Cornwall for emmets*: Ten things you might not know about Britain’s wild West

Polperro harbour scene
Polperro harbour scene: summer holidays don’t get more Cornish than this

Everyone knows Cornwall, don’t they? Even those who’ve never visited Britain’s sunshine coast can conjure a mental image of ice cream, rockpools, smugglers’ coves and picture-perfect fishing villages.

Well, here’s your chance to prove you know your pilchards from your piskies. How many of these rock-solid facts about Cornwall did you already know?

* Not sure what that means? You’re in the right place – read on.

1. You are not a grockle

View over crowded golden sands
People look like ants from up here

That’s a Devon thing. In Cornwall they call visitors ‘emmets’, an old dialect word meaning ‘ant’. It’s suggested that this may be because both arrive in numbers, in summer, and are often coloured red.

If someone refers to you as a DFL, it means they consider you an elite emmet. (It stands for ‘Down from London’).

None of this is really meant unkindly, so don’t take offence – though you might want to politely ignore suggestions that you visit Porthemmet Beach.

You can brush up on some more Cornish dialect (aka Anglo-Cornish) here. Don’t confuse it with the Cornish language (Kernewek), which is a Celtic tongue related to Welsh and Breton.

2. Mind the snacks …

Cornish cream tea
Cream on jam, please. We’re not in Devon

A proper Cornish pasty has the crimp on the side. Jam before cream on your scone. Mix these things up at your peril. You aren’t in Devon now.

Of course, if it’s all a bit confusing, there’s always fine dining to fall back on.

Cornwall’s big-name restaurateurs include Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth, Jamie Oliver and James Nathan.

3. … and the place names

Fishing harbour and cottages
Mousehole. That’s easy for you to say …

Time to practise. Fowey is pronounced ‘Foy’. Mousehole is ‘Mowzle’. But Doublebois is ‘Double boys’.

  • Launceston: LAN-sun
  • Marazion: Maraz-EYE-un
  • Heligan: Hell-IG-un
  • Liskeard: Liss-CARD
  • Widemouth: WID-muth.

4. Nothing dates like the latest thing

Newquay shoreline at night
Newquay, with its new (c.1439) quay

Before Newquay installed its new quay, in the 15th Century, the town was known as Towan Blystra, meaning Windy Hill.

It probably didn’t do much for tourism back then, but today the name lives on in Towan Beach (one of 11 fine beaches near Newquay).

And in the local Wetherspoon’s.

5. Not all pirates had Cornish accents

Man pointing fiercely and wearing pirate gear
Pirates: less fun than this chap

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, Barbary corsairs – pirates from North Africa – kidnapped thousands of Cornish people during coastal raids, and sold them into slavery. They helped themselves to a fair few ships, too. We must assume they did not come ashore shouting “Arrr”.

Oh, and the early bits of Treasure Island? Devon.

6. It’s made of beaches

Sandy beach with rocks and breakers
Cornish beaches: miles of golden sands

True, this is far from a national secret. But depending on whom you believe, Cornwall has between 300 and 400 beaches.

The coastal path around Cornwall is 300 miles long – it’s a shorter walk back to London.

Wherever you go in the county, you’re never more than 20 miles from the sea.

7. It’s extreme (but Land’s End isn’t)

Land's End signpost
Land’s End: true in a limited sense

Yes, if you must, Land’s End is the extreme westerly point of the English mainland. But the last bit of England before you hit America? That would be St Agnes in the Scilly Isles.

And Lizard Point, famously the southernmost spot in the British Isles? Nope, that’s St Agnes too. By a couple of miles.

Remote, wild and unspoiled the Scillies may be, but they’re a 30-minute flight from Newquay Airport. So a short break from London to enjoy diving, horseriding, sailing or beachcombing at the far end of Britain, isn’t such an extreme idea.

8. OK, how about the myth about miners inventing pasties?

Two freshly baked pasties
Cornish pasties: crimp on the side, remember

Sorry, that one’s true. Perfect for one-handed eating in the muck and murk of a deep tin mine.

These days, of course, there are EU rules about what can and can’t be called a Cornish pasty.

What you might not know, however, is that they’re big in Michigan, thanks to expat Cornish miners.

9. Prince Charles doesn’t own it

Homes and sheep in field
Poundbury: absolutely not in Cornwall

Well, not all of it, anyway.

Most of the heir to the throne’s Duchy of Cornwall land is actually in – you guessed it – Devon.

Though he does own much of the coastline, and is apparently entitled to the estate of anyone in Cornwall who dies without a named heir.

10. It’s only an hour from London

Front-on view of purple twin-prop aircraft
A Flybe Dash 8 on-stand at Terminal 2

Time was that a trip from London to Cornwall meant spending all day at the wheel, or five hours-plus on a train. Now it’s even practical for a day trip or a weekend away.

Flybe’s Dash 8 aircraft whisk you from Heathrow to Newquay in just over an hour, leaving you plenty of extra time for surfing, sailing or sunbathing.

And if you live in Cornwall, destinations around the world just became much more reachable thanks to Heathrow’s global route network.

Flights depart four times daily, seven days a week in both directions, from 31st March 2019. For fares and bookings, visit Flybe.com.

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