From the dramatic north coast and the quaint beauty of the south coast to the west coast steeped in folklore and legend, Cornwall is not short on pretty places
In fact, there are too many scenic spots to cram into one holiday.
So, what’s a beauty-seeker to do? Plan an itinerary filled with only the prettiest places! Here are some ideas that’ll make sure your next trip to Cornwall is the most Instagram-worthy one yet.
The prettiest towns and villages in Cornwall
Popularised by the artists who came for the exquisite light, St Ives is arguably the prettiest town in Cornwall. Amble its quaint cobble streets shopping for quirky souvenirs in independent shops and boutiques, soak up culture at the seafront Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden or take a boat trip in search of the seal colony. You can easily spend a whole week exploring the picture-perfect beaches in St Ives, and when tummies rumble, head to the Rum and Crab Shack for exactly that, done exactly right, Bier Huis Grand Cafe for Belgium beer and tapas or The Mex to tickle your taste buds.
A trip to this vibrant working fishing port is sure to delight. Situated at the head of the Camel River, and surrounded by bays and beaches, it's a water lover’s paradise. Padstow is big on celebration; time your visit right and you could be dazzled with fireworks over the harbour or catch a pair of costumed horses parading around the town celebrating spring on Obby 'Oss Day. Pencil in a wander along Daymer Bay, a visit to the National Lobster Hatchery and a feast at Caffe Rojano by Paul Ainsworth.
Surrounded by a lush, hilly landscape, Looe is located at the mouth of the Looe River where boats bob peacefully in the harbour and holiday makers line the walls crabbing. Beautiful though it is, it's a proper seaside resort town so you'll never get bored. Take a dip at East Looe beach or look on from the pier, take a trip out wildlife watching to Looe Island or take a short drive to the nearby Monkey sanctuary. For lashings of olde worlde vibes get your dinner at the Old Sail Loft Restaurant, fans of Thai will love Ocean & Earth and whatever you do, head to Daisy's Cafe for a cream tea before you leave.
There is a year-round buzz in Falmouth thanks to its university student population and perpetual popularity with holidaymakers. The high street is very pretty with cobbled streets, quaint shops, and bunting to welcome the town’s much-loved festivals. and set back from the harbour, which is the third deepest in the world. Water-lovers will enjoy both Swanpool and Gyllyngvase beaches and those that'd like to learn more can visit the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Alternatively, head to the 16th-century fortress, Pendennis Castle, for a real-life history lesson. Amp the romance up with French cuisine at La Cave, tuck into South African inspired dishes made with Cornish produce at Amanzi and get caffeinated in style at Espressini.
If you're after a quaint fishing village, look no further than Polperro. Set in a ravine, ancient fishermen's cottages overlook the unspoilt harbour; this village looks like something out of a postcard. While away your time here exploring the narrow (but mercifully, traffic-free) lanes, taking a clifftop walk to Looe or swotting up on smuggling at the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing. Take a fishing trip out from the harbour and catch your supper, or if that sounds too much like hard work head to Michelle's Restaurant which is supplied by their own boats.
Home to the lovable Fisherman's Friends and feel-good Doc Martin series, many of you have probably already seen this charming fishing village on your screens. But it's worth the extra effort to see this ancient Cornish fishing village in real life. Time it right and you could see the Fisherman's Friends perform on the beach; you'll have to arrive early if you want to snag an outdoor pub table with a view though. Want a side of thrill with your beauty? Try coasteering! When it comes to dinner you can tuck into excellent seafood at Outlaw's Fish Kitchen or keep it simple with pizza at The Angry Anchovy.
The victim of endless mispronunciations, the ancient fishing port of Fowey (rhymes with joy) is lined with pastel cottages, beautiful boutiques and a quaint harbour. Shop for eclectic homewares with a tasteful seaside twist in the high street, stock up on pasties at Kittows or take a ferry over to Polruan for a wander. Speaking of new views, take a trip out to Catherine’s Castle, Henry VIII’s ancient fort, the cliff-top spot offers a gorgeous view of the town. Feeling peckish? Treat yourself to a proper start to the day at The Lifebuoy Cafe, then tuck into seafood at the iconic Sam's of an evening.
The prettiest beaches
If it’s big waves and epic sunsets you’re after, look no further than Fistral in Newquay. The home of British surfing is the ultimate watery playground in Cornwall and it attracts thrill seekers and wave hunters to its shore year-round. It’s the home of the surfing slice of Boardmasters Festival, not to mention countless other surfing competitions throughout the year if you like your beaches with a side of competition. After you've had your fill of sea and sand, stroll up to The Stable and enjoy pizza and cider with a view of the sun setting over the Atlantic. Perfection.
Five minutes from the hustle and bustle of Bude town centre you’ll find Summerleaze beach. It’s a proper resort beach with all the trimmings; expect brightly coloured beach huts for rent, a local surf school and lifeguards as well as decent facilities. It’s a popular spot for families thanks to the huge sandy expanse perfect for playing on, plus the sea pool is a great sheltered spot for young children getting to grips with swimming in the sea. Disabled visitors will also love Summerleaze as there is easy access from the carpark, disabled toilets and even a disabled sand chair available from the Summerleaze Beach Office.
