The Cornwall Experience

2024 trip: April 16 – 26

2025 trip: April 21-May 1

The Cornwall Experience is a special 10-night Experience trip that includes eight nights on the mainland of Cornwall and two nights on the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles off the coast. We hosted groups in Cornwall in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

Cornwall is a unique part of Great Britain… still British but with a different climate and culture, very much impacted by its position on the narrow southwestern coast. The warm gulf stream currents bless the area with a semi-tropical climate. (Yes, there are palm trees!) Cornwall’s remoteness from the rest of Britain has always impacted its sense of individuality, and Cornwall even had its own language in earlier times.

There are over 300 miles of coastline, much of it rugged, influencing a history of sailing ships, fishing villages, pirates, smugglers, and shipwrecks. The area was inhabited in prehistoric times and many ancient monuments are still standing, more than any other place in Britain. Later, Cornwall was a major area for tin and copper mining, vigorous industries before they were abandoned in the late 19th century. (The Poldark books and BBC miniseries are set in Cornwall during this era.)

Our primary focus for our week on the mainland is the area known as the Penwith Peninsula (also called the Lands End peninsula), the westernmost tip of Cornwall and surrounded by water on three sides. At its most narrow point near Penzance, the peninsula is less than ten miles from north to south. Penwith is included in the Cornwall “area of outstanding natural beauty” (similar to a national park) and is also a UNESCO world heritage site for its industrial and mining history. These designations have provided a special level of protection for the natural and historic landscape in this area of Cornwall. We’ll make day trips to two other parts of Cornwall to visit the unique Eden Project and the scenic area around the Fal and Helford rivers.

St. Mary’s island

We’ve extended our normal Experience week to include three days and two nights on the enchanting Isles of Scilly, also in the county of Cornwall. The Isles of Scilly are a group of over 100 small islands approximately 28 miles off the coast, the most southwestern point in the British Isles. Only five islands are inhabited (population 2,200).

With settlements dating back to the Stone Age, the Isles of Scilly are described as “outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded and unspoilt” and offer a tranquil and laid-back way of life. The water is a Caribbean blue and there are miles of white sand beaches and an abundance of birds, marine animals, and exotic plants. The main agricultural product is cut flowers, grown on small family farms. We’ll travel to Scilly by ferry and return on small planes. We’ll travel by boat between three of the inhabited islands.

Impacted by the gulf stream, Cornwall’s subtropical climate has the mildest and sunniest weather in the UK. Because of its unique micro-climate, Cornwall has over 40 gardens, home to a wide variety of beautiful and rare plants and trees. We’ve chosen April for this trip so we can enjoy the gardens during the spring flowering. Temperatures will be pleasant, and we’ll enjoy the area before the busy tourist season.

Overnight Locations

The Cornwall Experience involves overnight stays in two locations:

  • Penzance (Penwith Peninsula) – seven nights (our new primary base beginning in September 2023)
  • St. Martins (Isles of Scilly) – two nights
  • Penzance – one night

Penzance: An historic waterfront town on Mount’s Bay with a population of 20,000, Penzance is the regional center for the Penwith Peninsula (the western end of Cornwall) and an ideal base for our seven-night stay in this area. The Peninsula was settled in the Bronze Age, and Penzance developed as a market town in the early 1400’s.  The town fronts Mount’s Bay, with excellent views of St. Michael’s Mount. The Southwest Coast Path, a 630-mile mile national trail, passes along the waterfront.

On a walking tour of Penzance we’ll learn about its fascinating history and its connection with pirates. We’ll explore some of its most interesting streets, such as Chapel Street which features some important architecture. We’ll also see the famous Jubilee Pool, an Art Deco fresh-seawater pool built in 1935. There’s plenty to enjoy during free time in Penzance, as there are many eating places, shops, and galleries.

Penzance is the end of the rail line in southwestern England. A ferry travels each day to the Isles of Scilly. One mile along the coast is the seaside town of Newlyn, the largest fishing port in England.

Our 25-room hotel sits on a hill with views of the sea. Built in 1905, it was originally two Edwardian townhouses, built in 1905. We’ll return to this same hotel for a final night after we return from the Isles of Scilly.

