Looking for things to do in Cornwall? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve visited Cornwall a number of times, and I spent a number of my childhood years growing up in this rugged English county.
Cornwall is a primarily rural county located on the southwestern tip of England. It is particularly well known in the UK as a family-friendly destination. However, it offers something for everyone, with spectacular beaches, lovely coastal hikes, cute fishing villages, ancient monuments, wildlife watching opportunities, castles, art, shopping, and lots more!
In this post I’m going to share all our favourite things to do in Cornwall. These should give you lots of inspiration for your time in Cornwall, whether you are visiting for a day, a week, or more!
As well as some suggestions of what to do, I’m also going to some tips on where to stay in Cornwall and some money saving suggestions for your visit to the county.
I’d also recommend reading our guide to spending a week in Cornwall, which has information on getting around Cornwall, when to visit Cornwall, and getting here and away. We suggest you might want to use the posts together to help you plan your perfect Cornwall trip.
Now though, let’s take a look at all our favourite things to do in Cornwall.
Table of Contents
Things to do in Cornwall
This guide has some of our favourite things to do in Cornwall. Whatever your interests, we’re sure you’ll find something to love in our list!
Visit A Cute Fishing Village
Cornwall is surrounded on three sides by the sea and fishing has been a cornerstone of the Cornish way of life for centuries. Even today, with tourism being key to the Cornish economy, fishing still plays an important role in Cornwall.
As a visitor to Cornwall, you will definitely want to visit at least one, if not more, of the lovely fishing villages that are dotted around the Cornish coastline. These were generally built in locations where there were natural harbours to shelter the vessels, which in many cases had the handy side effect of also making them rather photogenic.
With their narrow streets, old houses, colorful boats, and fishing accoutrements, Cornwall’s fishing villages really are beautiful. They are also often a good place to start or end one of Cornwall’s many coastal hikes, and will usually have a number of cafes and shops to explore.
There are a great many lovely fishing villages to visit in Cornwall, but here are several ones you might want to visit on your trip that we have enjoyed:
- Boscastle – found on Cornwall’s north coast, this pretty fishing village has a spectacular zig zag shaped natural harbour. The village itself also has some picturesque streets, and the village and much of the surrounding area is largely owned by the National Trust.
- Port Isaac – a little west along the north coast from Boscastle is Port Isaac, one of the most popular fishing villages to visit in Cornwall. This is largely thanks to it being a filming location for the Doc Martin TV series. It is very picturesque, but do expect it to be busy.
- Mousehole – an absolutely gorgeous fishing village on the south west Cornish coast. The pretty sandy harbour here with the boats and houses in the background is often used in brochures and advertisements. Definitely one of Cornwall’s most photogenic fishing villages.
- Charlestown – found on Cornwall’s south coast, this 18th century fishing village used to be one of Cornwall’s largest commercial ports. The harbour here doesn’t seem to have changed much from the 18th century, and there are usually a number of tall ships moored in the dock.
- Polperro – this is one of our favourite fishing villages to visit in Cornwall. The narrow streets leading down to the harbour are absolutely lovely to wander through, and the walks along the coast here are truly spectacular.
Naturally, this just scratches the surface of some of Cornwall’s beautiful fishing villages, and as you drive the coast here you’ll find many more yourself.
If you love the outdoors and nature, Cornwall will make for a wonderful destination for you. Cornwall has one of the lowest population densities of England’s counties, meaning it’s not hard to get away from people and explore nature.
There are of course plentiful locations to do this. I just wanted to mention a couple of options to start you off.
First, Bodmin Moor. This wild expanse of moorland spans across the eastern side of the county, and is home to wild ponies and rolling, granite topped landscapes. The highest peaks in Cornwall are found on Bodmin Moor, and it’s a lovely place for a half or full day hike.
Second, St. Nectan’s Glen. Found near Tintagel in north Cornwall, this is a beautiful waterfall which can be accessed via a 30-45 minute walk through gorgeous peaceful woodland. It is on private land, so there is a small fee to visit, but it is really worth it in my opinion. My only tip, especially if visiting in the summer months, is to go early. There’s limited parking at the trailhead, and the carparks fill up quickly.
Explore one of Cornwall’s Castles
Cornwall has a number of fantastic castles to explore, dotted through the countryside and around the coastline. These can make for a great day out with kids, but of course there’s lots to see and do for adults too!
As you’ll soon begin to realize, many historical buildings, gardens, beaches, and even parking lots, amongst other attractions in Cornwall, are operated by either English Heritage or the National Trust.
As a result, you’ll likely save money be joining one or both of these organisations if you plan to visit a number of attractions in Cornwall. If you live in the UK, chances are you may already have a membership to at least one of these organizations.
If you are visiting from overseas, you can get tourist specific passes, including the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass, and the National Trust Touring Pass.
Some castles you should consider visiting in Cornwall are as follows.
Found just outside Falmouth town centre, Pendennis Castle was built in 1539 as part of Henry VIII’s efforts to fortify the English coastline against attacks from mainland Europe. It has a commanding view of the coast as well as the Carrick Roads waterway, which is the third largest natural harbour in the world, and an obvious target for naval attack.
The castle itself consists of a circular keep with mighty stone walls, which was primarily built to house massive cannons. It was extended over the years, and saw action throughout the centuries, with the last use being during the second world war against German fighter planes. In the 20th century, barracks were built to house troops. It was finally decommissioned in 1956.
Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to visitors. You can visit the castle itself, explore the grounds, and also visit the barracks where there are often special exhibitions. There are also often events. When we visited, we learnt all about medieval medicine and the history of the longbow, which was fascinating. There’s a fee to visit, and it’s free for English heritage members and holders of the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass. Find out more on the official site here.
St Mawes Castle
Found on the other side of the Carrick Roads waterway, St Mawes castle is essentially the sister castle to Pendennis. It is similar in design, but not quite the same, consisting of central circular keep surrounded by three circular bastions which served as gun platforms.
Operational from 1542, the history of St Mawes is quite similar to that of Pendennis. However, it became a tourist attraction earlier than Pendennis, opening to tourists shortly after the First World War, from 1920 to 1939.
It returned to duty as an active castle during the second world war, but then returned to tourism. Today, the castle is also operated by English Heritage. You can visit by road, but we think approaching by sea via the foot ferry by Falmouth is a more fun way to arrive.
There’s a fee to visit St Mawes, and it’s free for English heritage members and holders of the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass. Find out more on the official site here.
Going back a little further in time, Restormel Castle is a ruined Norman castle which dates from 1100, although the current design dates from the early 13th century. Cornwall had four Norman castles, and Restormel is unique in that it’s a circular shell keep design.
There aren’t too many of these left in the UK, with Restormel being the best preserved of all of them. Surrounded by woodland, which at the time was a large hunting ground, the castle was both a fortification and a hunting lodge, and would no doubt have been decorated luxuriously. It was visited by Royalty, and even had piped water!
Unfortunately, the castle fell out of use in the 14th century and started to decline. By the 16th century it was a ruin, with much of the stonework stolen and used for other buildings. However, the beauty of the castle design and its peaceful location meant it became a popular destination for tourists from the mid-19th century. Today it’s operated by English heritage, and you can visit the grounds and explore the ruin.
