St. Austell is in a good location for people holidaying in Cornwall. Ok so it's not picturesque, olde worlde, quirky, small or anything else you might be looking for in a holiday, you could be in any town in England when you're in St. Austell. But it is very central to all the things that tourists are probably looking to visit when in Cornwall. It is 5 minutes from places like the Eden Project, Clay Museum and St. Austell Brewery. There are also some lovely walks in the area, including the interesting Clay Trails. It is around 20-30 mins from Fowey, Newquay, Padstow and such places. There are several nice beaches near to St. Austell such as Porthpean, Caerhays, Pentewan etc, but if you fancy a bit of surf you're only 20 or so minutes away from the like of Watergate Bay (where Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant is), Fistral, and all the other well know touristy beaches. Then you can go a bit further afield and go down west to the quaint towns and villages of St. Ives and the like, which are all very pretty if a bit out of the way. Although there is quite a pretty little area of St. Austell called Charlestown which has a nice little harbour. There isn't really a beach to speak of but it's worth an explore if you are staying in St. Austell and don't fancy going too far one day.
St. Austell town centre is actually being regenerated at the moment, so there is not really a lot to see and do in St. Austell, but I don't think that would be a bad thing for a holiday maker as you tend to be out and about most of the time anyway. There are plenty of places to stay in St. Austell, due to it being so central. The accommodation ranges from Travelodges and Premier Inns to posh hotels such as The Carlyon Bay (actually that's another nice area of St. Austell, although the beach resort place is being re-developed which isn't pretty), to bed and breakfasts and guesthouses. There are lots of supermarkets and shops (Asda, Tesco, Co-op Iceland, Lidl, Aldi etc) so if you're self catering you don't have to go too far.
Go: - If you want to come on holiday to Cornwall and don't mind where you rest your head.
Don't go: - If you want to stay in a pretty little villagey location - St. Austell is not this. Also if you're looking for local nightlife. Beacuse of the regeneration most clubs have been shut. Newquay is obviously the place for the nightlife.
A lot of people around here slag St. Austell off. But most of these people have never actually crossed the Tamar bridge so therefore don't realise that St. Austell is actually pretty damn posh compared to a lot of other large towns in other parts of the country! It's a good place to stay if you don't want to spend too much money on your accomodation - other parts of Cornwall can be very expensive. I would say it is the best place to stay if you want to see a lot of Cornwall.
St Austell is a very small town, but is a good base for a short visit to Cornwall's many attractions. The town itself boasts the main Hight Street shops such as WH Smiths, Boots, Tesco, Superdrug, Burtons, the major Banks as well as a 5 screen cinema, 10 pin bowling alley, a working Brewery, take aways, pubs and cafes. The town lacks any non-pub night life such as restaurants, but the food served in the local pubs is excellent and inexpensive. The White Heart Hotel restaurant is not now recommended by some locals as it has recently changed ownership/management and is allegedly attempting to provide services on the cheap. the Hotel's newly refurbished bar is lovely (if a little pricey), and a good place to get away from a pub atmosphere as its mix of coffee, tea, wines, lagers and beers in the comfortable cosmopolitan surroundings is a quiet and plesent way to spend an evening. The food and surroundings of the Seven Stars pub is particularly good, serving a wide variety of daily specials of fish and meat as well as having a good vegetarian menu with large protions at reasonable rates (mains between £6-£12). it also doubles as the St Austell Brewery's historic first pub. The Stag and O'Callahans are also recommended and are owned by the same brewery. Be aware that most will stop serving food between 8 and 9pm. By day there are a selection of shops selling pasties, cakes and sandwiches and the pubs also serve food. there are cafes, both quaint and cosmopolitan where you can get lattes, cappacino and other less cornish fare. for traditional cornish try the Thin End for cakes and teas. The tour of the St Austell Brewery is a must for visitors, for £4 per person you get a 1 hour tour of the working brewery (not for those with mobility impairments or children) and 2 half pints of a selection of the excellent real ales from the brewery or one soft drink free at the end of the tour. Monday is the night
to visit the 5 screen cinema as all tickets are £3.50 (usually £5) most evening screenings of the latest releases start just after 8pm. The Bowling alley is a little expensive at £4.50 pppgame, but there for extra entertainment. From St Austell you are within easy reach of the caost as well as The Eden Project, Truro, Gardens of Heligan and other Cornish attractions. The Eden Project is excellent and easy to get to either driving or by the direct bus from St Austell station. the best advice is to arrive after 1pm to avoid the morning crowd as it really is MUCH quieter in the afternoon. allow at least an hour for each of the 3 biomes if not 2 and don't go without eating in their fabulous restaurant, which is quick in service and delicious in its selection of meat fish and vegetarian and vegan food from around the local area. the visitor centre and shop is stocked with local cornish produce as well as fair trade and organic foods; there is also the standard pens and keyrings and well as more unusuall things such as coasters made from recycled yogurt pots or wellies. you will be surprised at how much thought has gone into the whole place in terms of design as well as functionality for visitors - one of the best attractions i have been to as well as the most easy to visit. St Austell is not for those looking for night life, but i would recommend it as a base for visiting Cornwall for a few days - Try Truro for more places to eat and shop.