A sheltered twin cove wedged east of Gribbin Head and west of the popular town of Fowey, it's well worth the walk down to see Polridmouth Cove. The two beaches, exposed at low tide and separated by a rocky headland, are cradled by lush green cliffs and fields, giving this spot a real earthy feel. It's a good fifteen-minute downhill trek from the nearest carpark and there is little in the way of facilities, but that's what people love best about this quiet, peaceful coastal spot.
You know it’s going to be good when a beach is described as 'paradise', but we bet Porthcurno Beach still takes your breath away when you see it in person. We're not sure if it's the flour fine white sand, turquoise sea, or the majesty of the nearby iconic Minack Theatre, but Porthcurno on Cornwall’s captivating west coast is a proper beauty. Speaking of nearby attractions, you'd also do well to factor in a visit to the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum which tells the impressive tale of the county's involvement in the pioneering days of global communications.
Kingsand and Cawsand
Tucked away in Cornwall’s ‘forgotten corner’, Kingsand and Cawsand beaches are twin beaches named after their respective twin villages tucked away on the Rame Peninsula. Both are a mixture of sand and shingle which a range of rock pools perfect for little ones to explore. They are both popular for swimming and boating alike, and there's nearby parking, cafes and loos available in the villages.
For classic good looks and lots to do, check out Perranporth beach on the north coast. At low tide the sea slinks back to reveal three miles of golden sandy beach perfect for exploring with all the family. And with that much beach, there’s always plenty of space even at the height of summer. While the town is lined with tasty eateries and pubs, for a bite and a drink with a view, you’ve got to check out The Watering Hole – the UK’s only bar on the beach.
One of the most popular beauty spots in Cornwall, Kynance Cove doesn’t disappoint. The beach is 'instafamous' thanks to the stark contrast of its white sand, turquoise sea and dark red and green serpentine rock. Walk from the Lizard Point for glorious views aplenty and the most scenic of finishes. For the best exploring, time it right and arrive at low tide when you can check out the towering rock stacks up close. Fuel up for the walk back with a cream tea or a Cornish pasty from Kynance Cove Café.
Just a stone's throw from the most westerly point in mainland Britain you'll find the glorious stretch of Sennen Beach. Its position sees it face the full force of the Atlantic, making it a popular spot for surfers and photographers alike. The town itself is as picturesque as they come; think historic cottages, cosy pubs and endless good views of the impressive swell.
The prettiest scenery in Cornwall
Head to the north coast and check out Bedruthan Steps where you’ll find the sea peppered with granite pillars jutting out of the sea. Legend has it these stately rock piles were once the stepping stones of the Giant, Bedruthan. If you'd like an afterhours adventure, head here for a spot of star gazing once the sun goes down. It's one of just two dark sky status sites in the county, meaning it’s considered one of the best stargazing locations in the country.
St Michael’s Mount
Sitting atop a tidal island in Mount's Bay, the medieval castle, garden and island community of St Michael's Mount is well worth checking out. At low tide you can walk along the ancient cobbled causeway, but get the boat at least one way for the sheer novelty. Once you arrive, take your time exploring the semi subtropical gardens and fascinating castle or failing that, simply grab an ice-cream and enjoy the view from Mount's Bay.
Fascinated by mining heritage? Head to the tin coast and check out the historic engine houses that cling precariously to the cliffs. Not only is this a Mining World Heritage Site, but it was used as a location during Poldark. A perfect adventure for TV fans and history buffs alike.
Cornwall isn't just about the coast and there's no better reminder of that than a trip to the sprawling granite moorland of Bodmin Moor. The stark landscape has its own kind of austere beauty that's best absorbed over the course of a day’s hike. Don't forget to swing by Jamaica Inn, of Daphne du Maurier fame, for a spot of lunch. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the Beast of Bodmin Moor too.
Be transported to another world with a visit to Golitha Falls. Here you’ll trek through ancient woodland to arrive at the majesty of the falls themselves. Together the cascade of falls drops some 90m in altitude, making for quite an impressive sight. There is a clear route to follow and while older children will love it, it's not suitable for pushchairs or those unstable on their feet. Those that are up for the adventure will be well rewarded. Pack your camera!
St Mawes Castle
An artillery fort constructed by Henry VIII, this distinctive fort, along with its sister fort Pendennis Castle, protected the port of Falmouth against invasion. Among one of the best-preserved of Henry VIII's seaside fortresses, this handsome Tudor pile is a joy to explore. Check out the clover-leaf shape of the castle, wander the landscaped gardens and learn all about Tudor life. Don't forget to soak up the stunning views over the Fal Estuary too.
Browse our selection of holiday cottages for the perfect base to explore beautiful Cornwall.