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Posted 24 Sep, 2022 | No comments
Posted in: Places To Visit, UK

Cornwall is one of the UK’s best-loved holiday destinations thanks to its miles of golden sand beaches, dramatic cliff paths, and tiny fishing villages.

There are many wonderful places to visit in Cornwall such as the westernmost point of mainland Britain and brooding Bodmin Moor, picturesque villages, harbor towns, and sweeping vistas of the North Atlantic.

 

I’ve been visiting Cornwall almost every year since I was born and it remains one of my absolute favorite places to escape to.

Cornwall is famous for its cream teas, (although Devon will try and claim them as their own), Kelly’s Ice Cream, the popular Cornish pasties, and St Austell beer.

One of the best things to do in Cornwall is to sample the local food. Seafood is a Cornish specialty with the likes of lobster, crab, and some of the freshest fish straight from the boat available to try, meaning foodies are in for a real treat in Cornwall.

You’ll find a whole host of Cornwall tourist attractions, beaches, stunning scenery, and quaint seaside towns in the guide below.

I’ve personally visited every one of these places of interest in Cornwall, many on more than one occasion, so I can’t wait to share my experiences with you in this post.

20 Best Places To Visit in Cornwall

Below are my top picks for the best places to visit in Cornwall. I’ve also included an interactive map so you can see where each place is situated and so that you can better plan your trip to this beautiful region in the UK.

interactive map of an itinerary for the 20 best things to do in Cornwall

1. Newquay

Newquay is the UK’s foremost surfing destination and is a hot summer getaway for many. This resort town comes alive during the summer months when people head to the town’s beaches, bars, and nightclubs.

The beaches at Newquay are some of the best in the country with miles of golden sand and clear, blue waters. Fistral Beach is one of the most popular and is a great place to sunbathe, swim, surf, and bodyboard.

Over looking beach in Newquay, England.

Location: Newquay is located on the north Cornish coast in the southwest of England.

Getting There: There are daily buses and trains to Newquay from London. Trains require one change in Exeter. The journey time is between six to eight hours.

Things To Do: Swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, walking, partying.

Where to Stay: The town is relatively small so wherever you stay in Newquay will be convenient and close to the main attractions. This self-catering guesthouse is the perfect space for two guests.

Don’t miss our article on the best things to do in Newquay and this post about the top rainy day activities in Newquay.

2. Fistral Bay Beach

Fistral Beach is one of the top surfing beaches in Europe thanks to the North Atlantic swells that hit this stretch of coastline. The half-mile-long stretch of golden sand is backed by sweeping dunes and imposing cliffs.

Fistral is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for those that want to catch a few waves and there are plenty of surf schools and lessons for those of all ages and abilities. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards from Easter to October so is perfect for families too.

Location: Fistral Beach is located about a mile west of Newquay.

Getting There: The beach is within walking distance from the town of Newquay, which itself is well connected to the rest of the UK by road and rail.

Things To Do: Surfing, body boarding, sunbathing, walking.

Where to Stay: This two-bedroom apartment overlooks Fistral Bay and is just a few minutes’ walk away from the beach.

☞ SEE ALSO: 15 Traditional Foods to Try in London

3. Padstow

Padstow is a quaint harbor town on the Camel Estuary in North Cornwall. The town is colloquially known as “Padstein” as it’s home to three seafood restaurants by celebrity chef Rick Stein.

The harbor is surrounded by rustic, stone-bricked buildings and many fine pubs such as my favorite The Shipwrights. The town is packed with independent shops, artisan food stalls, and buildings dating back centuries.

Padstow in Cornwall on a bright and sunny day.

Location: Padstow is on the North Cornish coast at the mouth of River Camel Estuary.

Getting There: Padstow is easily reachable from London by car, coach, and train.

Things To Do: Shopping, fine dining, walking, boat trips.

Where to Stay: Padstow is a small town and there are lots of accommodation options close to the center. This private room is located right in the middle of Padstow.

For more about this harbor town, have a look at our post: 15 Top Things To Do in Padstow

4. Land’s End

Land’s End marks the westernmost point on the mainland of the British Isles. This rocky outcrop stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean is one of the country’s most famed landmarks and one of the best Cornwall attractions.

There’s plenty to see and do at Land’s End like walking the clifftop paths and appreciating the stunning views, enjoying a coffee at one of many cafes, shopping for local crafts, or exploring the entertainment complex.

Location: Land’s End is the westernmost point of the mainland British Isles and is close to the village of Sennan.

Getting There: Land’s End is easily reachable by car from the A30 and there’s also an open-top tourist bus that starts in Penzance.

