Sailing in a Cornish Lugger with Venture Sail – Full Review!

The sun had descended a few hours prior, and the boat rose and fell over the water, the stern of the ship crashing down with an almighty bang as it conquered each wave.

Although the night sky was pitch black, the entire top deck was lit up by the luminous glow of the golden full moon, illuminating all of the archaic features of the 18th-century replica vessel.

I was on a trip with Venture Sail Holidays, a company that specialises in nostalgic sailing trips in the West Country and abroad.

The setting of this particular trip was a replica of a Cornish lugger ship, 18th century boats that were often used for smuggling contraband through Cornwall’s rocky coastline.

Here’s everything you need to know about a sailing trip with Venture Sail Holidays.

This trip was sponsored by Venture Sail Holidays in exchange for this review. All opinions remain my own. This article may contain affiliate links.

What are Venture Sail Holidays?

The ship moored at Mayflower Marina in Plymouth

As the name suggests, Venture Sail Holidays is a company focusing on adventurous sailing trips, many of which take place in the wild waters around Cornwall, the UK’s most southwesterly region.

The company merges adventure, sailing training and sustainability to create a completely refreshing type of trip that’s far away from package holidays or even the Cornwall norm of staying in a cottage or caravan park.

Instead, you’ll take to the seas, avoiding road traffic and hordes of crowds, looking at the region from a completely different perspective.

Venture Sail Holidays have a big focus in the South West, but also run sailing holidays to Scotland, the Channel Islands, Scandanavia, Mediterranean countries, the Canary Islands and even the Caribbean.

The sailing trip

Getting a gig transfer from the ship to Falmouth Harbour

Every Venture Sail Holidays trip is different, but here was our itinerary:

Day One

We met at Plymouth’s Mayflower Marina at 11:00 am, met all the crew and the other guests, had a coffee and set sail at around midday.

Coffee, tea and cake on the ship’s deck

Lunch was around 1:00 pm, and it was absolutely delicious; a feast of various vegetables and garlic potatoes.

We then sailed around a little, quite literally learning the ropes, and then docked up in Cawsand.

Although this is very close to Plymouth, we’d left late, so we docked up and took the gigs to the shore.

We sat in The Bay restaurant in Cawsand and enjoyed a Rattlers and a Korev beer, before having a stroll around the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand.

A pint of Rattlers and Korev sitting on the table of a restaurant in Cawsand, Cornwall
A pint of Rattlers and Korev in Cawsand

After we rowed back to shore, a delicious dinner of soup, salad and a cheeseboard was waiting for us. We enjoyed a bottle of wine and then went to bed.

Day Two

View of Cawsand from the ship’s deck

We woke up in Cawsand – some people opted for a quick swim, although as it was only April, the waters were still very chilly!

Then, we set sail. Traversing the coast, we floated past Looe Island and Polperro.

Sailing around Looe Island

We thought about docking in Polperro, although the crashing waves were a bit too intense, which made the crew decide not to row the gigs ashore.

One thing that I quickly learned about sailing was that sea conditions and weather make it unpredictable, and you quite literally need to go with the flow!

Instead, we set sail to Falmouth. We set out into the water, and were lucky enough to see dolphins along the way!

We ate dinner on the dock and sailed into the sunset.

I actually ended up sleeping before we got to Falmouth, snuggling into my cosy bunk, falling to sleep with the white noise of water lashing the sides of the boat and the rocking motion of the vessel. We arrived at about 11:00 pm.

Day Three

We woke up in Falmouth, had breakfast and had the chance to take the gigs onto the shore. It wasn’t our first time in Falmouth – in fact, I wrote a list of all of the best things to do there last summer – but we had a nice stroll around and purchased a coffee.

The Pier Cafe in Falmouth

Plus, as it was Easter weekend, we tried a speciality from Harbour Lights fish and chip shop – a battered creme egg. Which was actually surprisingly tasty!

A battered creme egg!

We boarded the ship again, had lunch and then set sail.

After navigating Carrick Roads, we sailed past Pendennis Castle, and then voyaged back out into the waters, making out different Cornish towns on the south coast.

View of Pendennis Castle from the water at Carrick Roads

After sunset and dinner, I opted to stay up and watch the ship sail through the night.

As darkness descended, I could still make out the historic mast and sails of the 18th century replica ship.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, this kind of lugger was used for smuggling in Cornwall, and although we were just on a jolly around the coastline, the night sailing gave me a thrill that I’m sure smugglers had in times long gone.

