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Cornwall: Your Travel Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Cornwall stretches into the expansive Atlantic Ocean from the southwest corner of England. Surrounded on three sides by the sea, and with the River Tamar winding along much of the fourth edge, this county is almost an island. It feels it.

Whether you are familiar with England’s ancient landscape or have yet to visit this diverse county, many have heard of Cornwall. Here, pristine beaches and hidden coves beckon sun seekers and wave chasers alike. Perched on the edge of plunging cliffs, silent mines stand sentinel. They are reminders of the long history of tin and copper mining here. With a fierce sense of Cornish identity, a warm climate from the nearby Gulf Stream, and a maritime history rich with legendary stories, Cornwall is truly unique.

A Coastal Community

The enduring relationship between the Cornish people and the sea is apparent wherever you look. Here, fishing boats head out from the harbour and sea shanties float on salted air. Whether you come for the beaches or the surfing, and stay for the food or the culture, Cornwall is famous for many great reasons. With its own language and flag, this county is a free-spirited land with a rich Celtic heritage.

Spanning over 3,500 sq km/1,375 sq mi, Cornwall unfurls its treasures across a canvas abundant with history and character. It is no surprise that more than a quarter of the county designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Whether you’re looking for an active small group tour or a foodie holiday in the sun, Cornwall has something to offer everyone. Come and discover Kernow, as it’s known in Cornish, and experience this enchanting county’s stunning beauty and unique culture. Read on to learn everything you need to know about Cornwall.

Where is Cornwall?

Located on the southwest peninsula of England, Cornwall juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The iconic points of Lizard Point and Land’s End tip this coastal county, which can often feel remote and removed, separated by transport networks and the River Tamar from the jigsaw of counties that carpet the rest of England.

Travel to Cornwall

This vibrant corner of the country boats surprisingly strong transport links. From London, mainland Cornwall is approximately a five hour drive away. For a greener alternative, there is a direct train from London Paddington Station to Truro. The train takes 4 hours and 30 minutes. From further afield, Newquay Airport connects Cornwall with the rest of the UK, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. Newquay is Cornwall’s most popular holiday destination, so an excellent place to start any Cornish adventure.

The Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly lie 45 km/28 miles west of the coast of Cornwall. This unspoilt, tranquil archipelago is well worth a visit, with a handful of inhabited islands to explore and enjoy. Travel here by ferry from Penzance or fly from Land’s End, Newquay, or Exeter (in Devon). Be aware that the Isles of Scilly are almost entirely car-free, and you cannot bring your car over to the islands. However, the islands are easily conquered by foot; St Mary’s, the largest island, is just 4 km/2.5 miles long.

Highlights of Cornwall

Get Out in Nature

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A visit to Cornwall would only be complete with a walk along one of the many beautiful beaches. However, there are plenty of other spectacular natural sights to enjoy.

The Edge of Cornwall

Iconic points like Land’s End and Lizard Point, the most southerly point of mainland Britain, offer breathtaking views. Looking out over the Atlantic Ocean from the edge of the country, soak in rugged cliff views and gorgeous coastal walks.

Dramatic Coastlines

Around the headland from Land’s End is the former mining hub of Cape Cornwall. This distinctive corner of the coast marks where two great bodies of water meet. For similarly dramatic views, The Rumps, in northeast Cornwall, is a spectacular walk with impressive views west across the Camel Estuary and east into Port Quin Bay.

St Nectan’s Waterfall

Inland, head to St Nectan’s Waterfall. Here, tranquil woods lead to a sanctuary hewn from the rock. The force of the water has eroded the stone and now cascades through a hole into the pool below.

Highlights of Cornwall

History & Culture

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Cornwall is an age-old landscape, full of historic and cultural destinations you won’t want to miss.

Castles of Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount is an iconic sight on Cornwall’s shores. Perched on a rocky island off the coast of Marazion, cross the cobbled causeway to discover this fairytale castle. If you prefer a dramatic ruin, venture to Tintagel Castle. Legend identifies Tintagel as the possible birthplace of King Arthur, and this sense of myth and magic remains here today.

Continue the castle theme as you visit St Mawes. Here, St Mawes Castle and Pendennis Castle flank the entrance to the Carrick Roads, an estuary of the River Fal. These dramatic fortifications have stood protecting Cornwall against invasion for centuries.

Minack Theatre

For those interested in the performing arts, the Minack Theatre is a breathtaking open-air theatre carved into the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Cornwall’s historic and cultural gems are a portal to bygone eras and a must-see in Cornwall.