Things To Do: Walking, sightseeing, shopping, eating.

Where to Stay: The nearest settlement with accommodation is Sennan. This bed and breakfast is just a 15-minute walk to Land’s End.

5. Bodmin Moor

Bodmin is a large moorland in the eastern part of the county and is one of the top must-see places in Cornwall for its brooding vistas with rolling moors, old stone walls, gorse, and heather.

This sometimes bleak and inhospitable landscape is the perfect place for Bodmin Jail – an old prison that is now part tourist attraction/part hotel.

White Pyramid china clay heaps on Bodmin Moor.

Location: The moor is located in north-eastern Cornwall not far from the border with Devon.

Getting There: There are buses and trains to the town of Bodmin which sits on the edge of the moor.

Things To Do: Walking, hiking, picnics.

Where to Stay: The town of Bodmin makes a perfect base for exploring the moor. This self-contained apartment in a Grade II listed building is right in the town center.

6. Tintagel

Tintagel is famed for its Arthurian legend surrounding the town and nearby castle. It’s allegedly here that the knights of the round table sat. Under the castle is Merlin’s Cave; a cavernous cove that is often cut off by the sea.

The town of Tintagel itself is packed with bookshops, artisan food sellers, and some great pubs such as the aptly named King Arthur’s Arms. Tintagel is a place I go back to time and again, (I was a bit of a King Arthur geek in my teenage years).

Location: Tintagel is on the northwest coast of Cornwall.

Getting There: Tintagel is just off the A39 and reachable by car, bus, and by foot along the South West Coast Path.

Things To Do: Exploring the castle, hiking, sightseeing, eating, and drinking.

Where to Stay: There are plenty of accommodation options in the town, but this quirky cabin overlooking the cliffs is a great option. It’s in an ideal location and is within walking distance of the town and castle.

There are many places to visit in Tintagel. Check out our full article here for details on the best attractions and things to do.

7. Boscastle

Tintagel’s northeasterly neighbor, Boscastle, is also steeped in myth, legend, and folklore. This quaint village with a picturesque harbor is definitely one of the most magical places to visit in Cornwall thanks in part to its famous Museum of Witchcraft.

The village is another favorite of mine and is certainly a contender for one of the prettiest places in Cornwall. Here you’ll find a selection of old stone houses, pubs, and shops to wander around.

Entrance to Boscastle harbour Cornwall, England UK.

Location: Boscastle is in Northwest Cornwall.

Getting There: As with Tintagel, the town is easily reachable by car and bus from the A39.

Things To Do: Sightseeing, walking, eating.

Where to Stay: There are plenty of accommodation options in and around the village. This beautiful cottage sits adjacent to a farmhouse and open fields and accommodates up to four guests.

8. Truro

Truro is the only city in Cornwall, and is also the county’s town so is definitely worth a visit. However, don’t think that it will be anything like London, as Truro is one of the smallest cities in the country.

That being said there’s still plenty to see and do here. Visit the charming cathedral, wander around the small selection of small shops, or relax in one of a few cafes, restaurants, or pubs.

Location: Truro is located in the middle of the Cornish peninsula.

Getting There: The city is easily reachable from the rest of the UK by car, bus, and train.

Things To Do: Sightseeing, walking, shopping, eating, and drinking.

Where to Stay: As the city is so small, staying anywhere in Truro is convenient. This cute small home is a ten-minute walk from the center and the hosts provide everything you’ll need for an easy and enjoyable stay.

Truro may be small, but there are still many top attractions for tourists to enjoy! Check out our article about the best things to see and do in Truro.

9. St. Kew

The tiny village of St. Kew is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall. Here you’ll find nothing but a small stream, a 15th-century church, a couple of stone houses, and a rustic old pub with an open fireplace called The St Kew Inn which I’ve been visiting since I can remember.

The magical 12th century St. Enodoc Chrurch in St. Kew, Cornwall.

Having a walk around the village before grabbing a bite to eat and a pint of Cornish ale in the pub is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in the area.

Location: St Kew is about 5 miles from the town of Wadebridge.

Getting There: You can reach the village by car or bus from nearby Wadebridge.

Things To Do: Sightseeing, walking, eating, and drinking.

Where to Stay: St Kew is a tiny village with few, if any, accommodation options. This room with a garden is just a few miles away in a quiet and quaint location.

10. Polzeath

Polzeath is one of my favorite places in Cornwall and I have many happy childhood memories of swimming and climbing amongst the rock pools on its large beach. Polzeath is one of the best places to go in Cornwall for families as there are miles of beach to play on, and lifeguards present from May to September.

