Explore Cornwall

Cornwall or "Kernow" is the most South Westerly county of the United Kingdom and is widely known today as the UK’s number one holiday destination, but also ranks very high with our other Northern European neighbours. With the sea on three sides and wild moors inland, the Cornish Duchy is a county of contrasts benefiting in the main from a mild coastal climate - you are never more than 16 miles from the sea wherever you stay in Cornwall with Cornish Horizons!

There are strong family links to Cornwall from all over the globe, as historically the specialist skills developed for hard mining were exported to every continent, and many families now trace their roots back to this unique part of England. The historic tin mining landscape of Cornwall is a recognised World Heritage Site where the local people are justifiably proud of their heritage. China clay is still quarried and transported by sea, and the China Clay museum at Wheal Martyn provides a fascinating day out for all the family. This heritage of ingenuity, creativity, entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit is just as prevalent now, as Cornwall also leads in the UK Export trade, sending not only artistic items, environmental, scientific, mechanical and marine technologies abroad, but also by leading in the travel, tourism and leisure sectors.

With a low-population density, this beautiful Celtic Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty still offers a peaceful haven to loyal visitors who have been coming to the area for generations. The natural landscape provides a contrast of wide sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, hidden coves, unspoiled fishing villages, vineyards, countryside and coastal walks with their many and varied views.

With the South West Coastal Path Cornwall section stretching around the county for 300 miles, even the most ardent walker will be challenged to complete it all. Lonely Planet’s new Great Adventures book lists this route as one of the world’s most inspiring hikes and includes it as one of only 12, globally, to attempt. The South West Coastal Path begins roughly near Hartland Point and continues through some notable towns and iconic villages whose names are now known world-wide. There are plenty of wonderful places to stay and visit along its course, so a walking or any other holiday could be based just around one area on each visit, thereby enjoying all that the county has to offer over time.

North Coast of Cornwall

Bude with its sweeping sandy beaches is great for all surfing sports, as well as classic bucket and spade holidays. The coast changes dramatically from wide open sand dune backed spaces, to the incredible rugged cliff tops and secret coves surrounding Tintagel, legendary home of King Arthur and iconic Boscastle, with its double Elizabethan harbour. This little harbour offers shelter to a number of small fishing vessels who still land their catch daily and the traffic free cobbled streets seem frozen in a by-gone time, as they wind their way up along the steep sides of the Rivers Jordan and Valency.

As you travel along this stretch of the North Cornwall coast you are constantly aware of the parallel brooding majesty of Bodmin Moor, with its highest point at Brown Willy and the iconic Rough Tor silhouetted against the sky. Crowdy reservoir offers level walking amongst the wild ponies and cattle that still roam the whole area. Jamaica Inn was made famous by the novel of the same name and although we are quite sure there are no piratical activities today, your imagination can’t help but be fired by the dramatic scenery, changing colours and distant horizons.

Gentler strolls or even cycling is offered on the Camel Trail. This disused railway line is now probably the most popular multi use trail in the country. Wadebridge is the centre point offering routes back up towards Bodmin, or the more popular path along the River Camel and down to Padstow. Cycles can be hired for all ages, even tandems and bikes with trailers for young children or lazy dogs! Most visitors to the county will either walk or cycle this trail as it offers such a unique way to enjoy the countryside, with great bird-watching opportunities along the way, and a fantastic array of world renowned dining and shopping options at the destination harbour town of Padstow. A visit to the world class Camel Valley Vineyard, to take home a bottle of “Cornwall” is also a new essential.

The Atlantic swell brings huge waves pounding towards Newquay and with seven beaches including Fistral, Lusty Glaze and Watergate Bay it’s no wonder it is known as King of the UK surfing scene. Holiday makers of all ages and world class boarders enjoy the choices of beach and variety of surf on offer. For those who prefer to sunbathe or stroll and watch the waves and shore-life, there is plenty of space to share, with miles of golden sands to enjoy.