Highlights of Cornwall

The Gardens of Cornwall

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The Gulf Stream passes by the south coast of Cornwall, creating a unique climate that is warmer than much of the country. Here, tropical gardens and exotic blooms flourish.

The Eden Project

The Eden Project is a true marvel, and its iconic biomes showcase a captivating array of plant life from around the globe, including the largest rainforest in captivity.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan lie on the other side of St Austell from the Eden Project. They boast 200 acres of restored garden, including the UK’s only outdoor jungle. Amid hidden corners and thriving flora, the Lost Gardens of Heligan celebrate this grand country estate’s past grandeur.

Trebah Garden

Further down the south coast of Cornwall, Trebah Garden is a subtropical paradise. Here, 26 acres of vibrant blooms and meandering paths beckon. Follow the paths down to the tranquillity of a private beach, Polgwidden Cove.

Cornwall’s gardens are invitations to immerse yourself in nature’s finest expressions. Each leaf and petal offers a sensory journey through colour, scent and history.

The Cornish Coast

Untamed cliffs, hidden coves, and breathtaking sandy vistas characterise the coast of Cornwall. Trace the enchanting contours of Cornwall’s undulating landscape to encounter a diverse coastal canvas.

North or South?

When it comes to choosing which side of Cornwall is nicer, it ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. The north, kissed by powerful Atlantic swells, boasts beaches of golden sands and excellent surfing conditions. The south coast is ideal for cliff-top walks and garden attractions, with more sheltered and secluded coves. The Gulf Stream also means that the south coast is generally where the sea is warmest in Cornwall.

St Ives is a beautiful blend of beach and vibrant culture.

Beaches A-plenty

When it comes to finding the most picturesque beach in Cornwall, it’s a challenge to pick just one from a choice of so many. Some of our favourites include Kynance Cove, Crantock Beach, and Godrevy. And have you ever wondered why the seawater in Cornwall is so blue? It’s because the sunlight reflects off the water, casting bright shades of blue.

The coast of Cornwall is more than a single place. Instead, it is a diverse network of dramatic cliffs, sheltered inlets, and breathtaking sandy beaches waiting for you to explore.

Cornish History & Culture

Cornwall is a historic land woven with tales of resilience and independence. This sliver of land, almost an island, embraces its unique spirit. Practically a different world from the rest of England, this small region boasts a contrast of dazzling blue water and windswept moorland singing with stories of days gone by.

An Independent Nation

Cornwall’s independent spirit is deeply rooted in its past. This can lead to visitors wondering if Cornwall used to be its own country. Cornwall was an independent kingdom until the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the 5th century from northern Europe. The last king of Cornwall was Doniert, King of Dumnonia, in the 9th century. This kingdom covered Cornwall, Devon and parts of Somerset. Older still is the origin of the name ‘Cornwall’. The name likely comes from the suggested tribal name ‘Cornovii’, referring to the ‘horn people’ who lived on this southwestern peninsula. The Anglo-Saxons knew Cornwall as West Wales, separate from the land of North Wales (Wales today). Cornwall retained its independence to an extent until the 1700s. From this period, it became increasingly absorbed into England.

Cornwall’s Fame

Historically, Cornwall is famous for its mining and piracy history. These roots continue to attract visitors today. Mining in Cornwall dates back to the Bronze Age, around 2100 BC. Paired with its remoteness, the region’s strong mining industry made the Romans hesitant to invade Cornwall after their invasion in 43 AD. One place where there is evidence of trade with the Roman Empire is Tintagel Castle. Perched on a small island clinging to the north coast of Cornwall, Tintagel is perhaps better known as the legendary origin of tales of King Arthur.

From Bronze Age mining to chivalrous kings, life on windswept moorland to inescapable ties to the sea, history and culture interweave in Cornwall. An ancient region, Cornwall continues to shine with a strong sense of identity and a long history.

Find out more about the history of Cornwall:

Things to Do in Cornwall

Cornwall beckons with an extraordinary tapestry of natural wonders and captivating experiences. There is so much to discover in this southern English county, from fairytale castles like St Michael’s Mount to oases such as The Eden Project.

If we only had 24 hours to experience Cornwall, we’d like it to look like the one below. But we would always recommend spending longer in this delightful district. Looking for more than one day in Cornwall without worrying about the little details? Discover the coast of Cornwall with an experienced Wilderness guide on our 7 day walking tour.

Walking: The Coast of Cornwall

The Prettiest Place in Cornwall

It is impossible to pick only one location as the prettiest place in Cornwall. However, there are several beaches, villages, and cultural landmarks to include on your journey.