There’s a fee to visit Restormel Castle, and it’s free for English heritage members and holders of the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass. Find out more on the official site here.
Another of Cornwall’s Norman fortifications, Launceston Castle is found in the town of Launceston in eastern Cornwall. A timber castle was believed to have been built on this location shortly after the Norman invasion of 1066, however the stone structure as seen today dates from the 12th century.
Unfortunately, the castle slipped into decline as early as the 13th century. It continued to be used primarily as a court and gaol through the centuries, and only closed as a gaol in the 19th century when Bodmin Gaol took over the duties. By this time it had seen it’s fair share of wear and tear!
Today, the castle still sits upon a high defensive mound and dominates the skyline. You can climb to the top of the round tower for wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, and there’s an on-site exhibition which will take you through the castles 1,000 year history.
There’s a fee to visit Launceston Castle, and it’s free for English heritage members and holders of the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass. Find out more on the official site here.
Saint Michael’s Mount
One of Cornwall’s most iconic sights, Saint Michael’s Mount is an island off Cornwall’s south coast which is topped by a medieval church and castle. The island is linked to the mainland by a causeway, which can be walked across when the tide is out, otherwise it can be accessed by boat.
There’s plenty to do at St. Michael’s Mount. As well as visiting the hilltop castle, which dates from the 12th century, you can also explore the gardens and grounds. There’s also the 15th century chapel of St. Michael, which can be visited as part of the castle tour.
Saint Michael’s Mount is open to visitors and there’s a fee to visit. It’s managed by the National Trust, and is free for National Trust members as well as holder of the National Trust Touring Pass.
You will want to do a bit of planning ahead for visiting, as depending on the tide times you might have to book a boat ticket to or from the island. This is all explained as part of the ticket booking process on the website here.
Found on a small peninsular island next to the village of Tintagel in north Cornwall, Tintagel Castle is a medieval castle dating from the 13th century. In addition, evidence uncovered in the 19th and 20th century found that there was some form of palace here in the 5th and 6th centuries as well.
Tintagel Castle is perhaps most well known for it’s association with King Arthur (more on this further on in our guide), and it’s been a popular tourist attraction since the 19th century.
Of all the castles in our list, Tintagel is perhaps the most ruinous. It fell into disrepair from the mid-14th century, and never really recovered. However, the location and island are spectacular, and a walk around the headland here is lovely.
There’s a fee to visit Tintagel Castle, and it’s free for English heritage members and holders of the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass. Find out more on the official site here.
Of course, there are more castles to explore in Cornwall, but hopefully now you have a good starting point for your search!
Go on a Hike
Cornwall has over 400 miles of coastline, which features rugged cliffs, tucked away coves, sea stacks and spectacular stretches of golden sand. So it is not surprisingly that is one of the areas of the UK best known for its scenic coastal walks.
This entire coastline is part of the South West Coast Path, the UK’s longest National trail, which runs from Minehead in Somerset for 630 miles, all the way around the Cornish and Devonshire coasts, ending in Poole, Dorset.
Whilst obviously not everyone is going to want to set off on a 630 mile hike, the good news is that because the entire Cornish coastline is a part of this well marked route, it is easy to do a short coastal hike pretty much anywhere along the Cornish coastline.
There are almost endless opportunities for hiking Cornwall’s coastline. All you have to do is find a place to park or get public transport to, and set off. Some of our favourite stretches to hike include the area between Botallack Point and Pendeen Lighthouse, the walk between the fishing village of Polperro and Looe, and the coast around Bedruthan Steps.
Of course, if you did want to do a longer hike, this is more than possible. You can plan this yourself, or you can use a tour company which will handle your accommodation, meals and luggage transfers, leaving you to just enjoy the walks, such as this one.
There’s also more than coastline in Cornwall! We particularly like the hikes on and around Bodmin Moor, such as the hike up to Brown Willy and other tors. We’ve also done a part of the peaceful and very flat Camel Trail, which is popular with both walkers and cyclists. You can see some walks on and around Bodmin Moor here. If you’re looking for a longer inland hike, consider the 60 mile Copper Trail, which circles the whole moor.
Regardless of the duration of your hike, we always recommend a good pair of hiking boots as the terrain can be uneven. See our guide to travel shoes for men, and travel shoes for women, for some ideas.
Visit a Garden in Cornwall
Cornwall has a lot of outdoor space, and some of this has been turned into gardens that you can visit. There are a range of different types of garden, so we’ve put together some of our favourite in the below list which you can choose from depending on your interests.
Some of these might showcase a specific type of plant or habitat, whilst others have art installations. Some might be part of a country house estate, and these can be both formal and less formal gardens. Often you can get a ticket for these properties which just includes the garden, or one which includes a house visit or tour.
Here are some of our favourite garden attractions you can visit in Cornwall.
One of Cornwall’s most well-known garden attractions, the Eden Project is definitely somewhere you’ll want to consider visiting.
The site, which is found on a former clay pit, is home to two massive enclosures, constructed from overlapping geodesic domes. The largest of these cover almost four acres of land and is home to a rainforest environment. It’s the largest indoor rainforest in the world. The second dome is a little smaller, and is home to a Mediterranean climate.
Honestly, you don’t even need to have a huge love of gardens to enjoy visiting the Eden Project. The domes are just incredible to see and walk around in, and the variety of plantlife on display is amazing. My only tip is to bring layers and plenty of water, because it is very tropical in the rainforest dome, so you’ll want to be able to get down to a t-shirt – even in winter!
As well as the two biomes, there are lots of outside garden areas, as well as art installations and exhibits. There’s also on-site dining and a large shop. Overall, there’s plenty to do here to easily fill half a day. This is an excellent family friendly attraction! There’s a fee to visit, and you can find out more and book tickets here.
Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are a 200 acre garden near to the coastal fishing village of Megavissey in southern Cornwall. They are amongst the most popular gardens in the UK. Their romantic name comes from their history.
From 1766 until the First World War, the gardens were maintained as part of the Heligan Estate, which is also home to Heligan House. The extensive gardens had multiple areas, including an Italian garden and a Sundial garden.
However, many of the gardeners died during the first world war, and the house was let out following the war.
In the subsequent years, the gardens declined dramatically, to the point where they were so overgrown they were considered “lost” to time. However, in 1990, the gardens were “rediscovered”, and a massive effort to restore them took place. This garnered national media attention, including a multi-part documentary.
The gardens opened to the public in 1992, and have been a popular visitor attraction ever since. Covering 200 acres, there’s a lot to see and do, and the garden has won numerous awards, including being named the second finest garden in the UK (after Kew Gardens).
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open for visitors, and as well as the gardens themselves, there’s an on-site shop, dining, and rare breed farm park. You can find out more about visiting, including opening times and prices, on the official website here.
Tremenhere Sculpture Gardens
Whilst other gardens in Cornwall have art and sculptures dotted throughout, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens put these objects front and centre as part of the garden experience.
The gardens themselves, which are found just outside Penzance in a sheltered valley, cover a 20 acre site. They offer lovely views across St. Michael’s Mount, and the gardens themselves dates from the 1830s. However, they have only been open to the public in their present form since 2012.
