Best things to do in Cornwall

Things to do

Best things to do in Cornwall

Whether you’re escaping for the weekend or a week, a holiday in Cornwall has so much to offer for all manner of tastes. From glorious coastline and rich history with stately homes, stone circles and ancient castles, to a plethora of gardens and astonishing scenery, which has long been a draw for artists and filmmakers; this diverse county offers a playground like no other. 

Whatever your passion, you’ll discover some truly unique days out in Cornwall, so pack a picnic and set off exploring - here are our top choices for the best things to do during your stay.


Eden Project, St Austell

Two people walking through the impressive Mediterranean biome at the Eden Project in Cornwall

One of Cornwall’s most iconic attractions and fascinating buildings, the monumental biomes of the Eden Project nestle to magical effect in a former quarry just outside St Austell, and are home to a multitude of worlds to discover. A truly one-of-a-kind oasis, take a trip to the tropics or the Mediterranean (without having to hop on a plane), where you’ll discover a mini rainforest complete with birds and waterfalls next to olive groves and frothy hot pink bougainvillaea.

Outside of the biomes, there’s sculptures, plants and trees to satisfy the most passionate of horticulturists, while there’s also fantastic eateries, a hub for courses, a stage for hosting the famous Eden Sessions, and even a zipwire for a bird’s eye view of the whole site.


Tintagel Castle, Tintagel

The iconic statue of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall

Once you’ve immersed yourself in the dramatic coastline of north Cornwall, it’s not surprising that such a magical place is interwoven with tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. Today managed by English Heritage, Tintagel is a breath-takingly beautiful spot, and once you’ve crossed the bridge on to the headland it’s all too easy to fall under its spell, cast by Merlin centuries ago.

Walk among the castle ruins that jut from the cliffs, marvel at Gallos, the life-sized bronze statue of an ancient king, and gaze out over the sundering seas before descending into Merlin’s mysterious cave. There may be no proof that King Arthur, Guinevere and his chivalrous knights ever existed, but you’ll be hard-pushed not to feel the magic at such an iconic spot. Afterwards, stroll into the village to take a look around the shops and tearooms, while the medieval Old Post Office (originally a farmhouse and looked after by the National Trust) is worth a peek too.


The Lost Gardens of Heligan, St Austell

Someone walking across the rope bridge at The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall

Hidden for years behind brambles and crumbling walls since the outbreak of WW1, The Lost Gardens of Heligan were brought back to their former glory back in 1990, and today offer visitors 200 acres of paradise to explore and a living memorial in honour of the former gardeners who lost their lives in battle.

Home to the UK’s only outdoor jungle, you can also lose yourself in the intricate collection of gardens (known as the Pleasure Grounds), and seek inspiration in the Victorian Productive Gardens, where you’ll discover over 300 varieties of mostly heritage fruit, veg and herbs. You can sample their seasonal produce in the Heligan Kitchen, and then little ones can let off steam in the Heligan Play Meadow or by clambering over the iconic Jungle Rope Bridge. If you fancy something a little more sedate, meander through the dappled woodland trails.


St Michael’s Mount, Marazion

People walking along the causeway towards St Michael's Mount in Cornwall

Whether you arrive on foot across the causeway at low tide or take the short boat trip by water, arriving at St Michael’s Mount is always memorable. Owned by the St Aubyn Family and managed by the National Trust, this tiny island is one of Cornwall’s most iconic views, majestically towering above the blue and turquoise waters of Mount’s Bay – it’s no wonder the mount has been used so much in film and TV, such as Game of Thrones.

Climb the cobbled pathway that winds uphill to the 12th century castle for astonishing views before delving into the rooms themselves; each an interesting glimpse into times gone by. Afterwards, wander through the subtropical terraced gardens and soak in the sea views – the sloping lawn is the perfect spot for a picnic – we recommend a pasty for a truly Cornish experience! Afterwards, make sure to spare some time for a walk around Marazion on the mainland – an ancient market town with interesting shops, art galleries and tearooms to potter around.


The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

Looking down across the Minack Theatre carved into the cliffs above Porthcurno beach in Cornwall

One of the world’s most beautiful settings for an open-air theatre, the Minack clings high on to the craggy granite cliffs above Porthcurno beach just beyond Penzance. It’s the creation of just one woman - the eccentric and theatre-loving Rowena Cade - who built it with her gardener back in 1929, carrying soil, rock and cement up and down the cliff face in wheelbarrows.

Today, the theatre’s schedule is jam-packed with plays, music events and comedies which are performed come rain or shine, so it’s worth bringing clothes for all conditions! Bring a picnic of local goodies for the best Cornish experience. With golden sands, turquoise sea and dramatic cliffs as your backdrop, we guarantee watching a performance here will remain firmly in your memory.


