Location guide: Cornwall
Your complete regional guide to Cornwall starts here:
A bay for every day – the best of the beaches
- Cornish delights – must-see attractions
- Perfect places – our pick of the towns to visit
- A taste of Cornwall – where to eat, drink and be merry
Without a doubt, Cornwall has it all. Golden beaches stretching on for miles, sub-tropical gardens, giant cliffs, pretty fishing villages, and it is steeped in myth and legend. Cornwall is rugged and refined, beautiful, wild and inspirational. The ideal place to spend some time, or all of your time.
Cornwall is renowned for its stunning beaches, so if you decide to make this county your home, or home from home, you’ll have a different bay you can visit every day (well, almost).
Harlyn Bay – a wide and spacious beach of sand and pebbles with rock pools backed by dunes, just west of Padstow. The crescent bay is popular with surfers and surf schools run sessions from the beach. Dogs are allowed all year.
Mother Ivey’s Bay – sheltered by the Merope Rocks, this soft-sand bay is in a stunning location. Dogs are welcome.
Widemouth Bay – just three miles south of Bude, and accessible from the South West Coast Path, this is a long bay popular with families and surfers. There are car parks at both ends of the bay and dogs are welcome on the southern section.
Watergate Bay – about three miles from Newquay this beach is away from the hustle and bustle of surf’s capital and has two miles of golden sand. There are two beach car parks and several access paths. The bay is also a popular surfing area. This is one beach with a lot of facilities nearby including toilets, cafés and restaurants.
Treyarnon Bay – a sandy beach surrounded by low cliffs and backed by sand dunes. Lifeguards are on duty during peak season and there is a car park. You can walk from this bay to neighbouring Constantine Bay. Treyarnon is one of the most popular beaches in the area due to its soft sands and low waters.
Constantine Bay – a dog-friendly beach with rock pools to the left and sand dunes to the right and you can walk along the headland here. At low tide you can walk to nearby Booby’s Bay. Constantine is best reached by walking the coast path (10 minutes) from the car park at Treyarnon Bay.
Carbis Bay – one mile east from St Ives, the sea here is perfect for swimming as there is rarely any surf. A short walk on the east side of the beach at low tide leads to Porthkidney sands where there is an RSPB bird sanctuary.
St Ives Bay – for views across the water to Godrevy Lighthouse, head to St Ives Bay beaches, which actually extends some four miles across. With golden sands and areas backed by dunes, this is a popular beach area and with plenty of space.
Must-see attractions and places to keep everyone entertained, whether you’re on holiday in Cornwall or a permanent resident.
As the most southerly part of the British mainland, the Lizard Peninsula is a sight to behold – white beaches, blue seas and a wildlife haven. The combination of a mild climate and unique geology means rare and unusual plants can be seen here.
There are plenty of walks of varying lengths around the Lizard including one to Kynance Cove along the South West Coast Path. There are cafés at Lizard Point to pick up refreshments before your walk, or to simply enjoy a cuppa and the stunning views.
At the tip of the Lizard Peninsula you’ll find the tourist fragments of a very old industry: Serpentine rock. Once plentiful, this is rock which is found nowhere else in Britain. It’s made into jewellery – pendants and bracelets, and these items can be bought in the village of Lizard.
Steeped in history and legend, Tintagel Castle is both majestic and magical. Linked with the legend of King Arthur, this castle occupies a dramatic location on a cliff edge on the Cornwall coast. As well as amid the castle ruins, you can relax on the beach below and explore Merlin’s Cave when the tide is out.
There are 148 steps to climb onto the ‘island’ before you pass through the wooden door into the castle. There are fantastic coastal views to behold as you wander the island paths.
Lost for most of the 20th century, these extraordinary botanical gardens were originally developed over a couple of hundred years to surround the ancestral seat of the Tremayne family near Mevagissey, but were abandoned and forgotten when the First World War broke out.
