Are you looking for hidden gems in Cornwall?
This region of the UK is one of the most touristy, and when you’re at Fistral Beach, Kynance Cove or St Michael’s Mount, it’s easy to feel like you’re enjoying the attractions along with the rest of the world.
However, there are plenty of places to go off the beaten path in Cornwall.
I come from a very long line of Cornish ancestors, and while I’ve never lived in Cornwall myself, I have family living there and have spent months travelling around the region. I’ve also asked my Cornish family for local tips for this post!
In fact, some of these places are only really known about by locals.
Despite this list focusing on local places in Cornwall, I would still recommend visiting the tourist hotspots.
St Ives, the Minack Theatre and Tintagel Castle all have a place on your Cornwall itinerary – but if you’re also searching for places that you can get a bit of peace and quiet and not rub shoulders with hordes of other tourists, this list is for you!
31 of the best hidden gems in Cornwall
Camborne and Redruth
My relatives are from Camborne and Redruth, but the entire area is little-visited by tourists.
Camborne and Redruth aren’t coastal towns, but they have lots to offer when it comes to mining history and culture.
Both towns were at the heart of Cornish tin mining, and mining expertise from this region eventually migrated around the globe, building industries in countries from Australia to Mexico.
In this regard, Camborne and Redruth changed the world – making them Cornish hidden gems that are worth visiting!
Here are some of the best things to do in Camborne and Redruth:
- The Edward Pool Mine
- Heartlands, where you can visit the mining museum and the Cornish Diaspora gardens
- Kresen Kernow, which is the Cornish archives
- Both town centres have history trails
Sitting at the southernmost tip of the United Kingdom, Lizard Point is a fantastic alternative to the touristy Land’s End!
This point has just as much dramatic history and intrigue as Land’s End in the far west of Cornwall.
It features the country’s southernmost watchhouse which has helped save numerous shipwrecks from drowning over the years.
You can walk from Lizard Point to Kynance Cove – but you’ll find it gets very busy as you approach Kynance Cove (it’s a popular place!).
However, you could also walk eastwards along the stretch of coast toward Cadgwith – this area is much quieter with hidden coves and epic panoramic views. See my Cadgwith entry below for more information!
Cadgwith is one of the loveliest fishing villages in West Cornwall.
With thatched-roof houses tumbling down to the shore and a beautiful yet traditional harbour, this is truly a hidden gem in Cornwall.
Unlike similar villages, like St Ives and Port Isaac, Cadgwith is quiet and unspoilt. It’s also the furthest south fishing community in the UK!
Pendeen and the Geevor Tin Mine Museum
Situated in West Cornwall between two popular tourist hubs (St Ives and Land’s End), Pendeen is well worth a visit.
The scenery is unreal here, and you can walk a few miles on the coast path to take in some of the best views in Cornwall. You can even walk to Cape Cornwall (see my next entry for more information!).
But one of the best reasons to visit Pendeen is for the Geevor Tin Mine Museum. This is a really comprehensive museum and exhibition all about tin mining in Cornwall.
You can even visit ‘the dry’ which is a ghostly exhibit that has been more or less left as it was the day that the mine closed and miners stopped working there. You can even see their old rota!
You’ll also get a chance to explore ‘Wheal Mexico’ (nobody’s sure how the name came about) to experience an actual tin mine.
This mine is definitely worth visiting!
Cape Cornwall is the ‘old most westerly point in Cornwall’.
Did the westerly point change? I hear you ask.
No, it didn’t. People just got better at drawing maps and realised that Land’s End was actually further west.
However, Cape Cornwall’s still a very interesting place to visit. Also called Kilgoodh Ust or Pen Kernow, It is where two bodies of water meet.
Specifically, it’s where the Atlantic Ocean splits, with part of it entering the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea and the other part into the English Channel.
At the top of the cape, you’ll see the chimney stack from the old Cape Cornwall mine.
This area is wonderfully scenic and extremely quiet compared to Land’s End. It’s the perfect place to have a short hike or a picnic.
Sitting between Bude and Boscastle, Crackington Haven is popular with geologists due to its unusual rocks. However, it’s not a particularly touristy village – so if you visit the beach, you’ll likely have a lot of space to yourself!
From Crackington Haven, you can hike either way and take in the glorious scenery of the South West Coast Path. This is one of the most challenging parts of the path, but it’s worth it for the views!
Restormel Castle dates from 921 and opened in the 12th century.
It was owned by a wealthy medieval family who used it for holidaying.
The intact ruins of the castle are a must-visit place for anyone who enjoys history and architecture.
It’s run by the English Heritage, so you can get in for free if you have an English Heritage membership.