Polzeath Bay Beach is perfect for surfing, bodyboarding, and swimming, with separate sections for each. There are some wonderful coastal walks, and a great selection of cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Location: Polzeath is on the north Cornwall coast close to the towns of Padstow and Wadebridge.

Getting There: Polzeath is reachable by car or bus from nearby Wadebridge.

Things To Do: Swimming, surfing, exploring rock pools, walking, hiking.

Where to Stay: New Polzeath is the area up on the cliffs above the beach and is a great place to stay. This two-bedroom rental unit is a short walk from the beach and village.

11. Port Isaac

The harbor village of Port Isaac is one of the top places to visit in Cornwall and has been made famous by the hugely popular ITV television series Doc Martin. Port Isaac is another of my favorite places to go in Cornwall thanks to its picturesque harbor, excellent pubs and restaurants, and the best Cornish pasties in the country, (in my opinion).

A scenic view at Port Isaac in Cornwall.

The village winds its way up the cliffs along cobbled streets overlooking the harbor and coastline. There’s a small lifeboat station that you can visit and a fish market where you can watch the day’s catch being brought in and sold. If you’re after the freshest seafood, then this is the place for you.

Location: Port Isaac is on the north Cornwall coast between Padstow and Tintagel.

Getting There: The easiest way to get to Port Isaac is to drive. There are also semi-regular buses from Wadebridge.

Things To Do: Sightseeing, eating, drinking, walking

Where to Stay: Port Isaac is small, so anywhere is going to be within walking distance of the shops, pubs, and the harbor. This two-bedroom former lobster pot store is a great option.

12. Port Quin

Port Quin is a tiny former settlement not far from Port Isaac – it’s an easy and beautiful hike along the coastal path between the two. Here you’ll find some abandoned fishermen’s homes that are overgrown with ivy. The deserted homes form a great backdrop for selfies!

There’s a small harbor and Port Quin is a popular starting point for kayaking trips along the coast. The village is also a stop on the southwest coast path.

Location: Port Quin is on the north Cornish coast around 3 miles west of Port Isaac.

Getting There: The village is reachable by car, (there’s a small car park), on foot, or by kayak.

Things To Do: Sightseeing, walking, hiking, kayaking.

Where to Stay: Port Isaac is the nearest small town. This fisherman’s cottage is a great option that offers beautiful views with glimpses of the sea.

13. St. Austell

St Austell is famed as the home of the St Austell Brewery, Cornwall’s top beer maker. Try their Tribute, which you can get across the country – it’s one of my favorite ales.

Early morning light, Cornish engine house in St. Austell, Cornwall.

The town is located a little inland a couple of miles from beautiful St Austell Bay. There are some great beaches around the area such as Crinnis beach which I particularly recommend for families. It’s also a great base for exploring the nearby Eden Project.

Location: St Austell is located on the south coast of Cornwall at the mouth of St Austell Bay.

Getting There: The town is easily reachable from the rest of the UK by car, bus, and train.

Things To Do: Eating, drinking, shopping, walking, swimming.

Where to Stay: There are plenty of accommodation options in the town. This private room close to where some of the film “Poldark” was filmed, is half a mile from the bus and railway station.

14. St Ives

The charming resort town of St Ives is not only known for its excellent blue-flag beaches, (meaning they’ve been rated for being exceptionally clean), but it also has a thriving art scene and even a sister gallery to London’s Tate Gallery and Tate Modern.

St Ives is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for couples as there’s plenty to do such as exploring the art scene, lounging on the beach, and enjoying some great restaurants in the evening. Cellar Bistro is the perfect spot for a romantic, candlelit dinner.

Location: St Ives is in the far southwest of Cornwall not far from Land’s End.

Getting There: The town is accessible from the main A30 road and also has bus and train connections to the rest of the UK.

Things To Do: Sightseeing, galleries, walking, eating, swimming, surfing.

Where to Stay: As the town is small, most places are within walking distance of the beaches and center. This private room is a ten-minute walk from the station and is perfect for a couple visiting St Ives.

15. Penzance

Penzance is the most westerly town in Cornwall and is famous for once being home to many pirates and smugglers, (as satirized in the comic opera Pirates of Penzance). Penzance is one of the best towns to visit in Cornwall thanks to its large harbor and great location on the south coast.

A stunning coastal view of Penzance, Cornwall.

There’s plenty to do in and around the town from visiting the artisan shops and restaurants to checking out the nearby Minack Theatre or taking a trip to Land’s End. See the full post: 20 Best Things To Do in Penzance.

Location: Penzance is close to the southern tip of the Cornish peninsula.

Getting There: Penzance is easily reachable by car, bus, and train.

