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26th March 2018 Hayley Spurman

Things to do in Cornwall

Cornwall’s biggest breweries

Cornwall days out

Not just famous for its beaches and the allure of bucket-and-spade days, Cornwall is crammed with great things to do from its corrugated coastline and sub-tropical landscapes to its vibrant towns and unique indoor attractions. Don a wetsuit and brace yourself for a coasteering or monster SUP adventure, take a spin along cycle routes criss-crossing World Heritage landscapes, cast away by boat and feel the wind in your sails, or walk in the footsteps of pilgrims, artists, writers and film makers.

In 2017 the iconic Tate St Ives re-opened to much applaud after an 18-month pause for expansion. Nudging the Atlantic rollers of Porthmeor beach and basking in the crisp light that has drawn artists to West Penwith since the 1930s, Cornwall’s most famous gallery exhibits contemporary art that changes with the seasons, as well as original work by some of the 20th-century artists who brought fame to the town. Within its ground-breaking architecture there is also a roof garden, rooftop café and creative learning spaces. By far the best way to reach to St Ives is on the scenic coastal railway from St Erth, and while you’re in town make time to visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, dip a toe in the surf, scour the coastline for dolphins and dine in one of a cluster of award-winning seaside eateries.

If it’s the region’s foodie reputation that brings you to Cornwall, you no longer have to make a beeline for hotspots such as Padstow and St Ives to sample the county’s finest produce. Head to St Austell Bay and you’ll find the recently opened Cornucopia, a food hall crammed with delectable goods from artisan producers. Once you’re filled to the gills you can take a pasty quiz and find out all about the history of this protected regional food, then hit the multi-zone play area that boasts a skywire, dodgems and skate rink, or roll on into the evening for some live music or comedy.

Hand-in-hand with its growing foodie reputation, St Austell is also home to one of Cornwall’s biggest breweries, St Austell Brewery, where you can take an interactive tour into the inner workings of the brew house before sampling some of the beers made here. Emphasising Cornwall’s burgeoning success on the artisan food and drink scene, a number of craft beer makers have cropped up throughout the county in recent years. So why not try a pint of Chocolate Stout or Surf Bum IPA at the Rebel Brewery in Penryn, or take a tractor ride through the orchards where Healey’s Cornish Cyder is produced?

The south west’s sub-tropical climate means that it is also making its mark as a wine-producing region, and several vintages made at the Camel Valley Vineyard have won international awards. Cycle along the family-friendly Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Bodmin and you can make a pit-stop at the Camel Valley Vineyard for a refreshing glass of Cornwall ‘Brut’ – the region’s very own bubbly.

St Austell is home to one of Cornwall’s biggest breweries, St Austell Brewery, where you can take an interactive tour into the inner workings of the brew house before sampling some of the beers made here

Dramatic coastline

Days out in Cornwall

Not all of Cornwall’s cycle trails are as flat and easy-going as the 18-mile Camel Trail, which follows a disused railway between Padstow and Bodmin Moor. If you’re serious about mountain biking, brace yourself for adrenalin-pumping downhills and the ease of an uplift at Cornwall’s first purpose-built bike park – Woody’s. Intermediate cyclists will enjoy the challenge of the Beast of Bodmin Trail at Cardinham Woods, while the National Trust’s Lanhydrock offers a series of bike trails and skills areas graded for all abilities – from toddlers on tag-a-longs to proficient mountain bikers. You can freewheel through Cornwall’s industrial past on the mineral clay trails; the most popular of which is the coast-to-coast trail that weaves through World Heritage Mining landscapes between Portreath and Devoran.

Instead of donning a cycle helmet to dip into Cornwall’s mining history, why not don a hard hat and head underground at Geevor Tin Mine, or take a tour of Europe’s only remaining tin streaming works at Tolgus Mill? Of course, the BBC’s popular Poldark series has brought Cornish mining scenes to life on our screens, and you can join a plethora of guided tours through the scenery that stars alongside Ross and Demelza – from Porthgwarra and the dune-backed Holywell Bay, to the cliff-tops of West Penwith where engine houses are perched above dramatic seascapes.

Despite its foodie magnetism and a smorgasbord of culture and entertainment, it’s Cornwall’s stunning coastal scenery that’s still its star attraction. And there’s no better way to experience the wave-hewn landscapes than at walking pace from the South West Coast Path. Some of the toughest, yet most dramatic, sections of coastline await on the northern fringes of the Atlantic coast between Bude and Morwenstow, where calf-busting climbs etch the rise and fall of dramatic cliffs that collapse onto rocky beaches. By contrast, the mile-and-a-half of well-maintained path between Daymer Bay and surfy Polzeath is easily accessible with a buggy.

Some of the toughest, yet most dramatic, sections of coastline await on the northern fringes of the Atlantic coast between Bude and Morwenstow, where calf-busting climbs etch the rise and fall of dramatic cliffs that collapse onto rocky beaches

Beautiful beaches

Cornwall days out

Also accessible with buggies and wheelchairs is one of most visited destinations in Cornwall – Land’s End. It’s at this most westerly tip of the UK that the mainland peters out into 3,000 miles of ocean rolling all the way to America. However, if you prefer a more rugged hike and want to avoid the camera-wielding crowds, head for nearby Cape Cornwall, where two oceans meet and seabirds swirl around the Brisons Rocks.

Between the craggy cliff tops that hem the county, Cornwall’s pockets of pearly sands have lured tourists since the early 1900s – and it’s still these beautiful beaches that attract holidaymakers today. From the Atlantic-lashed Sennen Cove to the sweeping sand and shingle of Sandymouth, there are beaches to suit everyone – from the bucket-and-spade brigades and bathers, to ornithologists and even naturists.

