Cornwall has been somewhere I have wanted to go for quite some time. I had heard nothing but great things about it, and I am so glad I finally got to plan a trip when the lockdown restrictions lifted. The southern coast is so beautiful that it didn’t even feel like I was still in England. Since the drive to Land’s End from my house in Thetford is 7+ hours, I decided to break up my trip and stop in Dorset for two days on the way there and Bristol for one night on the way back. I also stopped in Oxford on my last day to break up the drive even more. This was such a fabulous decision since all of this driving can get so tiring. I didn’t realize how spread out the Cornwall region was until planning out the trip.
One of the first things I had to figure out is where to make my Cornwall “home base.” A lot of people recommend St. Ives or Newquay, but I decided to go with the Land’s End area since it was closest to my most looked forward to attractions: Minack Theatre and St. Michael’s Mount. I do not regret this decision! I thought it was a great location 🙂 My trip lasted 7 nights/8 days, but if you want more time to relax and see all the sights, you could easily stay longer. You could also do Cornwall in around 4-5 days if you don’t stay anywhere else on the way there or back.
- Bring lots of coins for parking. I probably spent about £30 or more in change on parking throughout the trip. I was very thankful that I brought my coin cup with me. Some parking lots accept card, but most do not. They do not take bills or return change.
- Book attractions in advance. Since I went during the Covid-19 pandemic, all attractions were online pre-bookings only. You cannot show up to any of the ticketed sights and expect to get in. You will need to look at their website in advance, select the day and time you wish to visit, and pay in advance. This will force you to plan out your trip in advance since the tickets are non-refundable and non-transferrable. I even decided to purchase two tickets to Minack Theatre since the first time I went it was super foggy. They are only accepting a limited amount of people per time slot, so make sure to book as soon as you know your schedule!
- Bring your dog. Cornwall is extremely dog friendly! My husky, Mila, absolutely loved every minute of our trip…if it isn’t obvious from all of the pictures 😉
- Be a confident driver. The roads in the Cornwall region can be quite terrifying! You will experience a lot of narrow roads that are only wide enough for one vehicle. You will need to be comfortable with reversing in order to get to a passing point. I think I did fairly well considering I was by myself, but reversing down a steep incline on a curvy road was not ideal.
- Pack for all types of weather. The weather in Cornwall, well England in general, can be very bipolar. It can be super rainy in the morning and blue skies can come out by the afternoon. Be sure to bring a rain jacket, sunglasses, sunscreen, and clothing for all types of weather. You should also bring a day backpack for hiking the many trails filled with a water bottle, snacks, and portable batteries.
- Get some Cornish ice cream and fudge. Seriously…I can’t wait to go back and get some more. It’s so good!
- Plan out your trip in advance. Cornwall is such a big region, which will require lots of driving between sights. Plan out the route in advance so you’re not going back and forth too much. I also suggest finding areas of interest along the way and the way back to stop at for the night or a couple days to break up the trip like I did.
Day One: Thetford to Dorset
Seven Sisters Cliffs
The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs by the English Channel. The cliffs are known as the “Seven Sisters” due to the seven distinct hilltops. There is a parking lot with a visitor’s center and toilet where you can get great views. From here, you can walk down to the beach or along the trails up to the lighthouse.
Brighton Palace Pier
The Brighton Palace Pier has been around since 1899 and was built as an entertainment venue. The theater that once stood on the pier was damaged in 1973. It was then that the pier added an amusement park, with various fairground rides and roller coasters. There are several rides and attractions, along with places to eat & drink. I was not able to walk on the pier since I had Mila with me, but it would definitely be somewhere I could spend a lot of time feeling like a kid again! You can visit the website HERE to find out more.
Brighton Central Beach
This shingle beach isn’t the best if you’re looking for a sandy beach, but it is nice to walk along the seafront. I had lunch here and it was a nice place to sit outside and enjoy the weather. The area can get very crowded, but still a nice location for a day trip.
