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13 Fabulous things to do in Cornwall

Cornwall is truly stunning. If you plan to visit Cornwall you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to see and do. There are so many historic houses & gardens, castles & museums, fantastic water sports, walking & cycling paths, wildlife cruises, stunning beaches, a happening shopping scene and the beautiful natural landscape. There is no dearth of interesting places to visit. We have set out thirteen of our favourite things to do in Cornwall below.

Walk the South West Coast Path


The South West Coast Path is a National Trail and England's longest waymarked footpath. The path is around 630 miles long and follows the coastline running from Minehead in Somerset all the way to Poole Harbour in Dorset. Some of the key spots on the route are:

North Devon & Somerset: Minehead, Lynton, Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, Bideford, Hartland Point
North Cornwall: Bude, Tintagel, Padstow, Newquay, St Ives
South Cornwall: Land's End, Penzance, Lizard's Point, Falmouth, Looe
South Devon: Plymouth, Salcombe, Dartmouth, Torbay, Teignmouth, Exmouth, Sidmouth
Dorset: Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach, Isle of Portland, Weymouth, Swanage, Poole

For an experienced, long-distance walker the entire route may take around 30 days, but if you prefer to do it at a relaxed and leisurely pace with rest stops then it would take between seven and eight weeks. We did small sections of this route (Sennen Cove to Land's End Walk) during our recent holiday to Cornwall. Most people tend to split the walk over several holidays sometimes taking weeks or months to do the entire route which is absolutely fine as in the end, it is all about the journey and the experience rather than how quickly you are able to complete the route.

It is a superb coastal walk with stunning scenery along the way.  You can refer to the South West Coast Path guidebook which has been split into 52 sections each containing detailed itineraries for the day with useful information like places to sleep, eat & drink, tide timetables, points of interest along the path etc.

The South West Coast Path

Visit St Michael’s Mount


St Michael’s Mount is a small & rocky tidal island that is the setting for a medieval castle as well as home to a working community of local people.

Both the island and the castle have a long history. The island is said to have been the site of a monastery from sometime in the 8th to 11th century. It was held under siege many times and even flourished as a seaport in the 18th century. In 1659 the mount (including the castle) was purchased by Colonel St Aubyn and to this day his descendants live in the castle. While it is still the home of St Aubyn family, the Mount is now managed by National Trust and the castle and gardens are open to the public during weekdays (and some weekends) from April to October.

Offering stunning views of the Cornish coastline and steeped in history and folklore, St Michael’s Mount makes for a great day out. Access to St Michael's Mount is either by foot (across the causeway at low tide) or by a short ferry crossing (during high tide). Once you arrive on the island, you can purchase the tickets to the castle and/or gardens and start on your exploration. Both the castle and the gardens are impressive and I  would recommend setting aside half a day to explore them both.

St Michael’s Mount

The Eden Project


The Eden Project opened its doors to visitors on 17th March 2001 and since then has welcomed millions of visitors and is today one of UK's top attractions that is as entertaining as it is educational.
There is lots to see and do at the Eden Project - the two biomes (with two different habitats), outdoor gardens, exhibitions (in the Core building), adventure activities, play area for kids, a tropical-style bar inside one of the biomes, a restaurant in the Mediterranean Biome, guided tours, weekly parkruns, year-round family events, refreshment joints (juice bar, ice cream parlour, snack bar etc.) and a gift shop.

My favourites at Eden were the Rainforest Biome (which is said to be the largest indoor rainforest in the world and is home to over 1,000 varieties of plants), the Rainforest Canopy Walkway (which offers spectacular views across the Rainforest Biome) and the Mediterranean Biome.

The Eden Project is great for families and makes for an excellent day out. It is sure to interest kids and adults alike and there is something for everyone. Definitely a must-see.

The Eden Project

Rocky Valley Walk


Rocky Valley Walk is an easy (less than an hour) walk that offers spectacular views as you follow a stream through a rocky gorge-like valley to the sea. The trail starts near the entrance to Trevillett Mill Holiday Cottages and a streamside path takes you through the gorge-like valley up to the cliff top that offers some really spectacular views.

