Top 10 Things to Do in Cornwall
the places we return to again & again
We’ve had great fun exploring Cornwall in the 5 years since we moved to the Duchy but there are a few favourite things to do that we find ourselves returning to again and again. Pretty fishing villages, golden sandy beaches, and one or two of Cornwall’s more famous attractions – these are our go-to favourites whenever we get a day off or when we have family and friends visiting. And they’re all within a 15-40 minute drive from Tredarrup Farm.
So if you’re planning a holiday and looking for personally recommended, tried and tested great places to visit then you really can’t go wrong with any of the following in our top 10 things to do in Cornwall.
1. Tintagel Castle
No trip to Cornwall is complete without a visit to the historic Tintagel Castle, birthplace of King Arthur. The views from the island are breathtaking, so make sure your phone’s fully charged! It’s worth buying a guidebook in the visitors’ centre to get the most out of your visit, as the history of the site is fascinating. Afterwards, soak up the atmosphere in the cafe at the foot of the castle with a delicious Cornish cream tea.
TOP TIP: Join Cornwall Heritage Trust in advance of your holiday – it’s just £25 for a family membership and gives you free entry to Tintagel Castle and other historical sites around Cornwall.
The pretty village of Boscastle offers some superb walking. Wander round the harbour and, if you’re within 1-2 hours of low tide, you may hear the Devil’s Bellows in action at the base of Penally Point opposite, as the tide rushes in and out of the hidden cave under the headland. Up at Willapark Lookout, the coastguards are often happy to show you round if they’re not busy. Back in the village try some super-fresh seafood for lunch at the Rocket Store on the harbour. And don’t miss a visit to the quirky Museum of Witchcraft and Magic by the National Trust gift shop. Walk along the river before crossing the river and heading through the woods to discover the hidden Minster Church. See if you can find the witch’s grave just outside the churchyard before heading back down the lane, cutting through the Wellington Hotel to end up back at your car.
3. Port Isaac
If you’re a fan of ITV’s Doc Martin or the Fisherman’s Friends you’ll instantly recognise this picture-postcard village. Indeed the Fisherman’s Friends can still be found occasionally singing on the Platt during the summer months, although they’re on tour more often than not now. When not singing you’ll find one its members, Jon Cleave, in his gift shop halfway up the hill – he’s the one with the moustache. A traditional working fishing village, this is the place to go if you want to pick up some fresh-off-the-boat shellfish, bought and cooked by the fishermen – available from the fish cellars. Have the obligatory photo taken in front of Doc Martin’s house and buy some fudge to take home from Mrs Tishall’s pharmacy. Chapel Cafe serves an an award-winning fishfinger sandwich and the best coffee in Cornwall, or head up to the Old Schoolhouse for a traditional cream tea. If you’re feeling fit head along the coastal path in either direction – it’s hilly but the stunning views are well worth the effort.
4. Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor is wild and rugged and very beautiful but personally we like to stick to well-worn paths for fear of getting lost! So one of our favourite places to visit is Roughtor. At the base, near the car park, is a granite monument to Charlotte Dymond, a young girl tragically murdered on the moor in 1844. Her boyfriend, Matthew Weeks, was hanged for her murder at Bodmin Jail. It’s said her ghost still wanders the moor to this day. Ahead there’s a well-worn path across the moorland to the summit and, when the sky is clear, you can see all the way to the coast. If you’re feeling fit you can continue on to the summit of Brown Willy. Or head back down to the car park, where a cafe serves cream teas during the summer.
TOP TIP: Do check the weather forecast before heading out on the moor – when the mist descends it can be easy to lose your way.
5. Rock & Padstow
Park at Rock and catch the little foot ferry across to Padstow. There are lots of little shops and cafes around the pretty harbour, many of them owned by Rick Stein. This is a great spot for crabbing with the kids. After working up an appetite, a Cornish pasty from the famous Chough’s Bakery is a must. Just watch out for pesky seagulls, who are also rather partial to them. Head up to the war memorial and Tregirls beach, which is always almost deserted, even at the height of summer. During low tide you can walk along the beach to Hawkers Cove and then up to Stepper Point or continue along the coastpath behind the beach. On the way back to Padstow, take a right turn to Prideaux Place and its picturesque deer park, before heading back down to the ferry. Back in Rock there’s an excellent gastro pub called The Mariner’s, owned by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Paul Ainsworth. The food here is fantastic and their Sunday roasts in particular are to die for.
