Where are the best places to visit in Cornwall?
If you are looking for an unforgettable travel experience in the UK then you should definitely plan to visit Cornwall. Cornwall is the county located in the most south-westerly part of the UK. Cornwall has it all, from rugged coastlines, an excellent surf culture, beautiful countryside, interesting historical sites, delicious cornish pasties, the most picturesque fishing villages and its own distinct culture that sets it apart from the rest of England. There truly is something for everyone.
If you need some inspiration for planning your trip to Cornwall then today’s post has you covered. I’ve rounded up a group of expert travel bloggers to share their favourite places to visit in Cornwall and I’ve thrown in a few of my own suggestions too.
Keep reading to discover the best places to visit in Cornwall!
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Best places to visit in Cornwall – Falmouth
Falmouth is one of my favourite places to visit in Cornwall. It has it all. From a beautiful town centre that’s as picturesque as they come to one of the best beaches in the whole county.
Falmouth sits on the south coast of Cornwall and is beautiful in every season. There are lots of things to do in Falmouth from the amazing National Maritime Museum through to the lovely Falmouth Art Gallery, packed with the work of local artists. The coastline here is beautiful.
Pendennis Castle sits up on the clifftops and looks so dramatic. I love visiting this Tudor defensive castle that looks formidable but is full of history and character. It overlooks one of my favourite beaches, Gyllyngvase. This sandy stretch is perfect for bathing or rockpool searching. Don’t miss the chance to stop off at the Gylly Beach Cafe which is great for hot chocolates or lunch.
There are some fantastic family hotels in Cornwall all based around this beach. I love St Michaels Resort and Spa which is the perfect place to retreat if the weather takes a turn.
There’s plenty to enjoy in the town too, from the numerous pasty and fudge shops to the sweetest gift shops where you can pick up little mementoes. There’s usually bunting across the streets giving it an even more picturesque air.
Recommended by Nichola from Familyhotelexpert.co.uk
Best places to visit in Cornwall – St Ives
St Ives is probably one of the most famous and most visited towns in Cornwall. It is often thought of as one of the best places to stay in Cornwall and for good reason! It is one of the most picturesque fishing villages you could ever imagine.
In St Ives, you can explore the maze of cobbled streets with its many independent stores, world-class art galleries and cute fishermen’s cottages.
One of my favourite things to do in St Ives is to take a boat trip to seal island. There are so many friendly seals in St Ives bay and the best way to see them is during a boat ride. The curious sea-puppers are quite tame and like to come very close to the boats. Just remember to be a responsible tourist and never touch any wild animals! Book your boat trip with the boat ‘Dolly P’ as they are the only accredited wildlife safe operator and their crew includes a qualified marine mammal medic.
Another excellent thing to do in St Ives is to spend time on Porthgwidden Beach. This secluded beach is a bit of a secret and many tourists miss it. So if you fancy beating the crowds for a while, you can grab a cider at the beach cafe and relax in the sun outside of the colourful beach huts.
There is another great beach in St Ives, Porthmeor. The beach at Porthmeor is great for surfing and is suitable for beginners and advanced surfers too.
Recommended by myself
Best places to visit in Cornwall – St Michaels Mount
A lot of people have heard of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, but did you know there is an English equivalent in Cornwall?
St. Michael’s Mount is a stunning castle and family home situated on an island. Visitors can only access the island by boat at high tide or by walking across the causeway during low tide.
There is so much to see at St. Michael’s Mount! The castle itself is extraordinary and visitors can spend a lot of time wandering around. It’s still the residence for the St Aubyn family, who came to the area in the mid-fourteenth century! Once you’ve finished exploring the inside, don’t forget to check out the grounds and the garden.
Before heading back to the mainland, spend some time wandering around the harbour and village. There are a couple of shops and cafes to do a little shopping and grab a bite to eat.
You can easily spend several hours at St. Michael’s Mount. I took a road trip here in early April and took advantage of the low crowds that time of year. This place can get very busy in the summer, so the shoulder seasons are definitely the best time to go.
If you are able, schedule to take a boat to the island first thing in the morning and then plan to walk the causeway back when you are finished. The causeway times will affect your schedule, but attempting to make this plan will allow you to reach the island before most people and give you at least an hour or two of low crowds before the causeway opens and the masses walk over.
