Things to do in Cornwall & what to do on a Cornish holiday

Discover the best things to do in Cornwall on your next holiday.

Posted on 03-05-24, updated on 17-05-24By: Claire S. | 10 minute read

Fishing port of Mousehole village, Cornwall,

Fishing port of Mousehole village, Cornwall

When it comes to planning a holiday on the stunning south coast, it can be overwhelming to decide which attractions to visit. Should you visit the iconic St Michael's Mount or maybe brooding Bodmin Moor? Should you stay on the North Coast or would the South Coast serve your needs better? With so many options available, it's important to make the most of your time and experience the best that Cornwall has to offer. This comprehensive guide will take you through the hidden gems, providing you with an extensive list of the best things to do during your Cornish holiday. Whether you're interested in exploring the spectacular coastline, immersing yourself in the rich history and heritage, or indulging in the local cuisine, this guide has got you covered. Get ready to discover the true essence of this captivating destination and create unforgettable memories on your upcoming trip.

Absolutely beautiful landscape images of Holywell Bay beach in Cornwall UK during golden hojur sunset in Spring

Holywell Bay beach in Cornwall

Beautiful beaches and rugged coastlines in Cornwall

One of the top destinations in Cornwall is the famous Fistral Beach in Newquay. Known as the surfing capital of the UK, Fistral Beach attracts surf enthusiasts from all over the world. With its golden sands and fantastic waves, Fistral offers the perfect blend of action-packed fun and breathtaking beauty. Grab your surfboard or simply bask in the sun.

For those seeking a quieter escape, Kynance Cove in the Lizard Peninsula is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. As you descend the cliffside and reach the cove, you'll be greeted by turquoise waters that rival the Caribbean. The dramatic cliff formation, with its contrasting colours of red and green serpentine rock, adds to the mystical allure of this secluded paradise. Take a stroll along the sandy beach, explore the caves, or have a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters. Kynance Cove is a true slice of heaven that will leave you in awe.

If you're looking for a family-friendly beach with plenty of amenities, Polzeath Beach is the place to be. Situated on the stunning North Cornwall coast, Polzeath offers a wide crescent of golden sand and fantastic surf conditions for beginners and experienced wave riders alike. During low tide, rock pools are revealed, providing endless excitement for little ones. Cosy cafes, shops, and charming pubs line the beach, ensuring a delightful day for the whole family.

Further along the North Coast, Porthcawl Beach in Padstow offers a coastal experience like no other. Nestled within the rugged cliffs, this sandy beach boasts mesmerising views of the Camel Estuary. Watch as sailboats and fishing vessels weave their way through the sparkling waters. Don't forget to stop by Rick Stein's seafood restaurant nearby for a taste of Cornwall's culinary delights.

Lastly, no blog about Cornwall's beautiful beaches would be complete without mentioning St. Ives. This picturesque seaside town is home to a collection of stunning beaches, each offering its unique charm. From the popular Porthminster Beach with its golden sands and crystal-clear waters to the secluded Porthmeor Beach, where you can witness breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic, St. Ives is a paradise for beach lovers and artists alike. This artistic haven also boasts a bustling harbour, cute cafes, and art galleries that will captivate your senses. For more information on the best beaches in Cornwall read our blog that describes the hidden gems of this county.

British Hand made Cornish pasty

British Hand made Cornish pasty

Cornwall – a foodie’s paradise

One of Cornwall's most famous culinary delights is the Cornish pasty. For the ultimate pasty experience, head to the picturesque town of Padstow, where you will find the renowned Chough Bakery. Using only locally sourced ingredients, Chough Bakery creates mouthwatering pasties with a perfect balance of flavours. You might want to pick up a delicious Cornish cream tea hamper whilst you're there and head out for a picnic with a view!

Speaking of Padstow, this charming fishing village on the north Cornish coast has become a haven for food lovers. Known as the culinary capital of Cornwall, Padstow is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, including the iconic Paul Ainsworth No 6. With its focus on fresh, locally caught seafood, Ainsworth offers a dining experience like no other, where the flavours of the ocean take centre stage.

If you are a fan of seafood, then a visit to Newlyn, a quaint fishing village near Penzance, is a must. The Newlyn Fish Market, one of the UK's largest fish markets, is where you can witness the hustle and bustle of fishermen selling their daily catch. Immerse yourself in the sights and smells as you explore the market's stalls, and perhaps even pick up some fresh fish to cook back at your Cornwall cottage.

For those with a sweet tooth, Cornwall offers a delectable array of delights. The picturesque town of St. Ives is a haven for artisanal ice cream. Head to the Cornish Ice Cream Company, tucked away in a narrow alley, where you can indulge in flavours like clotted cream and honeycomb, or maybe even try something a little more adventurous, like rhubarb and ginger.

Cornwall's thriving food and drink scene extends beyond its coastal towns. The bustling city of Truro, Cornwall's capital, is home to a bustling farmers market. Held every Wednesday and Saturday, the market showcases the very best of Cornwall's local produce. From freshly baked bread to organic vegetables, you will find a treasure trove of culinary delights that will tempt your taste buds and inspire your next meal. If you're looking for more inspiration then head over to our best restaurants in Cornwall blog for more tempting ideas.