It was way, way back in the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) that the very first porcelain was produced. Well it was easy for them as they had lots of the natural ingredients required. This was the Tang dynasty of China, obviously, as porcelain wasn't really made elsewhere until a guy named Bottger knocked up a few decent pots in Meissen, Germany in 1708. No doubt, at the time, China and Germany thought they had it all sussed, and the market sewn up, but things changed in the 1740's. For this was the period when china clay deposits were found in Cornwall in the area surrounding St.Austell. And damn good it was too. So good the Cornish named it white gold and exported it worldwide. Not only did china clay bring prosperity to this part of Cornwall it also changed the landscape. Today, if you are driving towards St.Austell from the north, you may pass through Carclaze Downs where you will see huge white mounds of the remnants of china clay workings creating a very weird landscape, almost moon like in appearance. From the distance one mound in particular looks like a great white pyramid and, needless to say, there is a pub named after this (The White Pyramid!) I had a quick drink in there, when I was last in Cornwall, but it's nothing very special. I've been to Cornwall and the St.Austell area several times this year as my boyfriend and I have friends who live there. I can remember my first trip into St.Austell, described in my handbook as a market town. I walked down the steep hill from the station passing a Georgian Quaker Meeting House (1829), the Post Office, and Lloyds Bank. Looking upwards the buildings appear to be very old and have some interesting carvings and architecture. As I walked I could see the tower of the Holy Trinity church at the bottom of the hill come into view - it has some nice figure work on the outside walls. Opposite the church is the 18th century White Hart Hotel and on the
other side is the old Market House. I thought to myself, "Yes, I'm going to like it here". But then it all seemed to go wrong and didn't live up to my early expectations. The Market House was interesting, but most of the units inside were empty. This would make a great place for antique shops and the like but instead it's virtually dead. It needs someone to get hold of it and put it to proper use. It could all be done without losing the character of the place and become a real visitor attraction. This sort of sums up St.Austell to me, it looks like it has been neglected for too long and needs some energy and enthusiasm brought to the town. No wonder locals would rather drive the fifteen miles to Truro for any 'proper' shopping, or even to Plymouth. As you wander through the main Fore Street there are a few of the ususal shops: Burtons, New Look, Boots and WH Smith but what really stands out is the number of charity and empty shops - hardly the sign of a thriving commercial centre. Then there is a Woolworth store right in the middle. Old fashioned style shops are all around and then this hideous square box building has been erected - what were the planners thinking? It's an eyesore and just doesn't look right. If the design was anything to do with Woolworth themselves they should be ashamed. To be fair though changes will be made soon. The nearby Eden Project (see opinions) is starting to regenerate the area attracting a couple of million visitors a year. St.Austell town should, therefore, be able to cash in on this Eden effect and a redevelopment will be started soon in Aylmer Square, which is just off of the main Fore Street. Shops and buildings have already been emptied and the bulldozers, I believe, will start to strut their stuff late this year. A new covered shopping centre will be built and maybe this will do the trick to get the life back into St.Austell. I hope
they have a decent architect and design team this time. As it stands now I wouldn't personally recommend that you visit St.Austell if you are in the area, there are many more worthwhile things to see nearby. Like Charlestown, Mevagissey, Fowey, Eden Project, the St.Austell Bay beaches and so on. No doubt part of the downfall of the town has been the decreased demand for local china clay. It can now be produced more cheaply in other parts of the world - but life has to go on and adjustments made. One interesting place to visit is the Wheal Martyn Museum a couple of miles north of the town centre which is dedicated to the history and story of china clay. Not exactly riveting you may think but I found it worth a visit. China clay is a white powdery material arising from the decomposition of feldspar in granite. It is mainly made up of kaolin. As well as being used for porcelain and china it is also used in paints, glossy paper, toothpaste, make up, fertislisers and so on. The Martyn family first bought the land, where the museum is situated, in 1790 and this was once part of a claypit. Going back to the town itself. If you go to Cornwall, you've got to have a pasty - right? Now, with me being a veggie, this can be a problem but the bakers Barnecutts (in the main Fore Street) sell vegetarian pasties - recommended! Make sure you ask for these and not just 'vegetable' ones. The vegetable have animal fats in the pastry. If you want to eat the White Hart does decent meals (12 am to 9 pm) and offers a reasonably priced carvery for you flesh eaters. For a snack, or light lunch, try the Thin End, which is near Curry's, another design tragedy, at the far end of Fore Street. They have the best coffee in town - mind you, that's not too difficult! Pubs? Well the White Hart again and maybe O'Callaghans by the Market House. I'm talking during the day here as St.Austell is pretty
dead in the evenings, even the Wimpy and cafes shut. O'Callaghans sometimes attracts people on nights when they have music, a local band or group. There is a Chinese take-a-way about five minutes walk to the east of the town together with a fish and chip shop. A McDonalds (if you absolutely must) is about fifteen minutes walk south, at the Mevagissey roundabout, where the cattle market once stood - a sign of the times! Oh yes, for the evenings there is a cinema with five (I think) screens and a ten pin bowling alley 'Ozzle Bowl' in the main car park by the fire station. I went there once, it has six lanes and offers basket style meals as well - it's okay. Quite honestly I feel that's all there is to St.Austell. I can see it developing in years to come as it is situated in a prime position for visitors and holiday makers wanting to see the Eden Project, mid Cornwall and parts of the lovely south Cornish coastline. There are some fabulous walks and scenary and this is the real Cornwall for me. At the moment I'd say only go to the town if you must. Truro, for example, is far superior with decent shops, a cathedral and feels alive. The china clay decline may have had a detrimental effect on the town but I have a feeling that the Eden Project, and the new development, will turn things around. I reckon, if you were to visit in say four or five years time, it could be a booming place - time will tell if my crystal ball is correct. Until then, I wouldn't bother. - Kay