St Nectan’s Glen
St Nectan’s Glen is one of the most beautiful natural spots in Cornwall.
Located between Tintagel and Boscastle, it’s a dramatic series of waterfalls, with the main one, St Nectan’s Kieve, being 18 metres high.
This is without a doubt one of the best waterfalls in Cornwall.
The entire woodland is a lovely place to stroll around and is a stark contrast to the chaotic town of Tintagel (which is worth checking out, but you might need some downtime after!).
Two miles from Geevor Tin Mine in Pendeen are the disused Botallack Mines.
These mines are fascinating parts of the Cornwall UNESCO mining heritage landscape and are well worth visiting.
You’ll notice these mines from lots of photos of Cornwall – they stand out amongst the blue sea and rugged landscape!
You can also do a Botallack walk which takes you around the clifftops and to several incredible photo spots.
Sithians Lake is one of my favourite places in Cornwall.
Sitting in between Falmouth and Redruth, it isn’t by the Cornish coast, but it is a fantastic place to kick back and relax or rent out some watersports gear.
We’ve been paddleboarding there numerous times and it’s such a nice local chilled out spot.
You can even camp right by the lake!
There’s also a cafe called the Wild Vibes Cafe, which does delicious breakfasts, brunches and lunches.
However, it’s worth a visit. Like other areas of Cornwall, Newlyn has been the home of artists throughout the years, and nowadays has the Newlyn Art Gallery where you can see some of the best artworks from the region.
You can also try local fish – Newlyn is the biggest fishing port in Cornwall – and there’s also a meadery in town.
You can read about meaderies later in this post!
However, it’s only a short walk from the town and the main car park, and while you’re there you can hike up the South West Coast Path to see St Catherine’s Castle.
The beach itself is a quiet little cove on the River Fowey, with a small platform out to sea.
Hawkers Hut Morwenstow
The Morwenstow Hawkers Hut is a small, almost-forgotten place on the South West Coast Path, just after the Cornwall/ Devon border.
To get here, you’ve got to hike along one of the most difficult parts of the path.
The hut looks out onto the north coast of Cornwall, but there’s much more to it than just its scenic location.
The Hawkers Hut was named after Reverend Robert Hawker, the Vicar of Morwenstow, who wrote the Trelawny song. He used to sit in this hut and write his poetry.
Trelawny song, officially called “The Song of the Western Men”, is the unofficial anthem of Cornwall. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll get a real sense of the patriotism that Cornish people have to this area of the UK.
The Hawker’s Hut is made from driftwood and shipwreck timbers, and is the smallest property that belongs to the National Trust.
Duckpool Beach is between Morwenstow and Bude on the dramatic North Cornwall coast.
It’s one of the best secret spots in Cornwall because not many people venture that much further east than Bude.
You can get here by car, or you can hike from Bude town along the South West Coastal Path.
The path after Duckpool Beach, going towards the Devon border, is regarded as the most difficult part of the SWCP, but the part between Bude and Duckpool Beach isn’t too bad.
It’s a lovely beach with rock pools and wonderful views from the clifftops.
Compared to the main beaches in Bude, it’s never all that busy!
The Merry Maidens
While these are probably the most well known of Cornwall’s ancient stone circles, I’m going to go out there on a limb and say that most tourists to Cornwall don’t go searching for natural stone sculptures.
More should though. They’re fascinating.
This stone circle in particular dates back at least 3500 years and consists of 19 regularly spaced stones.
Nobody’s that sure how they got there, but in the Victorian era a rumour evolved. Local folk said that the stone circle consisted of local girls who had broke the rules on the Sabbath and thus were turned into stone.
The pipers are stones nearby with a similar story attached – they were apparently musicians who broke the rules of the Sabbath.
You can find the Merry Maidens in far west Cornwall, close to Lamorna – which is another one of these Cornwall hidden gems.
Chysauster is an English Heritage attraction in Cornwall – and I can’t believe it’s not more famous.
It’s essentially an ancient village that dates back 2,000 years. It’s one of the best preserved in Britain, and there’s loads of information about how people lived back then.
It’s close to St Ives and a relatively short drive from Penzance, so definitely check it out if you’re in either of those places!
Chapel Rock Polperro
Chapel Rock sits at the entrance of Polperro, and is one of the most striking Cornish landmarks.
You can hike around the rock and take in the lovely views of sleepy Polperro village.
It’s also worth heading down to the natural chapel swimming pool, which fills up with seawater and is the perfect refreshing place to cool off on a summer’s day.
Do be wary of tides if you go here, and only swim if it is completely safe to do so.
Three miles away (and over some serious hills!) from the much busier village of Port Isaac sits the hamlet of Port Quin.