On site you’ll find a variety of plant species, including tropical and exotic plants. Naturally, as the name suggests, there are also a great many art installations on-site, including work by internationally renowned artists such as James Turrell, David Nash and Richard Long. there’s also a café, gift shop and nursery on site.
There’s a fee to visit, and you can find out more about opening hours and prices on the official website here.
Caerhays Castle and Garden
If you’re visiting Cornwall in the Spring (February – mid June), then we definitely recommend considering a trip to Caerhays Castle and Garden. This lovely castle and garden only opens during the spring month, when the gardens are resplendent in color.
The gardens, which spread across 140 acres of hillside, are filled with Magnolias, Carnellias and Rhododendrons. Many of the plants here are over 100 years old, dating from the pioneering gardening work of the plant hunters Ernest Wilson and George Forest. Between them, these two individuals spent years in countries like China, finding species they could send home.
The result is a spectacular array of plants, quite unlike anything we’d seen before. To see so many impressive examples in full bloom is quite a site. As well as the plants, there are also a great many trees on site which belong to the register of Champion Trees.
The garden is definitely at it’s best in mid-Spring, around April, when the blooms are at their best. It’s also only open over the spring months. You can also visit and tour the castle, more on that in our guide to historical homes elsewhere in the post. There’s also a café on site. There’s a fee to visit, with tickets available for just the garden, or garden and castle. More on the official website here.
Pencarrow House and Garden
Pencarrow House and Garden is another excellent house and garden option, found on the western edge of Bodmin Moor. These grade II listed gardens cover 50 acres of land, and include formal gardens, ancient woodlands and even an iron age hill fort!
The gardens themselves date from 1831, and are home to 160 conifer species, 700 rhododendron species and 60 camellia species. There’s also an Italian garden, a granite rockery and a lake.
When we visited it was pouring with rain, but we still enjoyed walking the beautiful gardens and seeing the colorful rhododendrons. There are many trails through the woods and gardens, and you could easily spend a few hours on site here.
If you’re visiting Cornwall with children, Pencarrow House and Gardens are free for under 16s, making this a really family friendly day out option. Dogs are also allowed on the garden grounds, although not inside the house.
Tickets are available for just the gardens, or you can book a ticket which includes the gardens as well as a guided tour of the house. There’s also a cafe on site. Find out more about opening times and ticket prices on the official site here. You can also download a voucher to save £1 on your visit here.
There are of course more gardens you can visit in Cornwall! For more inspiration, check out this list of gardens in Cornwall managed by the National Trust.
Explore the Art Museums and Galleries in Cornwall
Cornwall has long been known as a popular location for artists. With the arrival of the railway to Cornwall in 1877, a combination of relatively easy access, plentiful subject matter and a low cost of living meant that many artists came to Cornwall.
This tradition has continued over the years, with a number of art style represented, from impressionist landscapes through to the more modern and abstract arts, centred in the St. Ives community. Today, Cornwall is home to numerous artists and art galleries, as well as some excellent museums. If you’re searching for art in Cornwall, here are some options we recommend.
Tate St. Ives
Opened in 1993, and a part of the Tate group of museums, the Tate St. Ives is the most visited art gallery in Cornwall. It has a lovely beach front position overlooking the ocean, and the collection houses works from the likes of both international artists like Picasso, Pollock and Rothko, as well as local artists like Barbara Hepworth.
Works from the permanent collection are on display, and there are also rotating exhibits featuring both international and local artists.
St. Ives is well known as a hub for the artist community in Cornwall, as as well as the Tate, you’ll also find a great many galleries selling works. So if you are looking to buy some art, St. Ives is a good place to start!
The Tate has a fee for visiting, and you can find out more on their official website here.
Falmouth Art Gallery
The town of Falmouth on Cornwall’s south coast has a number of attractions, including Pendennis Castle and the National Martime Museum of Cornwall. It’s also where you’ll find the Falmouth Art Gallery.
This free art museum has a collection of over 2,000 artworks, including works by old masters, Victorian artists, French and British impressionists and surrealists. Given Falmouth’s links with the sea, it’s appropriate that there are also a number of works by artists who specialised in maritime themes. Naturally, Cornish artists such as the well regarded John Opie are also represented.
If you’re looking for a free art museum in Cornwall with a wide ranging collection that covers a number of periods and styles, we’d definitely recommend the Falmouth Art Gallery.
Royal Cornwall Museum
The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro includes a great many items and exhibits that cover the history of Cornwall. Art lovers of course will be interested in the museum’s art collection, which includes thousands of pieces of art from Cornish artists, and which depict Cornish scenes over the centuries. You can see an example of the collection online here.
There’s also an extensive decorative art collection, as well as an amazing collection of over 60,000 photographs of Cornish life and culture, dating from 1845 to the present day.
There’s a small fee to visit the Royal Cornwall Museum. It’s free for those under 18. Find out more about prices and opening times on the official website here.
Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden
Barbara Hepworth was a British sculptor who lived and worked in St. Ives for almost 40 years. She was an internationally sculptor who produced a great many works in the Modernism style. She was also one of the leading figured in the St. Ives artistic community and movement.
Today, her home, which includes her studio and garden in the centre of St. Ives, is operated as a museum and sculpture garden by the Tate. A visit will take you through the life of the artists, and includes a number of her works, the tools she used to make them, and archive content including photography and articles from the artist’s own collection.
If you are interested in diving deeper into one of Cornwall’s most well known and loved modern artists, this is a must-visit stop. There’s a fee to visit, and you can see opening hours and prices on the official website here.
Visit A Historical House in Cornwall
As well as lovely landscaped gardens and impressive castles, Cornwall also has a number of beautiful historical houses that are open for visits. Some of our favourites include the following, some of which are also included in our favourite gardens in Cornwall elsewhere in this guide.
Whilst Caerhays Castle was designed and built to look like a castle, I’m including it in the historical homes section as that’s really what it was. The owner, John Bettesworth-Trevanion, wanted a home that looked like a castle, and he employed the renowned architect of the time, John Nash, to do just that.
I think it’s fair to say that Nash (who was responsible for Buckingham Palace and Marble Arch, to name but a few of his designs) succeeded at his task. The early 19th century castle was modelled to look like a Norman castle, complete with crenallations, towers and a stone construction.
Caerhays Castle is still privately owned and occupied, but during the spring time it is open for visiting, as are the spectacular on-site gardens. We very much enjoyed our tour here. You can find out more about visiting Caerhays Castle on the official website here.
Lanhydrock House is a large country estate and mansion house. The property originally dates from the 1620s, but a large fire in Victorian times means that much of the house the is seen today is from the reconstruction in the late 19th century.
Lanhydrock, which is today managed by the National Trust, can be explored as part of a self-guided tour. It’s an impressive property, with the tour covering everything from the service quarters and kitchen, through to the reception rooms and family bedrooms. We were particularly impressed by the Long Gallery, a 35 metre room, and one of the few that survived the fire.
As well as the house itself, you can also visit the impressive gardens. The estate spans across 890 acres, some of which is formal gardens, whilst the rest is wilder. There’s also ancient woodland on the site.
To visit Lanhydrock House and the formal garden area around the house there is a fee. It’s free for National Trust members. Find out more about visiting on the official website here.
