Cornwall has remained a relatively underrated destination until recent years, with only locals and those in the UK willing to drive to the very south of the country being rewarded with everything Cornwall has to offer. But with changing travel trends and the rising popularity of staycations, Cornwall’s beauty has become well known by many. These are the best places to visit in Cornwall UK, a collection of my own trips to this part of England as well as recommendations from my family who live in the area.
This list is a combination of the well-known and the lesser known places to visit in Cornwall, England, with a summary of each to help you plan your trip and things to do in Cornwall on your visit.
You might also want to check out this list of unique places to stay in Cornwall.
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The 25 Best Places to visit in Cornwall UK
The places are in a rough order from the south coast of Cornwall, just west of Plymouth, and looping around to loosely follow the coast, finishing in the north of Cornwall. So if you’re looking for the best places to visit in north Cornwall, start from the bottom of the list first!
Kingsand and Cawsand
Kingsand and Cawsand are twin villages located right next to each other on the Rame Peninsula which looks back over Plymouth Sound in the north.
The two villages and the Rame Peninsula coast are a perfect option to visit if you’re visiting or staying in Plymouth and are looking to take a short trip to Cornwall. You can drive the long way around to cross the River Tamar, or you can take a fun trip on the ferry from Plymouth to Cremyll, just a short 8 minute trip!
The villages of Kingsand and Cawsand themselves are quaint, with Cawsand Beach being a lovely small beach area overlooked by white cottages and perfect for families.
As well as the villages themselves, there is also Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park on the peninsula. This beautiful manor house and park dates from the 16th century. You can explore the house and grounds between April and September. Tickets cost £8 for adults, £6 for concessions.
If you’d prefer to keep your trip to Kingsand and Cawsand as cheap as possible, instead take a walk along the Rame Head Heritage Coast line. There is a path along the coast with many old churches, abandoned forts and history batteries along the way.
I have lots of favourite places in Cornwall and Polperro is one of them. I would say it’s one of the best towns and villages to visit in Cornwall and while it does get busy, it feels much more authentic and enjoyable than the packed hustle and bustle of towns like St Ives or Newquay.
Although picturesque, the village streets are tiny, some are no wider than footpaths, so Polperro is pedestrianised from April to September. You will need to pay for parking at the main car park as you enter the north of the town. If you get there early enough, you may find parking spaces along the roadside for free, I usually arrive before 10am to do this but have always visited in May. If you visit in peak season during July and August this will be more difficult!
I would suggest visiting Polperro in the shoulder seasons or off-seasons, although the weather and water will be much warmer in the summer, the crowds can ruin the experience. I also suggest visiting during high tide to fully enjoy the harbour and swim in the rock pools at Chapel Pool.
Grab some fish and chips as the aptly named Chips Ahoy, or stop at the Ship Inn for a drink in the sunny beer garden.
National Trust - Lantic Bay
Lantic Bay, Lantivet Bay and Lansallos Bay are all along this stretch of the Cornish coastline and are managed by the National Trust. To park at the Lantic Bay car park, it’s £1 for 1 hour, £2 for up to 4 hours or £4 for whole day parking. It is free for National Trust members. Please note that the pay machines accept cash in change only.
Lantic Bay is a large shingle beach with crystal clear blue water, great for spending some time paddling and picnicking as it’s a little off the beaten track and a walk down the hill to access. Alternatively walk along the coastal cliff path which runs between Polperro and Polruan.
Often called the prettiest town village in Cornwall, my favourite part of Fowey is the harbour. Fowey is a fishing village only a short way further along the south coast from Lantic Bay.
I love the numerous eateries, cafes, pubs and restaurants with open outdoor seating surrounding the harbour area and in the town. Whatever you eat here is pretty much guaranteed to be fresh and locally sourced or caught, they even have their own mussel farm just off the shore.
There are beautiful local boutiques and shops through the small, quaint streets of Fowey and you’re guaranteed to find beautiful places to stay here too, with many options overlooking the water.
Fowey is also a great base if you’re wanting to visit the world famous Eden Project and its epic bio-domes, which are just a 7 mile drive away from Fowey.
There is also a lovely walk from Fowey down to St Catherine’s Castle at the mouth of the estuary which is one of the few places to visit in Cornwall for free and accessed from Readymoney Cove on the footpath there.
Lost Gardens Heligan
A somewhat eerie but also a beautiful place to visit in Cornwall. It’s a real-life secret garden that was lost and forgotten until a chance discovery of a doorway in the 1990s led to the rediscovery of the gardens.
