cottage in the middle of a village (Mousehole, Port Isaac, anywhere chocolate-box pretty) which is no longer thriving because half the houses are empty outside of summer season.

Buy local

Cornish high streets are clinging on, and it makes a difference if you buy from them instead of ordering a supermarket delivery. There are some fantastic farm shops in Cornwall – like Trevathan near Port Isaac and Boscastle Farm Shop near Tintagel. At other locally-owned places you’ll find the shelves stacked with Cornish produce (like local jam at Delicia in Wadebridge and Vicky’s Bread at Country Store Health Foods in Redruth - which also has a brilliant vegan and vegetarian café). There’s even a mini supermarket filled with local brands, the Great Cornish Foodstore, in Truro. Instead of buying a supermarket sandwich, spend an extra 50p on a pasty from a local bakery instead.

Eat local

Cornwall’s food scene is going from strength to strength, but instead of automatically chowing down at Nathan Outlaw or Jamie Oliver’s, spread the love with visits to smaller establishments, too. In Porthleven (where Stein’s place was just burned down) there’s Kota, whose New Zealand owner has spiced up a typical fish restaurant; the Wheel House in Falmouth is a sweet husband-and-wife-run spot, and for a cream tea you can’t do better than Carnewas near Mawgan Porth. Strong Adolfos on the A39 does delicious cakes, and as for coffee, it’s a tie between Relish in Wadebridge and 108 in Truro.

Drive local

Every summer, locals have to double drive-times in order to allow for tailbacks on the main roads and encounters on the lanes with people who can’t drive in them. Learn to reverse, because you’ll need to – off the main roads, few roads have more than one lane – and prepare yourself to pull over into ditches and scrape hedges to pass each other. In a nutshell, don’t be precious about your car.

Act local

The good news is staycations don’t tend to bring out the worst in people that a 6am flight to a hot destination can. The bad: you may speak the same language, but you’re still going into other people’s communities. Some light tourist irritation I have dealt with over the years: people complaining at me about lack of mobile reception, complaining that there’s a smell of manure right next to the farmyard, taking dogs to crap on residents’ lawns and verges, parking cars on village greens, hiring the café where I used to work for a private party and trashing the toilets. The good thing about the county’s tourism explosion is that the Hooray Henry vibe is largely gone. The bad is that bad manners cross all boundaries.

Ed Costa is a pseudonym

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