Old Harry Rocks
These chalk formations are popularly known as Old Harry Rocks, but the name Old Harry actually refers to the single stack of chalk standing furthest out to sea. Until 1896, there was another stack known as Old Harry’s Wife, but erosion caused her to tumble into sea, leaving just a stump. There are a number of theories about where Old Harry got its name. It is reputedly named after either a famous local pirate (Harry Paye) or the devil. The top of the cliff nearby is known as Old Nick’s Ground, which is another name for the devil. The nearest car park is at South Beach. Follow the signs to find the trail that leads to the top of the cliffs, rather than the beach signs, which you won’t be able to see the cliffs from.
Accommodation: Marley House Bed & Breakfast
I stayed at Marley House Bed & Breakfast in Dorchester, which is such a lovely Bed & Breakfast with an amazing location. I highly recommend this place. The hosts are so lovely. Immediately upon arriving, I was greeted by their two cute dogs and the host, who helped me with my bag and chatted with me for a little bit to make me feel welcome. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had given me a free upgrade to their apartment, when I had originally booked one of the smaller rooms. The rooms are newly renovated and come with a Smart TV. My favorite part of the room was the extremely comfortable bed. There is a lovely enclosed garden out back and a spacious garden in the front, which makes it such an ideal location if you are bringing along your furry friend. Mila loved running around in the back garden. The best part of the place is the location. It is conveniently located just a 10 minute drive away from Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.
Day Two: Jurassic Coast
Durdle Door is one of Dorset’s most photographed and iconic landmarks. It is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Right now, the path is operating on a one-way system, which means you will take a longer scenic route around to reach the viewing point and take shorter path back to the carpark area, where you can choose to carry on another path to Lulworth Cove. It is about a half mile walk (approximately 30 minutes) along a steep path, plus a further 150 steps down onto the beach. Be sure to take in all of the views from every angle, including going down onto the beach to see it up close.
My advice is to visit Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove first thing in the morning before it gets too crowded. I was the first one in the carpark at 8:30AM. I spent 2 hours around Durdle Door and another 2 hours hiking to Lulworth Cove and back and when I left around 12:30PM the carpark was full.
From the Durdle Door parking lot, you can either take the Coast Path down to Lulworth Cove or get in your car and drive to their own parking lot. If you are traveling during a busy season, I would keep your parking as it fills up fast. The walk there is quite long and strenuous, but the view along the coast is incredible. Make sure to take lots of water and sunscreen! The town has a few shops, restaurants, and a visitors center. Dogs are allowed on the left side of the beach.
This fairytale caste was originally built as a hunting lodge in the early 17th century to entertain aristocracy and royalty and has been the family seat of the Weld family for 400 years. Ravaged by a catastrophic fire in 1929, it was partly restored in a pioneering partnership with English Heritage and is now open to the public as a historic visitor attraction. Aside from the £3 daily parking charge, you can enjoy the grounds of the castle at no cost. It makes a great spot for a picnic lunch. In the castle, you will walk in the footsteps of King and Queens as you follow the story of the Weld family’s fate and fortune and explore the basement rooms and memorabilia collections. Tickets are £6 for adults to enter the castle.
I didn’t know about this castle until driving past it when visiting the other sights around the area. Corfe Castle has been a Saxon stronghold, a Norman fortress, a royal palace, and a family home in its ten centuries of dominating the Purbeck landscape. It is one of Britain’s most iconic survivors of the English Civil War, partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians. The castle ruins are pretty captivating. Unfortunately, I did not book my ticket by 3PM the day prior so I could only enjoy the views from the town. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £10 for adults.
The Isle of Portland is the Jurassic Coast’s most southerly point, and is joined to the mainland by just a thin strip at the southern end of the sweeping arc of Chesil Beach. I suggest spending the afternoon at Chesil Beach and walking along the South West Coast Path. Portland Castle, although small, is also a top sight to see while in the area.
Day Three: Dorset to Land’s End
Exeter was my first stop along the route when making my way from Dorset to Land’s End. I loved that I didn’t have to go out of my way to see some great sights. I stopped to walk around Exeter Cathedral and give my dog a quick break. We didn’t stop for long, but I did enjoy taking a look at Exeter Cathedral. The cathedral was founded in 1050, and the construction of the present site began in 1114. The two towers and the lower part of the Nave walls of this Norman (Romanesque) building survive in the present Cathedral.
