Why Cornwall is the new celebrity hotspot
Following in the footsteps of TV chef Gordon Ramsay, comedian Dawn French and even Madonna, David Cameron has splashed out £2m on a holiday home on the Cornish coast
SURFERS’ PARADISE: The north Cornish coast is a favourite for watersports in a county famed for beauty
THE village of Rock on the north coast of Cornwall is said to have got its name from the quarry that once provided ballast for ships sailing from Padstow harbour on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary.
The quarry is now a car park and the scattering of Range Rovers and Mercedes with surf boards on their roof racks that appears every summer tells you everything you need to know about how the village has changed over the past decades.
Indeed it has become so popular with well-heeled Londoners that it has been nicknamed Chelsea-on-Sea and this week former prime minister David Cameron became the latest household name to be lured by its charms.
He has invested a reported £2million on a house just up the coast from Rock, an area where he and his family have enjoyed a number of summer holidays.
“He has always loved spending time in Cornwall and has dreamt of having his own place there,” says a spokesman. “He looks forward to spending more time in that beautiful part of the world.”
The Camerons are not the only family to have a love affair with the county. They are joining 30,000 people who have second homes in Cornwall. And a starstudded grouping it is too.
One of the Camerons’ near neighbours will be celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who bought his first property in the area two years ago but now sits on a Cornish property portfolio with a combined value of more than £10million.
Longer term home-owners include husband-and-wife Daily Express columnists Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, who have spent time at their holiday house in Talland Bay, a hamlet between Polperro and Looe, for the past 20 years.
Dawn French has a spectacular 40-room mansion on a headland at Fowey, south Cornwall, Madonna is rumoured to have bought a property on the exclusive Roseland Peninsula further down the Cornish Riviera and Wham! star Andrew Ridgeley lives in Wadebridge to the north.
The county whose scenic charms have been showcased on prime time via not one but two hit TV series – Poldark and Doc Martin – has long been a hit with walkers and ramblers but it is also a mecca for surfers on the north coast and sailors to the south.
But Rock and its environs remain the jewel in the crown of a county that has been named best UK holiday destination by the British Travel Awards for eight consecutive years.
“People come to Rock and Daymer Bay for the same reasons they came 40 or 50 years ago,” says Jo Ashby, of Cornish estate agents John Bray. “It’s a sailing estuary, brilliant for young children and has had good investment in infrastructure with golf, watersports and restaurants.
“North Cornwall provides comfort and safety, a place where people from London and the home counties love to recreate traditional family holidays.”
Ramsay is obviously a big fan. He bought his first house in the area in 2015 when he acquired a five-bedroom cottage overlooking the sea in Rock for £4.4million, then the secondhighest price ever paid for a property in the county.
WHILE he waited for planning permission to knock it down and replace it with a main house and a second smaller property, he splashed out another £4million on a beach house in the nearby village of Trebetherick, which boasts a wine cellar, swimming pool, tennis court and almost 2.5 acres of land.
He completed his Cornish buying spree two months ago when he spent £1.96million on the former Lloyds Bank in Fowey, a Grade II-listed building in the town centre.
But despite having made his name in the restaurant trade Ramsay appears to have no plans to challenge the unquestioned primacy of Rick Stein, the West Country chef who first made his name with The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, a village that Ramsay can see across the water from Rock. Stein’s empire has grown to such an extent that he now has six outlets in Padstow – no wonder it has been dubbed “Padstein” – and 10 in Cornwall as a whole.
But none of Stein’s venues has a Michelin star – the only Padstow restaurant that boasts such an accolade is Paul Ainsworth At No 6. The Driftwood Restaurant near Portscatho on the south Cornish coast also has one star while Nathan Outlaw’s Port Isaac restaurant is Cornwall’s only two-star eatery.
One of the county’s biggest tourist attractions is St Ives. In the wake of the Second World War this once tiny fishing village was transformed into a vibrant, influential art colony as it became the epicentre of the British Modernist movement.
As staycations become more and more popular in an era when negotiating airport security becomes increasingly irksome, Cornwall’s future as a tourist hotspot and celebrity magnet appears assured.
CELEB NEIGHBOURS: The Camerons, left, and from top, Gordon Ramsay, Dawn French and Madonna