How to spend a weekend in Cornwall (2 day itinerary!)

Are you looking for a weekend in Cornwall itinerary? This blog post has just that!

While Cornwall’s not a huge place (you can get from one end to the other in under two hours!), I’d normally recommend more than a weekend here. 

The roads can be very slow, and it’s quite a long way from most places other than Devon (which, fortunately, is where I live!). 

However, sometimes a short break is all you have – and if that’s the case, I’ve put together a stunning weekend itinerary for Cornwall for you. 

Overlooking the sandy beach at Bossiney Cove Tintagel Cornwall England UK Europe

Cornwall is potentially the most popular destination in the UK, ideal for family trips, holidays with friends, or romantic getaways.

Thanks to its incredible beaches that are lapped by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and rugged coastlines, tourism in the region has built up throughout the decades.

Golitha Falls, a waterfall on the edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England

Today, this means that there are ample things to do, whether that’s hiking in beautiful surroundings, exploring Cornwall’s best market towns and fishing villages or visiting world-class attractions like the Eden Project or Tintagel Castle.

There’s so much on offer in Cornwall – and while you definitely won’t see it all on a two day trip, this itinerary puts together some of the highlights!

Where is Cornwall?

Photo of Pedn Vounder Beach near Porthcurno Cornwall England UK Europe

Cornwall is the far west of the west country, sharing a border with only one other county: Devon.

It’s the peninsula that sits on the southwest of maps of the UK.

Thanks to its geography, it’s a sparsely populated place, which means that it doesn’t have any motorways and many of the roads are country lanes (there are two main A roads, however – the A30 and A38).

Here are the approximate drive times to Newquay, where this weekend in Cornwall itinerary begins, from major UK cities (please note that these can vary hugely depending on traffic):

  • London to Newquay: 5 hours (279 miles)
  • Bristol to Newquay: 3 hours (163 miles)
  • Birmingham to Newquay: 4 hours 15 minutes (244 miles)
  • Manchester to Newquay: 5 hours 30 minutes (323 miles)
  • Edinburgh to Newquay: 9 hours (530 miles)
  • Leeds to Newquay: 6 hours (364 miles)
  • Exeter to Newquay: 1 hour 30 minutes (84 miles)

What does this weekend in Cornwall itinerary include? 

Fowey in South Cornwall

This itinerary focuses mostly on East Cornwall, as the west is a bit trickier to get to. East Cornwall, on the other hand, is only about a four to five hour drive from London! 

While places like Land’s End, Pendennis Castle, St Michael’s Mount and St. Ives may be on your bucket list, they are a little longer to reach. And when you’ve already driven a long way to get to Cornwall, these extra couple of hours to reach West Cornwall really make a difference!

Plus, there are so many places to see in East Cornwall that it makes sense to tick these off on your first weekend trip and come back for a longer holiday to see the locations in the west.

Here are the places that I include on this East Cornwall itinerary:

  • Newquay
  • Watergate Bay 
  • Padstow 
  • Port Isaac
  • Boscastle
  • Tintagel 
  • Bodmin Moor
  • Fowey

With plenty of recommendations for places to stay and things to do! 

Let’s delve into a more detailed two-day Cornwall itinerary!

Two days in Cornwall itinerary: Friday

Drive to Newquay 

View along Fistral Beach Newquay Cornwall England UK

Start your weekend in Cornwall itinerary by driving to the Northern Cornish town of Newquay. 

This is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall, with incredible beaches and towering dramatic cliffs. 

If you have any time on your first day in Cornwall, see the town’s sandy beaches, including surfing hotspot Fistral Beach (surf lessons are available here!).

If you have time for an adventure, check out this coasteering tour in Newquay or this surfing lesson.

and explore the independent shops and best restaurants in town.

I recommend The Boathouse, which offers a range of street food and is served on the beach at Newquay Harbour.

Stay at Headland Hotel Newquay Friday Night

Bay, rocks, beach, Fistral Beach, Newquay, famous popular surfer beach, The Headland Hotel and Spa

Spend your Friday night staying at the Headland Hotel in Newquay. 

