From the chocolate box charms of Port Isaac (home of Doc Martin) to the golden beaches along south Cornwall’s stunning coastline, Cornwall boasts an impressive collection of pretty sights. We even have a rainforest hidden away in the extraordinary biomes of the Eden Project near St Austell. But it’s not just idyllic seaside towns and hidden coves that await your holiday in Cornwall. Oh no, this wonderfully varied county is home to some seriously staggering views that boggle the mind and fill the camera roll.
The north Cornish coast alone has enough dramatic vistas to fill a holiday, with ancient castles and precariously placed stacks of granite adding a spectacular spot of drama to your visit (but more on those later). In fact, whether you want towering cliffs, epic moorland or striking views that have inspired their fair share of authors and artists, there’s no better place to be than Cornwall.
Intrigued? Here’s our list of the most dramatic places in Cornwall you simply must visit…
Kynance Cove, The Lizard
Kicking things off with a place we all know and love, Kynance Cove has made itself at home on many a guide to beautiful Cornwall. With its rugged, serpentine coastline and white sandy beach, this magical spot on the Lizard Peninsula is famous for a reason. Just as epic on a windy winter’s day as it is in the height of summer for a swim with a view, there’s no wrong time to visit Kynance (although you should always take caution when the weather is adverse).
Head out on the surrounding South West Coast Path to soak up all of the dramatic wiles of the Lizard or drop down to the beckoning sands for a beach day like no other – the beachside café here is particularly tempting with its refreshing beers and moreish cream teas.
Another cliffside attraction that’s considered one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall, the Minack Theatre in west Cornwall has been wowing visitors for an age. An open-air theatre that’s carved into the very cliff that supports it, you can enjoy the incredible views with a simple stroll around the theatre or a dramatic evening performance, which takes the word ‘backdrop’ to a whole new level.
The Minack is perched above Porthcurno beach, which offers turquoise waters perfect for a striking swim. During your visit, keep an eye on these sparkling waters as a pod of dolphins or the shadowy form of a basking shark are frequent sights at this most dramatic of clifftop locations.
One of the most dramatic castles in Cornwall, Tintagel is epic in more ways than one. Not only is this ancient castle perched atop a lofty island of the north Cornish coast, but it’s also rumoured to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur, and as such is steeped in myth and mystery, making it a fascinating place to visit. We particularly love combining our trip with a pub lunch for one of the best pub walks in Cornwall - perfect!
Adding to the drama (not that it needs it), the impressive bridge that takes you from the mainland to the island stronghold boasts a seriously jaw-dropping view as you tower above the rocks and waves below. A mystical sculpture of King Arthur that’s worthy of the magic and wonder that surrounds Tintagel can be found overlooking the cliffs and fierce seas. While you’re in the area, a trip to St Nectan’s Glen is well worth it. A rainforest nestled right here in Cornwall, this rich and captivating valley is a true hidden gem and home to one of Cornwall’s most enchanting waterfalls. Don’t forget your camera on this trip, there will be lots of opportunities for a memorable photo!
Bedruthan Steps, nr Padstow
North Cornwall really does go above and beyond when it comes to striking views, with Bedruthan Steps firmly planted as one of the most sought-after vistas in the area. The golden beach below (which is currently closed due to rockfalls on the steps), features iconic rock stacks looming over the sand, creating the dramatic scene we know and love.
While you might not be able to get onto the beach, you can soak up the views from on high before exploring the coastal path in either direction. You can walk from nearby Padstow, which provides some excellent eateries as well as the start of the famous Camel Trail, or you can park in the nearby National Trust car park. The much-loved Carnewas Tearooms provide a stunning spot to enjoy a coffee and a cake as you bask in the ever-so-dramatic views across Bedruthan Steps, or you can soak up the views from Bedruthan Spa with a spa day with a rather spectacular difference.
Bodmin Moor, Bodmin
If you’re in the mood for dizzying heights and wild landscapes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Brontë novel, then Bodmin Moor might be the perfect place for you. A designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to Cornwall’s highest hill (Brown Willy, otherwise known as Bronn Wennili), there is no shortage of epic views across Cornwall’s reaching moorland.
One of the best ways to enjoy these stretching scenes is to walk from Rough Tor (Cornwall’s second-highest hill) to Brown Willy, which will take you past many fascinating Brown Age sites, including a possible resting place of an ancient Cornish king. While exploring the wilderness of the moors, keep an eye out for the legendary Beast of Bodmin, a big cat that was thought to roam this ancient tundra and The Cheesewring, a granite tor with rocky stacks that look like they were placed carefully by giants centuries ago. You can also stop by the famous Jamaica Inn, which not only played host to many a smuggler back in the day but inspired Daphne Du Maurier’s novel of the same name. Bodmin really does have a fantastical atmosphere surrounding it.
Did you think we would forget Cornwall’s iconic ocean-side mount? If you’re looking for drama, you can’t beat a castle surrounded by Cornish waves! Just off the coast of Marazion and linked by an ancient cobblestone causeway (at low tide), St Michael’s Mount has been an image synonymous with Cornwall for centuries. Don’t worry if high tide makes visiting seem like an overly sodden task, boats ferry eager passengers to and from the mount during peak seasons so you can visit no matter what the tide’s doing. Although it’s worth noting the island will close in unfavourable weather, Marazion is a great place for a spot of storm watching, so pull up a pew in one of the seaside eateries and enjoy the show!
