‘Who said the UK is all booked up? It's as quiet as ever here in Newquay'

Meg Mathews
·5-min read
woman and dog on beach
woman and dog on beach

Last month I finally made the leap to setting up home in Cornwall, after living in London since I was 18. I had been on the lookout for the perfect place to live since last November but nothing was quite right. I wanted to get away from the chaos and pressure of the city but I didn’t want to move to the middle of nowhere with only cows for neighbours.

I grew up in Guernsey so the coastline has always called to me. I have friends in Newquay so that seemed like the perfect place. The weather in Cornwall is very similar to the weather of my childhood – wild and freeing!

When I told people about my decision, I was routinely warned of the crowds that descend each year, but as I moved at the tail end of lockdown, everything was still closed when I got here.

For me that was perfect. It meant I had four weeks to find my feet and discover Godrevy, my favourite beach and Pentire Point for beautiful walks before the restrictions eased. I was also never going to let talk of tourist hordes put me off my dream destination; some places are popular for a reason.

Already, I’m starting to feel like a local but it’s still very new and exciting and there are lots of places I am yet to explore. I’ve been told that accommodation was 98% booked up for this Easter which is crazy but I totally get it. Why wouldn’t you want to come here? That said, I didn’t notice the ‘Easter rush’ at all. You can definitely feel a buzz in the air but it’s not overwhelming. In fact, the beaches and car parks were deserted.

aerial beach  - Getty
aerial beach - Getty

For me it’s still so exhilarating walking down the beach with the wind in my hair and fresh air in my lungs. My anxiety has eased dramatically and I feel at home here. I’m happier than I’ve been for years and a few tourists aren’t going to change that!

I guess it’s too early for me to comment on the summer… I may get tired of tourists by August but really it’s no different to the years I’ve spent in Mykonos or Ibiza. I’m used to waiting 45 minutes to park the car or booking a restaurant two weeks in advance.

I’ve been warned that Cornwall, and Newquay in particular can be a nightmare peak season as tourists descend and this year it’s expected to be busier than ever. Especially as EasyJet has just launched a new route between Newquay and Gatwick. I’m anticipating traffic jams and gridlock on the roads but I feel okay with that as where I am based I can walk everywhere and it’s about time that I did.

In London I would jump in a taxi to Oxford Street instead of walk and that was a bad habit. I’m lucky that my house in Cornwall is perfectly located walking distance to the beach. My favourite new coffee shop, Box & Barber and the organic deli Oak and Maple are both a 10-minute walk away.

summer beach Newquay Fistral - Getty
summer beach Newquay Fistral - Getty

I chose Newquay for the buzz, the surfer life, bonfires on the beach, pop-up food stalls and seafood shacks (Moules & Co is a great one, they do big bowls of mussels and clams to take away in all different sauces). Then there's The Boat House by the harbour where I’ve been told has great food. I wanted to be around people and my friends who live here.

The ‘authentic’ Cornwall does exist and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I was thrilled to discover Sprout, a vegan and local farm shop last week! I’m happy in my Birkenstocks (but I have to confess mine are red Valentino) and Sunset Surf Newquay tie dye sweater. It’s so much easier than worrying about designer handbags and heels.

I’ve been hearing a lot about coasteering too which I’m desperate to try. Basically it’s a mix of sea swimming, rock climbing, cave exploring and cliff jumping. You wear a helmet and scramble up rocks with ropes before jumping into the sea.

Something I’ve always wanted to do is swim in cold water. The first thing I did when I moved here was join a beautiful swimming group called the Mermaids. The women have been incredible and so welcoming to me and my dog Ziggy. Everyone here is very friendly. The second I had my first swim in the freezing water I felt at home. I managed eight minutes but can now do over 10!

Meg and dog on beach
Meg and dog on beach

I’m swimming most days either at my local beach or at the port with the Mermaids. I downloaded Tides Near Me, a really handy app because little did I know that the high tide and low tides change every six hours. I can walk to the whole of Newquay from my house along the beach but I need to know when the high tide is coming in. It’s an essential app to have when living and visiting here.

Lifeguards are on every beach I've been to. Each has a wooden hut so it’s reassuring when you go into the sea. You must always respect the sea because swells, tides and waves are tricky even for the strongest swimmer.

Luckily I’m an early riser. I like to wake up before sunrise and I’m really productive first thing. That’s when I walk Ziggy along the beach and go for a swim. Some of the beaches here only allow dogs before 7am during the peak season and that’s good for me. It means I’m on the beach before everyone else gets up and it’s bliss.

See you at the beach.