Must-visit Cornwall attractions holiday cottages

Must-visit Cornwall attractions

Clare Willcocks 03 April 2023

Packed with amusement parks, zoos, museums, historic houses and beautiful gardens, Cornwall is one of the best places in the country for a family holiday or a fantastic couples’ break. There’s plenty for groups to enjoy too, and an abundance of stunning natural attractions to explore on foot or by bike.

We’ve picked out some of the best attractions in Cornwall, whether you’re looking for artistic inspiration in the form of galleries and theatres, or hunting down adrenaline thrills. And when you’ve whetted your appetite for adventure, why not have a browse of our holiday cottages in Cornwall, where you can balance your activities with rest and relaxation.

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Family days out in Cornwall

Family attractions in Cornwall

Cornwall has long been a famous holiday destination in the UK, and no wonder, given the choice of 'things to do' in the region. Besides the beaches and activities on offer, there are plenty of Cornwall attractions to keep the kids entertained come rain or shine, including adventure parks, theme parks and indoor play centres.

Flambards Theme Park, Helston 

Flambards is Cornwall’s best day of the week – whatever the weather. Great fun for all ages, brave the sky-high thrill rides, or enjoy the undercover soft play area.

Kidzworld Adventure Play, St Austell 

A fun family day out is in store at Kidzworld with heaps of indoor and outdoor fun, including soft play, dodgems, mini-golf, roller-skating and trampolines.

Land’s End, near Sennen 

Arguably Cornwall’s most famous attraction, Land’s End is not only the westernmost point of Cornwall, but it’s also packed with pay-as-you-go family fun, or you can enjoy all the attractions with an Experience Ticket.

Lappa Valley Steam Railway, St Newlyn East 

Lappa Valley is situated just outside of Newquay. You will discover a fantastic day of adventure and discovery, all in one ticket!

The Eden Project, near St Austell 

These iconic biomes house an astonishing array of plants and birds from across the world. The Eden Project is sure to be one of the highlights of your week, and with cafes, play areas and plenty to keep the kids busy, it makes for a relaxing family day out.

Jubilee Pool, Penzance 

Jubilee Pool is a unique and historic Grade II-listed saltwater lido situated on Penzance promenade, with a geothermal pool for when there’s a bit of a nip in the air!

Camel Creek, near Padstow

Camel Creek is a fun family theme park in Cornwall which will satisfy your mini adrenaline junkies, with thrilling rides, rollercoasters, soft play areas, and small animals to meet.

What if it rains?

Rainy day attractions in Cornwall

Believe it or not, Cornwall does sometimes experience a bit of liquid sunshine! Thankfully, though, many of the attractions above are kitted out for all weather and have indoor play areas, and there are lots of wet-weather attractions for when the rain just won’t let up. If you’re not worried about getting wet, you can always take to the sea to try some water sports!

Animal attractions in Cornwall

For a glimpse of Cornwall's shyer animals like otters, seals and sharks, try exploring an animal park where you can have a close encounter! There are lots of tourist attractions in Cornwall where you can come face to face with more exotic animals too – lock eyes with a lion, have a hoot with the monkeys, or discover the creatures of the deep…

Zoos and animal parks in Cornwall

Animal attractions in Cornwall

Farm parks in Cornwall

Farm parks in Cornwall

Sea life safaris in Cornwall

Sea life safaris in Cornwall

Cornwall harbours an astonishing diversity of sea life within its waters, from tiny fish and corals, to dolphins, seals and even turtles and sharks. You can meet some of these fascinating creatures in the wildlife centres listed above, but one of the best ways to appreciate them is by witnessing them in their natural surroundings on a boat trip.

Nothing compares to watching dolphins jumping alongside the boat, or seeing the head of a curious grey seal emerge from the water beside you. The following companies (among many others) offer the opportunity to get up close to these wonderful animals in their natural environment.

History and heritage attractions in Cornwall

Cornwall's rich history and heritage includes Arthurian legends, mining and industry, steam railways and an incredible maritime past, giving you much to explore and discover.

Wherever you stay in the county, you’ll find history attractions in Cornwall; the following are just some of the highlights!