Dartmoor National Park
Before my trip, it was recommended to me that I drive through Dartmoor National Park on the way to Cornwall so that I could see the miniature horses. I was sadly let down and didn’t see any. I drove around the park for 1.5 hours before I gave up. It was silly of me not to look up where the horses are commonly seen before entering the park and driving aimlessly. I thought since the horses are so popular at the park that they would be able to be spotted all over, but boy was I wrong. Instead I drove on some narrow roads majority of the time where all I could see were tall bushes on either side of me. However, when I was out in the open, it was quite beautiful! The park is so huge, stretching across 368 square miles, that I could’ve easily spent the entire day here exploring. Unfortunately, I wanted to continue on my journey.
The ponies of Dartmoor are famous for being free-roaming, but don’t mistake that for being wild. All of the ponies on Dartmoor have owners. They are let out each year to the common spaces and moors of Dartmoor. These areas are controlled by fences and cattle grids on the roads to ensure they stick to the designated safe areas. After I left the area, I looked up where to find the ponies since I had no luck. I found that they can often be seen in the town of Widecombe-on-the-Moor. Hopefully you will have better luck than me!
Another spot along my route that showed up on Sygic Travel was the Jamaica Inn. The Inn was build in the 1750s as a coaching inn. Some of the travelers used the Inn to hide away smuggler’s contraband that had been brought ashore. It is estimated that half the brandy and a quarter of all tea being smuggled into the UK was landed along the Cornish and Devon coasts. While visiting, you can visit the Smugglers Museum. It is commonly thought that Jamaica Inn was named because it was used to store rum smuggled into the country from Jamaica. However, the name is actually said to derive from the important local landowning Trelawney family, two fo whose members served as Governors of Jamaica in the 18th century. If you need a place to stay on the way to Cornwall, this would be an interesting choice. I only visited for food, and it was a very nice restaurant. The bar area, as well as the outdoor seating, is dog friendly.
The Eden Project is a global garden housed in tropical biomes that nestle in a crater the size of 30 football pitches. Here you can experience the sights, smells, and scale of the rainforests in the Rainforest Biome and discover the tropical plants that are used to produce everyday products. This biome is the world’s largest rainforest in captivity with steamy jungles and waterfalls. In the Mediterranean Biome you will find orange and lemon trees and olive groves. There is also a 30-acre outdoor garden that you can explore, which is the only part that is dog friendly. Unfortunately because I brought along Mila, I was unable to enter the biomes, which made for a disappointing visit. We still enjoyed our walk around. If you are seeking a bit of adventure, you can also zip-line above the biomes for a separate fee. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £28.50 for adults.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan is a botanical garden with over 200 acres of land to explore. It is so large that I actually found myself lost because I wasn’t following the correct signs. The gardens are nice, but I was a bit too tired by the time I got there so the amount of walking required did not make me enjoy the visit. My favorite part of the gardens was the rope bridge in The Jungle section. Mila also liked seeing all of the farm animals up close. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £16 for adults.
Accomodation: Saddle and Stable Rooms
I stayed at The Saddle and Stable Rooms in Penzance in Stable Room 1 for four nights. The best part about this property is the location. It is a 25-minute walk from Land’s End or a 3-minute drive. It is also a 10-minute drive from Minack Theatre and a 20-minute drive from St. Michael’s Mount, which are two of the most popular attractions in Cornwall. Communication from the staff was great as they called me ahead of time to let me know the key code to enter the room and ask me if I had any questions, as the property is unmanned. Since the property is partnered with the Land’s End Hotel, you are able to eat at the Land’s End restaurant, which is only for hotel guests. The room is super cute with a stable door, which makes it nice to allow the sea breeze to flow in on a warm day.
My only complaint of the property is that the garden area is only for the upstairs apartment. I only realized this on my third day when the guests who had just arrived were very rude to me when I let my dog in to the garden to use the toilet. This was not advertised very well on the booking and a little misleading since it showed pictures of the garden. Either way, the garden should be allowed to be used by everyone at the property as it’s only 4 rooms. In my opinion, they shouldn’t make other dogs in the studio rooms have to stay on a lead and find somewhere else to wee when the apartment room gets a garden all to themselves. I’m still a little annoyed at the way the guests complained about Mila “taking a wee on their grass” when they weren’t even using the garden. Very neighborly, huh?!?