Pencarrow House and Garden
Pencarrow House has been the family home of the Molesworth-St Aubyn family for almost 500 years. The present impressive property, which is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, dates from the 1760s.
As with the other properties in our guide to things to do in Cornwall, you can visit the gardens by themselves, or add on a guided house tour. We did the guided house tour as well exploring the gardens, and enjoyed learning about the history of the property and the people who have called it home over the centuries.
There’s a fee for the house tour, and you can find out more about visiting on the official website here.
You can see many more historical home options in Cornwall in this list here.
Try Surfing and other Water Activities
Over 400 miles of coastline means that wherever you are in Cornwall, you aren’t far from the sea. Cornwall is famous for its surfing, with surfers from around the UK and aboard flocking to the county to take advantage of the swells coming in off the Atlantic.
However, Cornwall is not just for pro surfers! There are lots of great locations suitable for beginners, and there are a number of companies offering surfing lessons and equipment hire. If you want to learn to surf, we’d recommend allocating at least a few days to the activity, and basing yourself somewhere like St. Ives or Newquay where there are a number of surf schools to choose from, like this one.
Of course, Cornwall is not just about surfing. There are lots of other water based activities, from stand up paddle boarding and coasteering, to sea kayaking and swimming. These can all be wonderful family activities as well, and are well worth looking into as part of your trip to Cornwall.
Spend time at the Beach
Of course, no guide to things to do in Cornwall would be complete without the recommendation to spend some time at the beach. Growing up in Cornwall, a trip to the beach with my family at the weekend was always something to look forward to.
Cornwall has a seriously impressive collection of beaches to choose from, over 100 of them, many of which feature gorgeous golden sands and turquoise waters. There are also lots of beaches which offer the opportunity for rock pooling, always a popular family activity.
Many of the beaches in Cornwall offer a range of facilities, from lifeguard and toilets, through to cafes and restaurants. Towns like St. Ives and Newquay have a range of beaches within a few minutes walk of town centre accommodation. You can also usually find campsites and other types of accommodation near to some gorgeous beaches in Cornwall.
There are of course far too many beaches to list them all in this guide, but some of our favourites include Holywell Bay, Poldhu Cove, Porthtowan, Fistral Beach and Porthgwidden Beach. If you’re looking for the perfect beach for you, this site has an excellent tool with a list of beaches that you can filter by facilities including whether there are lifeguards or toilets on site.
One thing to be aware of is that like many attractions in Cornwall, parking is not usually free at beaches. With this in mind, make sure to bring plenty of change as not all parking machines have parking apps or accept credit cards (although some do). Many beaches also have car parks which are operated by the National Trust, and which are free for members. You can search for beaches o the National Trust website here.
Track Down King Arthur in Cornwall
The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is well known around the world. The story goes that in the late 5th century he and his Knights led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders.
Other well known elements of the story include the mythical sword Excalibur, which could only be extracted from a stone by the true King of Britain. Other well known plot points and characters include Merlin the magician and the love story of Sir Launcelot and Guinevere, as well as the Holy Grail.
Unfortunately, little is really known about whether or not there was a real King Arthur. Much of the Arthurian legends stem from a 12th century pseudohistorical book by the cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth., the Historia Regum Britanniae. This book chronicled the lives of the Kings of Britain over 2,000 years.
It included much of the story of King Arthur as we know it today, and was taken to be factually accurate well into the 16th century.
Historians today largely discount Monmouth’s work as a historical source, although it does certainly weave historical fact into the fiction. As such, the legend of King Arthur is pretty much that – an impressive legend. It is of course possible that Arthur existed, but there is little evidence to corroborate any of the stories.
Still, we don’t think you should let facts get in the way of this romantic legend, because no-one else does. The poet Tennyson reawoke interest in the tale of King Arthur for a Victorian audience, with his stories offering featuring real life locations, including a number in Cornwall. Today, multiple locations around the UK lay claim to an Arthurian connection, including a number of locations across Cornwall and Wales.
In Cornwall, sites that have a strong association with King Arthur include:
- The Vale of Avalon – an excellent starting point for King Arthur enthusiasts, the Vale of Avalon is located at what some believe to be the site of King Arthur’s last battle. There a visitor centre where you can learn about the history of the legends and Cornish history, and there are also some artefacts related to the legend.
- Tintagel Castle – this is said to be the location of King Arthur’s conception and birth. The visitor centre here also has information on the Arthurian story
- Dozmary Pool – the sword Excalibur came from a mythical lady who lived in a lake, and was returned to the lake following Arthur’s death. This small lake, high on Bodmin Moor, is said to be that very lake
- Bossiney Mound – this large mound in Bossiney is said to be the final resting place of the Knights of the Round Table, as well as the Round Table itself
- St. Nectan’s Glen – this peaceful location is regarded as a very spiritual place, and it is said that King Arthur’s Knights were blessed in the waters here prior to seeing out on their quest for the Holy Grail
Hopefully from all these choices you’ll be able to track down King Arthur in Cornwall!
Enjoy Family Attractions in Cornwall
Cornwall is a very popular destination for families, and for good reason. There are miles of beautiful beaches, many offering a safe swimming experience with lifeguards. There is also a lot of outdoor space for kids to explore and burn off some of their endless energy!
Of course, many of the attractions in our guide are excellent for families, but we wanted to highlight a few that we think are worth earmarking if you’re planning on visiting Cornwall with kids.
- Beaches – Cornwall has over 100 beaches, but some are more family-friendly than others with safer tides and seasonal lifeguards on duty. You can check here for beaches that meet your needs.
- Flambards Theme Park – if you’re looking for a day out that involves thrill rides and family fun, Flambards Theme Park just outside of Helston is hard to beat. This amusement park has a range of thrill and traditional rides which are suitable for all ages, as well as indoor attractions.
- National Maritime Museum – in the centre of Falmouth, the National Maritime Museum takes visitors on a journey through maritime history. From boats to explorers to the monsters of the deep, there’s definitely something here for everyone.
- Land’s End – visiting Land’s End, the most westerly point in Cornwall, is likely to be on your to-do list anyway. If you’re visiting with family, you’ll be pleased to hear there are a number of family friendly activities here as well, including a 4D film experience, an interactive quest to rescue King Arthur, and even a petting farm!
- Blue Reef Aquarium – found on the beach front in Newquay town centre, the Blue Reef Aquarium is a good year round family attraction. There are over 40 habitats to explore, including an underwater tunnel.
- Eden Project – the Eden project is a great family friendly garden attraction, with a number of kid-friendly activities from trails and talks, to canopy walkways, outdoor play areas and even a zip wire.
- Lost Gardens of Heligan – these gardens make for a very family friendly day out, with animals to see, jungle to explore and even a rope bridge to cross!
As you can see, there’s lots for families to do in Cornwall, including some great rainy-day attractions for when the beach isn’t an option.
Learn about Cornish History and other Museums in Cornwall
Cornwall was first settled in around 10,000BC, with recorded history starting around 2,000 years ago. Cornwall has a distinct culture and history, rooted in their Celtic origins which predate the Roman conquest of Britain. Up until the 18th century, the common language in use was Cornish, one of the Celtic languages, which has seen a popular revival in recent years.