Things To Do: sightseeing, walking, eating, drinking, shopping.

Where to Stay: This private room is centrally located and just around the corner from shops, restaurants, and galleries.

16. Falmouth

Falmouth is one of the best towns to visit in Cornwall for its stunning natural harbor, pristine beaches and plenty of shops and dining options.

The town has plenty of things of interest from ruined castles to museums, stately homes, and gardens. The National Maritime Museum is one of the best Cornwall attractions and includes galleries, a boatbuilding workshop, and lots of interesting displays.

Location: Falmouth is on the southern coast of Cornwall.

Getting There: Falmouth has great transport links to the rest of the country with daily trains to London, buses and is easily reachable by car.

Things To Do: sightseeing, shopping, eating, drinking.

Where to Stay: this private room in Falmouth offers fantastic views over the estuary and harbor.

To learn more about visiting Falmouth, see our full post: 15 Best Things To Do in Falmouth

17. Polperro

Stunning Polperro is one of the best places to see in Cornwall for the beautiful stretch of coastline it sits on. This ancient fishing village is lined with old fishermen’s houses surrounding the small harbor with plenty of sandy beaches nearby.

A view from the fishing port of Polperro, Cornwall.

Although small, the village is packed with fun things to do from swimming and kayaking to enjoying traditional fish and chips on the harbor wall. The Three Pilchards is a great traditional Cornish pub and serves the best fish and chips in Cornwall according to Tripadvisor – I can’t help but agree.

Location: Polperro is on the southern Cornish coast.

Getting There: hiring a car is the best way to get to Polperro.

Things To Do: sightseeing, swimming, kayaking, shopping, eating.

Where to Stay: This cosy flat is situated in the heart of the village and is a bright and stylish apartment that can sleep up to four guests.

18. Widemouth Bay

If you’re looking for the perfect beach holiday, then Widemouth Bay is one of the best places to go in Cornwall. This 2-mile stretch of sandy beach backed by rolling dunes is a firm favorite with surfers as it takes the full force of the North Atlantic.

Widemouth has been designated a blue flag beach so the waters are exceptionally clear and clean. There are cafes, toilets, and surf-hire shops here which help make Widemouth Bay one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for families.

Location: Widemouth Bay is just south of the popular resort town of Bude in north Cornwall.

Getting There: Hiring a car is the best way to get to Widemouth Bay.

Things To Do: Surfing, swimming, hiking, eating.

Where to Stay: This four-bedroom home is perfect for families and is close to the beach, shops, and restaurants.

19. Perranporth

Perranporth is another wonderful seaside resort town on the north Cornish coast. It has a long stretch of sandy beach to bathe on, many great restaurants and cafes, and is the perfect place for a relaxing stay.

Perranporth Public Sundial constructed as part of the Millennium celebrations.

There are lots of great hiking trails around Perranporth which form part of the southwest coastal path. The Perranzabuloe Museum gives a great insight into the area’s past and connection to the ocean.

Location: Perranporth is on the north coast of Cornwall.

Getting There: The town is reachable by car and bus.

Things To Do: Surfing, swimming, hiking.

Where to Stay: Enjoy magnificent sea views just a stone’s throw from Perranporth’s wide, golden, sandy surfing beach by staying at this breathtaking Airbnb.

20. Bude

Bude is another popular holiday resort famed for its blue flag beaches, and is consistently voted as the Best UK Seaside Town. This is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for couples as there are plenty of romantic walks to be had and incredible sunsets to share.

For foodies, Bude is a great option with its own vegan restaurant, some great bakeries, and lots of seafood options. The town beach is great for swimming and surfing – so long as you’re careful of rip tides. The beach is patrolled between May and September, so pay attention to the flags.

Location: Bude is in the far north of Cornwall close to the border with Devon.

Getting There: Bude is easy to get to by car and bus but there is no train connection.

Things To Do: Swimming, surfing, hiking, eating, drinking.

Where to Stay: This contemporary guest suite is just a 5-minute walk from the center of Bude.

Getting Around Cornwall

The historic castle of St Michael's Mount, a garden and island community found off the coast of Marazion in Cornwall.

The best way to get around Cornwall is to hire a car as public transport is a little unreliable. There are buses that serve some of the larger towns, but if you want to get out to the prettiest places in Cornwall then your own transport is required.

Cornwall also boasts 630 miles of stunning coastal footpaths making it possible to hike from place to place. Many people opt for short hikes between villages, but it’s possible to walk from town to town such as from Padstow to Port Isaac.

Quick Itineraries for Cornwall

Here are a few simple itineraries to follow when visiting Cornwall.