There are over 200 acres of gardens now, with ancient woodland and even jungle terrain, the UK’s only outdoor jungle, including bamboo tunnels and exotic plans enjoyed from a raised boardwalk.
In the woodlands are the unique Heligan sculptures: giant heads and the stone faces of a lady emerging from the undergrowth.
The gardens are just a short 30 minute drive from Fowey. Tickets need to be pre-booked until further notice and the gardens are open all year except Christmas Day. Adult tickets cost £16, children’s tickets are £8 or students are £10.
Truro is a city in the south of Cornwall that sits a bit inland along the Truro river which feeds out to the sea. Truro is a great base if you plan to spend a week in Cornwall or more, as many attractions are within an easy day trip reach.
Truro offers plenty of activities if you’re looking for action packed days, like surfing, paddling, sea kayaking, river cruises and trips. Plus plenty of shopping, dining and attractions. Visit the Truro Cathedral, grab some ice cream and take a walk along the river or down to the coastal path in the evening.
Falmouth is also another great option for somewhere to stay during a trip to Cornwall and it sits on the coast at the mouth of the estuary which the Truro river flows into. Truro and Falmouth are really close together and you can easily visit both.
Falmouth is famous for its maritime history and its harbour, which is the third largest natural harbour in the world. It’s home to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and there are endless water-related activities to do here from kayaking to fishing. Plus beautiful beaches for surfing and paddling, as well as parks and gardens and beautiful cycling and walking trails. Use this map to follow one of the many off-road trails and cycling routes all over Cornwall.
Falmouth is of course famous as the location for sailing competitions and as the starting point for many famous and record-breaking sailing voyages such as Dame Ellen MacArthur. This is the perfect town to experience the laidback Cornish lifestyle with all the benefits and amenities of a populous town in this coastal location.
Lizard Point is the most southerly point of the England mainland and is accessible on the southwest coast path from the village of Lizard. This part of the coastline is rugged and beautiful with dramatic cliffs and clear blue sea.
Lizard Point is looked after by the National Trust so you will need to pay for the car park again here, unless you’re a National Trust member.
Instead, what I suggest is parking at the Kynance Cove National Trust car park for a few hours so you only pay one car parking fee and you can walk to Kynance Cove and Lizard Point from there. Lizard Point is a 45 minute walk along the South West Coast Path from Kynance Cove car park.
I don’t want to say this is the best beach in Cornwall, because there are so many, but it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall. When my brother first took me here my mouth literally dropped open. The water is so turquoise and the sand is so white that I’ve had people mistake my photos here for somewhere in Greece, Italy or even Australia.
Kynance Cove has gained popularity since it was used in the BBC adaptation of Poldark, it’s beautiful blue waters and cove are used in the Nampara scenes. This does mean the area and it’s relative accessibility makes it very busy in the summer months. You will need to arrive before 11am to secure a place in the car park. The nearest car parking alternative is over 2 miles away at Lizard village.
Kynance Cove is fairly accessible, you will need to walk along the cliff path from the car park and down the stone path which takes 5-10 minutes. Some of this is uneven and might be tricky for those with mobility issues but most young children should be fine. There is a longer route down which is flatter and takes around 20 minutes but it still isn’t suitable for wheelchairs or mobility aids.
Enjoy the views from the cliff top looking down towards the cove, as well as the beach area itself. There is a great secluded beach around the corner too which can only be reached by swimming round the rocks at high tide. The cafe here is also great, run by locals from Lizard village and is only open seasonally. It's easy to grab something to eat from, or take your own picnic and spend the day.
Praa Sands Beach
Praa Sands is a Cornish village and home to the beautiful Praa Sands beach, a mile long stretch of white sandy beach, with sand dunes and really easy access from the car park.
Praa Sands is the perfect beach in Cornwall for an easy day out, especially if you’re a family with young kids or a couple looking for a beach to spend a day at, access is easy and you’re within short walking distance of facilities and refreshments at the Sandbar restaurant.
Praa Sands beach is very popular with surfers so it can get busy on a good day at high tide.
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island off the coast of Cornwall by the town of Marazion. The island is home to a medieval church and castle as well as a very small village. It’s also paired with its counterpart in Normandy, France: Mont-Saint-Michel.
If you’re looking for things to do in Cornwall, this is definitely one of the coolest because you can actually walk to the island at mid tide to low tide along a man-made causeway. Parking is available right along the beach in front of the causeway access. Check the causeway tide times here before your visit to make sure you can cross!
You can just wander around the island and village or you can visit the castle and gardens, tickets start from £28 per adult with concession prices available. There is also a cafe on the island if you want to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with a view of the mainland.