Recommended by Stef from openroadodysseys.com
Best places to visit in Cornwall – Newquay
I’ve been coming to Newquay since I was a kid and it is still one of my favourite places in Cornwall. Newquay is the self-proclaimed capital of the UK surf scene and home to the annual Boardmasters festival. The North Cornwall town is home to the legendary Fistral beach, one of the best beaches in Cornwall, where surfers flock from all over the world to compete in various international surf competitions throughout the year. If you want to experience world-class surfing in the UK then this is the place to come as Cornwall’s north coast provides some of the best surf swells in Europe. The town has a number of different beaches and surf schools suitable for all abilities. You can book individual lessons, a beginner experience or even an all-day surf package.
If surfing isn’t your thing then there is still plenty to do in Newquay such as visiting Newquay zoo, Walking along the cliffs to admire the spectacular zoo, partying the night away in the many great bars and clubs or trying a coasteering adventure!
Recommended by myself
Best places to visit in Cornwall – Sennen Cove & Land’s End
Sennen Cove and Land’s End are in the far south-westerly corner of Cornwall. The small village of Sennen Cove has a large sweeping cove that is perfect for summer surfing. In the winter months, I love watching the winter storms sweep in which buffets this exposed piece of coastline. Sennen Cove has some small cafes and pubs that I have found it very easy to pass a day watching the sea with coffee and cake. It is a good place to start a walk along the South West Coast Path.
A short walk from Sennen Cove is Land’s End. This is the most southwesterly point in England. Looking out from the cliffs you can see the Longship’s Lighthouse and on a really clear day the Scilly Isles way off in the distance.
The walk to Land’s End follows the high cliffs and there are shipwrecks and ancient stone monuments to explore on the way.
Once you get to Land’s End I find it feels a little surreal as there is a busy visitor attraction. This is a complete contrast to the sleepy village of Sennen Cove and the wild exposed cliffs. However, just a few steps from the bustle of Land’s End you are back to the cliffs and the beautiful landscapes that this part of Cornwall is best known for. I love how you can be around tourists and minutes later alone with the Atlantic Ocean and the birds.
Recommended by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
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Best places to visit in Cornwall – Eden project
The Eden Project is a former clay mine that was transformed into several large biodomes which now house the world’s largest indoor rainforest. The Eden Project’s mission is to “create a movement that builds relationships between people and the natural world to demonstrate the power of working together for the benefit of all living things.”
Inside you will find many interactive displays which aim to educate on the importance of nature and sustainable development. There is so much to do and see at the Eden Project and you will be guaranteed to have an amazing time. You can even go ziplining over the top of the biomes!
I love spending an afternoon here wandering among the beautiful plants and I always learn something new. The Eden Project can be easily visited from the nearby town of St Austell.
Recommended by myself
Best places to visit in Cornwall – Lost Gardens of Heligan
As one of the UK’s most visited gardens, I think the Lost Gardens of Heligan is definitely one of the best places to visit in Cornwall.
The garden has a fascinating history which makes it a very unique place to explore. With at least 13 gardeners tending to it daily, the estate and the gardens used to be a thriving community. Unfortunately, after the gardeners perished in World War I, the gardens became ‘lost’. In 1990, restorations started on the 200-acre gardens and served as a tribute to the old gardeners whose names were found on some of the buildings during excavations.
During your visit, you can explore the estate and the many areas of the gardens that all have different designs.
To make the most of your entry fee, I highly recommend visiting the gardens around May. During this time, the garden may still be filled with bluebells and other colourful flowers such as rhododendrons and camellias. Although I believe that the garden can look absolutely fantastic during autumn too. The entry fee during the summer months is more expensive, therefore visiting in either spring or autumn will get you the most for your money.
You can find more information about your visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in this guide.
Recommended by Kitti from Kitti Around the World
Best places to visit in Cornwall – Kingsand and Cawsand
Forget bustling Newquay and busy St Ives, my heart belongs to the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand in southeast Cornwall. Tucked away on the Rame Peninsula, they are on the way to nowhere, leaving them completely undisturbed by modern “conveniences”. The higgledy-piggledy cottages still boast smugglers’ passageways and rope-filled fish cellars, a reminder that you’re never far from the sea.
So, what’s the attraction of these adjoining coastal villages? It could be the ambience as you explore the narrow streets, comfortable in their own laid-back time warp. Check out the Clock Tower and Institute in Kingsand and pop into the Old Bakery in Cawsand.
