Paul Ainsworth's Cycling Guide to Cornwall
The Michelin-starred chef (turned avid cyclist) has given us the low-down on where to eat, stay and play along the Cornish coastline. Whether you’re a saddle-sore pro or a basket-bike type who pootles along sandy paths, hop on two wheels and get pedalling.
16 March, 2021
Forget banana bread baking, 2021's hobby of choice is cycling. We're keen to set the wheels in motion and feel the wind in our hair as we whizz past blurry landscapes. In a bid to discover Cornwall's lesser-trodden trails, from pit-stops to surf-sports, we've called upon avid cyclist chef Paul Ainsworth.
Here, the Michelin-starred chef shares his favourite picnic spots, Cornwall's best cyclist friendly routes and most importantly, where to stop for fuel (read: snacks). You'll be dusting off your wheels quicker than Bradley Wiggins can cycle the Zig Zag.
Crowd-free beaches, cycling trails and pint pit-stops: a chef's guide to cycling Cornwall
When's the best time to visit Cornwall?
Cornwall is beautiful all year round and the way it changes with the seasons is fantastic. If I had to choose, I'd probably come down in autumn. I love the roughness, the way the sea swells, and the empty beaches. In spring when the weather starts to warm up, both the colour of the trees and the sea changes, and the flowers bloom. It looks like a completely different place.
You're an avid cyclist, share with us some of your favourite cycling routes in Cornwall?
I started cycling during the first lockdown, and I'm very much into it now. I've recently discovered a great route from Wadebridge to Padstow, out to Trevose Head, through the back lanes of Padstow, and then back home on the Camel Trail. It's about 30-miles round-trip - an ideal route for a sunny day. The great thing about cycling is discovering new places even if you've lived somewhere for 15 years. When I first found myself on the top of Trevose Head, it was just gorgeous.
Where should we go to hire our bikes from?
I highly recommend Padstow Cycle Hire in Padstow for a cycle through the Camel Trail and a detour to Camel Valley, a beautiful vineyard. If you hire your bikes from Wadebridge, I'd suggest Bridge Bike Hire.
Any must-try pit stop destinations?
I might be a bit biased, but The Mariners in Rock is a must-try. I love The Kew Inn in St Kew, as well. It's in a gorgeous location, right in the middle of the countryside and it's a great place to cycle to. The chef, Andrew Tuck, does a lot of delicious wood-fired food.
What about somewhere to stop for a pint?
The Golden Lion is a proper Padstownian pub and the owners are lovely, otherwise try The Oyster Catcher in Polzeath. There are plenty of wonderful places around here to stop for a drink.
And a refuel?
When we get to Padstow, one of our favourite places is Cherry Tree Coffee House. I know the owners quite well and can always rely on them for the most amazing homemade cakes. They do a vegan flapjack, and even though I'm not vegan, I always go for that as a treat. The Beach Box Cafe in Polzeath is great too. It's right on the beach and serves excellent coffees and paninis.
Where should we stop for a picnic?
Halfway on the Camel Trail between Padstow and Wadebridge. You walk down the slate quarry and there's a perfect rock to sit on right next to the water. My wife, daughter and I had a picnic there recently. The water was turquoise blue and there was a white sailing boat in front of us. With the sun and the view, it felt like we were in Greece.
Where should we wake up in Cornwall?
I'm a massive fan of The Watergate Bay Hotel and The Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth. Watergate is very family-friendly, while Scarlet is adults only. We used to go to Scarlet a lot before we had our daughter; the views are incredible, and it's a fantastic place to relax.
What about somewhere for breakfast?
For breakfast, I love the St Kew Farm Shop. There's a café with lots of outside seating space, and whenever we go there, I always get a sourdough bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee. It's perfect to cycle to.
And for a long, lazy lunch?
The Living Space at Watergate Bay Hotel is a great place to relax. I love eating on their terrace overlooking the ocean.
What about for dinner?
I'd highly recommend checking out Nancarrow Farm and what Jack Bristow is cooking for dinner. His feast nights are unreal, I went there for my 40th birthday. The location and food is very special.
Any underrated spots in Cornwall worth exploring…
Recently I went to a place called Golitha Falls which I've never heard of before. We walked down through the woods and found this amazing hidden spot. It was utterly different from what we are used to seeing in Cornwall and it blew me away.
One place only locals know about…
Definitely Mother Ivey's Bay, just outside of Padstow. John Walton, our group executive chef, is Padstownian born and bred, and he always used to tell me about a hidden spot where he used to go surfing. Luckily, not many people know this bay, as the road to get there is quite steep. If you go at sunset, you can enjoy the most incredible view of the sun plunging into the water.
Finally, where are the best crowd-free beaches?
There is a beach in New Polzeath called Baby Bay. It doesn't get crowded as there's not a lot of parking space. Last year at the end of August, I went there with my wife and my daughter. We got there around 5 o'clock, had some food, went for a swim in the sea, and just enjoyed the calm of the beach. It's one of the most unbelievable places!