Penzance is probably most well-known due to its association with pirates. It’s also another great base to stay further south in Cornwall and it has plenty to see and do including art galleries, gardens such as Trengwainton Gardens and quaint streets full of historic houses.
Chapel Street is the main street full of history in every building, you’ll also find plenty of shops and pubs to enjoy here.
Penzance also has a beautiful harbour and you’ll find the Jubilee Pool lido along the seafront allowing you to swim in the largest art deco pool of its kind in the UK, with a view of the sea!
Penzance is also known to have the fairest weather of any town in the UK, its close proximity to beaches makes it a perfect summer holiday destination.
For me, Mousehole is a must-visit place in Cornwall. It’s harbour is so quaint with colourful boats bobbing in the water it feels like something out of a story book and indeed it is, with the famous children’s story book called The Mousehole Cat, about a Cornish fisherman and his cat who go on fishing expeditions together!
Mousehole is just 2.5 miles from Penzance but parking is very limited in the fishing village, so you can either take a bus from Penzance or park on the outskirts of the village and walk in.
The beach is small and safe just along from the harbour. Although the village is battered by winter weather, timber blockades are put up in the harbour to protect the village from the large waves.
Mousehole is unique because it’s one of the few places in Cornwall which remains busy all year round. Although summer is the peak season, it also seems to remain popular in the autumn and winter thanks to its beautiful location, great surrounding walking trails and plentiful accommodation.
However it really becomes one of the most magical places in Cornwall during winter, when the village is famous for its Christmas lights which people come from all over Cornwall and beyond to see.
Porthcurno Beach is on this list simply because it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall and probably in the UK too! The water is incredibly clear and turquoise with white sand, it’s another place in Cornwall which people will not believe is a UK beach!
Get there early in the day during peak season as the car park fills up by 10.30am! Parking is £6.50 for a day and it is a bit of a walk down to the beach, but absolutely worth it for what could be a tropical beach paradise!
If you’re visiting Porthcurno but you’re not someone who likes to spend time on beaches, then right nearby is the Minack Theatre. This unique open-air amphitheatre really is an undiscovered Cornwall gem, but those who do know about it will agree it’s a must-see place in Cornwall!
You can visit the theatre and sub-tropical gardens yourself, you can also go on garden tours or you can actually see a theatre performance in the open air theatre. These performances happen during the summer months only and the listings can be found here. They also have movie nights, storytelling sessions for children and concerts.
The thing I love about visiting the Minack Theatre is how cheap it is, just £6 for adults and between £1-3 depending on the age of a child. Tickets for concerts, events and performances are of course more and will depend on what the performance is.
Land’s End has made it onto this list because it’s a famous attraction and if you’re in the area you might as well see the famous signpost marking the most westerly point in England. Although there is a lot to do here, I’ve found it has become very commercialised over the years, like a resort area.
But you can have a pint at the First & Last Inn, the most westerly pub in England, enjoy cliff top walks and spot many birds and other wildlife,
Access to the Land’s End area is free except for parking. Attractions like the 4D experience or Arthur’s Quest are paid.
Geevor Tin Mine
Tin mining is a huge part of Cornwall’s history and heritage and you can learn all about it at Geevor Tin Mine. This former mine is now a museum offering underground hard-hat tours which are led by ex-miners talking about the history and their experiences.
This 18th Century tin mine is set in stunning open landscapes with views over the Atlantic and they’re also partnered with Levant Mine and Beam Engine which is a National Trust site just a 10 minute walk further along the coast.
Adult tickets to the museum are £12.95, children are £9 and students are also £9.
Portheras Cove and Pendeen Lighthouse
Cornwall has so many hidden beaches and coves. If you see one from the coastal path or on Google Maps, there is probably a way down to it! A great example of this is Portheras Cove which is just a 20 minutes walk from the picturesque Pendeen Lighthouse.
The beach is accessible from a short walk along the South West Coast Path and down to the beach, you’ll find this beach and similar tucked away ones to be a lot quieter than the main beaches around towns or cities.
There is only a small car park at Pendeen Lighthouse, but if you follow the road around through the rock bollards, you’ll see a dirt car park/layby where you can park to get closer to the beach then walk down the path to the beach, the parking is free.
When you get to the bridge over the stream, the beach entrance is right opposite.
St Ives, Cornwall
One of the most famous towns in Cornwall and it’s easy to see why. This seaside town is full of stone houses, quaint streets and cottages, fun seafront arcades, plenty of cafes and bars, plus a lovely family friendly beach area.
This is a great base if you’re looking for somewhere to stay with lots of accommodation options in northern Cornwall.
