Cornwall is a British destination like no other. It’s often voted the most beautiful county in the country, famed for its golden beaches that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean. It’s also home to probably the most dynamic culture in England – or is it in England?
Cornwall is a bit of a contested place, with many Cornish locals thinking that it deserves a similar status to Wales and Scotland, due to its Celtic history. There are loads of nudges to this throughout the county, whether that be Cornish flags proudly flying or Gaelic sounding names.
There are chances to get to know this history more throughout the county, but if you just fancy taking in the coastline, enjoying the rural villages, and having a bit of a holiday, Cornwall will undoubtedly deliver.
Let’s look at the best things to do in Cornwall.
The Best things to do in Cornwall
Visit the Eden Project
The Eden Project is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Cornwall – it’s a great rainy day activity, but it’s worth visiting even if you’ve got beach weather every day. This visitor attraction near St Austell has two biomes featuring a flora collection from different climates and environments. It’s a great destination to learn about plants in other climates, and it’s also just pretty cool – you’re walking around in a jungle in Cornwall! It originated as a china clay pit, and started to be designed in 1996 – its initial sketches were made on a napkin at a pub!
It costs £28.50 for an adult and £15 for a child (5-16) to visit the Eden Project. The biomes, which detail all of the different plants that are included in the displays, are the primary attraction, but there is also a zip wire, a 360 swing, and a small bungee jump!
Go surfing in Newquay
Perhaps the best surfing spot in the country, due to its mild weather and huge waves, Fistral Beach in Newquay has been dubbed ‘Little Australia’. It’s a great place to take to the waves, but be warned – for inexperienced surfers, these waves can be treacherous. However, there are plenty of surfing schools offering individual or group lessons.
Be wowed at Bedruthan Steps
Just along the coast from Newquay are the iconic Bedruthan Steps, among the most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall. Jutting out into the gorgeous blue ocean, Bedruthan Steps are striking land masses that look like they’re straight off a postcard from the Med. There are (actual) steps that can take you down to the beach, but these are currently closed. If they reopen, they will lead to a tiny beach and cave area.
But Bedruthan Steps are best enjoyed from above; you can walk along the cliffs and marvel at the view at no cost and without too much exertion! If you’re driving along the North Cornish coast, it’s a must-do.
See the charming village of Port Isaac
Famous for being the village Portwenn in Doc Martin, this sleepy little seaside village is a great place to experience Cornish rural life. The village has steep, narrow streets – it’s best to leave your car in the car parks outside – and granite houses; the streets eventually giving way to the sea.
The beach is the most renowned attraction in Port Isaac, with plenty going on – fishing boats are constantly coming in and out, and many of the best restaurants are seafront – but the town is excellent for a stroll around as well.
Stand at the most southwesterly point of the UK
603 miles South West of John O’ Groats in North Scotland is Lands End, the furthest south in the UK – and the furthest west outside of Northern Ireland! There are a few eateries on-site, as well as the famous Lands End landmark. You can also stand right at the end of the peninsula and enjoy being the farthest south person in the UK at that moment…
Enjoy the National Trust Ran Town of Boscastle
Ran by the National Trust, Boscastle is home to a cove and a harbour and is also essential visiting for any fans of the weird and wonderful. There are lots of links with the supernatural here, and one of the best places to learn about that is the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and the small Minister Church, which is home to the grave of a white witch.
There are also natural phenomena around Boscastle, including the Devils Blowhole and the Coastguard Lookout. Boat tours also go around the cove. Its array of attractions certainly make visiting one of the best things to do in Cornwall.
Gaze at the Gorgeous Coastal Scenery of St Ives
St Ives is a quintessential Cornish town. It is home to beaches and plenty of watersports and has some great hiking opportunities. Taking a train into the town is a spectacle, and the fun only starts there. The town itself has its own charm, being busy enough to have lots going on but quiet enough to get enough solitude.
Dotted with quirky shops, exciting road names, and Fisherman’s Cottages, it’s a delightful place to get lost in for a day. For wildlife, take a boat out to Seal Island and see the Atlantic Grey Seals, or visit the privately owned Carbis Bay beach for some solitude.
See St Micheal’s Mount
Jutting out into the sea at Mounts Bay is St Micheal’s Mount, an island with a medieval castle and church built upon it. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Cornwall, due to its mystical appearance. It was thought to be a sacred place since 495 AD, and four miracles are meant to have happened between 1262 and 1263. The castle was built around the Norman conquest time, and it is steeped in legends and history. The most famous of these is perhaps the legend of Jack the Giant Killer, a brave Cornish lad who defeated a giant who had taken up residence there.