If you are interested in learning more about Cornish history, there are a number of excellent museums where you can do just that. In addition, museum and history lovers will likely enjoy some of the other locations that we’ve included in our favourites below.
- Royal Cornwall Museum – The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro is an excellent place to learn about some of Cornwall’s history. As well as an extensive art collection, there are 1000’s of historical objects from Cornwall and the rest of the world, including a mineral collection, rare books and ceramics.
- National Maritime Museum – The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is the place to come if you want to learn about the sea. Cornwall’s history is inextricably linked to the sea, and in this museum you can learn all about boats, boat building, exploration, sea monsters and more! This one is fun for all the family.
- Jamaica Inn Smugglers Museum – The Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor is a popular accommodation and dining option, and one that we’ve spent a few nights at ourselves. Dating from 1750, the book is also the location for a book of the same name by author Daphne Du Maurier. The Inn has a long association with the Cornish tradition of smuggling, and there’s an excellent small museum on site where you can learn about smuggling in Cornwall. There’s also a section of the museum dedicated to Daphne Du Maurier, who spent time at the inn.
- Bodmin Jail – Opened in 1779 as part of the ground-breaking Prison Reform, Bodmin Jail was a milestone for UK prison designs. Today, it operates as a tourist attraction, and today you can learn all about the history of the prison, prison reform, and some of the more infamous prisoners who passed their time here. Bodmin Jail is open for visitors, and you can find out more about opening times and prices on the official website here.
- Marconi Centre – Today we take the fact that we can communicate near-instantly with people almost anywhere in the world pretty much for granted. The fact we can do that is largely down to the work of the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. You can learn all about this work and visit the actual site where the transatlantic signal was sent by visiting the Marconi Centre at Poldhu, just above pretty Poldhu Cove. There’s also a large monument here to Marconi and his work. Find our more about visiting this National Trust operated site here.
- Shipwreck Museum – With all the coastline around Cornwall, it’s no surprise that the county has seen its fair share of shipwrecks over the years. If you are interested in learning about shipwrecks and seeing plundered treasure, then you’ll definitely want to visit the Shipwreck museum in Charlestown. Here you’ll find over 8,000 objects from over 150 shipwrecks from around the world. An excellent family friendly option on Cornwall’s south coast.
Visit Ancient Historical Sites in Cornwall
As well as the more recently documented history from the last couple of millennia, there are thousands of years where people lived in Cornwall without leaving much in the way of information about their lives behind.
What they did leave behind were Neolithic and Bronze Age era monuments, primarily in the form of standing stones and standing stone circles. Whilst the exact purpose of these stones is unknown, it’s believed they were likely constructed for ritual ceremonies of some significance.
There are a number of historical sites across Cornwall you can visit. Most are free and open to the public, and are often located in a scenic spot. Here are a few to get you started:
- Mên-an-Tol – this small formation of standing stones consists of three stones, two small uprights and one circular stone with a hole in it. This circular stone is the centre of much folklore, and for centuries it was believed that passing a child through the circle would cure them of rickets. It’s a lovely 20 minute walk out to the stones, and there are a number of other ancient monuments in the area as well.
- The Hurlers – probably the most well known of Cornwall’s historical sites, the Hurlers are a group of three stone circles near the village of Minions. They are the best preserved ceremonial stone circles in the south west.
- Nine Maidens – near the village of Mousehole, the nine maidens, or Boskednan Stone Circle, is a group of nine standing stones as well as two fallen stones which form a stone circle.
- Chysauster Ancient Village – this 2,000 year old Romano-British settlement near St. Ives is one of the best preserved examples of its kind in the UK. Visitors can explore the site, walk the village streets, and learn the history. There’s a fee to visit, see opening times and prices here.
- Carn Euny Ancient Village – this Iron Age settlement has the remains of a number of circular stone dwellings which ate from around 200AD. It’s free to visit, and access requires about a five minute walk. See more here.
There are of course many more ancient historical sites, including settlements, graves and quoits. There’s a good list here if you’d like some inspiration.
If you’re looking for souvenirs from your trip to Cornwall, or just generally enjoy some retail therapy, Cornwall has a number of options for you.
Naturally, most towns and villages will have some form of souvenir stall where you’ll be able to buy a variety of products. These will vary from locally produced arts, crafts and food items, through to more general items. Many attractions such as the Eden Project also have a range of locally produced products in their on-site gift shops.
Towns with a wider range of stores and shopping opportunities include Truro, Falmouth, St Ives, and Newquay.
If you prefer more of a market, the Par Market and Food Hall in St. Austell. Is an excellent option. This is one of the largest indoor markets in the UK, with over 70 stalls, cafes and eateries to choose from. There’s free parking on site. See the official website for opening times and what to expect.
Go Bird Watching
If you like bird watching, or are considering getting into birdwatching, then you will have plenty of opportunities in Cornwall.
The counties location on the edge of the UK means it is one of the first landfalls for migrating birds, with over 450 bird species recorded in the county. Of these, over 100 species breed in Cornwall.
Cornwall is also a good place to spot birds which are rare to the UK, which can be both migratory and local. In particular, the Red-billed chough is a popular bird to look out. This red billed member of the crow family was well known in the UK, disappeared for 50 years from 1947. However, since 2001 it has been breeding in Cornwall, and is a popular bird to keep an eye out for.
Some good resources to look into for recent sightings and bird watching in Cornwall in general include:
- the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society
- the Cornwall section of the BirdGuides website
If you’re looking for a useful book on birdwatching in Cornwall, we recommend this guide to the best birdwatching sites in Cornwall and Scilly, and this guide to the Birds of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Explore TV and Movie Locations in Cornwall
Cornwall is a very picturesque location, and it is no surprise than many film and TV productions have chosen Cornwall as their filming location. Some of these are long running TV shows that are well known to viewers.
There are a lot of locations around Cornwall where you can explore TV and movie locations. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the film or TV show in question, the locations tend to be very scenic and worth visiting anyway.
Some to look out for include the following.
- The Eden Project featured in the James Bond movies Die Another Day, as did Holywell bay near Newquay
- The Hornblower movie was shot in Falmouth, Charlestown, and Pendennis Castle
- Both versions of the Poldark TV series were filmed all around Cornwall, including Charlestown, Porthgwarra, Bodmin Moor, and Botallack
- The popular Doc Martin TV series, which is set in cute Port Isaac
- The Wycliffe detective show was filmed all around Cornwall
For many more, see this wikipedia guide to film locations in Cornwall. You might also choose to take a tour of specific TV and film locations in Cornwall, such as this tour of Poldark filming locations, and this tour of Doc Martin and King Arthur locations.
Try Some Cornish Food
Like many parts of the UK and indeed the world, Cornwall is well know for its food. Most well known perhaps is the Cornish pasty, which was made popular around the world following the emigration of Cornish miners, for whom the pasty was a common lunch time meal.
There are of course lots more foods to try in Cornwall! Here are some we recommend you taste when you visit.
- Cornish Pasties – the famous Cornish Pasty is traditionally made with beef, potato, swede and onion, and wrapped in pasty. However, these days you can get pasties with all kinds of fillings! Pasties are available for sale all over Cornwall, and many bakers and stores claim various awards. The best pasties we’ve had in Cornwall were from Philps Bakery in Hayle, but part of the fun is finding your favourite pasty baker!
