The big idea

Pride. Lots and lots of pride. Proud to be in Cornwall: proud to be the pride of Cornwall. And that’s no bad thing; where else in the country does a city try to represent the whole of a county? And it’s not just any county at that, but one that sometimes considers itself as a separate country;the place positively hums with a mission to celebrate all things Cornish. And there is certainly a lot to celebrate – history, breathtaking scenery, fabulous food, a thriving tourist industry...need we say more?
Well, we do actually, because Truro not only takes pride in what it does, it does it with a certain flair and panache.

A Cornish community

So, as you would expect from such a contented place – a place that revels in its location and its history – a sense of community is important in Truro. Take the cathedral, a lovely building made from Cornish granite that was built in the heart of the city to avoid isolation (at one point Bodmin had put in a claim for the cathedral to be built there, as it was then the ecclesiastical centre of Cornwall, but Truro won out). What also makes the cathedral stand out is when it was built and by whom – the first foundation stone was laid in 1880, and is therefore Victorian. The cathedral also celebrates Cornish saints a plenty – in glass, wood and stone.
Consider also the City of Lights Festival, an annual celebration of Truro’s history played out in music and lights. And – typical of Truro – last year’s festival didn’t have a particular finale or focus, just a number of spectacular events evenly spread throughout the city so everyone had the chance to enjoy it.

A really proud people/a city with flair

It would be easy for dwellers of larger cities to dismiss Truro as a small provincial town, a quaint backwater of little importance. And if they did come to this conclusion, it would be clear that a) they had never visited, and b) they were dead wrong. Not for nothing is this a proud city; throughout its history Truro has continually adapted to circumstances and always done it with style and flair: be it grappling with nature such as when it took control of the rivers; or bouncing back after tin mining came to an end.
And then there’s the sheer prettiness of the place, with gorgeous streets such as Lemon Street (deemed the most beautiful Georgian street west of Bath) and Walsingham Place, full of fine Georgian townhouses.

The essence

Cornish Pride and flair
 

How it can make you feel/ who’s it for?

This little city fair bursts with civic, historical and cultural pride, so it’s no surprise that this will rub off on you a bit when you visit. It’ll also be hard to leave here without a certain sense of optimism and the feeling of belonging.
Given this, and the location, it’s ideal for a get-away-from-it-all recharge.

History

Truro sits at the lowest bridging point of the Falmouth Estuary, giving rise to the theory that its name derives from ‘try berow’, meaning ‘three torrents’ and thought to refer to the Rivers Allen and Kenwyn and a third that flows underground. However, other theories believe it means ‘three roads’, in reference to it sitting at the junction of ancient trade and pilgrimage routes.

In terms of the city’s origins, it’s thought that circa AD 550, St Keyne set up a religious cell overlooking what we now know as Truro Valley – although legend also has it that it was founded when St Piran (patron saint of tin miners) was cast into the sea from his native Ireland by an evil king; the sea immediately became calm and St Piran floated to a beach in Cornwall, where he founded a church. Whatever the truth, religion, saints and pilgrimages remained a feature of life for many years; in fact, a young Jesus is thought to have visited here with his merchant uncle (and where else in the UK can claim that?)

And why would a merchant be visiting Truro? Well, tin mining and trade was a massive feature of life here throughout history: as far back as 49 BC trade in tin was being conducted as far away as the Mediterranean (in fact, yet another legend has it that the Cornish were trading with the Phoenicians in 2000 BC!). And so it was that tin became the single most important commodity in Truro’s (and Cornwall’s) economy: not surprising when you learn that the wider area around Truro covers what came to be known as the richest square mile of mineral wealth in the world.

Fast forward to the 13th century, and Truro was growing in importance and even had its own merchants’ guild. Mining continued to be of the utmost importance, and it’s fitting that an alumnus of Truro Grammar School, Humphrey Davy, invented the miners’ safety lamp. In fact, some of the city’s parks and landmarks were built as a result of the wealth created by tin, including the great gardens.
The 1800s were a significant time for Truro: in 1877 it was declared a city, and in 1880 the first foundations of the cathedral were laid. However, the end of that century saw the mining industry dry up – a massive blow for the area that resulted in a mass exodus to the New World. It didn’t, however, result in the decline of Truro itself: it evolved and adapted to circumstances in true style and soon became a commercial hub that attracted the wealthy of Cornwall.

