Feasting on fresh seafood, sunbathing beside crystal waters and chancing upon romantic ruins: forget flying to the Caribbean or finding a far-flung exotic escape, just visit Cornwall! Throw in a few gorgeous film locations from hit TV show Poldark and we defy you to find 15 more stunning spots in the world than these.
1. Botallack Mine
A former tin mining area between St. Just in Penwith and Pendeen village, these abandoned mines hark back to the county’s industrial past and are now even more of a star Cornwall attraction, since featuring in 2015’s TV hit [Poldark] as the setting for the hero’s home, Nampara. Even better, it doesn’t cost a penny to take a 1.6km stroll through the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site to see the stone engine houses crumbling precariously near the surf, or explore Bottallack Count House, where the workers and mine captains once lived.
2. St. Loy
Head to the south west coast, and the valleys and boulder strewn sands of St. Loy, for a Cornwall beach holiday to top all others. The best way to see what the gorgeous Cornish coves here have to offer is by taking a hike. Follow the 9km section of the South West Coast Path starting and finishing near the Lamorna Cove Hotel through pretty woodlands, passing historical monuments and enjoying panoramic views from Logan Rock headland over Lizard Point, the UK’s most southerly tip.
3. Cawsand and Kingsand
These two super-cute villages on the Rame Peninsula were once favourite spots for smugglers. Though only around 45 minutes drive from Plymouth, they’re often referred to as ‘the forgotten corner of Cornwall’ so if you’re looking for places off the beaten coastal path, these might be your bag. You’ll also find plenty of fishermen here who supply local restaurants with the freshest daily catch. The gastronomic delights of France meet the Cornish coast at The Devonport Inn in Kingsand, which serves classic dishes using only fresh locally sourced produce like Rame crab (£7.50, starter) and Looe scallops (£15, main). For more chocolate box villages, check out your reader’s tips on more delightful villages around the UK.
Set in a small valley that slides towards a beautiful white beach – one that wouldn’t look out of place in the South Pacific – Porthcurno is two and a half miles from Land’s End. This pocket-sized point played a big part in World War Two; it’s submarine communications cable station was a major hub, used to pass on important intelligence. Tunnels were built to protect the cable station from attack, and today you can visit them to see the exhibits on display in the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. At £8.50 for adults and £5 for children, it’s a good bet should you be looking for things to do when the Great British summer starts.
5. Wheal Coates, St. Agnes
This former tin mine still stands proud atop the cliffs between Porthtowan and St. Agnes on Cornwall’s north coast, protected by the National Trust as a site of historical significance. The surviving building dates from the 1870s and is rumoured to be haunted by the ghosts of the old mine workers. You can venture inside the mine shaft at low tide via a cave on Chapel Porth Beach, just one of the many beautiful beaches around St. Agnes. Stay in the centre at St. Agnes Hotel for easy bus connections to Truro, or opt for one of the romantic self-catering cottages strewn near beaches like Trevaunance, if you’ve got your own wheels.
6. Camel Estuary
Springing from Bodmin Moor and flowing out to the Celtic Sea, the River Camel stretches for about 30 miles. On the banks of the estuary lies the famous fishing port of Padstow, and on its west side acheologists have uncovered evidence that people have lived on this little patch of England since the Bronze Age. Just as famous for Rick Stein’s flagship Seafood Restaurant, you can also get a posh takeaway for under a tenner at Stein’s Fish and Chips in Padstow, best enjoyed out in the fresh breeze by the harbour.
7. Rough Tor
A tor is a rocky outcrop that juts out from the top of a hill, very characteristic of this south-western part of England. Rough Tor is stacked with enigmatic stone formations and is one of Cornwall’s twin peaks, sitting not far from the highest point in the county, Brown Willy. An 8km walk from the car park at Poldue Downs encompasses both sites and allows you to lose yourself in the epic horizons of the north Cornish moorlands, dotted with neolithic monuments and Bronze Age stone circles. Avoid getting lost by always checking the weather for mist warnings before heading out. Ramble over Britain’s best countryside with this rundown of the best hiking routes around the UK.