Lanhydrock, Bodmin

The historic house at Lanhydrock in Cornwall

Set within an estate of some 890 acres, impressive Lanhydrock House is a stunning Jacobean home, first constructed in the 1620s. Sadly, due to a devastating fire in 1881, most of the house was lost except the north wing, entrance porch and the 17th century long gallery – a magnificent 29-metre long room with an astonishing plaster ceiling, and home to a huge collection of art and objects gathered from around the world.

After the fire, the historic house was refurbished in grand Victorian style and now offers a fascinating glimpse into life below stairs (a must-see for Downton Abbey fans) with its huge kitchen, through to the luxurious bedrooms and living areas above. The extensive gardens are well worth a stroll too, while beyond there’s peaceful woodland and riverside walks, which are carpeted in bluebells in the spring.


Tate St Ives

Children looking at shelves at Tate St Ives in Cornwall

Cornwall has always drawn artists and creative types into its fold, and nowhere more so than in St Ives and the Tate, which opened its doors back in 1993. Showcasing modern art that has a connection to St Ives and its artistic community, it’s a stunning, airy and award-winning building. The sound of the waves are your soundtrack as you wander through galleries, jam-packed with vibrant artwork by the likes of Matisse and Picasso, as well as locals Nicholson and Hepworth who helped put St Ives on the artistic map.

If you have time, pop into the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden that’s set within the artist’s former home, studio and garden. Afterwards, pop down onto Porthmeor beach for a paddle or a spot of lunch in the café, before heading into the warren-like streets of St Ives itself to discover many interesting art galleries and independent shops.


National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth

Looking across the harbour and quay at the wooden exterior of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall

This 20-year-old fascinating and fun museum is a must visit when in Cornwall for lovers of all things nautical, and it’s great for families too. Recounting stories of man’s seafaring adventures, there’s plenty to see over its five vast floors. Filled with sailing vessels of all types and tales of bravery, hardship and of course pirates, you won’t leave the National Maritime Museum without having your swash fully buckled and learning a thing or two about maritime issues both past and present.

Set in Falmouth’s illustrious quay, you’ll find a great choice of eateries that overlook the bobbing boats and yachts moored here, and perhaps a visiting ship or two in the world’s deepest naturally-formed harbour. Afterwards, head to one of Falmouth’s beautiful beaches for a swim or enjoy some shopping in the high street - there's lots to do in this vibrant town.


Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek

A dog looking at the seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall

A firm family favourite with locals and visitors alike, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates over 70 grey seal pups each season from all over the Cornish coastline, as well as providing a full time home for animals that need special care, from beavers and penguins to pygmy goats and sheep.

You can view the seals in their pools from the surface and via the underwater viewing areas, seeing the likes of Diego the southern sea lion and the hugely entertaining Humboldt penguins. Located in the pretty village of Gweek, which lies on the Helford River in West Cornwall, this is a special tucked-away gem that makes for a great morning or afternoon out - and it's dog-friendly!


Knightor Winery, St Austell

Looking across the vineyard at Knightor Winery in Cornwall

Set high above the shores of St Austell Bay, the winery at Knightor lies in four acres of orchards and wildflower meadows, while the vineyard itself is set in Porthscatho on the Roseland Peninsula. Producing high quality, still and sparkling wines of the lighter variety alongside their very own English Vermouth. 

You can make the most of your visit with a spot of wine tasting, while wine aficionados can delight in a tour of their vineyard in Portscatho or the winery in St Austell. The Vine is their restaurant and bar set in the vineyard itself overlooking the coastline - a wonderful setting for a light lunch or tasty street food in the evening – all accompanied by a glass of something special, of course!


Trebah Garden, Falmouth

Towering trees and shimmering ponds at Trebah Gardens in Cornwall

Sprawling over 26 acres, this sub-tropical paradise is a lovely way to while away a sunny day. Created some 180 years ago, Trebah Garden lies nestled in a valley that gently leads down to its own private, secluded beach on the Helford River. In spring, the colourful display of 100-year old rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias are a sight to behold, and in autumn the hydrangea display creates clouds of baby blues and whites over the vast pond.

With a fantastic collection of trees and plants from the southern hemisphere, there’s something to delight the most passionate Monty Don, while there’s adventure play areas and a children’s trail to keep little ones entertained. The café at the top of the garden is particularly good for afternoon tea or a light lunch. Budding botanists can also head a short distance down the road to visit the equally lovely Glendurgan Garden.


Feeling inspired? Take a look at our lovely holiday cottages in Cornwall and start planning your tour of the best things to do.

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