6. The Camel Trail
This 18 mile track follows the winding River Camel from nearby Wenfordbridge, via Bodmin and Wadebridge, all the way to the sea at Padstow. It’s flat and almost entirely traffic-free, apart from a short section in Wadebridge, allowing you to relax and enjoy the scenery. You can hire bikes at various locations along the trail and there’s an amazing choice available, including e-bikes, so everyone can get out on the trail, regardless of age and ability. The most popular section is from Wadebridge to Padstow and there’s a bike park at the end of the trail so you can enjoy a wander round town. The section from Wadebridge to Bodmin and Wenfordbridge is far quieter and very pretty. There are a couple of cafes and a pub en-route so you can stop for a well-earned rest. In Bodmin you might like to take a short detour to Camel Valley Vineyard for a tour and a sample of their award-winning wines. Or visit spooky Bodmin Jail, or the beautiful National Trust’s Lanhydrock House and Gardens. And you can of course also walk the Camel Trail if cycling’s not your thing.
7. Eden Project
The Eden Project is probably Cornwall’s most famous attraction and with good reason. It’s now 20 years since Sir Tim Smit breathed life into what was a huge sterile clay crater. The iconic biomes now hold the largest rainforest in captivity. It’s an inspiration and an education all in one day trip. If you’ve a couple of hours to spare after your visit then head to nearby Charlestown on the south coast. If you’re a fan of the BBC’s Poldark series, you’ll recognise the beautiful harbour with its tall ships. Lined with cafes and restaurants, and with a pretty sandy beach, it’s a great place to relax for a while. Don’t miss a visit to the fabulous Shipwreck Museum by the harbour.
8. Polzeath & Daymer Bay
Whether you’re looking for a day at the beach or a superb walk Polzeath is just about perfect. The beach is very popular with both surfers and families. For walkers there are two lovely options – a fairly leisurely walk around the headland to Daymer Bay, tucked inside the Camel Estuary. Here you’ll find St Enodoc’s church, with its famously wonky spire, tucked into the sand dunes. This is the final resting place of the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman and you can see why he loved the place so – the views are beautiful. From here you can continue to Rock and then head back along the beach if the tide’s out. Alternatively, the coast path from Polzeath in the opposite direction takes you past Pentire Point and The Rumps.
The south coast of Cornwall makes a nice change to the wild and rugged north coast. Fowey is a haven for sailors and the pretty harbour is full of yachts. You can while away many a happy hour sitting and watching the comings and goings on the water. Catch the ferry across the river for a wander around the pretty fishing village of Polruan. Back in Fowey, a 5 minute walk from the harbour is the picturesque Readymoney Cove, a popular and safe spot for swimming. The handsome house on the sea wall behind the beach was until very recently owned by Dawn French. A short walk from the beach is St Catherine’s Castle, built by Henry VIII and with stunning views across the water. Back in Fowey, there are lots of cafes and restaurants for lunch and plenty of interesting shops winding their way along the narrow lanes – the bookshop being our personal favourite.
TOP TIP: catch the mini-bus by the church to whisk you up the steep hill back to the your car.
10. The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Who doesn’t love a secret garden? Begun in the 18th century, Heligan went on to become a plantsman’s paradise. Sadly the outbreak of the First World War resulted in the Heligan estate falling into ruin, and the gardens lay abandoned and hidden until 1990 when they were rediscovered, now derelict and a forest of brambles. The restoration is amazing and we never fail to be inspired when we visit. The gardens and estate are huge and there’s lots to keep children entertained, including the jungle with its rope bridge and some rare-breed animals with piglets and lambs in the spring. And you can’t come away without bringing a piece of Heligan home with you from the plant shop to plant in your garden, so leave room in the boot.
TOP TIP: if you’ve time to spare after your visit, the picture-postcard fishing village of Mevagissey is nearby..