If you do visit in peak season and the St Ives Porthminster beach is packed there are plenty of alternative places to visit near St Ives, my top tip is to just drive a couple of miles down the coast to Carbis Bay or The Towans. Both beaches are much bigger than the St. Ives beach, with more space and just as beautiful.
There’s also a surprising number of culture attractions in St Ives, including the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Tate St Ives and The Leach Pottery Museum.
Godrevy Lighthouse is a stop for all the photographers. This unique lighthouse stands alone on Godrevy Island, just off the north Cornwall coast. The view of the lighthouse is so different depending what time of day you visit, how the light is, if it’s sunrise or sunset or how the weather is. It was also the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse novel, and is mentioned several times in the book.
It’s a quick and easy stop to add to your trip to The Towans if you’re in St Ives as it’s just at the headland on the far eastern side of the beach.
The mainland Godrey beach and Mutton Cove are also home to a colony of Grey Seals, so keep your eyes peeled for them on the rocks!
Godrevy is also looked after by the National Trust, so parking here is free for members or there is a small charge of £2 per hour to park and walk down to the lighthouse viewpoint.
Perranporth is great if you’re looking for a seaside resort town to spend a few days or a week. There are a lot of accommodation options and a large holiday park.
The reason Perranporth makes this list is for it’s huge 3 mile beach and the unique Chapel Rock Pool on the beach. This is a large natural rock pool that fills with water at high tide and the sun warms it through the summer's day, although if you’re brave enough, you can swim in it any time of year!
It’s a great, safe swimming area for all swimmers with plenty of room to set up picnic blankets and parasols for the day.
A sunrise or sunset swim here is a really unique experience.
Newquay is famous for its surfing culture, it’s home to the Boardmasters surfing championships on Fistral Beach each summer. Newquay faces the Atlantic ocean so the large waves make it a perfect surfing destination in the UK.
I prefer to avoid Newquay in the peak season, as I find it has a bit of a “party town” atmosphere. But if you’re able to visit before June or in the autumn, the town really is lovely to visit.
With Watergate Bay, Great Western Beach, Porth Beach and Fistral Beach, Newquay has no shortage of white sandy coastline with blue sea. But the seaside town also offers a gold club, the Newquay Aquarium, Newquay Zoo, Trenance Gardens and endless holiday parks.
The influx of visitors that Newquay attracts also means that there is a variety of accommodations here from luxury beach front to budget surf hostel, so it’s a great place to stay if you’re wanting to visit Cornwall on a budget.
Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps
This is the closest thing the UK has to Australia’s Twelve Apostles! Carnewas is a great quick stop on your trip around the north of Cornwall because it offers easy access, amazing panoramic views of the coastline with sea stacks at Bedruthan Steps.
What I love about this stop is that it’s beautiful in any weather. In summer the blue sky and turquoise sea are breathtaking alongside the rocks and grassy coastline. In autumn or winter, the stacks emerge from the mist or rain in an eerie dramatic way. Both are incredible to see and photograph.
This is another location owned by the National Trust so car parking is free for members or £2.50 for 2 hours, £3.50 for 3 hours. If you visit in winter, the charge is a flat rate £1.
Porthcothan Beach is famous as Nampara Cove in the BBC adaptation of Poldark so while this beach is popular with visitors and locals, this small village and beach is sometimes overlooked on a Cornwall road trip itinerary.
The beach is long and narrow at low tide, sheltered on either side by the rock face. The South West Coast Path allows you to walk along above the rock outcrops and you can explore the rockpools left at low tide.
The car park is pay and display in the village and there is a lifeguard on duty in the summer, plus a cafe, toilet and plenty of ice cream!
Tintagel Castle is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in north Cornwall and with its links to the legend of King Arthur, it’s also one of the most magical places to visit in Cornwall too!
Tintagel Castle is supposed to have been the birthplace of King Arthur and visitors can explore the ruins of the castle, set on the dramatic cliff top.
A recent project has also seen the two halves of the medieval landmark reunited, after the original walkway to the island part disappeared into the ocean centuries ago. Now an impressive new bridge has been built across the gaping chasm above the waters of the Atlantic, allowing visitors to cross the same chasm that was crossed by locals in the medieval era.
On the island you can explore the 13th century castle remains. Make sure to head down to the beach at low tide where you can explore Merlin’s Cave and the beach’s rock pools.
Summary: most beautiful places in Cornwall
I hope this list of places to visit in Cornwall helps you decide where to visit on your trip. Whether you’re just visiting for a day or a weekend or a week, this list should have plenty of inspiration for the most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall and give you some ideas for things to do in Cornwall, UK.
Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
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