At the heart of Cornwall’s beach culture is surfing, and from the Lizard Peninsula to the northern reaches of Bude there is no shortage of surf schools, hire outlets, and surf shops to ensure you are kitted out and ready to ride the waves in any weather. Yet it’s not just the surfing industry that’s booming; there are plenty of other water sports to try. Castaway from Carbis Bay on a Hawaiian canoe with underwater viewers, gather a group of friends for some side-splitting fun on a giant stand-up paddleboard, or brave a power-coasteering adventure from Port Quin. If you don’t want to hit the open water, take a wild swim in Bude’s sea pool or a dip in the revamped Art Deco Jubilee Pool in Penzance.

With the Cornish weather being so unpredictable, there are plenty of all-weather attractions, too. If the kids are climbing the walls, let them loose on the walls of Penryn’s Granite Planet or Clip and Climb at Cornwall Services. Dive into the underwater world without getting wet at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium, or discover Cornwall’s seafaring heritage at the National Maritime Museum. The new Camel Creek Adventure Park in Wadebridge is a year-round, all-weather attraction, with heated indoor play for the coldest winter days and an array of rides and animal attractions for the whole family. Another unique attraction is the 18-hole Football Golf course through parkland and hillsides near St Austell.

From the Atlantic-lashed Sennen Cove to the sweeping sand and shingle of Sandymouth, there are beaches to suit everyone – from the bucket-and-spade brigades and bathers, to ornithologists and even naturists

Close encounters with wildlife

Days out in Cornwall

In a county so well-endowed with flora and fauna, it’s no wonder that there are so many places where you can enjoy close encounters with wildlife. Watch playful otters at the Tamar Otter and Wildlife Centre, near Launceston, meet rescued seal pups dipping and diving their way to recovery at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, and witness lobsters at different stages of their life cycle at the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow.

A day at Newquay Zoo is always a real crowd-pleaser, where you can stroll from the African Savannah to Madagascar, observing over 100 species of wildlife from lions to poison dart frogs. Both the Screech Owl Sanctuary (near Newquay) and Paradise Park (in Hayle) put on incredible free-flying bird shows, and, in addition to its many species of exotic birds, Paradise Park also has farm animals and a huge soft play barn that lures visitors on even the rainiest days.

Of all the county’s garden wonderlands, the Eden Project is still the global mega-star, so its rainforest and Mediterranean biomes rising from Cornwall’s barren clay country need little introduction. Another firm favourite with families – and dogs, too – is Trebah Garden, where you can wend through colourful foliage to a divine sandy beach perfect for skimming pebbles.

One of Cornwall’s most historic gardens is the Lost Gardens of Heligan, where you can tunnel through bamboo, banana palms and gigantic rhubarb plants, to ancient woodlands and water meadows. Other must-see gardens include sub-tropical Glendurgan, which tumbles to the edge of the Helford River, and Trelissick’s stunning 500-acre estate, where you wander along the banks of the River Fal and climb magnificent beech trees before afternoon tea in the courtyard.

A day at Newquay Zoo is always a real crowd-pleaser, where you can stroll from the African Savannah to Madagascar, observing over 100 species of wildlife from lions to poison dart frogs

Majestic castles

Days out in Cornwall

There are few places more steeped in history than Cornwall’s majestic castles. Wait for low tide to cross the causeway to St Michael’s Mount, walking in the footsteps of pilgrims and a legendary giant as you climb to the turrets of the mighty fortress. Even more beguiling is the remains of Tintagel Castle, a crumbling edifice atop a rocky, sea-lashed promontory accessed via a footbridge. Believed by many to be the place where King Arthur was magically conceived, more solid evidence proves that these magnificent 13th-century ruins once belonged to the Earl of Cornwall, before which this was the site of a prosperous Dark Age settlement. If you want to experience the sights and sounds of battle, you’ll love the interactive exhibits at Henry VIII’s iconic Pendennis Castle, which protects the world’s third deepest natural harbour at the entrance to the River Fal.

While Falmouth stands out for its rich maritime history, and its scenery is dominated by the comings and goings of boats and cruise ships from the harbour, the town and its surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offer a diverse platter of things to do in any season. A creative hub crammed with resident artists, a lively music scene and home to one of the UK’s leading art and media universities, you’ll find a menu of films, theatre productions, exhibitions and creative gatherings at The Poly, as well as a vibrant series of events from sailing regattas to the Falmouth Oyster Festival.

From Falmouth it’s easy to ferry hop to the chic waterside villages of St Mawes, Portscatho and Flushing, or take a boat all the way to Truro and browse the many independent boutiques in the shadow of the stunning cathedral. Other scenic ways to hit the shops and galleries include the coastal railway to arty St Ives and the Black Tor ferry from Rock to Padstow.

Flummoxed about which sights and attractions to take in on your day out in Cornwall? Why not tailor-make your own itinerary with Tour Cornwall? From Poldark and Doc Martin tours to garden and wildlife tours, you can witness the best of Cornwall on a private, small group tour in the hands of a knowledgeable, local expert.


Everything you need to know about Cornwall

Where to eat in Cornwall

Where to shop in Cornwall

The best days out in Cornwall

Your guide to Cornwall nightlife

Your guide to the arts & culture scene in Cornwall

Image credits: ©Hufton+Crow/Eden Project; Pavlo Burdyak /Adobe Stock; Shutterstock.com; St Austell Brewery

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