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The Story of the Minack Theatre in Cornwall

By Alex Boag-Wyllie, Marketing Assistant
More by Alex

The World's Most Beautiful Theatre?

In the most southwest county of England, around the headland from Lands End, sits a remarkable theatre. A testament to human ingenuity and passion for the arts, the visionary Rowena Cade created the Minack Theatre. Begun in the early 1930s, this open-air venue offers a one-of-a-kind experience for theatre lovers and tourists alike. Read on to discover the story of this unique venue.

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The History of the Minack Theatre

The history of the Minack Theatre would only be complete with Rowena Cade. The theatre is the brainchild of this remarkable woman. Rowena dedicated her adult life to creating this unique masterpiece.

Born into a genteel Edwardian family in August 1893, Rowena’s Cheltenham upbringing took a turn with the outbreak of World War I. Her father’s death in 1917 was also a pivotal event. In the early 1920s, Rowena and her mother moved to Cornwall. Rowena bought the Minack headland for £100 and commissioned Minack House, which still stands today.

In 1929-30, Rowena designed costumes for open-air performances of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The following year, the group looked to put on The Tempest – Rowena offered her garden for the production. With no seating available in her garden, Rowena needed another plan. With the help of her gardener and another local man, she built a simple stage and rough seating into the granite of Minack Rock. This marked the birth of the Minack Theatre, a laborious process that took six months to complete using hand tools – and a little dynamite!

As the theatre grew in popularity, World War II broke out. A few long years later, the Army, the film Love Story, and the POWs who cleared the coastal defences had destroyed much of the theatre. Now in her 50s, Rowena had to start again from the bare bones. The theatre reopened in 1949. Rowena continued to work on the theatre until well into her 80s, carving each performance into the concrete seats. She died in 1983, shortly before her 90th birthday. In her lifetime, the theatre was transformed from a dramatic rock face to a small theatre to one of Cornwall’s biggest tourist attractions.

Visiting Minack Theatre

Credit: Minack Theatre/Lynn Batten

Today, the Minack Theatre is both a working theatre and a popular tourist attraction. Whether you visit for a performance or a tour, it is highly recommended that you book in advance.

Theatre performances run between April and September. As an open-air theatre, performances are only cancelled in extreme conditions. The weather in Cornwall is generally mild but be prepared for hot, cold, dry or wet weather. Seats are concrete or turf, so consider bringing a cushion for comfort.

​​Ticket prices for performances at the Minack Theatre vary depending on the show. It’s advisable to check the official website or contact the theatre for the most up-to-date information. The theatre puts on a diverse range of productions, from Shakespeare to opera. With over 200 performances per year, there’s something for everyone.

Visit the beautiful Minack Theatre on our Coast of Cornwall hiking trip.

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FAQs

Is the Minack Theatre accessible? Read More

While the only way down to the theatre is via steep steps, there is an accessible balcony and an induction loop available for visitors.

Is parking available at the Minack Theatre? Read More

Onsite parking is provided exclusively for those visiting the theatre or attending a show.

Can you visit the Minack Theatre for free? Read More

There is no access to the theatre without a ticket.

Does the Minack Theatre have a sustainable mission? Read More

The Minack Theatre has implemented various measures to reduce its environmental impact. You can explore these further on its website here.

Wilderness Trips to Cornwall

Meet the Author: Alex Boag-Wyllie

Born in the Scottish Highlands, I was lucky enough to spend my early childhood playing on beautiful, sweeping beaches and learning to ski (or, more often, fall over). My father’s job kept us on the move though, and I was soon just as at home amidst the rolling Wiltshire downs, the dramatic Yorkshire Dales and the expansive East Anglian coast. I’ve had almost 40 bedrooms to date across the UK, so I’m your gal if you need a good cafe recommendation (almost) anywhere in the country; if I haven’t been there yet, you can be sure it’s on my trip list…

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