Essential guide to visiting Cornwall

Where to stay and what to do to make your visit to the Cornish coast an unforgettable experience.

Thrift on the cliffs near Polperro in Cornwall, England, UK

Getting There

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To drive to Cornwall take the M5 to Exeter. From there you can either join the A30, which will bring you into and through Cornwall, or follow the A38 towards Plymouth. After crossing the River Plym, leave the A38 and join the A374 and follow it to Devonport to cross the Tamar toll bridge or catch the Torpoint Ferry into Cornwall. For ferry times and toll prices call 01752 812233 or visit www.tamarcrossings.org.uk.

First Great Western runs services from London Paddington to Penzance, as well as direct trains from Bristol and Bath. Contact 0345 7000 125 or visit www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk to check before you travel.

Swim

Three perfect places to take a dip on the Cornish coast.

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Porth Joke, West Pentire – One of Newquay’s ‘hidden’ beaches, this long finger of sand winds down to the sea between caves and poppy meadows. A stream runs down the middle in which children love to make dams. The cove is sheltered so swimming is safe, except in very high swell.

Pedn Vounder, Treen, Porthcurno – A rough path leads down to the sea and at low tide a huge sand bar appears, creating several shallow lagoons that are perfect for paddling in. There’s also a campsite and lovely tea shop in the hamlet above and you can explore the Minack Theatre, too.

The Grotto, Freathy – A stunning stretch of coastline along Whitsand Bay. As the tide drops, many tiny coves are revealed, each with wonderful rock formations. As the tide rises, the water is warmed over the sands and temperatures can become quite balmy.

Walk

Three outstanding coast routes for a dose of fresh air.

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Trebarwith to Boscastle, 8 miles
Follow the path up past the old slate quarries of Trebarwith before reaching the remote church of Tintagel and dropping down past its famous castle. Continue on past Bossiney Bay and Rocky Valley to peer through the holed rock of Ladies Window. Finally walk into Boscastle, one of the most spectacular natural harbours in Cornwall, to find teashops galore.

Rosemergy to Zennor, 5 miles
This route takes in some of the most dramatic wild coastline
along the north Penwith coast (below) with a fantastic lunch stop at the Gurnard’s Head. There are several secret low-tide coves on the way: Portmeor, Treen and Veor coves. You can also refuel at the Tiner’s Arms in Zennor, and return by bus if you’re feeling a little full.

St Anthony’s Head, 5 miles
This glorious walk is circular. Set off from the National Trust car park at Towan beach, pass Porthmeor beach and then stop at tea rooms at St Anthony’s lighthouse. Continue around to the beautiful waterside church at Place and carry on through estuarine woodland to return up Porth Creek to where you started.

Stay

Five of the best Cornish B&Bs for a peaceful night’s sleep. 

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Porthallow Farm
This B&B is a working organic family farm just a few hundred metres above Talland Beach, between Looe to Polperro.
Porthallow Farm, Talland Bay, Looe PL13 2JB, 01503 272395. 

Glendurgan House
Lose yourself in the three valleys of Glendurgan Garden and wander down to the beautiful hamlet of Durgan on the Helford River.
Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5JZ, 01326 250326.

The Old Coastguard
Beautiful rooms with sea views and fantastic food. This is a great place to soak up the delights of Mousehole and a good base for exploring Penwith.
The Old Coastguard, The Parade, Mousehole, Penzance TR19 6PR, 01736 731222.

Slipway Hotel
A tiny, ‘olde worlde’ hotel/inn with exposed beams and cosy rooms, right by
the harbour at the bottom of town.
Slipway Hotel, The Harbour Front, Port Isaac PL29 3RH, 01208 880264.

The Old Parsonage
This stylish Georgian house and garden is located in a quiet lane with flower-strewn fields and The South West Coast Path onthe doorstep. Boscastle harbour is only a short walk away.
The Old Parsonage, Forrabury, Boscastle, Cornwall PL35 0DJ, 01840 250339.

Wildlife Watching

Make friends with Cornwall’s incredible locals. 

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Basking Sharks
Reaching lengths of up to 12m, they’re the largest fish in British waters and the second largest in the world. They’re most often sited off the southern Cornish coast in spring and summer. Sennen Cove and Cape Cornwall are good places to spot them.

Seals
Curious and charismatic, both the common and grey species can be seen anywhere along the Cornish coast, at any time of year. But one of the biggest colonies is just east of Boscastle, along Beeny Cliff, where you might also see peregrine falcons.

Cornish Choughs
This red-legged, red-billed black bird is an exotic member of the crow family, and features on the Duchy of Cornwall coat of arms. In 2001, choughs returned to Cornwall after a long absence. Walk from the tip of the Lizard to Kynance Cove, or continue on up to Mullion to spot them.

Classic Cornish Treats

Reward yourself after all that exploring with a sweet treat. 

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Cream Tea
This ubiquitous treat is best enjoyed as local and organic as possible. At Barton Farm, in lovely Lansallos, near Polperro, the cream is both of these. There is a charming tea room in the gardens and organic beef and lamb
are also for sale. (01726 870375, www.churchtownfarm.com).

Ice Cream
Zennor is just down the coast from St Ives, and is famous for its rugged coastline and mermaid legends. It’s now almost as renowned for its Moomaid ice cream, with flavours such as apple sorbet, fig and mascarpone, and chocolate orange, all made on nearby Tremedda Farm (01736 799603, www.moomaidofzennor.com).

Pasty
Run by the Ead family for over 30 years, The Chough Bakery in Padstow uses meat from local farms and adds a dollop of Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream for that extra richness. Their steak and Cornish blue cheese recipe came second in the World Pasty Championships last year (01841 533361, www.cornishpasty.com).
 

Read

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The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

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Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in London theatre, and buys a remote house by the sea in Cornwall. He hopes to swim, walk and write his memoirs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart. Then his friends all decide to come and stay. This 1978 Booker prize-winner is a brilliant, funny and ultimately tragic story about love, vanity and self-delusion by the sea.