8. Lands End
It’s the final destination, or first port of call depending on your direction, on the UK’s longest road trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End – over 1,407km from start to finish. Affectionately known as The First and Last, Land’s End has enough natural beauty to postpone your epic journey for at least a few days. Walk along the clifftops to Sennen Cove for blooming carpets of heather and sea campion in the summer, stunning views across Britain’s most southwesterly point and prime bird-watching – look out for gannets, fulmars, shags and razorbills to name a few. Sunset walks can be finished up with a meal at the Land’s End Hotel next to the viewpoint. Try a steaming bowl of Cornish mussels from the bar menu to sample the best of the local waters.
It’s a right royal affair in Fowey, home to the Royal Regatta for one week every August. But this popular event isn’t just about spruced up sailboats. Watch the Red Arrows put on a spectacular show right above your head in the harbour, join the party during the carnival parade or enjoy the fireworks display. Fower Harbour is as pretty as a picture whenever you visit, and it’s worth the 15 minute walk up to St. Catherine’s Castle from Readymoney Cove for windswept views of the estuary from the battlements. Discover more of our favourite ruins in this guide to the finest castles in the UK.
10. Trevose Head
Another of the many Cornwall place names beginning with ‘Tre’ (meaning ‘homestead’), you can take in amazing panoramic views all the way up the north coast of Cornwall and in to neighbouring county Devon from Trevose Head. Staring out to sea between Newquay and Padstow, Trevose Head Lighthouse has been safely guiding seafarers to shore since 1847 and remains a working lighthouse whose beams you can see up to 37km away. You can even stay in the former keeper’s cottages there, for early morning access to beautiful Constantine Bay a few miles down the coast.
11. St. Ives
Have a jolly holiday in the quintessential British seaside town of St. Ives. From striped deck chairs lined up on Porthminster Beach, to traditional tearooms like Olive’s Cafe serving up delicious Cornish cream teas, St. Ives is a great place to come for some good old fashioned family fun. Culture fans can also add a dash of art to their holiday at Tate St. Ives: the little town with the big views has inspired a host of modernist painters and sculptors, including Barbara Hepworth and you can visit an entire gallery dedicated to her work here. Who needs London? If you’re more about art collections than cocktails on holiday, take a look at our top 5 cultural destinations.
On the theme of arts and crafts, Marazion is arguably Cornwall’s creative centre, with plenty of resident artists who make and sell their works in the town’s galleries. It might have something to do with the dramatic sight of St. Michael’s Mount rising out of the sea half-a-mile offshore. Make the journey to the National Trust island on foot at low tide, or jump on a short boat ride to visit the castle, which has been the St. Aubyn family home since around 1650. Check the website for the most up-to-date tide times.
13. Bedruthan Steps
Between Padstow and Newquay lies the Bedruthan Steps, stone stacks which have been separated from the mainland by sea erosion over hundreds of years; legend has it that a giant named Bedruthan used them as stepping stones to make a short cut across the bay. The south west coast path passes through these parts as well – take the short hour and a half walk from Carnewas car park and stop off at the handy Carnewas Tearoom on your return for the best angle on the Steps (over a big slice of cake, of course).
Considered the surf capital of the UK, Newquay attracts plenty of people looking to hang ten, or just hang out on one of the pretty patches of sand that dot the Cornish coast. Crantock Beach is just outside the city centre and a perfect place to get some sea air if you’re flying in and out of town on a tight schedule. Great Western Beach is popular with families and has plenty of cafés for a quick ice cream cone, while the Headland Hotel overlooking Fistral Beach is certainly the most stylish place to stay; its red brick Victorian frontage can be spied for miles around. Whether you’re a surfer or a sunbather, we’ve got more beautiful beaches around the UK to share.
Another great spot to catch some waves, Polzeath is a coastal town near Wadebridge with plenty of other charms as well as surfing. Tracks and trails made for keen cyclists wend their way through the countryside, like the 17 mile Camel Trail along a disused railway line from Bodmin all the way to Padstow (start in Wadebridge for a shorter section in either direction). For something less strenuous, walk the coastal path from family favourite Greenaway Beach to Daymer Bay, where the waves are smaller, making it ideal for swimmers and windsurfers. Check out more great cycling routes around Europe with our best bike rides.
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