Kynance Cove, located on the Lizard Peninsula, is a slice of paradise in a landscape packed with golden beaches and secluded coves. This popular beach is known for its crystal-clear waters, dramatic rock stacks, and a white sandy beach.

On the opposite side of the beautiful, gaping Mount’s Bay sits the Minack Theatre. Carved into the cliffs above historic Porthcurno, this open-air theatre offers immersive performances against the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

Porthcurno, a hidden gem, features on the blog of our favourite English beaches. If quaint fishing villages are more of your idea of beauty, journey with us down narrow streets, beside thatched cottages, and along sandy beaches.

Cornwall on Screen

Cornwall’s secret coves and storm-battered cliffs have long attracted artists and writers.

A Night at the Movies

In the early days of the silver screen in Cornwall was Jamaica Inn, released in 1939. A Daphne du Marier adaption, this film was also Alfred Hitchcock’s last in the UK. Early in its own history, the Minack Theatre became the stage for Love Story. This 1944 film starred Margaret Lockwood and Stewart Granger. More recently, filming in Cornwall included The Witches (1990), Saving Grace (2000), and Ladies in Lavender (2004).

Cornwall on TV

It was Saving Grace that offered a first glimpse of Doc Martin. Running from 2004 to 2022, the comedic, fictional escapades of Dr. Martin Ellingham became a beloved feature on British television. Another popular TV series depicting Cornwall is Poldark. Based on the novels by Winston Graham, this drama series ran for five seasons from 2015, following the life and adventures of a fictional British officer who returns to Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War.

Authors in Cornwall

Cornwall has inspired many famous authors, from Daphne du Maurier and Virginia Woolf to Rosamunde Pilcher. Further back into the past, this ancient region is home to a diverse range of Cornish Folklore, Myths & Legends.

Cornish Food & Drink

When it comes to culinary delights, Cornwall has plenty to offer. Entwined with this land’s history, traditions and location, Cornish food and drink is a celebration of flavours and local produce.

Perhaps the most iconic Cornish fare is the humble Cornish pasty. The pasty is a savoury parcel heartily filled with meat and vegetables. Once a portable feast to fuel hard-working miners, today the Cornish pasty is a treat enjoyed by all. It remains the perfect all-in-one lunch.

Where to Find the Best Cornish Pasty in Cornwall

Stargazy Pie

If you’re visiting Cornwall at Christmas, look out for a hearty stargazy pie. A uniquely Cornish dish, this pie is made with fish, egg and potato, enclosed in a pastry crust. The tradition originates from the legend of Tom Bawcock, a 16th century fisherman who saved the village of Mousehole from starvation by braving a fierce storm. The resulting haul was baked into a pie with the head showing to prove there was fish inside. Mousehole celebrates Tom Bawcock’s Eve on 23rd December to this day.

Sweet Treats

If you’re looking for something sweeter, try saffron buns. A local speciality made bright yellow by saffron, and ripe with currents and fruit peel, these are best served fresh and softly warm. Follow your nose to a local bakery to enjoy these at their best, especially around community events and religious celebrations.

Of course, the most famous sweet treat in Cornwall is undoubtedly the cream tea. The Cornish cream tea is a delightful afternoon tradition consisting of a pot of tea served with scones, jam, and a dollop of clotted cream. Clotted cream is a traditional part of any cream tea, a thick cream formed by heating cow’s milk. The source of a neighbourly rivalry with neighbouring Devon, remember that the cream goes on top of the jam in Cornwall!

And, of course, no trip to Cornwall would be complete without trying some of the local cider. This refreshing drink is a timeless favourite that complements the region’s culinary delights. Warmed by the Cornish sun, this tasty tipple is widely available across the county and well worth a sample (or two!). Popular producers include Cornish Orchards, Touchwood, and Healeys.

Whether you’re savouring a warm pasty or indulging in a cream tea with a sea view, Cornwall’s food and drink offers a genuine taste of its soul. So slow down, savour the flavours, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures amidst breathtaking landscapes.

Walking in Cornwall

With stunning coastal paths balanced with rugged moorland, Cornwall is a haven for walkers. As you lace up your hiking boots, prepare to discover secluded coves, cliffs sprinkled with wildflowers, and age-old stories.

The South West Coast Path

Several routes could be considered the best walking in Cornwall in this diverse landscape. The South West Coast Path is the obvious choice, winding around the perimeter of southwest England. This national trail guides every level of hiker through quaint fishing villages and along dramatic cliffs.