This stretch of coastline from Newquay to St Ives, further west, has some of Cornwall’s most beautiful and dramatic beaches, which become family favourites for every age group. Perranporth has many pools and mysterious rock formations to explore, but beware when parking on the beach, as when the tide turns it rushes in and many a visitor has been caught unawares on this impromptu parking lot. Locals and holiday makers alike check out the web cam at Porthtowan’s Blue Bar and if surf is up then the work day is over and the wet suit is donned. St Agnes is a quaint village right in the heart of Cornwall’s mining heritage, with steep cobbled streets leading down to Trevaunance Cove where you can catch the waves, watch seals play in the surf and gaze back at Engine houses and Mine stacks sprouting out of the cliff face like unnatural trees. Some of the mine workings here go for miles out to sea and would still be viable today, if an efficient system could be devised to keep the encroaching sea at bay.

West Coast of Cornwall

St Ives has been welcoming visitors to its glorious setting for many years. It is truly the jewel in the crown of West Cornwall, with all the natural elements conspiring together to give it a unique light and beauty. Artists have flocked here to try and capture the essence of the town, which has given rise to a creative community unlike any other in Cornwall. Holiday makers can enjoy beach style holidays, boat trips to view the seals at Godrevy point and great fresh local produce to eat. Cape Cornwall and iconic Lands’ End offer dramatic cliff top scenery, outrageously beautiful sunsets and views over to the Scilly Isles, which are only 28 miles away.

There are some outstanding natural and manmade formations to view as the coast path travels into South Cornwall. The Minack Theatre near Porthcurno was the brain child of Rowena Cade, who moved to the area after WW1. She offered a local dramatic group the use of the field overlooking the sea next to her house, and set about creating a stage and some seating with her gardener. These plays were such a success, that she then spent every year working through all weathers to create and improve this incredible outdoor theatre space, which has the mighty ocean as a backdrop. A little further along the coast, in the wide sweep of Mounts Bay is St Michaels Mount, the home of the St Aubyn family. This tidal island has a former priory, now a castle home, set proudly on the top of the rocks and is reached by a cobbled causeway which appears at low tide. The resident community are used to the isolation brought by the sea, as well as the enormous number of summer visitors who come to view the castle and its gardens and the harbour-side houses.

From St Michaels Mount you can see the most southerly point in Great Britain, at The Lizard. This whole peninsula is one of outstanding natural beauty with some iconic National Trust beaches to enjoy that can only be reached at certain times of the tide. Helston is the main town in the area and it has its own claim to fame in that every year on the 8th May the Flora dance winds its way through the cobbled streets and notable houses in the town. You have to be born in the town to take part and it is an eagerly awaited result every year, to see who has the honour of the dance.

South and South East Coast of Cornwall

Falmouth has a legendary maritime history that is celebrated in the National Maritime Museum on Events Square at the heart of the docks. With beautiful beaches and an almost tropically mild climate, holidays can be enjoyed here at any time of the year. Numerous boat trips operate from the many piers, crossing the Carrick Roads to St Mawes, round to the Helford River or up to the City of Truro. Truro is the commercial, administrative and financial centre of Cornwall. As well as many boutique and individual shops to browse in the “Opes” – cobbled narrow streets criss-crossing the town, there are many national high street stores and great eateries too.

Further along the South Cornwall coast is the well regarded fishing villages of Looe, Mevagissey and of course St Austell. Although St Austell’s past is steeped in the Packet Ship trade from Charlestown and the China Clay industry it supported, it is now world famous for the incredible Eden Project. The transformation of these former china clay works into Tropical and Mediterranean Biomes is astounding and inspirational to all who visit.

Plymouth famously marks the border between Cornwall and Devon, where the Tamar broadens its course through the Sound and out into the English Channel and thankfully today is a centre for maritime leisure activities, shopping, eating out and general relaxation.

For ideas for places to go and activities to enjoy visit our Enjoy Cornwall pages.