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Cornwall cultural attractions

From its artists’ hubs to its filming locations, Cornwall is a destination steeped in arts and culture. The most popular destination to get to the heart of all things arty is St Ives, where you can visit galleries including the Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Leach Pottery.  There are dozens of lesser known galleries and studios to seek out, such as Back Road Artworks in the Downalong area, where you can meet a community of artists and makers creating multi-media artwork. If you want to get in touch with your own creative side, sign up for a ‘sketch and stroll’ with the St Ives School of Painting.

Nearby Penzance and Newlyn are two more locations under the artistic spotlight. On the back of the famous Newlyn School art colony of the 1880s, and later, the Forbes School of Painting, the Newlyn School of Art was founded here in 2011, and provides painting, sculpture and drawing courses with some of Cornwall’s most respected artists.

Cornwall’s most notable literary connections should arguably be attributed to Fowey, once home to the region’s best-known author, Daphne du Maurier. The annual Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, held each May, was launched in honour of du Maurier, and her legacy is still very much at the core of this celebration of words, art and music. However, you don’t have to time your visit with the festival to explore the Fowey Estuary, climb to the daymark atop Gribbin Head and admire the historic Menabilly Estate that inspired some of her work.

Films and TV series aren’t the only performances in which Cornwall’s scenery plays such a vital role: this is a county that boasts an exceptional variety of unique, outdoor theatre settings and best known is the Minack Theatre.

Also, head to the natural amphitheatre of Sterts Theatre on the edge of Bodmin Moor, where the performance area is covered by a giant tent canopy, so you’ll be dry whatever the weather throws at you. During autumn and winter, here many of the performances are moved into the more intimate and cosy Sterts Studio.

Our picks

The Minack Theatre
Minack Theatre

The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance TR19 6JU

The Minack Theatre is an amphitheatre carved into the cliffs at Porthcurno. The life’s work of Rowena Cade, the Minack opened in 1932 with a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and at least one Shakespeare classic features in the annual programme of plays and music in which the Cornish weather, the spectacular ocean backdrop, and sometimes even passing dolphins, play their part. Visit website

Newlyn Art Gallery
Newlyn Art Gallery

New Road, Newlyn, Penzance TR18 5PZ

The Newlyn Art Gallery exists because of a long history of contemporary art making in the far west of Cornwall and has celebrated contemporary art and supported the artists that produce it more than 120 years. The gallery continues to present contemporary work in all media by regional, national and international artists, with a programme of events, activities and education. There is a shop onsite selling ceramics, jewellery, cards and art books and the studio cafe serves cakes, pastries and savoury snacks. Visit website

Pencarrow House & Gardens

Bodmin PL30 3AG

Pencarrow House & Gardens lie at the foot of a sweeping valley between Bodmin and Wadebridge in Cornwall. The largely Georgian mansion is still owned and occupied by descendants of the family who settled there in the 1500s. Open to the public since the 1970s, Pencarrow House & Gardens is a great day out for families, history enthusiasts, nature and garden lovers, and of course the dogs. The family members are very involved with events and day-to-day management of the estate, as they face the ever-changing challenge of maintaining a historic home in the 21st century. Visit website

Lighthouse Gallery
Friends in gallery

53 Causewayhead, Penzance TR18 2SS

First opened in the Spring of 2003 by Directors Tracey Spry and Christine Weschke, Lighthouse Gallery is now firmly established amongst the most respected galleries in Cornwall. With a reputation for showing some of the finest paintings by contemporary artists inspired by Cornwall and all that the county has to offer. Having recently relocated to new premises, just next door, the gallery offers clean lines and a simple layout to provide a fresh, bright space in which to appreciate the work of some of Cornwall’s leading and talented emerging artists. Visit website

The Roundhouse & Capstan Gallery

Sennen Cove, Penzance TR19 7DF

The Roundhouse & Capstan Gallery is one of the most iconic buildings in West Cornwall, this unique circular gallery located in the heart of Sennen Cove, has become a magnet for some of the best in Cornish art, jewellery and craft. Set on two floors, the Capstan Room and Net Loft have two distinct personalities, each a showcase for Cornish excellence. Open daily from Easter until late October – with limited opening during the winter months, please phone before making a long journey. Visit website

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Image credits: ©Anna Kolosyuk/Unsplash; Iryna/; Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange;; Steve Tanner Photography/Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

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