- Cornish Cream Tea – a form of afternoon tea, a Cornish Cream tea usually consists of a cup of tea served with a scone, Cornish clotted cream, and jam. Most important is the ordering of the jam and cream on the scone. In Cornwall, the jam goes on first, with the cream on top.
- Cornish Yarg – this is a type of semi-hard cheese which is based on a traditional recipe from 1615. The cheese is notable for being wrapped in nettle leaves prior to maturation, which forms the rind. Made at Lynher Dairies.
- Local Seafood – being surrounded by the sea, fresh seafood is obviously a key part of Cornish cuisine. Naturally you’ll find fish and chips available, but there are also excellent sea food restaurants across the county as well, serving up a range of deliciously fresh locally caught seafood.
- Saffron Cake – if you like sweet things, you will definitely love Cornish food. This traditional bright yellow cake is basically a fruit cake baked with real saffron.
- Stargazy Pie – traditionally eaten on the 23rd December as part of Tom Bawcock’s Eve, this pie said to have originated in the fishing village of Mousehole. On the top of the pie you’ll find the heads and tails of pilchards sticking up out of a shortcrust pastry lid. Inside the pie, you’ll find a creamy white sauce cooking the pilchard bodies, with salt, parsley and black pepper to season.
- Cornish Fairings – this is basically a standard ginger biscuit. The name comes from the fact that sweet treats like this were often sold at fairgrounds. They have been made by Furniss Foods since 1886.
- Clotted Cream Fudge – clotted cream is a very thick type of cream popular in south west England. Cornish clotted cream must be made from milk produced in Cornwall, and it’s a popular ingredient in a number of sweet foods, including fudge and ice cream. The fudge makes for a great gift, if you can resist eating it that is!
Drink some Cornish drinks!
As well as food, Cornwall is also known for a number of delicious drinks. Some to keep an eye out for include the following.
- Cider – like many of England’s western counties, Cornwall is well known for it cider, which is produced from fermented apple juice. There are a number of cider producers you can visit, and you can usually taste and buy cider straight from the barrel. On a recent trip we visited Haywood Farm and got ourselves some lovely cider, but there are lots of options!
- Cornish Wine – Cornwall has a number of vineyards which take advantage of Cornwall’s mild climate to produce their own grapes. These are usually open for tastings and tours, as well as wine sales. Check out the Camel Valley vineyard and also the Polgoon vineyard as a good starting point for your Cornish wine adventure.
- Cornish Beer – if you enjoy beer, you have some great options in Cornwall. The family owned St. Austell brewery makes a range of delicious options (Proper Job being a personal favourite), and there are also microbreweries like the Padstow Brewing company which you can visit and tour.
- Cornish Gin – Gin has had a bit of a renaissance in the UK, with multiple craft distilleries popping up around the UK. Cornwall is no exception, and there are a range of wonderfully flavoured gins to discover in Cornwall.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas for what to drink when you visit Cornwall!
Learn About Cornwall’s Mining History
When you visit Cornwall, it’s hard to miss the impact that mining has had on the people and landscape here. Numerous relics of the 18th and 19th century mining industry dot the skyline, a reminder of the importance of tin and copper mining to the Cornish economy in past centuries.
The whole area across Cornwall and Devon is actually listed as a UNESCO world heritage site due to the influence the area had on both the UK, and mining around the world. Cornish miners took the knowledge they had developed in deep mining, and took it around the world, changing the way the world mined forever.
Learning about this aspect of Cornish history, which very much shaped how Cornwall looks today, is often of interest to visitors to Cornwall. Of course, you’ll see many of the remains of the mine workings as you travel around the county, and in fact there are some dedicated hiking trails which highlight mine workings, such as the Copper Trail. You can see more examples here.
We think to get a deeper understanding of this period of history, it’s a good idea to visit one of the actual mine workings in Cornwall. Some we suggest are as follows.
Geevor Tin Mine
One of the last mines to close in Cornwall, the Geevor tin mine operated between 1911 and 1990. However, there was mining in the area of the present mine from the late 18th century onwards.
Today, Geevor tin mine operates as a visitor attraction, and is the largest preserved mining site in the UK. Visitors will learn all about the history of the mine and how it worked, and be able to explore a great many of the mine buildings. Visitors can also visit and walk through an actual 18th century mine tunnel, which was part of the Wheal Mexico mine.
You can read more about visiting Geevor tin mine, including prices and opening times, at the official website here.
Levant Mine and Beam Engine
A short walk or easy drive from Geevor tin mine is the Levant Mine and Beam Engine. This is unique in that it has the world’s only operational Cornish beam engine which is in its original site. This dates from the 1840s and is still powered by steam.
The mine here dates from 1820, and was known as the mine under the sea. It’s found right on the Cornish coast, and the mine tunnels extended 600 metres down, and then over a mile out under the sea.
Levant Mine and Beam Engine is operated by the National Trust and can be visited by guided tours. These are free for National Trust members as well holders of the National Trust Touring Pass., with a fee for non-members. You can find out more and book your tour on the National Trust website here.
King Edward Mine Museum
The King Edward Mine Museum is a bit different to the other mines you can visit in Cornwall. This was a working mine up until 1897, at which point it became a place to teach mining. Whilst commercial production of tin continued, this was more a by-product of the mine teaching than the main purpose of the site.
As a result of the site being used to teach mining, it was well preserved, and the King Edward Mine Museum is the oldest complete mine working you can visit in Cornwall.
Much of the machinery and buildings you can see on site are fully working versions of the equipment that would have been in use for tin mining at the turn of the 20th century. A tour includes demonstrations of much of this equipment, giving you a good idea of the tin mining process. You’ll also learn about the people who worked and studied on the site. Finally, there’s a lovely nature trail on site you can take.
You can find out more about visiting the King Edward Mine museum, including opening times and prices, at the official website here.
East Pool Mine
Home to one of the largest surviving Cornish beam engines in the world, the National Trust operated East Pool Mine worked copper and tin from the early 18th century through to 1945. It’s been owned by the National Trust since 1967, and it’s open today for tours.
On site you’ll find a discovery centre, which covers many of the buildings that formed part of the original mine workings. You can visit and learn how the mine worked and operated.
This is free for National Trust members as well holders of the National Trust Touring Pass., with a fee for non-members. See more about visiting on the official website here.
Fans of the Poldark TV series will definitely want to consider a visit to Poldark Mine, which was a filming location for both Poldark series produced to date. However, you certainly don’t need to be a fan of the show to enjoy a visit here.
The mine is in only complete tin mine in the UK where you can take underground tours of the actual 18th century mine workings. Other mine tours primarily focus on the surface structures and tin mining heritage, often because the original mine workings are flooded. At Poldark Mine, over 30,000 gallons of water is pumped out of the mines each day to allow for visitor access.
Poldark is just outside of the town of Helston, and is open for visitors. You can find out more about visiting hours and prices at the official website here.
Wheal Martyn Clay Works
Despite all the attractions relating to copper and tin mining in Cornwall, this was not the only type of mining going on in the county. If you visit the area around St. Austell, you will notice the large white hills, often referred to as the Cornish Alps.
