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65 Best things to see & do in Cornwall

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 07 July, 2024
  • St. Austell, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Eden Project

Bucket List Experience

Eden Project

The Eden Project has transformed an old china clay pit into a spectacular global garden.

Gigantic ‘biomes’ – futuristic conservatories, one of which is the largest conservatory in the world – house different climatic zones (tropical, Mediterranean, temperate), which work in tandem to explain the evolution of Man’s relationship with plants.

Constructed from hexagonal panels that clip together like a giant Meccano set, the vast and remarkable biomes are entirely self-supporting (with no internal supports) and built using a thermoplastic that repels dirt and helps maintain a consistent environment within.

There’s also specially commissioned art, summer concerts, winter ice-skating and – the latest addition – England’s longest zip wire, with remarkable views across the whole complex.

Adult price: £33

Good for age: 4+

  • United Kingdom (UK)

Southwest Coastal Path

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Southwest Coastal Path

This superb 360-mile walking route – between Minehead in Somerset and Poole in Dorset, and incorporating the entire coastlines of Cornwall and Devon – takes in some of Britain’s most dramatic and unspoilt coastline: from craggy cliffs to golden beaches, hidden coves to secret caves. Throw in a smattering of heritage – from castles to tin mines, smugglers legends to U-boat bases – and picturesque villages for refuelling, and you’ve got the most outstanding long-distance walk in Britain.

The South West Coast Path website divides the path into shorter and one-day sections. It also offers themed walks aligned to specific interests: heritage, geology, wildlife and culture. The area has a rich smuggling history, leaving a fascinating legacy of tales and legends. Treasure Trails has specially-designed smuggler-themed treasure trails for families to follow that you can download (for a small fee). Several are on the South West Coast Path.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1 day - 6 weeks

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

side angle of a newly cooked traditional Cornish Pasty

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Cornwall’s best food & drink

Cornwall is renowned for fresh and locally sourced food – attracting foodies from the world over.

Ingredients and flavours are strongly influenced by its coastal location and farming heritage. The region is especially known for outstanding seafood, with dishes such as fish and chips, crab sandwiches, and Cornish pasties being popular staples. It’s home to several artisanal cheese makers, producing award-winning cheeses such as Cornish Blue and Yarg, and produces the world’s best clotted cream.

In terms of drinks, Cornwall is known for its brewing and distilling industries, with a number of exceptional local distilleries producing award-winning spirits, beers and ales. The region also boasts a burgeoning wine industry, notably for award-winning still and sparkling wines, and excellent cideries.

Cooking styles vary from simple to exotic and environments from casual to smart, although the emphasis is on excellent produce, simply cooked, and served in a laid-back beach café or gastropub.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

With dramatic land- and seascapes, a clement climate and an endearing legacy of legend and folklore, Cornwall is a destination made for exploration on foot or two wheels. The opening of the Cornish Way in 2000 – a superb 180-mile trail between Land’s End and Bude – has made that both possible and wonderfully simple.

There are six trails as follows: the Mineral Tramways, The Camel Trail, the Coast-to-Clay Trail, the First and Last Trail, the Engine House Trail, the North Cornwall Trail, and the St Piran Trail.

Each is worthy in its own right, but if you want to cover the whole route, the Way officially starts in Bude and finishes at Land’s End. (Note, the route splits at Truro, with one fork heading north via Padstow, and the other heading south via St Austell, before joining again at Bodmin). Unless you’re an avid hiker or cyclist coming for a cycling or walking holiday, you’ll probably only get time for one or maybe two trails.

For a hiking experience, however, choose the most challenging of the six legs – the Coast and Clay Trail, between Truro and Bodmin via St Austell. For heritage, pick the Engine House Trail, littered with old foundries and 19th-century engine houses.

Pick one of six interlinking trails, or tackle the whole route, exploring unspoilt Cornish countryside, stopping in at picturesque villages and discovering Cornwall’s pioneering industrial heritage.