So instead of a city in decline at the end of the 19th century, you have a city that built some of its finest architectural wonders despite the loss of its main trade: triumphal arches, beautiful buildings using pale Bath stone and even street furniture with wonderful flowing shapes.

Today the city is still thriving, and not on tourism alone: many companies have been attracted here by its location, the laid back attitude to life, and the wonderful county that is Cornwall.

How to experience what’s different/ get under the skin of Truro

Why not start at the top of Lemon Street with the Richard Lander Monument (named after the adventurer brothers, from Truro, who discovered the source of the River Niger in Africa nearly 200 years ago)? Head down Lemon Street – named after Sir William Lemon, the wealthy mine owner, and built to speed through mail coaches from Falmouth – and admire some beautiful Georgian architecture (as you stroll down, the properties seem to get even grander) until at the bottom you get to the open Piazza area and Lemon Quay; this has a strong reputation for holding some of the best markets in Cornwall, and if you’re here on a Wednesday or Saturday you really should catch the great Farmers’ market.

Just off the Piazza is the entrance to the Hall for Cornwall, an impressive theatre complex for concerts, live music, dance and other shows (typical name for Truro’s main entertainment venue: that Cornish pride coming through again!).

From here, saunter along Lower Lemon Street and come out onto Boscawen Street. This is one of the main streets in Truro, a lovely wide space, with the war memorial and Coinage Hall at one end, and the cathedral temptingly close in front of you. Take a left here and you’ll soon reach the pretty Victoria Square; look to the left for Walsingham Place, the Georgian street much loved by the Poet Laureate John Betjeman.

Head back to the square and then north onto River Street to check out the Royal Cornwall Museum, brimming with an amazing array of objects, including a famous unwrapped Egyptian mummy, a world-famous collection of minerals and even a large gold nugget. Once suitably impressed, turn right out of the museum and keep going until you reach Victoria Gardens, built to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1898. Pretty gardens with a traditional bandstand amongst exotic flowers and trees, it provides a lovely peaceful spot from which to admire the railway viaduct. And underneath the viaduct you’ll find the Hendra Skate Park, believed to be one of the best in the South West.

Now head back along The Leats, the road following a parallel path to the river, and veer slightly to the left to enter High Cross, where you’ll find the impressive Assembly Rooms, once Truro’s centre for entertainment – check out the Wedgwood plaques on the building of Shakespeare, Garrick and Thalia – and, finally, the Cathedral.

Only 125 years old, it is the first new Anglican cathedral to be built for over 600 years – since Salisbury cathedral – and is a triumph of architectural skill as it was constructed in the middle of an already busy town. Check out the three magnificent spires, named Victoria, Edward and Alexandra (the diocese of Truro, incidentally, covers the whole of Cornwall, surprise, surprise, the Isles of Scilly and even a couple of parishes in Devon); as well as a huge stained-glass project the ‘church within a church’ and numerous Cornish saints dotted around the buildings.

Once outside, cut through the Cathedral Lane – you’ll see the Tourist Information Centre pretty much in front of you – and turn left for the Coinage Hall. That Coinage Hall is a great reminder of where the city’s come from: when it was a Stannary Town, heavy ingots of tin would be sent there twice a year to be assayed and taxed.  From here, head down Princes Street, probably the most fashionable address in the city at one time with some beautiful buildings such as Mansion House, and join Quay Street, with the Pannier Market on your right. Head over to Quay Street and you’ll be at the ferry crossing.

From here, you could take one of the riverside walks along to Boscawen Park, a wide open park with some great sporting facilities – eight tennis courts, three football pitches and a cricket pitch – set amongst some pretty parkland and flower displays.

Or take a chance on a really interesting diversion by taking a ferry out to Trelissick Gardens. Situated high above the head of the Fal Estuary, these beautiful gardens are tiered to take advantage of the most spectacular views (‘jaw-dropping’ is a tad over-used cliché these days, but it’s legitimate here). The gardens themselves are full of plants that thrive in Cornwall’s mild climate, such as magnolia and camellia, as well as some rare and unusual hydrangea. Incidentally, the ferry itself, the King Harry Ferry, was also recently voted one of the top 10 ferries in the world, alongside iconic ferries like the Staten Island and Hong Kong Star Ferries.

So there you have it. Beautiful setting; stylish streets; certain flair: plenty to be proud of.
 

When to visit

City pics

Lincoln
Preston
Sheffield
Chester
Ely
Hereford
Wolverhampton
Norwich