3 Days in Cornwall

interactive map of an itinerary for 3 days in cornwall

If you only have three days in Cornwall, I recommend sticking to the north coast which is the most beautiful part of the county.

Start in Padstow and sample fish and chips from Rick Stein’s famous cafe. Explore the beautiful harbor and wander around the town to see its stone houses, old churches, and independent shops.

On day two head north to Polzeath for a day at the beach. The drive takes around an hour, (made longer as you’ll need to head inland to skirt the Camel Estuary), but the journey is very scenic and simple to follow.

There are plenty of great dining options in Polzeath and I recommend the Cracking Crab up on the hilltop overlooking the bay.

On your final day, explore the picturesque small town of Port Isaac. Be sure to grab a Cornish pasty and explore the harbor, lifeboat station, the winding, cobbled streets, and clifftop views.

This itinerary is best completed by car or bus. For the more adventurous, the entire thing can be done on foot by following the southwest coastal path.

One Week in Cornwall

interactive map of an itinerary for 7 days in cornwall

For a week’s stay in Cornwall, base yourself in Newquay which has plenty to offer. It’s a good location for exploring the stunning beaches of the north coast and it’s possible to visit everywhere in Cornwall by car in a couple of hours; meaning you can fit in the above three-day itinerary as individual day trips from Newquay.

Add in a visit to the galleries of St Ives, take a selfie at the westernmost point Land’s End, and hike around The Lizard peninsula. Be sure to visit the quaint village of St Kew and its old church and excellent pub.

If you have a car you can go a bit farther afield and explore Truro, Bodmin, and Falmouth. The major towns are reachable by bus, but the smaller villages are a little more difficult to reach without your own transport.

10+ Days in Cornwall

interactive map of an itinerary for 10 days in cornwall

For ten days in Cornwall, (which in my opinion, is the perfect amount of time to discover the county), start off in Bude and spend a day or two at the nearby beaches including Widemouth Bay.

Next, move down the coast and explore Tintagel, the castle, and Merlin’s Cave. From Tintagel, it’s just a short hop to the beautiful village of Boscastle where you can learn about witchcraft at the famous museum. Continue on to Port Isaac and spend a day there, overnighting in one of the rustic fishermen’s cottages.

From Port Isaac make your way to Padstow, (stop off in Polzeath too if you want to swim/surf). Explore the harbor town and spend the night before moving farther south to St Ives to check out the galleries.

Follow the peninsula around to Land’s End and The Lizard before stopping in Falmouth to explore the town. From there head to St Austell to have a look at the famous brewery and sample some fine Cornish ale.

Head inland to finish your trip on brooding Bodmin Moor which is great for hiking in some real wilderness. Check out the legendary Jamaica Inn – a pub famed as a meeting place for pirates and smugglers that’s still pulling pints today.

FAQs About Visiting Cornwall

A view of a river at sunset from Malpas with Truro Cathedral in the background.

Answers to some commonly asked questions about visiting the beautiful places in Cornwall.

Where is the prettiest place in Cornwall?

It’s difficult to pick just one place in Cornwall as there are so many but if I had to, I would rate St Kew as the prettiest village for its rustic charm and sleepy nature.

What is the most visited town in Cornwall?

Newquay is the most visited town as it is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for families, young people, and those looking for sun, sea, and sand.

What is popular in Cornwall?

Surfing, cream teas, and Cornish pasties are three of the most popular things in Cornwall and I urge anyone visiting to try all three.

Where is best to base yourself in Cornwall?

If you have your own vehicle, then anywhere in Cornwall is reachable within a couple of hours at most. As north Cornwall is the most beautiful part of the county, basing yourself midway up the coast in Newquay or Padstow is a good idea.

When is the best time to visit Cornwall?

June to August is the best time to visit Cornwall when there’s more chance of warm, sunny days – perfect for days at the beach. April and May can be pleasant too, however, you’ll need a wetsuit if you plan to go surfing or swimming.

Conclusion

There are so many wonderful places to visit in Cornwall and it’s a place I never tire of visiting. From the surfers’ paradise of Newquay to quaint fishing villages, rustic pubs, the dramatic coastline, and a ton of activities available, Cornwall is the perfect destination whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation.

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Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. In 2015 he moved to China to teach English where he lived for over six years. He has lived and taught in the cities of Harbin, Luoyang, Sanya, and spent a few months in Hong Kong, before returning to England in 2022. He has visited over 60 countries to date and usually opts for overland travel (yes, even between the UK and China). Steve has travelled extensively across China, and Central Asia. Having lived much of his life within a 50-mile radius of London, the city is his second home and he knows it like the back of his hand.

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