These hills are not a natural geological occurrence. They are a by-product of the kaolin mining industry, also known as China Clay. This clay, which is actually a form of decomposed granite, is used to make fine porcelain china, and it was mined in Cornwall from the mid 18th century.
It was big business, with over 65,000 tonnes being dug out of the ground each year by the mid-19th century. This rose to over a million tonnes a year by the start of the 20th century, with Cornwall responsible for over half the world’s china clay production.
As every tonne of useable clay resulted in five tonnes of waste material, it’s not hard to see where the Cornish Alps came from.
Today, china clay is still mined in Cornwall, although not to the huge volumes of previous years. However, visitors to Cornwall will very much see the remnants of the industry. The village of Charlestown was the major clay export port, whilst the Eden Project is built in a former china clay pit.
If you want to learn all about the china clay industry, then a visit to the Wheal Martyn Clay works is a good option. This is the UK’s only china clay mining museum, set across two Victorian-era china clay works. You’ll learn all about the history and process of clay mining, as well as the people who worked and lived here. You’ll also be able be to see an actual working pit, which was always the highlight of a visit when I came here.
You can find out more about visiting, including opening times and prices, on the official website here.
See Performing Arts
As a home for artists, it’s no surprise that Cornwall has a range of venues where you can experience perfuming arts in person. Some to consider taking in as part of your trip to Cornwall should include the following.
- The Minack Theatre – this has to be one of the most stunningly located theatres in the UK. Perched on the cliffs of south east Cornwall, this outdoor amphitheatre offers performances with a fantastic ocean backdrop.
- Sterts Theatre – this is a unique tented amphitheatre on the eastern edge of Bodmin Moor near Liskeard. It offers a 400-seat outdoor theatre experience with a canopy to protect visitors from the rain.
There are many other locations around Cornwall that feature performing arts, from pop-up productions on beaches to concerts in caverns. Many pubs and other venues from campsites to churches and gardens also offer regular live performances. Basically, we’re sure you should be able to find something to enjoy on your trip to Cornwall. You can see many listings and book tickets here.
Go to the End of the Land
Cornwall is both the most southerly and most westerly of England’s counties. This affords the visitor the opportunity to visit both the most western point in England, and the most southerly place in Britain.
Both these locations are worth visiting.
Land’s End is the most westerly point in England. There’s a famous signpost here where you can have your photo taken, as well as a number of family friendly attractions. There’s a huge (paid) car-park on site, and you can also get here by public transport.
Lizard Point is the most southern place in Britain. It’s part of a national nature reserve maintained by the National Trust, and whilst there are some small shops and cafes on site, it definitely feels less developed than Land’s End. A visit here is more about enjoying nature and the coastal walks you can access here.
There’s also a nearby lighthouse and museum that you can visit (for a fee), and a number of other attractions on the Lizard peninsula, like Kynance Cove and the Marconi station. Free parking for National Trust members.
Take a Boat Trip
As Cornwall is surrounded by so much water, many visitors enjoy taking a boat trip as part of their Cornwall holiday.
There are lots of different types of boat trip available, depending on your interests. You’ll find boat operators all along the Cornish coast, including ones departing from St. Ives, Penzance, Padstow, and Falmouth.
A popular option is to take a wildlife watching boat trip. These will often include the opportunity to see a variety of sea life and bird life, including dolphins, seals and a range of birds. There are a great many operators running tours from ports all around Cornwall.
If you’d prefer to try your hand at some sea fishing, that is also an option. A number of operators offer a range of fishing boat charter options, ranging from just a few hours to a full day at sea.
Finally, there are some locations, such as Falmouth, where you can hire your own small boat for a fun day out!
We’ve already mentioned hiking in this guide, but Cornwall is also an excellent location for cycling. There are a number of trails for cyclists of all abilities, from popular level routes like the Camel Trail which are popular with families, through to more thrilling routes for mountain bikers, such as the Bodmin Beast trail.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these 10 cycle trails that cover a range of terrain types, as well as this guide to cycling and hiking paths in Cornwall.
If you don’t have your own bicycles, these can be hired at locations around the county for a reasonable fee.
Things to do in Cornwall in the Rain
Whilst Cornwall is well known as a beach and outdoor destination, the weather doesn’t always play ball. Even if you’re visiting in the summer months, a rainy day or two is possible. With that in mind, we wanted to share some attractions that we think make for a great rainy day out option in Cornwall. More details on each of these attractions is included in the main part of our guide to things to do in Cornwall.
- Bodmin Jail in Bodmin
- Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay
- Eden Project near St. Austell
- Shipwreck Museum in Charlestown
- National Maritime Museum in Falmouth
- Jamaica Inn Smugglers Museum in Bolventor
- Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro
- Falmouth Art Gallery in Falmouth
- Tate St. Ives in St Ives
- Par Market and Food Hall near St. Austell
- Enjoy a Cream Tea
How to Save Money in Cornwall
Cornwall can be a pricey destination as it is very popular. As with most trips, your main costs are going to be accommodation, dining out, sight-seeing expenses, souvenir shopping and transport. If you’re looking to save money on your trip to Cornwall, we’ve put together some ideas to help.
Choose Your Accommodation Location Wisely
In our experience, properties closer to the sea or a good beach tend to be more expensive, whilst those inland can offer better value for money. If you visit during the busier summer months, expect to pay more and plan to book well in advance as properties can go fast.
Consider Alternative Accommodation Options
As you’ll see in our section on where to stay in Cornwall, there’s a huge choice when it comes to where to stay. City centre hotels and beach front apartments can be lovely, but they can also be pricey.
You can definitely save money in Cornwall by using different types of accommodation. From rural campsites through to countryside B&Bs, shared dorm rooms in hostels, and apartment rentals, there are lots of options out there!
Visit Outside the Peak Seasons
Cornwall is a popular destination, especially in the summer months. Visitors flock to the county for the beautiful beaches and outdoor activities.
Unfortunately, high demand results in higher prices, especially when it comes to accommodation. So you can definitely save money if you can visit outside of the peak summer months. Other busy times usually correlate with school and public holidays in the UK, as Cornwall is a popular family destination.
Obviously if you have children yourself you will have to visit when school is out, but if you aren’t, it’s worth making sure you aren’t visiting at a peak time to get better deals.
Cook for Yourself
Food can be another big cost on a holiday. If you are eating out for all your meals, this can really eat into your budget. Of course, you can opt for less expensive options like takeaways, and we’re not suggesting you forgo all your meals, but you can definitely save by cooking some meals yourself.
Of course, for this to work you’re going to need to book an accommodation option that has a kitchen. That could mean either a hostel, or an apartment with a kitchen.
If you go down this route, you’ll want to plan a bit in advance. When we travel and cook for ourselves, we usually pack some essentials like oil, spices and a good sharp knife, to save having to buy them again in the destination.
Pick Attractions and Activities Carefully
Another major cost on any trip are the attractions and activities. As you’ll have discovered in this guide to things to do in Cornwall, there are a huge number of attractions in Cornwall, and many of them have a cost associated with them.
Our suggestion is to carefully plan which attractions you want to visit, and take advantage of any membership cards you might have. For example, we have National Trust membership, which gives us free access to National Trust properties all around the UK.
