If you’ve never enjoyed a seaside holiday in England before, you’re in for a treat in Cornwall. Blessed with a gorgeous coastline and breathtakingly beautiful beaches, Cornwall has always retained a distinctive Celtic identity. Recently Cornwall has reinvented itself from a backwater location for mining, fishing, and farming to one of the nation’s most creative and desired vacation destinations. You’re guaranteed to fall in love with this corner of England. Let a little Kernow (what locals call it) into your soul, and you won’t be disappointed. Here are some of the very best things you should see and do on the Cornish coast.
What to see and do in Cornwall, England
1. EMBRACE THE CULINARY SCENE
The food scene in Cornwall is arguably the best in the British Isles. “Cornwall is a great place to live and work if you are a chef,” says Nigel Tabb, chef-patron of Tabb’s in the Cornish town of Truro. “There is now a real chef community here. There is no animosity or anything like that; it’s the sort of place where the Michelin-star guys rub shoulders with chefs at the waterside cafés. We have a laugh, and we organize food festivals. Ultimately, we all want people to enjoy themselves.”
With some of England’s tastiest fish and chip shops (try it with a generous splash of malt vinegar), lots of tearooms, plenty of local pubs, and fine dining all the way to Michelin-starred chefs. You certainly won’t go hungry in Cornwall.
2. LEARN ABOUT THE CORNISH TIN MINES
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, Cornwall’s historic mining areas are integral to Cornish history. If you watched the series Poldark, you would know how vital mining was to Cornwall and how it shaped this corner of England. You can delve deep underground into Wheal Roots, the 18th-century tin mine workings at the Poldark Mine, with educational mine tours that are definitely the coolest of all.
3. SEE ST. MICHAEL’S MOUNT
Very easily confused with France’s Mont Ste. Michel, Cornwall’s St Michael’s Mount also started as an isolated monastery accessible only when the tide is out. Stroll across the causeway as pilgrims have done for centuries. It even has its own legendary giant called Cormoran. How many places can claim that? This historic site should be on your list, if only for its spectacular views.
4. HAVE A BEACHSIDE HOLIDAY
Cornwall is the perfect destination for those wanting to soak up a little sun and sand with a long shoreline and mild climate. The varied beaches are stunningly beautiful. Long, exposed stretches of beach to the north o are excellent for surfing. Sheltered sandy coves of the south coast offer excellent swimming and are great for families. Remote beaches such as Harlyn and Kynance offer the chance to get away from it all and commune with nature. There is a beach for everyone’s taste.
5. ENJOY THE SUNSET AT LAND’S END
Jutting out into the wild Atlantic Ocean, Land’s End, Cornwall is the most southwesterly point of England. Two sections of the Coastal Footpath meet here, where the north coast meets the south coast. Take either direction for spectacular views that stretch beyond the horizon.
6. EXPLORE KYNANCE COVE
Perched on the southernmost tip of England, Kynance Cove on the Lizard peninsula is a stunning beach if you love white sand and turquoise waters. Kynance cove is considered one of the most beautiful beaches globally, and it’s easy to see why. At low tide, you’ll be able to climb down and see the coves and interconnected caves that make this place so dramatic.
7. WALK THE HARTLAND HERITAGE COAST
In the north of Cornwall, bordering Devon is The Hartland Heritage Coast. Often overlooked by travelers, this coast is an Area of Natural Beauty and is a perfect destination for those who love being outdoors. With miles of inspiring clifftop walks, secluded beaches, and marine wildlife, offering ample opportunities to be at one with nature and enjoy this beautiful and diverse landscape.
8. RAMBLE ACROSS BODMIN MOOR
Bodmin Moor is one of the most unspoiled and unique Areas of Natural Beauty in Cornwall. Bodmin Moor is an underrated day out with lots of beautiful places to explore. From scenic hikes along the moor, cascading waterfalls, ancient standing stones, smuggler’s dens, and Arthurian legends – there is something for everyone here.
9. GO SURFING AT GWITHIAN BEACH
Gwithian Beach is one of the best family beaches in Cornwall for activities! With some of the best surfs around and a vast expanse of sand, there is plenty to do here. At low tide, the beach extends for miles and exposes lovely little rock pools perfect for exploring. Try your hand at some surfing (kite surfing, windsurfing, or just riding the waves), or keep an eye out for dolphins and seals frolicking offshore.
10. SPEND AN EVENING AT THE MINACK THEATRE
The Minack is a unique open-air theatre carved into a massive lump of rock in Porthcurno, Cornwall, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Often described as one of the World’s most attractive open-air theaters, performances of all kinds are staged here throughout the summer months. You can wander around to take in the gorgeous views if there is no performance happening. If you want to watch a show, book well in advance – seats fill up very fast!
11. VISIT THE SCILLY ISLES
The Isles of Scilly’s unspoiled tropical paradise is well worth a trip. If the archipelago’s Caribbean-like glistening blue waters were not enough to entice you, miles of walking trails, gorgeous forests, and Britain’s most beautiful white sand beaches will. There are five inhabited islands to explore, all outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded, and unspoiled with all the wildlife you can imagine. The best way to discover the Scillies is to take a morning boat from Cornwall and spend the day island-hopping.
12. EXPLORE TINTAGEL CASTLE AND MERLIN’S CAVE
History and legend are inseparable at Tintagel Castle, and it is one of the most spectacular historic sites in Britain. From the 5th century AD, it was an important stronghold and a residence of the rulers of Cornwall. Then the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth named it the place where King Arthur was conceived, and a legend was born.
Legend also holds that the cave below Tingagel was Merlin’s. It certainly has the right atmosphere where one can imagine seeing Merlin. It’s best to plan your visit accordingly to explore the area as the cave fills with water at high tide. Tintagel Castle is too gorgeous to miss.
13. SPOT THE HURLERS
While Stonehenge is the most famous example, scattered around The British Isles, you will find other standing stone examples.
The Hurlers is the best-preserved stone circle in the southwest of England. There are three circles, and each of them contains between 9 and 24 pillars of granite dating back to 1500BC. Now that’s old! Legend has it they are the remains of men petrified for playing hurling on a Sunday.
14. FIND THE LOST GARDENS OF HELIGAN
Once lost to time, these magnificent botanic gardens were rescued from neglect and restored to health. Today, Heligan’s 200 acres are a paradise for the explorer, wildlife, plant lover, and garden romantic.
15. VISIT THE EDEN PROJECT
Giant biomes looking like a cross between a lunar landing station and a James Bond villain’s lair emerge from the landscape in Cornwall. Once an abandoned claypit, the Eden Project has created the World’s largest indoor rainforest and other climate systems in microcosm, like the olive trees, citrus groves, and colorful flowers of the Mediterranean. Outside, the gardens include local Cornish plants. The Eden Project also explores environmental issues and studies conservation to create a cleaner, greener future for us all. The Eden Project is a tourist attraction that lives up to its hype, and it is well worth visiting.
16. EXPLORE PENDENNIS CASTLE
Situated on a headland with breathtaking views out to sea, Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle between 1540 and 1542 to protect England from invasion by the French or the Holy Roman Empire. It certainly made an imposing fortress. Since then, the castle played a vital role during the two World Wars. Costumed characters guide you through the tunnels and straight into the drama of war in the underground magazines.
17. SAIL THE ROSELAND PENINSULA
Marvel at the unspoiled beauty of the Roseland Peninsula. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for the quality of its landscape and coastal scenery, the rolling farmland, uncrowded beaches, and quaint narrow country lanes winding down to pretty fishing villages take you back to a quieter time.