Day Four: Newquay
The Minack Theatre is Cornwall’s open-air theatre, carved into the granite cliff and set in beautiful gardens overlooking the spectacular panorama of Porthcurno Bay. This was my favorite attraction in Cornwall, so much so that I visited it twice since my first time was a bit foggy. The summer theatre season runs from May to September presenting drama, musicals, and opera in this dramatic setting. Matinee performances occur on Tuesday and Thursdays at 2PM, children’s story telling performances are typically Wednesday and Friday mornings, and evening performances are at 8PM. You can also explore the theatre during the day for a garden & theatre viewing visit. Right now during Covid, there are no shows going on so this is the only option. I am looking forward to going back when the shows resume so that I can attend one! Dogs are allowed during the day, but are not allowed to attend shows. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £6 for adults.
Newquay would have been my second choice of places to stay in the Cornwall region. I decided not to stay here though because it is a bit far from the main attractions that I wanted to visit. If you are looking for mostly a beach stay though, then this is a great town to stay in. There are a lot of great restaurant options in town and lots of activities, which made it appealing to me. The town is home to some popular sports competitions with the Boardmasters festival and the surfing championships held in the resort.
The main spot that I visited during my day to Newquay was Fistral Beach. As one of the United Kingdom’s top surfing destinations, backed by high cliffs and sand dunes, Fistral is a prime location for many surf enthusiasts to get a fix of the big waves. All the big UK surf competitions take place here including the Famous Nigh Surf, Boardmasters Surf Championships, National Surf Championships, the Groms, plus many more. On shore there are opportunities to book surf lessons or hire gear. There is also a few cafes and shops located on the beach. Lifeguards are on duty from March 30th to October 28th. I enjoyed laying on the beach and watching the action from afar while Mila enjoyed digging in the sand.
The Fistral Stable Restaurant
I really enjoyed the pizza at The Fistral Stable Restaurant right on the beach. They also have a great selection of ciders and other drinks. Check them out HERE.
Truro is a cute city to stop at in between Newquay and Land’s End. If you are looking to do some shopping in Cornwall, this city is the place to go. Soaring above the surrounding rooftops, Truro Cathedral is located in the center of this Cornish city. It is massive and has some amazing architecture.
St. Michael’s Mount – High Tide
On my way back home, I decided to stop at St. Michael’s Mount so that I could experience it at the high tide time. You can view the tide times HERE. I also went back another day to see it at mid tide and low tide, which was very interesting. I highly recommend seeing it at the different tides. Watching the causeway disappear and reappear is super fun to watch. To visit the island, you will need to visit during low tide time and purchase your ticket in advance (during Covid). Typically dogs would be allowed on the island, but not allowed in the castle, but unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed on the island at all at the moment. Dogs are only allowed on the beach before 10 AM and after 6PM, except for the small area to the very left of the beach. When visiting the island, you will walk to and from St. Michael’s Mount on the cobbled causeway. A ticket to the gardens will provide you with access to the island for the full duration that they are open for the day, which is approximately four hours per day, being the time that the causeway is uncovered by the sea. You can purchase tickets HERE. Tickets are £8.50 for adults.
Day Five: St. Ives
St. Ives is a picturesque fishing harbor and seaside town. This town would also make for a great “home base” location in Cornwall, as it isn’t a far drive to all of the main attractions and has everything you would need right in town including restaurants, sandy beaches, and shops.
Porthmeor is a sandy beach popular with surfers and swimmers. The car parks in St. Ives get full very early in main season, so the large car park is at the top of the hill in town. Luckily they have a bus that will take you from the car park to the beach for only £2. The beach has a few cafes, but be warned that they are already booked up for the next 2 months (July and August) since they are following Covid social distance guidelines very closely. I was lucky to be able to find a table at a cafe in town since everything else seemed to be fully booked. Another popular sandy beach to visit in St. Ives is Porthminster Beach.
St. Nicholas Chapel
At the top of the island, surrounded on three sides by the sea, stands the medieval chapel of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and the chapel was a focal point of worship for local sailors. I enjoyed walking up to the chapel and taking in the panoramic views.