Only after the great storm of 1990 were they rediscovered and a huge restoration project embarked upon. Today, the gardens are a major tourist attraction, with 200 of the thousand acres open for exploration. These include a Victorian productive garden with the only remaining pineapple pit in Europe, the pleasure grounds, a sub-tropical jungle, and the modern wildlife project area.
This mighty fortress, built by Henry VIII to defend the country against invasion, sits on a headland near Falmouth. Inside the museum is a restored Royal Garrison Artillery Barracks and First World War Guardhouse, all supported with interactive displays.
This place will transport you through history from Tudor times right through both World Wars to discover what life as a garrison soldier was really like. Witness a Tudor gun deck in action in the castle keep, and climb up to the roof for panoramic views.
Children will love descending through the castle’s tunnels and you can walk around the ramparts down to the water’s edge.
Considered by some as the eighth Wonder of the World, the Eden Project hosts tropical biomes housing a global garden unlike any other. The attraction nestles in a crater the size of 30 football pitches! In the Rainforest Biome you can experience the sights and smells of the rainforests, and be transported to places including South Africa and California.
Accessible on foot via a tidal causeway or on a short boat trip, St Michael’s Mount is a rocky island off the Cornish coast, with a medieval church and castle. The home of the St Aubyn family, the island is also a community of around 30 residents.
One of Cornwall’s famous attractions, you can scale the castle turrets to enjoy fantastic views or marvel at the subtropical terraced gardens that grow happily on the steep granite cliff face.
A hidden gem among Cornwall’s many popular attractions, St Nectan’s Glen is like something out of a fairy tale. A beautiful woodland walk reveals three wonderful waterfalls including a spectacular 60-foot waterfall crashing through a hole in the rocks.
The glen is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rare specimens of plants here and there is plenty of wildlife to watch for. The place has an air of mysticism and, for some, is a sacred place.
The Isles of Scilly lie just off the coast of Cornwall and have a quieter, more laid-back appeal. Made up of a cluster of islands, the main ones are St Mary’s, St Martin’s and Tresco. The latter is home to 17 acres of sub-tropical gardens.
Established in the 1830s, this horticultural masterpiece hosts a collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants from all over the world, many of which cannot be grown anywhere else in Britain, but thrive on Tresco due to the favourable climate.
Pretty towns and villages are some of the things that make Cornwall so special. Here’s a selection of our favourites for shopping, scenery, and spending quality time
A beautiful sandy bay, boat trips to see the seals – and it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will – plenty of restaurants, and a lively tourist atmosphere – there’s a reason why St Ives is rated among Cornwall’s top attractions. It’s long been established as an artists’ colony. There’s a reason for that, too. Not just that this region offers painting inspiration galore. It’s also the light – it’s compared to the pure, vivid light you find in Greece.
An attractive town squeezed into a twisting valley with steep sides.
Pretty cottages cling to the hillsides around the small harbour of this unspoilt fishing port. Since most of Polperro’s roads are little wider than footpaths, cars are prohibited in the daytime from April to September and people are advised to use the car park on the edge of the town.
Visitors can wander through the streets, browse the shops and artisans, and be enchanted by the jumble of fishermen’s cottages in this peaceful cove.
A lively town with a vast choice of restaurants and pubs – and great shopping opportunities too. Make for Saltrock and Seasalt for Cornish clothing at tempting prices.
Go for the Musto shop on Discovery Quay if money’s no limit; this is a place to get the best in technical outdoor garments and also some very stylish outdoor gear. While you’re at Discovery Quay, maybe treat yourself to fine wines and speciality beers at The Bottle Bank.
And then get lunch or coffee at one of the restaurants on the quay; outdoor and indoor tables create a lively atmosphere here.
The only city in Cornwall, filled with character, and with a spectacular cathedral. Great for shopping. Check out markets that are regularly held on Lemon Quay – all sorts of markets including an indoor pannier market and a selection of food, jewellery, crafts and homewares outlets.
Picture a typical Cornish fishing village and Cadgwith could be it. Clusters of thatched cottages line the sides of the valley and a small fleet of fishing boats is hauled up on the stony beach.