This is a deluxe spa hotel, so if you want to get in holiday mode, you could spend your evening just soaking in the steam room! 

The hotel also has gorgeous rooms with incredibly comfortable king-sized beds.

If you want to stay in one place for the whole weekend, you could base here for two or three nights and see all of the attractions I’ve mentioned below from Newquay – they’re all within an hour’s drive.

However, staying at different places in Cornwall (especially the eerie Jamaica Inn, which I’ve described below!) is a great way to experience a little more of the region!

Click here to read more about the Headland Hotel in Newquay

Saturday itinerary

I’d recommend grabbing breakfast at your hotel, as this will save you time for sightseeing.

If you do want to head out for breakfast, I recommend GRIDL for a hearty Cornish breakfast (with veggie and vegan options).

Walk along the South West Coast Path

Watergate Bay Beach

From Newquay, embark on the South West Coast Path to Watergate Bay. This is one of my favourite coastal walks in Cornwall!

You’ll pass by beautiful Mediterranean-looking beaches with turquoise water.

However, this is a four-hour walk from Newquay – so I’d actually recommend that you just walk to Watergate Bay, then take the bus back and visit Bedruthan Steps on your way to Padstow.

Once you reach Watergate Bay, you can take the 56 bus back to Newquay. 

Bedruthan Steps

bedruthan steps in North Cornwall

If you carried on walking further, you’d get to the famous Bedruthan Steps which are rocky outcrops jutting from the coastline. 

This is a National Trust site and one of the most photographed spots in Cornwall! 

It’s so tropical-looking that you won’t believe this is the United Kingdom.

However, as they are about a four-hour walk from Newquay, I’d recommend instead taking the bus back to Watergate Bay and then stopping by Bedruthan Steps en route to Padstow.

Padstow for lunch

Aerial view of Padstow in Cornwall, UK

Next, it’s time to bundle in your car and head to Padstow!

Known by most people as the gastronomical capital of Cornwall, this harbour town is home to the likes of Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth, with restaurants in both of their names.

There are lots of things to do in Padstow, but eating is definitely one of the best!

I’ve eaten at Paul Ainsworth’s Italian before and for the prices to be decent for Padstow.

Or, if you want to splash out, check out Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant.

Or, if you want a takeaway option, grab some fish and chips (either at Rick Stein’s restaurant or at the much cheaper Chip Ahoy.

Pop into Port Isaac 

Epic view of Port Isaac village in Cornwall, South West England

Once you’re well-fed, I’d recommend getting back in the car for a Cornwall favourite – and a must if you’re a fan of Doc Martin!

Port Isaac is the setting of the fictional village, Portwenn, which is where the series Doc Martin is set. 

Park at the car park above the town and head downhill into the adorable village, which is lined with fisherman’s cottages and scenes that you’ll recognise from the show. 

You can even do a Doc Martin tour that’s all about the scenes from the show and also details some historical information about the village.

Don’t miss the charming cobblestone harbour with boats gently bobbing around! 

You can see my blog post for all the things not to miss when you’re in Port Isaac.

Explore Boscastle and Tintagel 

Boscastle, Cornwall, UK - August 10, 2012: Fishing boats in Boscastle Harbour, Cornwall UK

Two other towns that sit along the northern coastline of Cornwall are Boscastle and Tintagel. It’s well worth exploring either one (or both!) of them.

Boscastle is a National Trust-owned town that’s renowned for its natural harbour.

With cliffs towering on either side and a picturesque stream running through the middle, there’s plenty to see here; although if you don’t have much time, you can definitely park up and explore the highlights in an hour. 

You can actually walk from Boscastle to Tintagel; it’s a popular 5.5 mile route that’s part of the South West Coastal Path.

It’s one of my favourite segments of the 630-mile route, encompassing some of the best beaches in Cornwall!

Of course, you can drive between the towns too!

Tintagel, Cornwall, UK: April 14, 2016: A view of the main entrance to Tintagel Castle in the valley and Hotel Camelot on the cliff. There is a beach cafe, visitors centre, public facilities and the booking desk and the entrance. The castle is maintained by English Heritage who are also responsible for Stonehenge and many other ancient sites across England.

