Cornwall – Almost An Island




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Cornwall boasts some of the most gorgeous landscapes and tourist destinations in all of the UK.

This maritime region is nearly fully surrounded by the sea, which can be seen from any point in the county. And with a millennium of history attached to the landmass, Cornwall has become a popular destination to visit.

Cornwall recognises its relationship with the sea, putting its front and centre as an integral part of its identity. While the county is not completely separated from the British landmass, the Cornish culture embraces it anyways, using the label “Almost An Island” instead.

Let’s explore Cornwall and find out the cultural significance of this descriptor, as well as its destination branding and marketing aspects.

Almost An Island: Cornwall And Cultural Self-Identity

In several contemporary texts and media, Cornwall has been described to be rather geographically insulated from the rest of the landmass. 

Indeed, the county is surrounded by the great seas in all but one boundary that it shares with its sibling county of Devon. The Atlantic Ocean runs along its north and west borders, while the English Channel is the water body to the south. By traditional geographical definitions, the county could be considered a peninsula, despite being nearly completely surrounded by water. 

That said, being the popular tourist attraction that they are, the Cornish landscapes have an identity of their own for both its residents and tourists. From a historical and cultural viewpoint, the English county has managed to create a cultural separation at the Tamar River.

This cultural separation is what the texts and media refer to when deeming the county isolated or insular in the British Isles. After all, Cornwall largely relied on sea routes for trade and cultural exchanges with other parts of the world in historical times. 

This practice led to the Cornish residents identifying themselves differently with the place. And this sense of self-identity is what led to the distinctiveness that the Cornish display to this date. A simple conversation with a resident of Cornwall can testify to this, as a large number of them identify as Cornish more so than English. This is in spite of the county being legally a part of England.

Such a strong sense of self-identity is typically associated with island communities that, while somewhat isolated, are connected to the wider world sufficiently. This isolation is to maintain its identity while being open enough to exchange ideas with the world as a whole.

Thus, it’s reasonable to see how Cornwall is considered to be “almost an island.”

Almost An Island: Tourism Endeavours

Around the late 19th century, Cornwall was a subject of destination branding and marketing activities, undoubtedly due to its beaches, small islands, and overall natural scenic beauty. This was a reaction to the decline of the tin mining industry of Cornwall, after which efforts to increase tourism began to ramp up.

While the promotion was performed hastily and with plenty of improvisation, its effects can be seen to this day. The traction created by the promotional campaign reached highs that were considered unprecedented during the times.

Further aiding the idea of Cornwall as a tourism hotspot was the perception of a typical holiday that was prevalent at the time. During those times, tourism was a difficult sector to succeed in, something many tourism operators attempted to work around through the creation of regional identities.

Naturally, due to the cultural separation of Cornwall, as well as the islandish feel of the county, the county quickly reached new heights of popularity. Sights like whitewashed homes that dotted the lush green countryside, rugged cliffs, fishing villages and coves aplenty became the talk of the British landmass. The difference between Cornwall and the rest of the landmass was striking enough for many to consider it a separate entity entirely. 

Over time, this was further reinforced through various means, such as Cornwall border patrols and T-shirts. Some tourism operators provide tourists with passports, which said that the county was “separated from the rest of Great Britain by the River Tamar.”

The Internal “Almost Islands” Of Cornwall

It may surprise you to learn that Cornwall isn’t the sole part of the United Kingdom that has received the label of “an almost island.” 

Areas around the eastern half of the Lizard Peninsula that is segmented by the Helford River have been deemed as such. And much like Cornwall itself, the tourism promotions often make it a point to remind tourists of this aspect.

From a certain viewpoint, this is understandable, as such tourism promotional materials aim to create a unique brand image for the area. This information is often presented to tourists in as many areas as possible, the effectiveness of which is up for interpretation.

Certain parts of Cornwall also receive similar treatment from promotions in an attempt to distinguish themselves as separate tourism destinations. But since sections of Cornwall are not too culturally dissimilar from one another, such a description ends up being a distinction without a difference.

Unsurprisingly, such distinctions are often aimed at potential tourists rather than represent the perception of the locals.

To Sum Up

In cultural terms, Cornwall may be considered an island-like culture, owing to the historical separation along the River Tamar. 

While isolated to a degree, Cornwall has always maintained a presence in the wider world, with word about it spreading far and wide with tourism. Indeed, as an “almost island,” Cornwall has maintained a unique identity that manages to remain connected with the outside world despite its somewhat insular nature.

In the modern age, such labels are important to shape the identity of the residents. With destination branding and marketing, this unique identity is being reshaped even further. And despite its identity evolving over time, Cornwall continues to maintain its distinctly delightful feel.

Although it may be a peninsula in geographical terms, the Cornish lands are island-like in spirit. Thus, the term “almost an island” may be considered fitting for the county.

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