Sailing in Cornwall

What to See in Cornwall?

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There’s so much to see in Cornwall’s relatively modest 1,375 square miles that it can be hard to know where to start. Let us make it easy for you. We’ve grouped Cornwall’s main attractions into types, and recommended our favourite in each group.

Beautiful beaches

With around 400 miles of coastline, Cornwall has a fantastic choice of beaches. Whether you’re a surfer, a snorkeller or simply a sunbather, you’ll find your new favourite beach here. St Ives’ Porthminster, Constantine, Sennen, and Fistral Bay in Newquay are some of the UK’s best beaches – and we also love the hidden little coves. One of our local beaches, Porthpean, is fantastic for water sports.

Cornish beach with surfers at sunset

If you just visit one… Well, this was a toughie, but we went for Harlyn Bay near Padstow. This stunning beach has everything, from good surf to year-round dog access.

Fascinating old harbours

The Cornish coast is scattered with historic harbours, all with different characters. There’s the important fishing port of Newlyn in the west, and picture-perfect Cadgwith Cove on The Lizard. St Ives is one of the county’s most famous harbour towns, with the bonus of several world-class beaches, and the same description applies to Padstow. Fowey is sophisticated, Charlestown elegant, and Mousehole endearing.

Charlestown Harbour in Cornwall

If you have time to hang out in just one harbour town, we’d recommend our lovely local one, Mevagissey.

Gorgeous gardens

Cornwall’s mild winters allow our gardeners to be creative, and we have a wonderful collection of subtropical gardens. If you’ve packed your National Trust card, you’ll more than cover your membership as you explore gardens from wooded Penrose on the Lizard to the subtropical valley and maze in Helford’s Glendurgan. The Eden Project has taken visiting gardens to a whole new level, with its famous biomes and spectacular outdoor planting.

sleeping lady at Lost Gardens of Heligan

It’s a tough call, but we always go for The Lost Gardens of Heligan, both for its incredible story and its proximity to The Cornwall.

Renowned British Art

Cornwall has attracted artists for generations, attracted by its landscapes, subjects and light. Falmouth Art Gallery will take you through the history of Cornish art, and visit Penlee House Museum and Gallery in Penzance to find out about the Newlyn School. Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Penzance and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives combine art with subtropical planting.

Tate St Ives

If you’re interested in modern Cornish art, visit Tate St Ives.

Dramatic castles

St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island crowned by a mostly medieval castle, is one of Cornwall’s best-known landmarks – and going there by boat or causeway is always an adventure. There are the twin Tudor castles of Pendennis and St Mawes (both English Heritage) guarding the entrance to Falmouth harbour. Restormel Castle (also EH) has beautiful grounds.

St Michael's Mount Cornwall

If you just have time to visit one, Tintagel Castle has the most spectacular location – and it’s believed to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur!

Evocative tin mines

Cornwall was a land rich in tin, and the landscape is marked for ever with the dramatic silhouettes of engine houses. You can find out more about the story of tin and copper mining at Geevor Tin Mine near Penzance, and even go underground. Heartlands in Pool has a free exhibition about mining, as well as a fun adventure playground and a great value café.

tin mine in Cornwall

Head west to the National Trust’s Botallack Mine, home of Captain Ross Poldark’s Wheal Grace.

World-class theatre and music

Try to catch a performance by Cornwall’s renowned Kneehigh Theatre, who, as well as touring, have a summer base at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The county’s main theatre, Hall for Cornwall in Truro is closed for refurbishment until 2021 but when it reopens it's hoped that the increased capacity and improved facilities will draw even more excellent acts. There are several annual festivals, including Boardmasters, St Endellion classical music festival, and St Ives’ folk-based festival in September.

Minack Theatre Cornwall

If you’re visiting just one venue, there’s nowhere on earth like The Minack with its panoramic views of the ocean providing a magnificent backdrop to live theatre.

Indoor attractions

Yes, it’s the South West, and rain is not unlikely. There’s plenty to do, from sheltering in a tropical biome at Eden, to exploring the corridors of Lanhydrock House near Bodmin. Head for the shops, restaurants, galleries and museums of Truro and Falmouth.

When it rains, it’s the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth for us, every time.

National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth

So whatever the weather, whether you're looking for culture, history or beauty. Cornwall has something for everyone. Stay in one of our Luxury Hotel Rooms or  Woodland Lodges for a week, and you’ll get plenty of chance to explore all the hidden gems.

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