St. Ives Harbour is one of the town’s focal points. The area doubles as both a beach and bustling shopping street. There are a number of cafes and restaurants overlooking the harbour.
Land’s End Restaurant
After the skies started to clear up, I headed to Land’s End to enjoy the sunset. I booked a table at the Land’s End hotel restaurant, which is currently only available to hotel guests. I really enjoyed eating in a more fancy setting while taking in the spectacular views. The dinner was good and the staff was very friendly. Check them out HERE.
Land’s End is one of Britain’s best loved landmarks, famous for its unique location and beautiful scenery. During ancient Greek times, it was referred to as “Belerion,” which means place of the sun. There are plenty of cliff top trails, breathtaking views, and a few shops and attractions to enjoy. I suggest visiting in the evening so that you can take your own pictures with the Land’s End signpost versus having to pay to get a photograph with it during the day. The coastal trails are simply amazing! Take the path toward Sennen and pass by the First and Last House, Maen Castle, Mayon Cliff Ship Wreck, and Mayon Cliff Old Coastguard Lookout. You can also stop at Sennen Cove to enjoy the beach or eat at the Surf Cafe here before heading back to Land’s End.
First & Last House
Located on the clifftops at the most westerly point of mainland Britain, this is the first or last house depending on whether you’re entering or leaving England. They serve Cornish ice cream, along with a variety of refreshments and toys.
Maen Castle was an Iron Age cliff castle. It is one of only two fortified sites in Cornwall where Early Iron Age pottery has been found. Its original purpose remains a mystery, although some have speculated it may have been a place of retreat in times of danger, a trading post, or a venue for important ceremonies.
Mayon Cliff Ship Wreck
In 2003, RMS Mulheim, a 294 ft. cargo vessel carrying 2,200 tons of scrap car plastic, crashed in Gamper Bay between Sennen Cove and Land’s End.
Mayon Cliff Old Coastguard Lookout
Sennen coastguard station was established in 1812, and the granite lookout was built in 1891. It was manned by coastguards living in the row of cottages at the foot of the hill. During the First World War, when German U-boats plagued this stretch of coast, local men were recruited as additional watchers. During the Second World War, the cliffs were used for training by the Marines, and they are still scaled by soldiers and rock climbers today.
If you are looking for a place to relax on the beach around Land’s End, Sennen Cove is the place to go.
Day Six: Lizard Peninsula
Set on the edge of the sea with breathtaking views, Pendennis Castle is one of Henry VIII’s finest coastal fortresses. The picturesque castle has defended Cornwall since Tudor times and played a vital role during the two World Wars. When you visit, you can climb to the top of the keep, although dogs are currently not allowed. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £13.50 for adults.
St. Michael’s Mount – Mid & Low Tide
Like I mentioned earlier, it is very much worth visiting St. Michael’s Mount during different times of the day so that you can see the difference in high tide and low tide. I decided to go back on this beautiful day to walk around the streets, have lunch, and take in the views. I really wish that I could’ve went on the island, but unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this time. Be sure to get views from above the beach, as these made some of my best pictures.
*Read information above for more details on visiting the island.
Also mentioned above, I just had to go back to Minack Theatre since my first visit was a bit too foggy for my liking. I’m always a bit disappointed when the weather doesn’t cooperate for a scenic location, but I had the time to go back to the theatre so I did! My last visit was on a foggy gray morning, and this visit was a gorgeous sunny afternoon. I am so glad that I decided to go back for a second visit. This time I took more time to sit and take in the views while enjoying some delicious Cornish ice cream.
*Read information above for more details on visiting the theatre.
Located on the west side of the Lizard, this tidal beach is famous for its white sand, turquoise sea, and rock stacks. It gets very busy in the summer. The walk from the car park is a steep downhill 15 minute walk if you choose to take the low tide path, which is closest to the sea. This will give you the best coastal views. If you want a more subtle root, take the high tide path. I decided to take the low tide path on the way down and the high tide path on the way back up.
Walking around the beach can be difficult due to the uneven and slippery rocks. Unfortunately, the only way to reach the cafe is by making your way over the rocks. At low tide, you can explore the towering rock stacks and the caves. From Kynance, there is a 2 mile scenic walk around the coast to Lizard Point, although I decided to drive to save time. Dogs are welcome on the beach except during July and August from 10AM to 6PM, although you can walk them on the trails and up to the cafe.