In Cornwall, National Trust membership gets you free access to sites like St. Michael’s Mount, Lanhydrock House, and the Levant Mine. It’s also invaluable for parking, as National Trust members get free parking in the many National Trust operated car parks around Cornwall. As the National Trust operates many popular beaches and hiking areas, this can be a big saving.
Another membership to consider is English Heritage. Many of the castles in Cornwall for example are operated by English Heritage, and so having this membership will save you money if you plan on visiting these.
If you are visiting from outside the UK, you can get tourist specific passes, including the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass, and the National Trust Touring Pass.
If you’re visiting Cornwall as a family, there are quite a few attractions which offer free entry to children, or at least, a family ticket option.
Finally, there are a great many things to do and see in Cornwall which are entirely free! So you can definitely have a great time in the county without having to spend a lot on attraction entry.
Where to Stay in Cornwall
Obviously you’re going to need somewhere to stay when you visit Cornwall! The good news is that there’s no shortage of choice, with everything from hotels and B&B’s to self catering cottages to glamping and camping sites.
When it comes to location, Cornwall is not huge, but it can take a couple of hours to drive from one end to the other. So you will have to decide if you prefer to pick a location to base yourself from for the duration of your holiday, or if you want to move around a bit if you are there for a longer period of time.
As I mentioned, there are a number of different accommodation options. I’ll cover some recommendations for each category below.
Hotels & B&Bs in Cornwall
Here are some well-reviewed hotels and B&Bs across a variety of budget located in different parts of the county that we think could work for our itinerary:
- St. Christopher’s Inn – Newquay is a popular haven for surfers, and this hostel is well located by Towan Beach. It also has it’s own surf school if you’re looking to learn. Both private and shared rooms are available, most with en-suite, and there’s a bar and restaurant.
- The Pityme Inn – found in the town of Wadebridge under two miles from Polzeath beach, this well-reviewed 3* Inn offer en-suite accommodation with an on-site restaurant and bar.
- Clifftop Ensuite Double B&B -situated in the heart of Newquay right on the beach front, this well reviewed B&B offers good value simple accommodation with everything you need on your doorstep
- The Jamaica Inn – this inn on Bodmin Moor, which dates from 1750, was made famous by a Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name. A popular attraction in its own right, the property features en-suite rooms as well as a bar, restaurant and museum. A great option on Bodmin Moor. We’ve stayed here and enjoyed it.
- The Plume of Feathers – found in the central village of Mitchell, this well rated 16th century coaching inn is well situated for exploring most attractions in Cornwall. Rooms are en-suite and there’s an on-site bar and pub
- Primrose House St. Ives – just metres from Portminster Beach in St. Ives this highly rated guesthouse in an Edwardian Villa offers boutique en-suite rooms, some with sea views. A fantastic location and a lovely property
- The Penellen Bed and Breakfast – this four star beach front B&B in Hayle offers spectacular views from it’s en-suite rooms.
- The Wellington Hotel – this 3* hotel is just 10 minutes walk from the fishing village of Boscastle and is well located for exploring some of north Cornwall’s attractions. Lovely en-suite rooms get great reviews and there’s an award-winning restaurant on site as well as a bar.
- Crown House & Lodges B&B – a well reviewed 3* B&B in the south west of Cornwall near the town of Helston. Convenient for The Flambard Experience, the property has en-suite facilities and offers a shared lounge and kitchen for guests.
- The Lewinnick Lodge – set on a stunning clifftop location just minutes drive from Newquay, this boutique hotel offers incredible views and luxurious accommodation.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to consider, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. For many more options, click here to see all the listings for Cornwall on booking.com.
Self-Catering & Holiday Cottages in Cornwall
There are of course a lot of options when it comes to accommodation in Cornwall. Our preference for a week long trip like this would be to book a self-catering cottage. Sites we’d suggest you try out include:
- Snaptrip’s Cornwall Listings. Snaptrip searches many of the holiday cottage booking providers in the UK to get you the best price
- Sykes Holiday Cottages Cornwall listings – we’ve used Sykes on a stay in Cornwall before and found a lovely rural property through them on our last visit
- The Plum Guide Cornwall properties – the Plum Guide focuses on really high quality properties, and whilst they don’t have the breadth of choice, they certainly have some fantastic options on their books
- Booking.com Cornwall listings – our favourite for booking hotels when we travel, booking.com also have a wide range of holiday cottages available
If you are looking for a holiday cottage and need more options to choose from, see our guide to the best holiday cottage booking websites in the UK for more choices.
Glamping Sites and Campsites in Cornwall
Cornwall is of course a very popular destination for camping, with a wide range of campsites available. These range from basic sites with limited facilities where you need to bring all your own accessories, through to higher end Glamping sites where you can hire cabins or yurts.
There are of course many options to choose from, here are some well-rated suggestions.
- Fir Hill Glamping Yurts – just near Newquay, this campsite offers lovely yurts which feature real beds and kitchenette, as well as access to shared facilities including bathrooms, BBQ facilities and lounge.
- Looe Yurts – these are found just near the fishing town of Looe. A small number of comfortable yurts are on offer with real beds and log burners. Shared facilities include bathrooms and a kitchens.
- Tehidy Holiday Park Wigwam Camping Cabins – if you love the idea of camping but prefer a real bed, en-suite facilities and luxuries like a TV, then check out these beautiful and highly rated camping pods in the south west of Cornwall.
Of course there are hundreds more options to choose from. Useful resources for finding campsites in Cornwall include the Cool Camping website and the UKCampsite website.
Well that’s it for our detailed guide to things to do in Cornwall! We hope you find it useful in helping you plan a trip to Cornwall, and gives you some ideas for what to do.
Before you head off, we did want to share some other content that you may also find useful or inspirational for future trips.
- We have a detailed 1 week Cornwall itinerary, which you can use as the framework to help you plan your time in Cornwall. We recommend picking your favourite things to do in Cornwall from this post and using our itinerary guide to plan what that might look like for you.
- For holiday accommodation in the UK, check out our favourite websites for booking holiday homes in the UK and Ireland
- If you are visiting Cornwall from outside the UK, you can get tourist specific heritage passes, including the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass, and the National Trust Touring Pass, which can save you money on attractions across the UK.
- If you’d like budgeting advice, see our guide to how much it costs to travel in the UK
- We have a guides to things to do in many cities around the UK, including things to do in Bristol, things to do in Portsmouth and things to do in Stratford upon Avon
- We have tips for driving in the UK, if that’s a new experience for you
- Looking for more UK inspiration? Check out our 1 week UK itinerary, 2 week UK itinerary, and 7 day North Coast 500 itinerary for some ideas!
- Getting online when travelling can be daunting – check out our guide to getting online when travelling to help you figure out the best options for your trip
- If you’re interested in getting better photos when you travel, take a look at my online photography course, where I’ll teach you everything you need to know about getting better photos – whatever camera you have!
- If you want a physical (or digital!) book to accompany your travels, then Amazon do a good line in UK Travel Guides. We can recommend the Lonely Planet Guide to Devon & Cornwall, as well as the DK Eyewitness Guide to England’s South Coast
And with that, we come to the end of our guide to visiting Cornwall for around a week! As always, we’re happy to hear your comments and answer any questions you might have. Just pop them in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
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