The boat tilted to the left and right as it negotiated the waters, waves lashing the sides of the boat but not quite reaching the deck.

Behind me, I could make out a buoy and a few lights at the shore, but other than that, all was in darkness. All I could clearly see was the boat.

Sunset from the ship

Eventually, we left the open seawater and turned into Plymouth Sound.

The waters almost immediately calmed as we rounded the corner and followed the lit up buoys, finding somewhere to dock for the night.

Day Four

As we woke up not far from Plymouth, we had the chance to do some proper rowing, exploring the hidden coves of the coastline.

View of Cawsand and Kingsand on a sunny Easter Monday morning

We worked up a sweat, and were definitely ready for a large lunch once we reached the boat again!

After we had lunch, it was a short sail back to Plymouth, and we docked here and disembarked the boat.

Sailing back into Plymouth

The boat

We sailed on the Grayhound, which is an 18th century replica ship.

Resembling a Cornish lugger which was often used for smuggling, this historic vessel was a large part of the fun!

The deck of the boat

It’s a three-masted ship, a 5/6th replica of the original Grayhound boat which dates back to 1776.

The boat uses the same rigging as the 18th century boat, making sailing it a fascinating (and somewhat complicated!) experience!

Sleeping-wise, there’s plenty of space for up to six guests.

The berths are like pods, with heavy curtains over the beds which allow plenty of privacy, and individual lights.

My little sleeping pod

There’s also a kitchen and two toilets (each with their own complicated flush system!), a sofa by the kitchen and the captain’s cabin which lets in lots of natural light.

The food

The food was one of the best parts of the trip.

An all-vegetarian menu ensured that the ship stayed sustainable, with the professional chef who hailed from Sevilla, Spain, crafting a varied menu each day.

We ate tacos, pasta, incredible salads, soup, cheeseboard and homemade bread and cake.

Everything was cooked to perfection – a seriously impressive feat considering we were on a small, and at times rocky, ship!

The daily breakfast spread

It was phenomenal!

The sailing

It was fun to sit on the deck and watch the world go by, but most guests also got involved in sailing.

I actually ended up missing out on most of the rope-pulling due to a minor injury, but my partner and the other guests had got the hang of it by the end!

Rich on the ropes!

I’d recommend taking this ship if you have a particular interest in sailing and learning how it all works.

It’s quite a technical ship with lots to do, so there are tonnes of opportunities to get involved and learn about life at sea.

The overall trip

View of the boat through the fog

Breathing in the salty sea air as the 18th century lugger crashed over the Cornish waves, the trip was an excellent way to get out and enjoy the atmosphere of Cornwall’s southern coast.

We took in glorious fishing villages, epic clifftops and incredible beaches.

Plus, there was a chance to learn about sailing, try out some rowing and enjoy the atmosphere of a group sailing trip.

If you want to try a different kind of adventure, learning about history and nature as you navigate the Cornish seas in a sustainable way, Venture Sail Holidays provides wonderful sailing holidays around Cornwall and beyond.

Where to stay in Plymouth

Plymouth harbour and lighthouse

If you’re looking for accommodation in Plymouth either before or after the trip, here’s my list of recommended hotels:

Hostel: The family-friendly Plymouth Backpackers Hostel is fantastic if you’re on a budget. Choose from dorms and private rooms; there’s also a communal kitchen, lounge, and dining room. Click here to read more.

Budget Hotel: If you don’t want to spend too much but want a bit more privacy, try Jurys Inn Plymouth. This modern hotel has clean, well-appointed and great-value rooms with comfy beds, flat-screen TVs, and en-suite bathrooms! Click here for more information

Mid Range Hotel: Looking for something different? The Duke of Cornwall Hotel is a popular mid-range place to stay. Enjoy the individually-styled boutique rooms with period decor, and dine or drink at the restaurant and bar. Click here for more information. 

Luxury Hotel: Why not combine your sailing trip with a spa break? We love Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa. The hotel has one of the best spas in Devon, a fine dining restaurant, and opulent rooms with incredibly comfortable beds and plenty of luxurious touches. Click here for more information.

There are plenty of things to do in Plymouth, from touring the gin distillery to learning about the Mayflower voyage. If you decide to spend a bit of time here, check out my Plymouth travel guide to make the most of your stay!

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