The Lizard Lighthouse is Cornwall’s most southerly land lighthouse. It has been shining a light for over 260 years, guiding ships safely home. Typically you can climb to the top to take in some breathtaking views, although it is currently closed for Covid-19.
Lizard Point is mainland UK’s most southerly point and sits at the southern tip of the Lizard Peninsula. If you are looking for a place to eat, you can find restaurants and shops in Lizard village.
Day Seven: Land’s End to Bristol
Although it is technically in the Cornwall region, Tintangel Castle is pretty far away from the other main sights of Cornwall so I decided to visit on my way home. Set high on Cornwall’s north coast, this castle is linked with the legend of King Arthur. In the Middle Ages, Tintagel’s residents walked from one side of the site to the other using a narrow land bridge as high as the cliff tops. But the crossing disappeared between the 14th and 17th centuries, leaving the castle divided.
The new footbridge reinstates the original route, offering visitors the change to experience Tintagel Castle the way its medieval inhabitants once did. The new bridge was designed in 2015 and completed in August 2019, allowing the castle to reopen to visitors! When I visited, I hadn’t realized that the bridge was that new and that the two halves of the castle have been separated for more than 500 years so that’s pretty cool 🙂 Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £14.50 for adults.
In the coastal cliffs beneath Tintagel Castle lies Merlin’s Cave. Many believe that it was once home to Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend. It is a 330-foot-long sea cave formed by marine erosion that stretches all the way beneath the head of land on which Tintagel Castle stands, allowing you to enter from one side and exit out the other. Have a look for a carving of Merlin’s bearded face in a rock near one of the cave entrances. You can only visit the cave at low tide, so unfortunately I was not there long enough to go down onto the beach and explore it. You can check a tide table HERE or ask one of the guides at the castle. You will get approximately 3 hours on both sides of the low tide time to explore the beach and cave.
St. Nectan’s Kieve Waterfall
Down the road from Tintagel Castle, is the entrance to St. Nectan’s Kieve. There are two small parking lots that fill up quickly, so you will most likely need to park in the grass along the road. St. Nectan’s Kieve is a spectacular sixty foot waterfall through a hole in the rocks. It is accompanied by two additional waterfalls and a nice woodland walk. From the carpark, it takes around 30 minutes on foot to reach the waterfall. There is a cafe, toilets, and small shop before right by the entrance to the waterfall. I honestly wasn’t expecting to pay to see the waterfall, but it does cost £5.95 (adults) to enter the pathway to the waterfall. I think that’s a bit ridiculous, but it is still a pretty sight. You will need to take off your shoes (or get them wet) to be able to see the waterfall up close at a good angle. You can also see the waterfall from a viewing point above.
I decided to stop in Bristol for the night since it was about halfway from Cornwall to my house and I hate driving long distances. This gave me the perfect opportunity to explore another city for the evening.
After checking in to my hotel, I headed out to see the sights of Bristol. I passed by Buckingham Chapel, which is a Christian church that has been around since 1840.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
One of the main sights that came up in pictures when researching Bristol was the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It is Bristol’s most recognizable structures. The bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a young and innovative engineer. It was his first project at age 23 and came about because of a competition. The bridge took 33 years to complete, and marked the beginning of a great engineering career. The toll to drive over the bridge is £1. You can also walk across the bridge or view it from the hill above.
Established in 1766, this landmark offers a nice viewing platform overlooking the Clifton Suspension bridge and the city of Bristol. However, as it’s not that tall, you can get about just as fine of a view from the park, known as the Clifton Downs, below.
SS Great Britain
Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a museum ship and former passenger steamship, which was advanced for her time. It was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (same person who invented the bridge), for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York City. Great Britain was the first to combine iron and a screw propeller in a large ocean-going ship. It was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1845 in 14 days. You can get more information about visiting the museum HERE. Tickets are £18 for adults.