Rocky Valley Walk

Lizard Point


Lizard Point is the most southerly place in Britain. It is a must-visit area for anyone heading to West Cornwall. Whether you enjoy history, wildlife spotting, are an outdoor enthusiast or are an art lover, the Lizard Point is a great location for everyone alike. There are lovely cliff top walks in both directions and at low tide, you can even spot grey seals on the rocky beach. Another popular attraction that is worth visiting while in Cornwall.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan


The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Lowarth Helygen in Cornish) is Europe's largest garden restoration project and one of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan is incredibly diverse and thus has something to offer to everyone. The key features in the garden are historic glasshouses, the Melon Yard with its Pineapple Pit and the Thunderbox Room (which was recognised as a ‘Living Memorial’ to ‘The Gardeners of Heligan’ by the Imperial War Museum). The Productive Gardens are cultivated throughout the year and have over 300 varieties of mostly heritage fruit, vegetable, salad, and herbs. The Pleasure Gardens are lovely too and include the Northern Summerhouse, Flora's Green and the Italian and Sundial Gardens. All the gardens are typical of the 19th-century style with each area having its own design and unique character. As you wander from one garden area to another you never know what you will stumble on to next and that is a part of the garden's allure.‬‬

I would suggest that you set aside at least 3-4 hours to get a taste of what the estate has to offer.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

National Trust – Lanhydrock


The Lanhydrock Estate is massive - over 1,000 acres with parkland, woods, riverside paths, landscaped gardens and the Victorian family home.  It is one of National Trust’s best properties.
The country house is one of the best maintained that we have visited. With around 50 rooms to explore (in addition to the gardens), you need to set aside the day to truly enjoy the place. The visitor route through the house takes you from one room to the other offering an interesting insight into the lives of the people who loved and worked in Lanhydrock. The upper floor has the family spaces while the lower space includes the kitchen and the servant's quarters. The contrast between the two was interesting. Not to be missed while exploring the house are the kitchens, the nurseries, the servants' quarters, the Steinway piano in the Long Gallery and the collection of family portraits.

The garden at Lanhydrock was planned by George Truefit in 1854 and provides colour all year round. It is a stunning garden with blooms in all colours. A real treat for garden lovers!

National Trust – Lanhydrock

Tintagel Castle


Set high on the rugged North Cornwall coast are the ruins of Tintagel Castle. The castle lends itself to the legend of King Arthur and many tourists visit the castle to explore the King Arthur connection while many come to simply enjoy the stunning coastal scenery.

Tintagel has been occupied since at least the late Roman period becoming a thriving Dark Age settlement and port. It was Geoffrey of Monmouth who in the 12th century named it as the place where the legendary Arthur was conceived.  And since then the connection has stayed and may be grown. When you visit the site today, you will be led through years of history, legend tales and of course the dramatic landscape.

There is a lot of climbing involved and for those who are less able or for small children it may be a bit difficult. But is a definitely a must visit for those who have an interest in history as well as stunning natural landscapes.

Tintagel Castle

Minack Theatre


What an absolutely amazing place to see a show! Minack Theatre in Porthcurno is an open-air theatre perched high on golden cliffs above the sea. Carved into the cliffs, the theatre was originally constructed in the 1930s by Rowena Cade with the help of her gardener Billy Rawlings. Minack certainly offers the ultimate theatre experience due to its breath-taking setting.

Minack Theatre

Land’s End


Land's End is mainland Britain’s most south-westerly point. There is a visitor centre, refreshments and other facilities here. A lot of tourists drive down to Land's End, park here and then do the South West Coast Path. Just a short walk from Land’s End along the headland is Greeb Farm, a charming farm park home to sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs, miniature ponies, alpacas etc. There is also a craft workshop on the site.