Once there, you can explore the quiet harbour, the sub-tropical gardens, and the historic castle, as you discover the equally dramatic histories and legends that surround this iconic landmark – Jack the Giant Killer is just one of the well-known Cornish tales to originate from this stretch of the coast. If you don’t have time for a visit, or just want to gaze upon this mammoth structure from afar, we recommend grabbing a fresh-out-the-fryer fish and chips and sitting on the beach with the mount in front of you – there is no greater backdrop to your takeaway dinner.
Zennor Head, Zennor
Just around the corner from the peaceful idylls of St Ives, where you’ll find lots of art galleries, white sandy beaches and seafront eateries, Zennor provides a striking contrast to the vibrant seaside town. Rugged cliffs, white-tipped waters, and an ancient pub? There are many things that make Zennor such a recognisable Cornish scene. A short walk from the village will take you to the headland at Zennor, where the true majesty of the area can be experienced. With the wind lapping at your face, you can really immerse yourself in the moment as you look across the deep blue waters where mermaids once lived (or so the Cornish legend goes).
Walk along the steep but spectacular coastal path to St Ives, or mill around Zennor where you can sink a few pints in the 700-year-old Tinners Arms (which is wonderfully dog-friendly and home to a rather cosy open fire) or visit the famous Moomaid of Zennor for one of Cornwall’s best ice creams inspired by the fantastic local tale. You can also stroll around the coast to the west and sample one of Cornwall’s best (and brightest) Michelin recommended restaurants, Gurnard’s Head.
Land’s End, Sennen
The most south westerly point of Cornwall has garnered quite the reputation when it comes to spectacular views and when standing on the rocky headland it’s very easy to see why. Surrounded by the swells of the Atlantic, this stretch of coast is known for its climactic weather, which is further highlighted by the Longships Lighthouse that sits just off the coast, helping mariners avoid the treachery of the rocks. At the headland, you’ll find the Cornish attraction Land’s End, which is home to a West Country Shopping Village, family fun and experiences, and a smattering of eateries including the First & Last Inn. Walk to Land’s End via Nanjizal to fully absorb one of the most dramatic and striking coastlines in Cornwall, along with the enchantingly named ‘song of the sea’, an impressive archway at the end of a pretty gully.
If you’re feeling curious, you can walk along the coastal path to the spooky shipwreck at Gamper Bay. Known locally as the ‘Wrong Trousers Wreck’, the story goes that in 2003, the ship’s captain got his trousers caught on the ship’s lever and knocked himself out. By the time he came to, it was too late, and the rocky coast of Land’s End had claimed yet another wreckage. It does make for a very dramatic sight so is well worth a visit. While you’re in the area, you can also stop by the stunning beach at Sennen, which is known for its superb surfing and perfectly placed beachside restaurant. If the dog’s with you in the summer months, simply walk a bit further round the coast to the very dog-friendly beach of Gwynver where you can bask in the sun surrounded by the west coast’s oh-so dramatic coastline.
Logan Rock, Treen
The far west of Cornwall really is a gold mine of jaw-dropping views, not to mention interesting backstories – none more fascinating than the teetering rock above Pedn Vounder beach. In 1824, a group of sailors wanted to prove that a supposedly immovable rock could in fact be moved so, with a great effort, they tipped this hulking slab of granite into the sea. Sadly, this act did not go down well with the locals, who demanded they put the rock back. Although the act nearly bankrupted the lieutenant in charge, the rock was indeed returned to its former position, where it remains today.
You can walk to Logan Rock from nearby Penberth Cove, a lovely circular walk that takes you past the Logan Rock Inn, which is always good for a mid-walk refresh! Along this stretch, you can also climb down to Pedn Vounder, which is often considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall. It is a nudist beach so don’t worry if you forget your swimsuit – they’re optional!
A World Heritage Site that’s as rich in history as it is in staggering views, Botallack along the Tin Coast is a must for those wanting an eye-popping view with a side of heritage. Defined by Cornwall’s mining past, this stretch of coast is peppered with remnants of the county’s industrial sector, with impressive engine houses and crumbling miner’s cottages marking the way. The most famous of these historic etchings are the Crowns engine houses, which have been featured in the likes of Poldark. Perched on the jutting cliffs, these precariously placed engine houses offer a jaw-dropping sight, especially when the Atlantic swells are doing what they do best.
There are some incredible walks in the area that twist and wind through this ancient landscape – there’s even an app to help you make the most of your fascinating visit. We recommend grabbing a piping hot Cornish pasty to take with you for the ultimate Cornish experience. During your adventure here, continue to Cape Cornwall for even more boggling views along the Tin Coast, or pop into the peaceful village of St Just, where you’ll find the most charming café/bookshop that provides everything from cream teas to hard-backed classics.
Explore our collection of stunning holiday cottages in Cornwall and discover the perfect place from which to delve into Cornwall’s dramatic scenery. You can even choose a beautiful cottage with a sea view for an extra dose of drama.