If you’re planning a weekend away or longer break, here are some of the best things to do in Cornwall
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Beautiful Cornwall is ideal for a holiday in the UK, whether you’re planning a weekend away or a longer staycation.
While you’re there, you’re sure to want to check out the glorious golden sandy beaches and sample some of the fabulous seafood on offer in towns like Padstow. And of course, you simply have to indulge in at least one cream tea with scones prepared the Cornish way, jam first and topped with thick, yellow clotted cream.
In fact, there’s masses to keep you occupied when you visit Cornwall. And the wide variety of self-catering cottages and hotels in Cornwall make it a great destination for your UK staycation.
So we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do in Cornwall, especially for those who want to spend more time outdoors this summer. You’ll find legendary castles, lost gardens and magical islands – no wonder that Cornwall is such a popular place to holiday!
Some of these locations may have limited opening hours or require you to book ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions. Please check ahead before visiting, and click here to see the current UK government advice regarding Covid-19
If you love British myths and legends, then Tintagel Castle should certainly be on your list.
Tintagel Castle sits high on the North Cornwall coast, around five miles away from the town of Boscastle. The castle is built half on the mainland and half on a rugged island, and a newly re-opened bridge connects the two.
The castle that you see today was built in the 12th century but the site has been inhabited since Roman times. And in the 12th century, the British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth named Tintagel as the birthplace of the legendary English King Arthur.
You can explore the castle ruins, visit Merlin’s cave, and cross the Tintagel bridge over to the island. And don’t forget to visit the magnificent 8 foot tall bronze statue of King Arthur that stands on the clifftop.
Tintagel Castle will be open from 4th July 2020 onwards. You will need to book your tickets in advance from the English Heritage website.
St Mawes Castle
Another castle worth visiting is St Mawes Castle, which lies on the southern coast of Cornwall close to Falmouth.
This castle was built on the orders of Henry VIII in the 16th century, to defend against the threat of invasion from France and Spain. It is one of the best preserved artillery fortresses from this time, and has both beautiful grounds and stunning views.
While you’re exploring the castle’s interior, look out for the glass panel which covers the entrance to the ‘oubliette’. This was a deep, dark underground prison used to hold prisoners and unruly soldiers!
St Mawes Castle is now under the care of English Heritage, and will be open from early August onwards. You need to book your tickets before you visit – see the English Heritage website for more details.
St Michael’s Mount
The magical island of St Michael’s Mount lies off the coast near Marazion, in the south-west of Cornwall.
St Michael’s Mount has been home to the St Aubyn family since the mid 17th century. A small community also lives on the island, where you’ll find beautiful gardens, a medieval church and castle.
It is cut off by the sea at high tide, but can be reached by a man-made causeway between mid-tide and low water. If you don’t fancy the walk to the island, you can take a ferry ride across instead.
St Michael’s Mount is under the care of the National Trust, and the garden terraces are now open. Visits need to be booked in advance, and you can book your tickets on the National Trust website.
The Minack Theatre is a truly unique Cornish experience, an outdoor amphitheatre carved into a cliff face at the most south-westerly tip of Cornwall.
Although the theatre may look like it has been there for years, it actually only dates back to 1931. The programme of events includes family shows, operas, Shakespearean plays and even the Minack Proms.
Garden lovers will enjoy a visit to the Minack as much as theatre lovers. The site has 1.5 acres of beautifully planted gardens, full of sub-tropical plants which take advantage of the sheltered location.
Unfortunately the Minack has had to delay its 2020 programme of events until next year. However they hope to run a limited programme of socially distanced events later this year. Their gardens are now open to explore, and you can pre-book tickets for this on the Minack Theatre website.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Discover one of Europe’s largest garden restoration projects, a magical place full of nostalgia and romance.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are in South Cornwall, a few miles away from St Austell.
The 1000 acres of gardens were in their prime at the start of the 20th century. However at the outbreak of World War 1, many of the staff were sent off to war. The gardens soon fell into disrepair with brambles and ivy taking over most of the site.
Ironically it was only after the hurricane of 1990 that the process of reviving the Gardens began. Now more than 200 acres are waiting for you to explore them. You’ll find a Jungle full of tree ferns and banana trees, and Victorian Productive Gardens complete with glasshouse.
Heligan also hosts the National Collection of camellias and rhododendrons. You can see many magnificent specimens which flourished into maturity during the Gardens’ period of decline.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are now open again. Pre-booking is essential for all visitors, and you can book your tickets on the Lost Gardens of Heligan website.
The sub-tropical garden at Trebah is a magical addition to your visit to Cornwall.
You’ll find Trebah Garden on the south coast of Cornwall, around 5 miles south of Falmouth.
This sub-tropical garden is packed full of innovation and creativity, with all sorts of secluded corners and exotic planting. Four miles of paths wend their way around the site, and there’s an outdoor theatre and even a secluded beach.
It’s hard to believe that you can find all of this in an English garden!
Trebah Garden is currently open to visitors. You need to pre-book tickets for your visit, which you can do on the Trebah Garden website.
The Japanese Garden at St Mawgan
For a very different style of garden, it’s definitely worth paying a visit to the Japanese Garden at St Mawgan. You’ll find it around five miles north of Newquay in North Cornwall.
This tranquil garden has been designed in an authentic Japanese style, providing a peaceful setting for meditation and contemplation. Traditional features in the garden include the Zen Garden, Teahouse and Torii Gate, as well as plenty of lush bamboo planting.
There are over 120 varieties of Acer Palmatum, as well as azaleas and rhododendrum, all plants that would traditionally be found in a Japanese garden. There’s also a small bonsai nursery on site.
Unfortunately the Japanese Garden is still closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. But do keep an eye on their website for updates.
The Eden Project
And the final suggestion for places to visit in Cornwall is an eco-park with a futuristic appearance.
The Eden Project enjoys a sheltered position in a large crater in South Cornwall, a few miles from St Austell. It displays plants from around the world both outdoors and inside two fascinating indoor biomes.
The Rainforest biome houses the largest rainforest in captivity, full of stunning plants. These include the world’s largest flower – the Titan Arum, also known as the corpse flower. The Mediterranean biome hosts a landscape featuring plants you’d find in temperate regions such as South Africa, California and Western Australia. And outside in the gardens, you can also enjoy summer concerts and family attractions.
The outdoor gardens at the Eden Project are now open, and the Rainforest and Mediterranean biomes will be open from 4th July 2020. You will need to pre-book tickets before your visit, which you can do on the Eden Project website.
Whichever places you choose to visit, you’re sure to enjoy a wonderful holiday in Cornwall!