 

Good for age: 13+

Duration: -

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

St Michael's Mount in Cornwall the Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy

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St Michael’s Mount

This spellbinding tidal island is famous for being connected to the mainland by an ancient causeway ­– a raised cobbled walkway on the sea bed – that’s covered by water at high tide, cutting off the island.

The island itself is home to a spectacular castle and a small village. The castle’s history dates back to the 12th century when it was built as a monastery by Benedictine monks. Over the years, it has served as a place of pilgrimage, a fortress, and a stately home.

Visitors can wander the streets, explore the castle and its gardens, and soak up the views, and of course, walk across the famous causeway.

Adult price: £26

Good for age: 13+

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Coasteering in Cornwall

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Coasteering in Cornwall

Coasteering is the ‘sport’ of clambering and climbing over coastline, be it climbing cliffs, jumping off cliffs into the sea, clambering through canyons, running on beaches, or swimming in channels; Cornwall and Devon – with clement weather, clean seas, craggy cliffs and golden beaches – happen to be the best places in Britain to do it.

It’s not just for iron men and women – there are of course different levels suited to different physical abilities and ages (including kids), but you need a basic level of fitness and swimming ability. It’s physically challenging, and the water is (always) cold, but it’s a thrilling, rewarding way to explore the picturesque southwest coastline.

Active, adventurous kids will love coasteering, but most operators recommend over-10s only.

Adult price: £50

Min age 10

Good for age: 10+

Duration: 2-3 hours

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Surfing in Cornwall

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Surfing in Cornwall

Receiving the biggest swells in the UK and offering year-round, reliable waves at postcard-perfect golden beaches, the north and west coasts of Cornwall offers the best surfing in the UK.

While Newquay is the undisputed surf central, with some of the best beaches and a lively surfing community, there are numerous others (less crowded) options, with a slew of good surf schools on hand to offer instruction and equipment for hire for beginners.

Due to its angle to the Atlantic Ocean, the south coast doesn’t get the same swells, and surfing conditions are average at best. Falmouth bay is your best bet, but if possible, stick to the north and west coasts.

Min age 5

Good for age: 5+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Bodmin, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Side view of the black steam locomotive

Bucket List Experience

Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway

Explore the beautiful landscapes Bodmin Moor in vintage style on this beautifully-restored heritage railway. Steam trains chug their way along a 13-mile round trip through woodland and rolling Cornish countryside, passing picturesque villages and alongside the idyllic River Camel. It starts and finishes at the beautiful heritage station of Bodmin General.

The railway was originally part of the Great Western Railway and was closed in the 1960s but was reopened as a heritage railway in the 1980s. It makes for a nostalgic journey that will appeal to all ages, enhanced by charming Victorian stations, vintage signage, and puffs of steam billowing from the engine

Check the events section on the website for special calendar events such as murder mystery evenings and Santa trains. Kids will love it – and go half price.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 2 hours

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Cornwall’s best beaches

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Cornwall’s best beaches

From wide arcs of golden sand and curling surf to secret coves uncovered at low tide, Cornwall’s beaches are heaven-sent for surfing, rock pooling, and building sandcastles. The water is never warm but it’s clear and clean, and the sand can be golden or even white.

The downsides in summer are the crowds and the traffic, but with 476km of coastline, and hundreds of beaches to choose from, you can always escape.

  • St Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Tate St Ives

Bucket List Experience

Tate St Ives

Tate St Ives owes its existence to the St Ives School, centred first around two artists and officers who had survived the Western Front, then Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Leach and co, who turned the West Cornish coastal town into an international centre of the modernist movement.

The exhibitions showcase the work of these artists as well as contemporary artists in residence – and the views from the top-floor café are knockout.

Don’t expect anything with the scope and scale of the Tate galleries in London; this is a tiny gallery by comparison. Check the website in advance to see what exhibitions are on.

Adult price: £11

Good for age: 15+