Lands End

St.Ives


St Ives has been an alluring destination for years now and the town hasn't lost its charm even today. With its beautiful fishing harbour, lovely cottages, soft white sand beaches and a thriving art scene, St Ives still remains the small seaside town that you are sure to fall in love with. Notwithstanding its small size, there is loads to see and do in the town - visiting Tate St Ives for your dose of art, meandering along the lovely shopping streets (with lots of traditional fudge shops), cliff-side walks, seal spotting boat trips, all sorts of water sports (surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking tours etc.), enjoying seafood and Cornish ice cream or simply lazing on the beaches.

St Ives

St Nectan’s Glen


Another lovely place to visit in Tintagel is St Nectan’s Glen. It is a beautiful wooded valley in Trethevy. The Trevillet River carves its way through the landscape forming a valley and continues down to the Rocky Valley before cascading into the Atlantic Ocean.  It is beautiful, serene and very peaceful here. One of the key attractions of the Glen is Saint Nectan’s Kieve - a stunning waterfall that plunges nearly 60 foot down to a deep rock. Stunning!

Beaches of Cornwall


So, I have left the very best for the end – the beaches of Cornwall. Cornwall's beaches are among the best in the UK. There are so many stunning beaches in Cornwall – some busy with a lot happening around, some more secluded offering peace and quiet. Whatever the location, all of them have a character of their own and are nice places to spend a day.

Here are some of the best and popular beaches in Cornwall: Polurrian Cove (located on the Lizard peninsula and known for its golden sand and cliff walks), Perranuthnoe (a lovely sandy beach that offers a superb view of St Michael's Mount), Great Western Beach (popular with families), Marazion (again stunning views of St Michael's Mount and very popular for swimming, sailing and kite surfing), Polkerris (family-friendly beach great for water sports, rock pooling and paddle boarding), Fistral (very popular and as such very crowded in the warmer months), Perranporth (another well-known beach ideal for everyone), Crantock (golden sand beach popular for swimming,surfing and if you are lucky some dolphin-spotting as well), Sennen Cove (beautiful beach when the tide's out), Porthtowan (golden sand beach popular with surfers as well as families) and Widemouth Bay (one of the longest beaches in Cornwall) to name a few.

Our favourite though was Porthcurno. Located beneath the Minack Theatre and the winner of many awards, this white sandy beach known for its crystal-clear waters is as good as it gets. Backed by steep cliffs, the beach is truly stunning. It is ideal for surfing, sunbathing and is popular with families too.

Porthcurno Beach

What are your favourites in Cornwall? Let me know.

9 comments:

  1. What a great collection of hike ideas! Those biome domes look interesting and of course, I've always wanted to see Mont St. Michel, a classic. But I have to say, that one brave soul in the water in the last pic looks a bit chilly! ;-)

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    1. The Eden Project is interesting and definitely one of the must-sees in Cornwall. Also, it's not Mont St Michel in the list rather it is St Michael's Mount. Both sites have got their names from St Michael and do look similar :)

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  2. I was just in England, but didn't make it to Cornwall - now I'm feeling like i majorly missed out! We did get down to Dorset and I fell in love with it. Now I want to do that South West Coast Path! Tintangle Castle totally looks like something out of a fairy tale. Thanks for adding another gorgeous place to my UK Wanderlist!

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    1. Cornwall is beautiful. I hope you make another visit to England soon to visit this part of the country.

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  3. This is such a beautifully written article with lots of interesting information about Cornwall. I've heard a lot of Eden's Project and seen photos - it looks like a great place to get some Instagram shots. The South West Coast Path sounds really interesting and I love the idea of breaking it up and doing one section at a time.

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  4. This is the perfect post for me, as I'm planning a short break in Cornwall. I love the look of Rocky Valley Walk; those views are stunning, and the walk is less than an hour too. And yes to visiting St Michael's Mount. I love that it's a working community too.

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    1. Hope you enjoy your Cornish break, Lisa.

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  5. I keep underestimating the UK - there is so much I haven't seen (I'm English so have no excuse!). I think we went to St Ives when I was little but I don't remember much, I'd like to go back now and walk the south west coast path, and eat lots of cornish ice cream!

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