Discover The Best Walks on the South West Coast Path

Other Walks in Cornwall

Alternatives to the South West Coast Path for the best coastal walk in Cornwall include the Lizard Peninsula. With some of the most spectacular scenery in the region, enjoy stunning walks along a breathtaking coastline. The walking splendour doesn’t stop at the coast; Cornwall also boasts the windswept Bodmin Moor for those who prefer their natural beauty wild.

The Dodman Circular

The Dodman long loop trail is a captivating 5 km/3 mile circular walk along Cornwall’s south coast. Managed by the National Trust, this scenic landscape showcases the panoramic vistas that define this region. There is also a chance of spotting peregrine falcons from Dodman Point. A moderate hike, this route takes you into one of Cornwall’s most picturesque corners.

The Dodman Circular

St Ives to Penzance

If you’re looking for a longer hike, why not make it a multi-day adventure through beautiful Cornwall? The route spans 65 km/42 miles, starting in the cool and colourful town of St Ives. Your journey takes you around the north coast of this headland before reaching its halfway point at the iconic Land’s End. Continue around the coastline to the end in Penzance, the coastal town made famous by the Gilbert and Sullivan opera.

Passing charming fishing villages, golden sand beaches, and extraordinary coastline, this trail promises to be an unforgettable hike.

Explore The Best Walks in England

The Tintagel Circular

Take inspiration from Day 1 of our The Coast of Cornwall walking trip and enjoy a 9 km/5.5 mile circular hike through legendary Tintagel. Starting in the village of Bossiney, head through rolling fields to tranquil Bossiney Cove. From here, the South West Coast Path transports you west towards your first glimpse of dramatic Tintagel Castle. After a pause to enjoy the ruins and wildlife, a quiet country lane returns you to Bossiney via the quirky village of Tintagel.

Discover More Dramatic Castles in England

The Most Southerly Point in Mainland Britain

The South West Coast Path between Lizard and Posongath promises a balance of challenging and breathtaking. A stretch of coast rich in geology, look out for dark green serpentine as the cliffs plunge into the rolling ocean to your right. Leave Lizard Point to enjoy the quaint fishing village of Cadgwith, the picturesque beach at Kennack Sands, and more.

Continue the journey by hiking along the South West Coast Path from Porthleven to Coverack.

The Best Walks on the South West Coast Path

No matter where you walk in Cornwall, expect breathtaking scenery, a rich cultural history, and some of the best walking in the UK. So, pack your gear, embark on a Cornish journey, and let this captivating region unveil its wonders one step at a time.

Cycling in Cornwall

Cornwall is a destination for every level of fitness and experience. Here, you can enjoy a ride through landscapes sculpted by nature and history. Cycling in Cornwall is a thrilling blend of ambitious ascents and breathtaking vistas.

Cornwall’s hilly terrain may come as a surprise to first-time visitors. Dramatic sea cliffs create undulating landscapes that weave from one stunning scene to another. Vistas that stretch into the horizon reward those who pedal up long inclines.

The hilly landscape of Cornwall can be among some of the toughest cycling in the country. But do not be put off by this as there are a wealth of cycling routes to suit every riding level.

The Camel Trail

Also a great walking route, The Camel Trail, spanning 18 miles, beckons cyclists with largely traffic-free and well-surfaced paths. The trail was once a railway line from Padstow to Wenfordbridge. This trail guides you through the enchanting countryside along the serene Camel River.

The Camel Trail

The Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail, named after the famous otter in Henry Williamson’s 1927 novel, is another gem. It offers 30 miles of surfaced, traffic-free cycling. This is the longest stretch in the UK, along a former railway line that weaves through tranquil landscapes.

The Tarka Trail

Padstow to Rock

The loop from Padstow via Rock is a beloved cycle route. Ride from Padstow to Wadebridge before pedalling up to enjoy the ferry back to Padstow at Rock. This delightful ride offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Camel Estuary.

Padstow Circular Route

Other Cycling Routes in Cornwall

Other riding routes include Goss Moor, with seven miles of flat, multi-use trail to ride; the remote yet beautiful North Cornwall Trail, stretching 40 miles into Devon; and The Engine House Trail from Hayle to Truro, passing some of the finest surviving mine buildings in Cornwall.

Other Cycle Routes in Cornwall

Cornwall’s cycling terrain may have challenges, but these hills lead to iconic cliffs and expansive views. There are so many cycling adventures to discover in Cornwall. Here, prepare to be amazed by the untamed beauty of this remarkable region, one pedal stroke at a time.

Cornish Seasons

The best time to visit Cornwall is in the summer when the weather is at its best, and the land is sun-kissed and warm. However, every month is a good one to go to Cornwall. Each season offers a new lens through which to view this coastal county.

When Will You Visit Cornwall?


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