Cornwall is a magical land with castles standing guard over the coast, historical estates, national parks, and dramatic cliffs plunging into the sea. A peninsula located in the most southwestern part of the United Kingdom, Cornwall has over 300 miles of coastline. Needless to say, some of the prettiest and most secluded beaches can be found in Cornwall.
The Cornish coastline also offers hundreds of miles of hiking and walking trails and sub-tropical gardens. Nothing is very far away, so with a bit of planning it’s easy to enjoy all that Cornwall has to offer.
In fact, it’s quite easy to find things to do that are a bit out of the way in Cornwall, where you can really luxuriate in the beautiful scenery and solitude that is available here if that is what you seek.
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How to get to Cornwall
From London, the easiest and the most scenic way to reach Cornwall is by train. All trains to Cornwall go through Plymouth Station. From Plymouth, you can connect with other transport to various stations throughout Cornwall. It’s important to know exactly where you want to go so that you can get help if needed. First Great Western provides affordable and extensive rail service throughout England.
There’s also the night train from Paddington Station. Every night except Saturday, the Night Riviera Sleeper departs London for Cornwall at about 10:30 p.m. If you live overseas, you can buy your ticket online and then collect it from the self-serve machines at any of the main train stations in London.
Driving is always an option, but you should be aware that in summer months, traffic (and parking especially) can be quite challenging. Do your research and maybe save the road trip for sights that have good parking facilities.
Since Cornwall has such an extensive coastline, ferries are a great way to travel from one port or harbor to the next. You simply enjoy watching the scenery go by.
There is bus service from many of the train stations out to the city centers. Many places offer bus services as an option to driving, to help clear traffic in some of the high tourist areas.
If you’re taking a regional flight, you’ll want to go to the airport at Newquay, then take a car, bus, or train to your next destination.
Now that you’ve arrived in Cornwall, what should you see and do?
Go to the beach! With 300 miles of coastline, you can bet Cornwall has plenty of great beaches to explore and enjoy. In the south, the beaches are more sheltered and there are many coves and pretty harbor towns. Swim, surf, kayak, fish, hike, and search for seashells. Each beach has its own unique features. Most beaches have lifeguards and good parking, but it’s a good idea to check before you go. Every beach offers something different. Decide what you’d like to do, then plan accordingly.
Porthcurno is a popular beach area, with many sheltered small coves.
Pednavounder Beach is a beautiful white sandy beach with rock granite cliffs. This is often said to be the prettiest beach in England.
Falmouth is a deep water port located at the mouth of the Fal Estuary. There are several popular beaches here, including Gyllyngvase Beach, Swanppol, Castle Beach and Tunnel Beach.
St. Michael’s Mount and Marazion beach are popular tourist destinations, and really they are a must see in Marazion. The Mount, as it’s often referred to, is a tidal island, accessible by foot during low tide. The main beach is Long Beach, facing southwest. It would be a great place to capture a sunset shot of the 11th Century monastery which crowns the island.
St. Mawes and Pendennis Castles
Castles scream adventure and romance, don’t they? St. Mawes and Pendennis were built to protect the mainland from invasion by the French and Spanish during the time of the Tudor King Henry VIII, and are well-preserved examples of Tudor architecture. St. Mawes is the best preserved and most architecturally interesting, with a circular central tower and three lower bastions creating a cloverleaf shape. Both are on Falmouth Harbour.
Besides the beach…
If you love architecture and quiet places that invite contemplation, it’s an easy walk to St. Just in Roseland church. This is the site of a 5th-century Celtic chapel. Located on the water’s edge and surrounded by sub-tropical gardens, it is a great place to stop for a picnic.
Truro is the only real city in Cornwall, and home to the Royal Cornwall Museum and Art Gallery. In Truro, you can also catch the Falmouth Train line to Falmouth Town, where you can visit Pendennis Castle.
Discover world-class art in St. Ives. Visit the Tate Gallery, part of the Tate Gallery in London. The stained glass window by painter Patrick Heron has won awards for architectural design. The building was dedicated by H.R.H. Prince Charles in 1993. The building is a work of art itself, overlooking the ocean.
Walk the cobblestone streets of St.Ives and enjoy the fishing harbor, abundance of flowers, and delicious fresh seafood.
Minack Theatre. You may think you’re dreaming when you first see the Minack Theatre, as it looks like an ancient Roman theater carved out of granite. With the blue ocean providing a backdrop unlike anyplace else, this is the place to catch a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays. I think even the Bard would approve.
Go garden hopping. Cornwall is home to an amazing number of world-class gardens which also provide great walking trails through heavily forested areas. One of the best-known and rated one of the top eighty sub-tropical gardens in the world, Trebah Gardens can be visited year-round. Walk down to Polgwiddon Cove for a break and stunning views of the Falmouth Bay.
No matter where you go in Cornwall, spectacular scenery is almost a given.
This is only a small sampling of things you can do in Cornwall. What do you want to see and do first?
Like this article? Want to see more about England’s beautiful coastline? Read: Beaches, Books, and The English Riviera