Historic houses and gardens in Cornwall

Historic houses and gardens in Cornwall

Cornwall is blessed with a plethora of glorious houses and estates with stunning gardens and grounds to explore. Many have been used as filming locations for a number of productions over the years, including Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Twelfth Night, Summer In February and Poldark.

As well as the Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian manor houses with beautiful gardens and grounds, there are also some amazing gardens in their own right. Cornwall is fortunate to enjoy a much milder climate than the rest of the country, allowing species which would perish in more northerly parts to grow here happily. Spring comes earlier and the array of species and colours is breathtaking.

Below are a selection of the historic houses and gardens you can visit in Cornwall – some of them belong to the National Trust, others are independently run. You’ll come across many more on your travels in Cornwall, too!

Cotehele, near Saltash 

Cotehele is an attractive medieval house on the banks of the River Tamar with an expansive estate to roam.

Glendurgan, near Falmouth 

A valley garden of great beauty, Glendurgan was created in the 1820s and runs down to the tiny village of Durgan and its beach. There are many fine trees and rare and exotic plants.

Lanhydrock House and Garden, Bodmin 

One of the most beautiful National Trust properties in Cornwall, Lanhydrock is set in wooded parkland of 1,000 acres and encircled by a garden of rare shrubs and trees.

Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell 

Discover the mysteries of The Lost Gardens of Heligan - explore the Victorian Gardens, a sub-tropical jungle, pioneering Wildlife Project and beyond.

Pencarrow, between Wadebridge and Bodmin

The Georgian house of Pencarrow boasts an impressive library, elegant but lived-in reception rooms, period bedrooms and collections of fascinating furniture and portraits.

Pinetum Gardens, St Austell

The Pinetum Gardens are a 30-acre gardener’s paradise! Over 6,000 rare and unusual plants – all labelled. Water features, formal and cottage gardens, Japanese garden and lake.

Prideaux Place in Cornwall

Prideaux Place, Padstow 

One of the very brightest jewels in Cornwall's crown, Prideaux Place is visually and essentially Elizabethan yet with a wealth of Strawberry Hill Gothic interiors.

Trebah Garden, near Falmouth 

Trebah is a uniquely beautiful, wooded, 25-acre sub-tropical ravine garden with its own beach on the beautiful Helford River. Wild and magical.

Trelissick Gardens, near Truro 

Perched at the head of the Fal Estuary, Trelissick boasts jaw-dropping views and a huge array of plant species. Quite literally at the water's edge.

Trengwainton Garden, Penzance 

Experience stunning views and an abundance of exotic trees and shrubs in a garden cradled just inland of Mount's Bay. Trengwainton is home to magnificent walled gardens.

Trerice, near Newquay 

Trerice is an Elizabethan manor house with fine interiors and a delightful garden. Challenge the family to a game of Kayling or Slapcock! Or just get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the tranquillity Trerice has to offer.

Castles in Cornwall

Castles in Cornwall

Launceston Castle, Launceston

Launceston Castle dates from the early years of the Norman conquest. Towering over the town, it was a reminder of the power of the Earls (later Dukes) of Cornwall.

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth 

450 years of fascinating history can be discovered at Pendennis Castle, from Henry VIII's coastal stronghold to its last military role as a secret Second World War base.

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel 

Surrounded by a deep, dry moat and perched on a high mound, the huge circular Norman keep of Restormel Castle survives in good condition.

St Mawes Castle, St Mawes 

St Mawes Castle was built near the waterline by Henry VIII to guard the entrance to the safe anchorage in the Carrick Roads.

St Michaels Mount, Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount, Penzance

Occupying the most enviable position atop its own island and reached by a tidal causeway, St Michael's Mount is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Cornwall.

Tintagel Castle, Tintagel 

In a spectacular setting on the North Cornwall coast, Tintagel Castle has long been one of the county's most popular attractions. Steeped in Arthurian legend, you can still visit Merlin's cave!

Caerhays Castle, St Austell 

Caerhays is a 200-year-old castle set in fabulous gardens with an outstanding collection of camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias.