This hamlet is only really visited by people staying there or hiking through, but it’s one of the most peaceful and beautiful in Cornwall.
It’s one of the best places in Cornwall for stand up paddleboarding, which is absolutely dreamy on a summer’s day!
Jewish Cemetery and Synagogue Falmouth
Falmouth has always been a very multicultural place. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the Falmouth packet brought news from all over the world into the UK.
This brought with it seafarers from global destinations, including a Jewish community.
In fact, there were so many Jewish people in the town that they ended up with their own cemetery.
It is usually possible to visit the cemetery, but it is currently closed. However, you can also visit the former synagogue (Google maps location here).
Fun local fact: My dad lived in Falmouth when he was growing up, and his school was next to the former synagogue!
First and Last Inn Sennen
Smuggling was rife in Cornwall in the 18th century. There are a few places that you can learn about it, including the smuggling museum in Jamaica Inn.
However, while I love Jamaica Inn, it is very touristy. If you want to go to another smuggling inn that not many people know about, I recommend the First and Last Inn in Sennen!
This is, as the name suggests, the first and last inn in the country, just down the road from Land’s End.
Poly Joke Beach
Porth Joke, or Poly Joke as it is affectionately named by the locals, is one of Newquay’s beautiful golden beaches.
However, like Holywell Bay, it sees a fraction of the tourists of Fistral Beach or Towan Beach.
This makes it a wonderful place to visit if you want to avoid the crowds around Newquay!
You can walk here from Newquay or drive to West Pentire, where you’ll need to park and walk the rest of the way.
My dad is Cornish, and this is one of his favourite local beaches!
St Just is an interesting place. The furthest west town in Cornwall, it’s worth visiting just to see it, but it’s also one of the most Cornish places that you’ll come across.
We visited in September 2021 for the Ordinalia. This is a medieval play from Cornwall that depicts various biblical scenes. It was originally performed in Cornish, although now only some of the chorus and monologues are in the area’s native language.
It’s an immersive experience, well worth checking out if you’re in Cornwall when it’s next on.
If you’re around at a different time of year, St Just has plenty of nearby coastal walks and is in striking distance of Land’s End.
Lamorna is a sleepy village sandwiched between Mousehole and Porthcurno.
It is relatively forgotten about by tourists travelling around the far west of Cornwall.
However, it is famous for being an artist’s retreat due to its beautiful scenery. If you visit here in the early morning light, you’ll see what they mean!
Interestingly, this entire sandy cove was put on sale in 2021. At the moment, you can still visit it – and if you have a spare £1.45 million laying around, it could be yours!
While there are parts of Bodmin Moor that are touristy, it’s fair to say that it’s not the first place that people go to when they visit Cornwall (most visitors head to the Cornish beaches!).
Plus, Bodmin Moor is vast. There are plenty of spots that you can visit where you may not see another soul!
Just be careful and don’t go wandering around in the middle of the moor – the weather can change quickly here, and many people have found themselves enveloped in mist, unable to get back to their vehicle.
Here are some spots to aim for when you’re exploring Bodmin Moor:
- Brown Willy, the highest peak in Cornwall. Its name comes from the Cornish Bronn Wennili which means Hill of the Swallows.
- Rough Tor, the second highest peak in Cornwall (which is right by Brown Willy!).
- Colliford Lake, the largest inland body of water in Cornwall.
- Golitha Falls, beautiful falls in the middle of the moor.
- Minions, the highest village in Cornwall.
Not too far from Bodmin Moor, in Bodmin town itself, is the old jail.
It’s been revamped recently and is now a fully immersive experience depicting what jail was like during the Victorian era.
I would recommend doing a guided tour so you can learn some fascinating stories about the jail and crime and punishment in Cornwall in general.
You can see more information about visiting and guided tours by visiting the Bodmin Jail website.
If you go to Gwithian Beach, you wouldn’t believe you’re in St Ives Bay!
The beach is huge and expansive, and there are a fraction of the tourists that you’ll find in St Ives or Carbis Bay.
Plus, look out for Godrevy Lighthouse, which makes for some excellent photos! Godrevy beach area is owned by the National Trust.
If you walk eastwards (away from St Ives) on the South West Coast Path, you’ll go through a spectacular part of the Cornish coastline.
Look out for seals basking in the sun here!
I absolutely adore Holywell Bay.
While it does get tourists and it is relatively well-known as it’s a Poldark filming location, it sees a fraction of the tourists of other beaches in Newquay.
It’s an epic bay with incredible views from the clifftops. In one direction is the popular town of Newquay, and the other is Perranporth.
With waves dramatically crashing against the shoreline, it’s one of the best sandy beaches in Cornwall.
