This interview is in celebration of ‘romance,’ February’s blog theme of the month, as well as the Miranda’s Notebook Book Club choice, Jamaica Inn, which is set in Cornwall.
Cornwall is definitely a county steeped in romance, conjuring as it does haunting and dramatic love stories, such as Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and the Poldark series. The vivid, beautiful scenery lends itself well to tales of love and adventure, and has long been an inspiration for artists as well, including some of my favourites: Barbara Hepworth and Winifred Nicholson.
Known for its beautiful scenery, cultural richness and innovative food scene, Cornwall still manages to keep its secrets well, with many of its most inviting spots remaining largely undiscovered. Luckily for us, however, the fabulous team behind Weekend Journals dedicated the first in their series of gorgeous guidebooks to disclosing many of Cornwall’s hidden gems.
Weekend Journals was founded by the lovely Camille (Milly) Kenny-Ryder, alongside her husband, Simon, and brother Gabriel (who’s responsible for the beautiful photography). Milly is an instagram / blogger friend of mine whom I met on my trip to Paris last summer, and her blog and instagram account clearly showcase her exquisite taste in all things food and travel related. I love her beautiful Cornwall guide, and I was delighted when she agreed to sit down with me and share about her process in creating Weekend Journals, as well as some of her top Cornwall recommendations. Be warned, though: as soon as you read this, you’ll want to book a holiday to Penzance immediately (I know I do!).
Camille Kenny-Ryder, co-founder of Weekend Journals
MN: How did your interest and love for Cornwall begin?
CKR: I come from a very big family (I’m the eldest of 4 kids) so we never had very much money to go far away on holidays. My parents are both artists, so they loved going to Cornwall because of the art scene and beautiful pottery there. We’d all get bundled up in the car and drive for hours and hours to the deepest, darkest depths of Cornwall, right at the bottom near Penzance. I used to go a lot as a child on B&B holidays there, and then when I got married to Simon, his family are from Cornwall so we would go together a lot. I found out that it was quite likely Simon and I played on the same beach as children, which is hilarious!
Writing the book came about because I was getting asked to write about a lot of new things in Cornwall on my blog, and I felt like there were all these things happening there, like new hotels and restaurants, and there wasn’t anything very modern or design-led in the guidebooks section for Cornwall. I thought that was a shame, as it’s such a popular place for people to travel to for the weekend. I saw there was a gap in the market, and I thought I’d shed some light on it!
MN: What was the self-publishing process like?
CKR: Really hard! If I knew now how much work it would be and how many new things I’d have to learn, I maybe wouldn’t have embarked on it. I have to say it is very rewarding, though, and – not having a publisher – we got to have all the creative control. We didn’t have anyone to answer to and could make all the decisions. That also means you can make all the mistakes, but you come out of the process knowing, not only how to write a book, but also how to design a book. Even knowing how to buy a barcode – things like that, that you never would have thought about before. It was a massive hurdle – there were so many things to overcome – but it was really rewarding when we did it.
MN: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
CKR: I feel Simon dealt with a lot of the biggest challenges! I think having to multitask so much was a huge challenge. The actual writing of the book seemed only about 2% of the work involved, like finding out about distribution, designing the book and so on. Simon taught himself how to use InDesign and created the whole layout of the book, as well as designing our website.
MN: What made you want to create a physical book, rather than an online product?
CKR: I’m a very tactile person; I’ve always loved physical objects, and I love books. As a child I was always making books and diaries out of pieces of paper. I like having an object, rather than something just on my phone, and I felt that I wanted to put my words and my pictures in something that wasn’t just on the internet.
I’ve had the idea to do a guidebook for years, but I wanted to do it about somewhere that is still a little undiscovered. Although everyone knows about Cornwall, I soon realised speaking to the locals there, that, for the most part, places that tourists were going were completely different from the places that locals went. There’s a place called Potager Garden that the owner of a coffee shop we went to told me about, for instance. At first he was quite cagey, and didn’t want to tell us about it, as he said he didn’t want everyone going there, but when he found out Simon’s family are from Cornwall, he warmed up!
So that was the idea: I wanted to put all of these special places I’d found in a physical book, that someone going down to Cornwall for a wedding or something could take with them, and could spend the next day exploring a few places that were still undiscovered.
MN: Do you have a particular area of Cornwall that you love?
CKR: There are a few areas that I really love for different reasons. I like Penzance because I feel it’s having a moment right now. It’s near to St Ives, which everyone adores! St Ives is like the pretty older sister, but Penzance has also got so much history and so much to offer. Over the past 5 years, chefs have started to see it as a real foodie destination as well, and there are a lot of interesting restaurants in Penzance. The Jubilee Pool has just reopened too, which is this amazing outdoor lido that’s totally stunning and has been around since the 1930s. There are lots of nice little art galleries too.
MN: If you could pick one – and there are so many lovely ones in the book! – which would be your favourite Cornish restaurant?
CKR: It’s so hard to pick, especially as I love eating so much! Everyone knows about Rick Stein and all the big Cornwall chefs, but one place I loved discovering for the book was a place called The Shore, which is actually in Penzance. The whole restaurant is run by only one guy, who’s worked in Michelin star restaurants for the last 10 years, and he uses all the fresh, local produce, and the food is amazing; definitely edging towards a Michelin star. The food is really affordable, though, and does a fantastic job showcasing Cornish ingredients.
I also really love Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, which is the 1 star restaurant run by Nathan Outlaw [there’s a fantastic interview with Nathan Outlaw at the back of Milly’s guide – M]. It’s absolutely adorable, tucked away in this old, historic house, and it’s quite small so there are very few seats. Eating there is great chance to taste Outlaw’s expertise in cooking fish, but at much more affordable prices and it’s much more low-key and casual than his 2 star restaurant, which is nearby. I always recommend people go there.
MN: What are the cultural aspects of Cornwall that you appreciate the most?
CKR: I think there is a lot of amazing art in Cornwall, but what I’ve discovered more recently are some of the incredible gardens. We went to the Isles of Scilly, a collection of islands just off Cornwall, which are just magical. There’s an amazing garden there that has tropical plants from all over the world, and it feels so exotic – you could be anywhere in the world! There’s also a sculpture garden quite near to Penzance that is beautiful as well.
I also enjoy spotting literary references – like going to see the lighthouse from Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and seeing why Cornwall has inspired so many brilliantly talented and creative people. Cornwall really has an incredible atmosphere, that is so different from London life, and it’s so refreshing to just sit by the sea and enjoy it.
MN: What’s next for Weekend Journals?
CKR: We’ve been really delighted by how enthusiastic people are about Britain. My family are from the South of France, so I’m desperate to do one on the South of France, but then I’m also aware that it’s good to appreciate and explore more of Britain, especially as travel abroad is getting more expensive. And I feel there is a need for quality guidebooks about places that Londoners and people like me can visit for the weekend in Britain. Very vaguely, then, we’re thinking of Somerset next!
(all photographs in this blog post courtesy of Weekend Journals)
Have you ever been to Cornwall before? Are you tempted to plan a holiday now?
P.S. We’re discussing Jamaica Inn a week from today! I’ve been loving the pictures people have put up on Instagram of the book. Have you finished it yet?!