Join the locals picking up gossip along with crusty loaves and saffron buns. Grab a black cherry Danish (my favourite!), head down to the sandy beach and sit on the wall to enjoy the tranquil view. The sheltered bay is frequented by fishing boats and the occasional pilot gig, powered by strong-armed rowers. In the distance, naval frigates arrive in Plymouth for much-needed R&R and maintenance after a stint overseas.
I love the sense of escape whenever I visit Cawsand and Kingsand. Getting there by road from Saltash involves a convoluted 18-mile journey along narrow lanes lined with primroses, foxgloves and blackberries, depending on the season. However, the summer ferry connects Cawsand with Plymouth’s historic Barbican, home of the Mayflower Steps, Plymouth Gin Distillery, shops and the National Marine Aquarium. You really do get the best of both worlds when you visit Kingsand and Cawsand.
Recommended by Gillian Birch from Holiday cottages in Devon & Cornwall
Best places to visit in Cornwall – Port Isaac
Port Isaac is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall. The historic fishing village of Port Isaac is famous for being the filming location of the popular TV show Doc Martin, starring Martin Clunes. If you are a fan of the show you can take a fun Doc Martin walking tour of Port Isaac and visit all the filming locations from the show. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, Port Isaac has plenty to offer as it has been named an area of outstanding natural beauty.
There are lots of great things to do in Port Isaac. For example, you can enjoy a scenic hot air balloon flight, listen to the famous Fishermen’s Friends sea shanties group perform by the harbour or visit the filming locations of Doc Martin and the Fisherman’s Friends movies. You can also easily take a day trip to nearby Tintagel castle, which is said to have been home to the legendary King Arthur.
My favourite place to stay in Port Issac is The Slipway. It is a beautiful Grade II listed historic building, dating back to the 1500s. It has a restaurant and bar as well as a lovely outdoor terrace and is conveniently located opposite the harbour.
Recommended by myself
Best places to go in Cornwall – Padstow
Padstow is a lovely little fishing port town surrounded by gorgeous beaches. For the perfect day in Padstow, I recommend that you start your day at the National Lobster Hatchery. Here you can watch baby lobsters in the breeding facility and learn all about the vital conservation work that is being done to help the UK’s lobster population.
Next, grab a traditional fish & chip lunch at celebrity chef Rick Stein’s chip shop. Take it to go and find a spot overlooking the harbour to eat it.
After your fish & chip lunch, you can hire a bike and cycle the Camel Trail, an 18-mile trail that runs alongside the camel estuary. Be sure to stop off at some of the many bird hides and viewpoints along the trail to spot some of the many birds that migrate to the estuary. You can cycle as much or as little of the trail as you want.
After your bike ride, grab an ice cream and walk 10 mins along the coastal path to St Georges cove. Here you can relax on the golden sands for the rest of the afternoon. When you get hungry you’ll be spoiled for choice as Padstow boasts 5 different Michelin-starred restaurants!
Recommended by myself
More Cornwall highlights
There are so many amazing places to go in Cornwall that I couldn’t possibly fit them all in one post! Here are a few more things to do in Cornwall during your visit:
Cornwall road trip guide
For more Cornwall inspiration check out my 7-day Cornwall road trip itinerary.
Below you can grab a copy of my perfect Cornwall road trip itinerary. The itinerary includes everything you need to have a great vacation and road trip to Cornwall.
The Cornwall travel guide includes:
- Cornwall places to stay
- Restaurant recommendations
- Hidden gems
- The best Cornwall destinations
- How to get around
- Day by day fully planned itinerary
- And much more!
Where do you think is the best place to visit in Cornwall? Let me know in the comments below!
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This is interesting places, although I haven’t been to any. I would love to visit them and see in real life.
Lost Gardens of Heligan looks so beautiful! Looks like you had an awesome trip.
Visiting these destinations on a sunny day makes for great day.
Wow, this is an amazing list!! Was so much fun reading this. Been living in the UK for over a decade, but somehow never made it to Cornwall…..guess I have to go now 😉
A fantastic collection of towns, I will be keeping these in mind for our next UK trip
What a great post! So excited to be able to travel again and explore!
I’ve never been to Cornwall but considering adding to my bucket list after reading your article. Thanks for the vibrant descriptions and pictures too!
Reading this and seeing the pictures make me want to visit! Cornwall looks like an amazing place!
The pictures alone make me curious to go but thank you for sharing these insights! Lost Gardens of Heligan is gorgeous!