If you want to stay here a little while longer, Holywell Bay caravan park is also lovely!
While some of Conrwall’s beaches are very, very touristy, there are a few hidden beaches as well – you’ve just got to know where to look (or keep reading this blog for all the information you’ll need!).
Lantic Bay is on the south coast of Cornwall, not too far from Polruan, which is the other side of Fowey.
It isn’t easy to reach Lantic Bay. Many tourists do so by boat, whereas others hike down to the bay.
Once you’re there, you’ll enjoy acres of uninterrupted sand, usually with very few other people.
There is a reason some hidden gems are hidden, and Nanjizal’s is because it is rather difficult to get to. But a gem it is – and if you can visit, it’s well worth it.
Nanjizal Beach is a small patch of sand with a famous rocky outcrop that’s been the subject of many photographer’s beautiful Cornwall photos.
It’s a 1.6 miles from Land’s End, and if you drive you will have to park on the road and walk the last little bit.
Because it’s quite out the way, it’s always very quiet – you might have it all to yourself!
Launceston Town and Castle
Launceston is a small town close to the Devon/ Cornwall border.
It’s not immensely popular with tourists, but it has a fascinating history, spanning back to the 11th century when Launceston Castle was built.
You can visit the castle, which is run by the English Heritage, or enjoy the beautiful historic houses throughout the town. There are plenty of other things to do in Launceston too!
There are a few meaderies in Cornwall, and it’s worth visiting at least one of them while you’re in the area!
As the name suggests, meaderies are restaurants that specialise in mead, a fermented drink made from honey.
But that’s not the only reason to visit this restaurant – meaderies are medieval-themed, with decorations harking back to a forgotten era.
Think middle-age coats of arms on the walls, fake candles lighting everywhere up and tankards hanging from the ceiling!
Plus, portions are huge, and it’s a great value dinner!
You can find meaderies in Redruth, Newlyn, Penzance and Trewellard.
Visiting Cornwall FAQs
When should I visit Cornwall?
If you want to avoid the crowds, I would advise against visiting Cornwall in the summer months.
I know, British weather is tempermental and this is when it’s at its best. But if you’re already searching for Cornwall’s hidden gems, I don’t think that you like crowds.
May (outside of half term) is a good time to visit, as is the end of September.
In the winter, you won’t have as good weather, but trust me – it’ll be quiet!
Where is best to stay in Cornwall?
If you want to avoid crowds, I recommend staying in the following towns in Cornwall:
- Launceston: This is Cornwall’s old county town and a lovely place to stay in east Cornwall.
- Bodmin: Another of Cornwall’s old county towns, stay here for access to Bodmin Moor, both coastlines and Bodmin Jail.
- Truro: This is Cornwall’s only city and it’s nowhere near as touristy as other places in the Duchy. It has some very beautiful parts too! See places to stay in Truro here.
- Mevagissey: A working fishing town, Mevagissey does get busy in peak summertime, but it’s usually quieter than other options along the coast.
- Penzance: While Penzance can be busy, particularly because it’s between popular St Michael’s Mount and Mousehole, it’s a large town so it doesn’t always feel as over populated as other places in Cornwall.
- Wadebridge: Wadebridge is just inland from the north coast, and is a good alternative to popular places to stay like Padstow or Port Isaac.
- Redruth or Camborne: They are already on this list of hidden gems in Cornwall, but Redruth and Camborne are undoubtedly two of the best places to stay in Cornwall for a local vibe.
In general, these towns are not coastal, for good reason – coastal towns and villages are rammed.
I’ve made an exception for Penzance, which is fairly big, and Mevagissey, which isn’t as touristy as other spots along the coastline.
Do I need a car to explore Cornwall?
You don’t need a car, but it will make your life much easier if you do.
Technically, you could get the train from London to St Austell, Par, Bodmin, Truro, Camborne, Redruth, St Erth or Penzance, and then get local trains or buses to reach your destination.
But this is Cornwall, and transport is infrequent.
Some bus services only run once every two hours, and not at all on Sunday!
This isn’t a huge problem if you’re just going to one town and staying there, but if you are planning on going to lots of different places, you could end up spending a lot of time waiting for buses.
However, you could use bus services to explore destinations close to each other. I’ll write a post about travelling around Cornwall by bus soon, which should help!
Non-touristy things to do in Cornwall
As you can see, there are dozens of hidden gems in Cornwall to check out!
Whether you’re at a freshwater waterfall, in one of Cornwall’s picturesque fishing villages or hiking somewhere with coastal views, this list of lesser visited places in Cornwall should inspire you to go somewhere a little different.
By all means, visit the top touristy spots – but refer back to this list when you want to visit local spots!