Defined and Shaped by the Sea
Full of contrasting landscapes, the county of Cornwall is a place of wild, sea-soaked beauty. With over 420 miles of coastline and much of its countryside designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the region lends itself to being explored by foot, bicycle or sail.
While the county is defined and shaped by the sea, it also encompasses a diverse landscape of old forest, heathery heath and sweeping pastures of arable land. From the west, the Atlantic Ocean breaks blizzard white upon the rugged edge of the peninsula. To the east, the English Channel laps against sandy shores, hidden inlets and rocky coves. Soaring cliffs give way to coastal grasslands, and ancient woodlands run into grassy fields. Up north, Bodmin Moor stretches large and long in its heathery fur beneath an arching sky.
The diverse nature of Cornwall means it is also an important place for wildlife. From the wind-swept headlands you can spot Atlantic seals snoozing on the beaches and bottlenose dolphins playing in the surf. While seabirds clamour and call, perched on cliffs of serpentine stone, kestrels spread their wings to ride the thermals above. Smaller birds, like linnets and stonechats, flit around gorse bushes which burst into bright yellow flower and smell like coconut in the warm summer air. As dusk falls, brown long-eared bats will appear in the inky woodland glades, diving and swooping as they feed on midges, moths and flying insects. Roe deer, often in ones or twos, can be seen picking their way through long grass, and red deer, the stags often adorned with impressive antlers, move in herds through early morning mists.
As well as wildlife, the region is rich with myth, legend and folklore. From King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to Jack the Giant Killer and the Mermaid of Zennor, some of Britain’s best-loved tales find their roots in Cornish soil. Knockers scamper along disused mines, their pointed ears brushing earthworms and moles as they play pranks and cause mischief. As a bleak mid-winter storm blows loud and strong against the coastline, mermen, silky grey with seaweed hair, come ashore to find safety among small seaside communities. Alongside fables and folklore, Cornwall also has an intriguing human history. From ancient archaeological sites to megalithic monuments, stone circles and cairns, Cornwall offers a captivating insight into times gone by and the stories, landscapes and events that shaped them.
From Georgian ports to bustling villages perched above crescents of white sand, the county is home to many pretty towns that are unique in history and charm. Stroll along the sun-dappled streets, pausing to discover a myriad of Cornish delicacies such as tangy crumbly cheese, buttery stuffed pastries and scones heavy with strawberry jam and clotted cream. From its countryside to its creatures; its folklore to its food, Cornwall is as characterful as those who inhabit it, and just as lovely, too.
Find everything you need to know in our Cornwall travel guide.