There are quite a lot of things to do in Tintagel, but most tourists visit for Tintagel Castle.

Standing on top of a rocky outcrop, this is one of the best historic castles in Cornwall, although it’s not much more than a ruin. It is famous for its connection to the legend of King Arthur and Merlin. 

It’s an English Heritage site, and you can either explore the castle or just see the surroundings. 

Drive inland to Jamaica Inn 

Outside of Jamaica Inn, the sign and stone pub is in the shot. The sunset is in the background and there's a cobblestone courtyard.

While many people visit Cornwall and only spend time at the beaches, I think that it’s a shame not to see some of the moorlands. 

Bodmin Moor is a wild and foreboding place, full of myths and legends, and it’s partially because of this moor that Cornwall stayed isolated throughout the years, allowing the Cornish language to stay commonplace until the 17th century and Cornish culture to always be very unique. 

Plus, the moor is dotted with interesting natural attractions like Cheesewring and natural features like Golitha Falls.

It’s also home to Brown Willy, Cornwall’s highest peak. 

In the middle of Bodmin Moor sits Jamaica Inn.

Jamaica Room old fashioned room

A coaching house turned boutique hotel, this inn is where Daphne Du Maurier once stayed and was inspired to write her bestselling book with the same name. 

The inn was a smuggling house, but the exact events of Du Maurier’s book didn’t happen here – although you can definitely imagine similar! 

Nowadays, there isn’t any smuggling going on at Jamaica Inn, and you’re guaranteed a warm welcome when you stay here for the night!

The rooms have been refurbished to perfection and the welcoming restaurant downstairs has plenty of dishes on offer for all tastes! 

Click here to read more about Jamaica Inn.

Moor walk in the morning

Views of Bodmin Moor from Jamaica Inn

Wake up on the moors the next morning, and head out to explore some more!

You can easily walk to Colliford Lake from Jamaica Inn – it involves traversing across the moor, so only walk if it’s clear, and bring an O.S. map so you know where you are.

It’s around two miles from the inn to the lake.

You’ll have the chance to take in some mesmerising views of Bodmin’s tors from here too!

Is it raining on your Sunday in Cornwall?

Bodmin Jail cell block near Bodmin in Cornwall

If the weather isn’t too kind while you’re in Cornwall, a good alternative is the Bodmin Jail tour which is probably the best attraction in Bodmin town centre.

This was one of the most famous jails in the Victorian period and it has been refurbished to tell the tale of crime and punishment in the 19th century and earlier.

You can see all of the best things to do in Bodmin here.

Drive to and explore Fowey

South West Coast Path to Fowey

From Bodmin Moor, it’s an easy drive to Fowey.

This is one of my favourite coastal towns in South Cornwall. With a Medieval past, there’s plenty of gorgeous architecture to admire, plus if it’s sunny you can take a lovely boat trip or even try out some watersports. 

Readymoney Cove, Fowey’s main beach, is one of my favourites in Cornwall and if you’re lucky enough to catch some sun while you’re in the far west, sit here a while and soak up some rays! 

Click here to see more attractions in Fowey.

See some of South Cornwall’s best attractions

St Austell, Cornwall, United Kingdom: April 13, 2016: View of the biomes at the Eden Project. Inside the biomes, plants from many diverse climates and environments have been collected and are displayed to visitors. The Eden Project is located in a reclaimed Kaolinite pit, located about 5 kilometres from the town of St Austell, Cornwall in England.

If you have some time, a few of South Cornwall’s best attractions are near Fowey, including:

  • The Eden Project: This all-weather attraction near Par and St Austell consists of two biomes, one of which is full of rainforest flora, and another with plants from the Mediterranean.
  • Lost Gardens of Heligan: Quite literally “lost gardens”, this area used to be part of the majestic Heligan estate and was lost after WW1, then rediscovered and made into a tourist attraction about 30 years ago.
Lost Gardens of Heligan

If you’re extending your stay into a long weekend and are looking for somewhere to stay in the area, Trenython Manor Hotel and Spa is about a 10-minute drive from Fowey and has gorgeous, well-appointed rooms and spa facilities.