An aerial view of Penzance

The Isles of Scilly: Our three days and two nights on the Isles of Scilly make The Cornwall Experience a “best of two worlds” vacation. We’ll stay at a beachfront resort hotel on the island of St. Martin’s (population 140), just two miles long with three small hamlets. In addition to our hotel, there are a few galleries, shops and eating places. Our main focus on St. Martin’s will be the beaches, bays, rock inlets, incredible views, and easy walks. From our base on St. Martin’s we’ll visit the nearby island of Tresco, including the world-famous Tresco Abbey garden with 20,000 different plants from 80 countries.

Quiet bay and beach on St. Martin’s

Experiences in Cornwall

The Cornwall Experience will include these activities and much more:

    • Guided walking tours of Penzance, Mousehole and St. Ives, with free time to explore on your own. We’ll also visit other seaside and riverfront villages.
    • Visits to historic and natural sites on the western Penwith Peninsula, including the Geevor Tin Mine and prehistoric sites like the Merry Maidens stone circle and Carn Euny.
    • Visits to several of Cornwall’s spectacular gardens including the unique Eden Project. The Eden Project features giant geodesic conservatories and plants from all over the world and includes an indoor rainforest.
    • A day in Falmouth, including a boat trip on the Fal River or the Helford River.
    • A day in the lively seaside village of St. Ives, including a visit to the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden. St. Ives is known for the number of artists who have settled there over the years; you can visit the Tate St. Ives and a variety of artist galleries.
    • A visit to the castle and gardens of St. Michael’s Mount on an island off the coast near Penzance. This was a sister monastery to France’s Mont St. Michel and looks very much like it. The earliest buildings date to the 12th century.
    • Optional walks on the famous Southwest Coast path.
    • Explorations of the Isles of Scilly (St. Martin’s and Tresco) including a boat trip to see birds and other wildlife and a visit to the world-famous Tresco Abbey gardens with over 20,000 different plants.
    • Meals featuring outstanding local cuisine, including a wide variety of local seafood and farm produce.

See a typical day-by-day itinerary for The Cornwall Experience

Arrivals and Departures

Most travelers will fly into one of the major London airports. From London it’s a five-hour train trip to the western tip of Cornwall. Our meeting and departure times will correspond with the schedule of the London-Penzance train. The train ride between London Paddington and Penzance offers a chance to see the diverse English countryside. The scenery along the south coast of Cornwall is especially beautiful. The train line ends at Penzance.

There’s also a small airport in Newquay, about an hour from Penzance. See the airport website for more information about connections.

On our last morning, we’ll provide taxi transportation to the Penzance station for trains to points east, including London.

As always, we highly recommend spending one night in Europe before meeting us. London is always a great place to spend a few days (or more). For those who prefer to begin the journey westward, Exeter or Plymouth in Devon, Truro and Fowey (all on the London-Penzance line) would be a good base for that first night or two.

Learn more about Cornwall and The Cornwall Experience:

Getting to Know…The Cornwall Experience (a Virtual European Experience)

The Cornwall Experience in photos

Garden Experiences in Cornwall and the Cotswolds (Kathy’s blog)

A Cornwall Experience: The Wonderful Food!! (Kathy’s blog)

Prices and what’s included

$6,400 per person, double occupancy. $7,200 single occupancy of a double room.

This price includes:

  • 10 nights’ accommodation in 3- and 4- star hotels. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms.
  • 10 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 10 dinners. You’ll have 3 lunches on your own. Wine and/or beer/cider of our choice is included at all dinners and most lunches.
  • All gratuities
  • Three walking tours with local guides; admissions to at least eight historic sites and gardens; and two boat tours.
  • Transportation to and from the Isles of Scilly (by air or ferry, depending on the optimal schedule) and boat transfers between the islands
  • Transportation in Cornwall by a small motor coach with a professional driver. Transfers between airports, stations and hotels during the trip are also included.
  • Personalized support from expert leaders
  • Travelers Guidebook and other information/support to help you plan your trip

This trip requires a $1,000 per person deposit, with the balance due 90 days before the first day of the trip. The minimum cancellation fee is $500 for cancellations 90 days or more before the first day of the trip; within 90 days, our normal cancellation policies apply.

Leaders:  Kathy and Charley Wood