Heritage sites

Bodmin and Wenford Railway, Bodmin 

Discover the excitement and nostalgia of steam travel on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway; journey through beautiful countryside on Cornwall's only full-size railway still operated by steam locomotives.

Carnglaze Slate Caverns, Liskeard

The Carnglaze Slate Caverns are three caverns formed as part of a slate quarry. The Rum Store cavern is so called because the Navy used it to store rum in WWII. Recently used as a concert venue.

Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre, Charlestown

The artefacts on display at the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre are the largest private collection of this type and one of the most unusual and interesting on display in Europe.

Geevor Tin Mine, Land’s End

A mining museum, heritage centre, shop and cafe can be found at Geevor Tin Mine, set in beautiful coastal scenery. Take the underground tour into Wheal Mexico, where Cornish miners toiled more than 200 years ago.

Jamaica Inn, near Launceston 

Old Coaching Tavern made famous by Daphne Du Maurier – the location in which she based her story of wreckers. Jamaica Inn is situated just off the A30, in the middle of wild and beautiful Bodmin Moor.

Levant Mine and Beam Engine, near Penzance 

Discover a unique steam-powered Cornish beam engine in action at Levant Mine.

Mine in Cornwall

Poldark Mine, Helston 

Genuine 18th-century Cornish tin mine featuring guided underground tours.  The Poldark Mine has a museum, entertainment, gardens, restaurant, gift shops and craft workshops.

Tintagel Old Post Office, Tintagel

14th-century building on the plan of a medieval yeoman farmhouse, with a large hall. The Old Post Office was used in the 19th century as a letter-receiving office and restored as such.

Tolgus Tin Mill, Redruth

Tolgus Tin Mill is now the only original working example left in the country. An ongoing restoration project, the mill was established in 1865 and is home to the mighty Cornish stamps. Free to enter, Tolgus Mill still recovers and smelts tin on site which is used for its own jewellery collection which helps pay for its preservation.

Museums in Cornwall

Museums in Cornwall

Maritime Museum, Falmouth

Dipping its toe in Falmouth's harbour, the multi-award-winning National Maritime Museum celebrates the sea, boats and Cornwall, with 15 stunning galleries.

The Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

Houses the world's largest collection of witchcraft-related artefacts and regalia. Located in Boscastle for 50 years, the Museum of Witchcraft is amongst Cornwall's most popular museums.

Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance

Public gallery specialising in the Newlyn School artists. Penlee House also covers West Cornwall's archaeology and social history.

Museum of Global Communications, Penzance

Established as a communications centre in 1870 when pioneering engineers laid an undersea cable network from the beach to India and the British Empire, today the Museum of Global Communications tells a fascinating story.

Art and culture in Cornwall

Culture vultures are spoilt for attractions in Cornwall! Art galleries jostle for space in pretty coastal towns, splendid venues host myriad events throughout the year, and traditional theatres showcase some of the best Cornwall, national and international talent.

Art galleries in Cornwall

Tate St Ives, Cornwall

With a unique quality of light, stunning scenery and a rich heritage, Cornwall is an artist's paradise. Whatever town or village you stay in is sure to have its own little art gallery. Explore the local's work or visit some larger galleries.

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives

Discover the work of one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, Barbara Hepworth, in the place where she lived and worked.

Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange, Newlyn

Newlyn Art Gallery has a varied exhibition of contemporary works across two sites. A fantastic opportunity to discover the diversity of Cornwall’s burgeoning artist community.

Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth

Visit this impressive gallery in the arty town of Falmouth to view its extensive permanent collection and range of changing exhibitions. With regular events, the Falmouth Art Gallery is a vibrant hub for all things art-related, and one of the cultural attractions in Cornwall you won’t want to miss. Discover even more things to do in Falmouth in this guide.

Tate St Ives, St Ives

One of 4 UK Tate galleries, Tate St Ives is an introduction to international modern and contemporary art, including works from the Tate Collection.

Theatres in Cornwall

Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Hall for Cornwall, Truro

The Hall for Cornwall is a live events venue in a spectacular Grade II-listed building.