The Bristol Harbor was my favorite area to walk around. It was so crowded that I thought there must have been a festival or something going on with all of the people lining the docks. I think that’s just a typical afternoon for them though. They definitely weren’t social distancing though, that’s for sure. The harbour covers an area of 70 acres and is often called the Floating Harbour as the water level remains constant and it is not affected by the state of the tide on the river. The Harbourside is filled with restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels. If you get lucky, you can also watch the hot air balloons floating by above you. The first modern hot air balloon in Britain flew for the first time in 1967, and was inflated on College Green in Bristol. Bristol has long been known as the hot air ballooning capital of the UK. If you are interested in watching a hot air balloon festival, it occurs in Bristol around the first or second week of August. Get more information about the festival HERE.
After having dinner near the harbour, I walked to Bristol Cathedral, one of England’s great medieval churches founded in 1140. It is a stunning cathedral! I loved the hearts that were spray-painted on the church lawn for social distancing!
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Situated on one of the busier streets of Bristol, you will most likely pass by the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and not even realize it’s an art gallery. This is what happened to me because I was too mesmerized by the building. You can, however, get more information about the museum HERE. It hosts a collection of art, archaeology, Egyptology, and natural history in the building.
Accommodation: The Berkeley Square Hotel
One of the first things I noticed when entering the city, was that there was limited parking. The few spaces I saw said reserved for parking permit holders. This always stresses me out in a city with busy streets. I originally booked a room at the Clifton Hotel, but after finally finding a parking spot and walking up to the hotel, I found out that it was closed. I gave the hotel a ring and then found out that the Clifton was closed for Covid-19 and all guests were being redirected to The Berkeley Square Hotel. Although annoying that they didn’t notify me in advance, I was pleased when I realized that it was a free upgrade. Thankfully the Berkeley Square Hotel has their own private car park, so I didn’t have to worry about finding street parking. However, they do have a separate steep parking fee, which I always find a bit silly when they could’ve just included it in the hotel’s cost. It is situated in a lovely square with a field in the middle, which is convenient for Mila to use the bathroom. The hotel is in a great location, being right across from the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, a 5-minute walk from Cabot Tower, and a 20-minute walk or less to almost everything else. It is situated near a busy street with plenty of shops and restaurants nearby. The hotel also offers breakfast for an additional cost.
Day Eight: Oxford
Mila and I took a morning walk around our hotel before leaving Bristol. We walked to the public park on Brandon Hill to see Cabot Tower. The tower was built in the 1890s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the journey of John Cabot from Bristol to land which later became Canada. You can reach the top of the tower to get a great view of the city, although it is currently closed for Covid-19.
My last stop of my 8-day trip was the city of Oxford. I loved breaking up my trip so that I only drove for a couple hours at a time. I never knew how similar Oxford is to Cambridge. I was reminded of Cambridge immediately after entering the city.
The city is home to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and has buildings in every style of English architecture from late Anglo-Saxon. It is a collegiate research university with evidence of teaching as early as 1096, which also makes it the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation, after the University of Bologna (Italy). The university is made up of 39 semi-autonomous constituent colleges, 6 permanent private halls, and a range of academic departments which are organized into 4 divisions. Oxford has educated a wide range of notable alumni, including 28 prime ministers of the United Kingdom and many heads of state and government around the world. Some of the famous people that have studied at the University of Oxford include: Kate Beckinsale, Emma Watson, Hugh Grant, and Dr. Seuss.
I also never knew that Cambridge and Oxford share a lot of the same college names. I knew they were rivals, but this was interesting to me. What is even more interesting, is that the same name colleges aren’t necessarily “sister colleges.” Most of the colleges forming the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford are paired into sister colleges across the two universities. The extent of the arrangement differs from case to case, but commonly includes the right to dine at one’s sister college, the right to book accommodation there, the holding of joint events, and invitations to May balls. This seems like a great deal to me! You can see a list of Oxbridge sister colleges HERE.
I started my walk around the city by passing by Pembroke College, which was founded in 1624 by King James I of England.
Across from Pembroke College is Christ Church, which serves as a dual foundation: one of Oxford University’s largest Colleges and the Cathedral Church for Oxford. Here you will find two famous landmarks: Tom Tower and Oxford’s Cathedral spire. My favorite part of Christ Church was strolling through the gorgeous landscape of Christ Church Meadow gardens.