Learn about these myths and more by visiting St Micheal’s Mount, one of the most popular attractions in Cornwall. It costs £8.50 for adults to visit the gardens only or £11.50 for the gardens and castle, and £4.00 for children to visit the gardens only or £5.50 for the gardens and castle.
Catch a show at the Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre is set outdoors, on the clifftop of a rocky outcrop. Its subtropical gardens are the perfect place for a wander, but the main attraction is the glorious theatre itself, overlooking Porthcurno Bay.
It was created by Rowena Cade in the 1930s up until she was in her eighties. Although it was still being constructed, the theater has shown productions from the 1930s onwards. Shows are exhibited at the theater from May to September every summer.
Explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan started their life as part of a large estate owned by the Tremayne family, but got ‘lost’ after WW1 – they were effectively wasteland until they began to be restored in the 1990s.
Nowadays, they are proudly one of the most beautiful and exciting gardens in the country. Visit the Italian garden, the secret walled garden, the Burmese garden with rope swings, and the vegetable garden. The extensive network is enough to keep anyone, young or old, occupied for hours.
It costs £16.00 for adults and £8.00 for children to visit the property.
Visit Pendennis Castle
Pendennis Castle was created during the Tudor era to defend Cornwall from naval attackers. It also played an essential part in keeping this part of the country safe during both World Wars. Visitors can marvel at the historic castle and learn how it has been used as a defensive structure throughout the centuries.
The castle is open from 10am until 5pm each day. It costs £13.50 for adult admission or £8.10 for children. Entry is included in English Heritage membership.
Go the the Isles of Scilly
Sitting South West of the tip of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly are a world unto themselves. They are stunningly beautiful, with their very own microclimate giving them a unique, subtropical feel that cannot be found anywhere else in the country.
Enjoy some of the country’s best beaches, swim in blue waters, and relax into tranquil island life by taking a Cornish staycation to the Isles of Scilly; you can fly there from Exeter, Newquay, or Lands End, or take a boat from Penzance Harbour.
See the subtropical gardens of Trebah
The subtropical gardens of Trebah are reminiscent of sunnier, warmer climates; if you want to feel like you’re abroad, this is the place in Cornwall to visit! With its own private beach and mass of plants from Mediterranean countries and the Southern Hemisphere. The gardens change seasonally, with rhododendrons, magnolias, and camellias from 100 years coming out in Spring, a giant gunnera in Summer, Hydrangeas in Autumn, and champion trees in winter.
It costs 11 for adults to visit the gardens and 5.50 for children.
Learn about Legends at Tintagel Castle
Standing high on a clifftop on the North Cornish coast, Tintagel Castle has links with the legend of King Arthur and is set in two parts, which has been linked recently by a bridge. There has been a defensive castle on site since the 13th century, but it was a Roman military outpost and a place of residence for the Celtic Royalty in Cornwall. There have been some fascinating discoveries in the castle, including Andalusian pottery and Mediterranean wares.
It costs £14.50 for adults to visit Tintagel Castle or £8.70 for children. You can also include a donation for the upkeep of the castle. It is an English Heritage property, so members can get free entry.
Hike on the Enigmatic Bodmin Moor
Cornwall doesn’t just do beaches; it has stunning moorland as well. Bodmin Moor is a 200 square metre area of grassland. On the site are delightful granite outcrops and heather patches, and it’s the perfect place for a stroll. Check out the ancient stones, like The Cheesewring and The Hurlers, and look for the Cornish Path Moss – which is the only place in the world where this type of moss grows.
Poldark fans definitely need to visit this area – many of the scenes of the characters on horseback and the outside of Ross Poldark’s cottage were shot here.
The Copper Trail, which is a 60 mile circular walk, starts at the village of Minions. Even if you don’t fancy a 60 mile hike, Minions is a great place to start walking. Here’s some more advice about hiking on Bodmin Moor.
Best Places to Visit in Cornwall
These are just some of the best Cornwall attractions: there are plenty more hidden gems and local secrets which we will cover in a later blog post! Be sure to also check out how to get to Cornwall and the best time to visit Cornwall for travel tips on reaching the UK’s most Southwesterly county.