They serve a tasty breakfast every morning and have a gorgeous terrace where you can look out over views of Par.

Head back east!

Your Cornwall trip over, head back over the River Tamar to Devon and the rest of England.

River Tamar Horsebridge Sign

I’d recommend leaving Cornwall as late as possible in the evening – not only does this maximise your time spent in the beautiful region, but it also means you’re less likely to run into traffic.

Can you do this Cornwall itinerary with no car?

I wouldn’t recommend taking this weekend Cornish itinerary if you are relying on public transport.

Cornwall does have trains and buses (and even some ferries crossing its rivers!), but not all places I mention on this list are feasible to visit without a car.

For example, Tintagel and Bude are connected by bus, but they have an up to two-hour wait between them.

Or to get from Tintagel to Port Isaac, you’ll need to change buses in Wadebridge with a total journey time of two hours – which is crazy when you consider that it’s only a 20-minute drive between the two towns – even on Cornwall’s notoriously narrow roads!

National Express coaches also drive into Cornwall, but this takes a looooong time. As in, 10 hours with no delays! So I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking the coach for a weekend getaway.

Cornwall itinerary with no car

If you don’t have a car, but really want to spend a weekend in Cornwall, here’s a quick itinerary that I recommend.

  1. Take the train from London, Reading, Taunton, Exeter or Plymouth to Par (check out my GWR first-class review).
  2. Change to the regional train from Par to Newquay.
  3. Stay in Newquay – either at the Headland Hotel and Spa or another of Newquay’s best hotels.
  4. Check out the best attractions in Newquay.
  5. You can also walk along the coast path to either Watergate Bay or Perranporth via Holywell Bay.
  6. Take the Atlantic Coaster bus (which runs in the summer months) to Padstow and explore this town too.
  7. Take the train back to Par and return home!

What to pack for your weekend in Cornwall

Holywell Bay Beach, best beaches in Newquay

Don’t forget these items when you’re packing for your trip to Cornwall!

  • a swimsuit if you’re visiting during summer
  • a rain jacket – rain is always a possibility
  • hiking boots as this itinerary includes quite a lot of walking
  • thick hiking socks and other hiking gear
  • dressy clothes for dinners, although no places in Cornwall are that dressy
  • a water bottle to avoid plastic pollution – I love my chilly’s bottle

Driving in Cornwall

Welcome to Cornwall sign

One thing to bear in mind when planning your weekend trip to Cornwall is that the roads are very rural, quite narrow and windy, often with high bushes on either side.

This can be quite overwhelming if you aren’t used to driving on these roads.

I learned to drive in London and found them really overwhelming at first, but I’m used to them now!

Just take it steady, don’t feel a need to drive at the speed limit if you don’t feel comfortable.

When is the best time to visit Cornwall?

The picturesque coastal town of Looe Cornwall England UK Europe

The best time to visit Cornwall is the warmer months of the year, when you can sit outside and enjoy the beaches and it’s good weather for coastal and moorland walks!

However, I’d generally advise against visiting Cornwall in July and August. This is the busiest time of the year, when schools in Britain are on holiday and the country roads can be jam-packed with cars!

Instead, I’d recommend visiting Cornwall in early May (the last week of May is half term which can be busy too), June or September.

The weather is generally still warm and in May and June, the days are very long.

Or, visit in April (outside of the Easter holidays) or October for mildish weather (although this is never guaranteed!) and far fewer tourists!

Tintagel bay near Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, United Kingdom, UK. British west landscape coastline, shore for summer holidays. Cornish summer destination with green rocky cliffs, Atlantic Ocean.

This weekend in Cornwall itinerary is a great way to see the best of the region! As I mentioned, I’d recommend spending longer in Cornwall if possible, but this itinerary packs in a lot if you only have a weekend to spare.

Check out my road trip itinerary that covers all of Cornwall if you’re interested in exploring the whole region!

With attractions like the Eden Project, Newquay’s beaches and Bodmin Moor, it’s an action-packed two day itinerary, but you’re guaranteed a great weekend!

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