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. The garden was founded in 1621 as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research. Today it contains over 5,000 different plant species on 4.5 acres. It is one of the most diverse yet compact collections of plants in the world and includes representations from over 90% of the higher plant families. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed inside the garden (Oxford in general is not very dog-friendly) so I did not get to visit. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £5.45 for adults.
University College has a claim to being the oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1249 by William of Durham. The college is associated with a number of influential people. Notable alumni include Bill Clinton, Stephen Hawking, and C.S. Lewis.
Queen’s College is an Oxford college founded in 1341 by Robert de Eglesfield in honor of Queen Philippa of Hainault (wife of King Edward III of England).
The Radcliffe Camera is a building of Oxford University designed in neo-classical style and built in 1737 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. It’s separation from other buildings and circulatory shape makes it a focal point of the city.
Bridge of Sighs
Hertford Bridge, often called “the Bridge of Sighs,” is a skyway joining two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane. The bridge was completed in 1914. Its distinctive design makes it a city landmark.
Cambridge, as well as Venice, Italy, also have a Bridge of Sighs so it is interesting to compare them. The Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge belongs to St. John’s College of Cambridge University. It was built in 1831 and crosses the River Cam between the college’s Third Court and New Court. I enjoyed going under the bridge on the punting tour there.
The “original” Bridge of Sighs in Venice passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace and was built in 1602. The name – Bridge of Sighs, was given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, and comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.
Trinity College was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, on land previously occupied by Durham College. Despite its large physical size, the college is relatively small in terms of student numbers at approximately 400. It was founded as a men’s college and has been coeducational since 1979. Trinity has produced three British prime ministers, placing it third after Christ Church and Balliol in terms of former students who have held the office.
St. John’s College
St. John’s College was founded as a men’s college in 1555 and has been coeducational since 1979. St. John’s is one of the wealthiest colleges in Oxford, with a financial endowment of £573 million as of 2019, largely due to nineteenth century suburban development of land in the city of Oxford of which it is the ground landlord.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
This museum holds an internationally-significant collection of natural history specimens and archives in a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture. It is home to a lively program of research, teaching, and events focused on the sciences of the natural environment. To find out more information about visiting the musEum click HERE.
Worcester College was founded in 1714. Gloucester College had been an institution of learning on the same site since the late 13th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Worcester is consistently one of the most popular Oxford colleges amongst prospective applicants.
Oxford Castle & Prison
When William the Conqueror invaded England and won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Oxford Castle was marked by the Normans as the ideal place for a motte-and-bailey castle. When visiting, you can climb the Saxon St. George’s Tower, one of the oldest buildings in Oxford, and enjoy its 360 degree panoramic view over the historic city of Oxford. You will also descend deep underground into the 900-year-old crypt. On the tour you will also explore the confines of the 18th century Debtors’ Tower and Prison D-Wing and scale the Mound of the 11th century castle. After your tour, you will go into the castle’s prison and the rest of the site for you to explore on your own. The castle also has a Jailbreak Escape Room available from 7pm daily, which is a 1 hour fun experience where you try to escape your cell using your wits to solve a series of puzzles, codes, and clues before the time runs out. Pre-book your tickets HERE. Tickets are £12.95 for adults.
St. Michael at the Northgate
St. Michael at the North Gate is a church on Cornmarket Street, at the junction with Ship Street. The name derives from the church’s location on the site of the north gate of Oxford when it was surrounded by a city wall. Since 1971, it has served as the ceremonial City Church of Oxford.
St. Martin’s Tower, popularly called “Carfax Tower” is on the northwest corner of Carfax. Carfax is considered to be the center of the city. The tower is the remaining part of what was the City Church of St. Martin of Tours and is a prominent landmark that provides a look-out over the town. The main part of the church was demolished to make more room for road traffic. The tower is 74 feet tall, and no building in central Oxford is allowed to be built higher than it. The tower still has a ring of six bells.
Wow! I can’t believe how much of England I just saw in only 8 days! Since this is my last year of living in the U.K. I am so glad that I took this opportunity to explore more of this amazing country. I had amazing weather, visited some beautiful sights, and loved making Mila the happiest dog ever! If you have any questions about my trip, please comment below!