Lane Theatre, Newquay

The Lane Theatre is Newquay's multi-award-winning live theatre.

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

Cornwall's world-famous open-air theatre, the Minack Theatre is carved into the cliffs.

Penlee Park Open Air Theatre, Penzance

A lovely outdoor venue, Penlee Park hosts family shows and evening spectacles.

Princess Pavilion, Falmouth

A unique venue with something for everyone, the Princess Pavilion has year-round live music, drama and entertainment.

The Little Theatre, Padstow

A tiny theatre seating 60, The Little Theatre is the home of Padstow Kernow Players.

The Poly, Falmouth

The Poly is a cultural hub with Makers’ Guild shop, exhibitions and a plethora of live shows.

Cinemas in Cornwall

Cinemas in Cornwall

Music in Cornwall

Music in Cornwall

Cornwall has many up-and-coming bands but also a rich culture of more traditional music such as sea shanties. In recent years the Fisherman's Friends of Port Isaac have gained national acclaim for their music. There is often live music playing in many pubs across the county. Take a look at Visit Cornwall’s music guide to find out what’s on.

Natural attractions in Cornwall

Cornwall's north coast is synonymous with rugged coastline and crashing waves while the south coast likes things a little gentler! In between lies rolling countryside filled with wooded valleys, moors, lakes and farmland. Whatever your mood, Cornwall will have a landscape for it. Read on for Cornwall tourist attractions of the natural kind…

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Cornwall's beautiful and diverse countryside and coastline forms a recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, made up of 12 separate sections. Cornwall's AONB includes:

  • Hartland
  • Pentire Point to Widemouth
  • The Camel Estuary
  • Carnewas to Stepper Point
  • St Agnes
  • Godrevy to Portreath
  • West Penwith
  • Lizard to Marazion
  • The Fal Ria and Roseland Coast to Porthpean
  • Par Sands to Looe (including the Fowey Ria)
  • Rame Head
  • Bodmin Moor

Lakes and reservoirs in Cornwall

Lakes in Cornwall

The following are beautiful, rural areas, ripe for exploring with family and friends. While they’re not the first tourist attractions in Cornwall that you’d think of visiting, they are some of the lesser-known scenic destinations, and well worth including on your itinerary.

Upper and Lower Tamar Lakes, near Bude

Tamar Lakes offers a variety of activities including water sports, angling, walking and relaxing.

Siblyback Lake, near Liskeard

The scenic Siblyback Lake situated on Bodmin Moor, near Liskeard, is a great day out for all the family with a variety of activities on offer.

Porth Reservoir, near Newquay

A mature coarse fishery and designated bird sanctuary, Porth Reservoir is a peaceful and picturesque site and is certainly worth a visit to enjoy the Cornish countryside. There are bird hides and a visitor centre.

Crowdy Reservoir, near Camelford

Situated within the Bodmin Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest, birdwatchers will not be disappointed at this moorland lake. The banks, except around the Nature Reserve, are open for walking and picnicking and a bird hide, that’s open to all visitors and is a pleasant 20-minute walk from the car park along the north bank. In recognition of the high conservation value of Crowdy Reservoir, no activities apart from free wilderness trout angling take place at this location.

Colliford Lake, near Bodmin

Located south of Jamaica Inn, the famous smugglers' haunt immortalised by Daphne du Maurier, Colliford Lake is a tranquil lake providing some excellent moorland walks. With ample parking, picnic areas and lakeside walks, Colliford provides the opportunity for a peaceful day in the countryside. Three-way-marked walks take in neighbouring moorland and the Nature Reserve is an important site for birdlife including over-wintering wildfowl.

Visit the South West Lakes Trust website for more lakes to explore.

Stay with us in Cornwall

There are plenty of attractions in Cornwall to fill an itinerary for a year, let alone a short break or a week’s holiday! Take your pick of our holiday cottages in Cornwall and let the adventure begin!

Whether you see yourself sedately exploring some of Cornwall’s stately homes, or flinging your family into an adrenaline-fuelled day at a theme park, our cosy Cornish cottages provide a comfortable base for your days out.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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