Cadgwith Cove Inn is renowned for its singing of Cornish songs on a Friday night. Cadgwith is traditional Cornwall at its best.
A quaint and charming fishing village between Penzance and Land’s End on the south coast of Cornwall. Full of old-world charm, the narrow streets are lined with small shops, galleries and restaurants.
Over recent years Port Isaac has grown in popularity due to it being the filming location for the ITV television series Doc Martin, starring Martin Clunes. This attractive fishing village has narrow winding streets lined with white-washed cottages and traditional granite and slate-fronted houses.
Port Isaac has a shingle beach and scenic boat trips can be taken from the harbour in the summer months. As at Polperro, visitors are advised to park in the car park on the village outskirts and walk down, as the narrow streets can be awkward to drive through.
Looe Island is a marine nature reserve with a variety of habitats including woodland, grassland, sand, rocky reef and of course the waters surrounding it. Access to the island is from pre-booked passenger boat only that runs annually from Easter until the end of September, from the port of Looe.
The town spans both sides of the river, joined by a bridge. East Looe is home to the harbour and shopping area, while West Looe is quieter.
From the harbour quay you can watch the fishing boats come in to unload their catch.
Some of Britain’s best places to eat, drink and enjoy evenings out are Cornwall. We pick a few of them
For catch of the day – Rick Stein
English chef, restaurateur and television presenter Rick Stein owns four restaurants in Padstow - The Seafood Restaurant, Rick Stein’s Café, Stein’s Fish & Chips and St Petroc’s Bistro. There’s an obvious seafood theme, making the most of the region’s daily catch, but there are also meat dishes, plus risottos, salads, cakes and coffee.
The café offers light lunches in a relaxed, family-friendly venue. The restaurant is the option for evening dining, with imaginative cooking. Don’t have time to stop for a meal? Then treat yourself to an upmarket takeaway from Stein’s Fish & Chips!
While enjoying the pretty town and port of Padstow, why not visit the other four outposts of Stein’s seafood empire – his Deli, Patisserie, Fisheries and Gift Shop. Here you can stock up on all things Rick, ready to cook up some masterpieces of your own.
For a culinary treat – Hotel Tresanton
Set above the village of St Mawes, Hotel Tresanton is owned by Olga Polizzi, mother of TV presenter Alex Polizzi. It’s a famous place, offering lunch, dinner and afternoon teas.
For delicious cakes – Café Chandlers
Also in St Mawes and the place for a light bite and home-made cakes.
For some of the finest seafood – The Shack
A rustic shellfish bar in Events Square, Falmouth. The idea of this venue is simple: sociable food and a fun approach to shellfish. There’s something for everyone here, from shellfish, fish of the day, steak, vegetarian options and there’s a children’s menu.
For a choice of locations – Sam’s Cornwall
With locations throughout Cornwall, Sam’s is a household name in this county. Head to Truro for Sam’s in the City, a restaurant and lounge. In Fowey there’s Sam’s restaurant and cocktail bar, and Sam’s Diner and Takeaway is in St Austell.
And, last but not least, with probably with the best view of them all, is Sam’s on the Beach at Polkerris. The building was once a lifeboat station and the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows allows you to enjoy the beauty of the harbour.
For food with a view – Lewinnick Lodge
It’s not just the view that takes your breath away at Lewinnick Lodge.
As well as stunning views over the Pentire headland to Newquay, the food here is simply sublime. Enjoy a drink on the edge of the Atlantic from the cliff top terrace and then dine in the contemporary restaurant or dog-friendly bar.
For a performance you’ll remember – Minack Theatre
After all that food, why not enjoy a theatrical performance in one of the most stunning and dramatic locations possible?
Perched on the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, this world-famous open-air theatre runs a full programme of drama, musicals and opera every summer, along with comedy and story-telling. You can also visit the theatre just for a look around and for some cake in the café, but only when there are no performances or rehearsals.
Now you’ve seen where to go, what to eat and what to see in Cornwall, why not look at holiday park reviews here?