Eden project domes in St Austell Cornwall

Eden project domes in St Austell, Cornwall

Wonderful days out in all weathers

Cornwall is made for summer holidays! Start your summer adventure with a stroll along the coast, taking in the breathtaking views of the turquoise waters and golden cliffs. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as you sink your toes into the sand at one of the many stunning beaches Cornwall has to offer. Whether you're in the mood for a thrilling surf lesson or a peaceful sunbathing session, this coastal haven has it all.

As autumn sweeps into Cornwall, the region comes alive with a burst of vivid colours and exhilarating activities. Dive into tales passed down generations at Tintagel Castle, a site steeped in Arthurian lore, while discovering ancient ruins enveloped gently by spirited ocean fog. This season imparts an extraordinary magic to Cornwall that makes it ideal for captivating adventures.

For those seeking shelter from the elements, Cornwall offers a treasure trove of indoor attractions that are sure to brighten even the dullest of days. Delve into the fascinating world of marine life at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, in Falmouth where you can learn about the region's rich maritime history and explore interactive exhibits that bring the ocean to life. Indulge in some retail therapy at the vibrant boutiques of Falmouth, Port Isaac or St Ives, where you can discover one-of-a-kind treasures and support local artisans.

As winter arrives and blankets the county in a glistening frost, Cornwall transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a host of activities that will warm your heart. The Eden Project, a world-renowned ecological attraction, provides a sanctuary of tropical biomes where you can escape the chilly temperatures and immerse yourself in the lush greenery of far-flung lands. Marvel at the vibrant displays of flowers and plants, and let your imagination run wild as you explore this extraordinary Eden. This ecological park not only showcases stunning gardens and vibrant plant life, but also offers educational activities that are both enjoyable and informative for children. From exploring the Rainforest Biome to discovering the Mediterranean Biome, kids will be captivated by the sheer beauty and diversity of nature.

Cornwall is an adventurer's dream, where the weather is merely a backdrop to endless activities. Accept the unpredictable climate as part of Cornwall's allure, a destination where adventure is guaranteed in any weather.

Surfer approaches waves, Fistral Beach

Fistral Beach

Attractions for all age groups

When it comes to planning a holiday, finding a destination that caters to the interests and preferences of everyone in your group can be challenging. With Cornwall, you don't have to worry about leaving anyone behind! This picturesque county offers a wide range of attractions that are guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of every age group. From breathtaking landscapes to thrilling adventures, Cornwall has it all.

A must-visit attraction for families is the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, in Gweek, Helston. This sanctuary provides a safe haven for injured or abandoned seals and offers visitors an up-close and personal experience with these magnificent creatures. Watch as your little ones beam with excitement as they learn about marine conservation and witness the rehabilitation of these playful animals.

For teenagers and young adults seeking a thrill, Cornwall is home to a plethora of adrenaline-pumping activities. One of the most popular attractions for this age group is surfing. With its stunning coastline and world-class surf breaks, Cornwall has become a mecca for surf enthusiasts. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced surfer, there are plenty of surf schools and rental shops that offer expert guidance and top-notch equipment to ensure you catch some unforgettable waves.

If you're looking for an adventure on land, why not explore the South West Coast Path? Stretching over 630 miles, this trail offers breathtaking views of the whole Cornish coast and coastline and is perfect for hikers of all levels. From rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, each step will lead you to new wonders and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

For those seeking a more relaxed experience, Cornwall's rich history and cultural heritage provide a captivating journey through time. With its numerous castles, ancient ruins, and historic towns, such as Tintagel and St. Ives, history buffs will find themselves immersed in a world of legends and tales.

For seniors, Cornwall offers a multitude of leisurely activities that allow for enjoyment at a more relaxed pace. Take a stroll through the Lost Gardens of Heligan, in St Austell, a beautifully restored Victorian garden that transports you into a botanical paradise. Or embark on a tranquil boat trip along the River Fal, where you can soak in the serene scenery and observe the abundant wildlife that calls this area home.

Two welsh corgi pembroke dogs sitting next to each other on the beach at the seaside, very happy during vacations

Corgi Pembroke's enjoying their holiday

Discover the Ultimate Dog-Friendly Destination

Are you tired of leaving your furry friend behind when you go away? Do you dream of a dog-friendly destination where your four-legged companion is welcomed with open arms? Well, look no further than Cornwall, the perfect dog-friendly destination!

One of the biggest draws of Cornwall is its miles of beautiful beaches. With over 300 miles of coastline, there's plenty of room for your dog to run, splash, and dig to their heart's content. From the golden sands of Fistral Beach in Newquay to the tranquil coves of St. Ives, there's a beach to suit every dog's personality. Whether your canine companion loves to swim, chase seagulls, or simply lie in the sun, Cornwall's beaches offer endless possibilities for fun and adventure.

But it's not just the beaches that make Cornwall the perfect destination for dog owners. The county is also home to a myriad of scenic walking trails, such as the South West Coast Path and the Camel Trail. These routes wind their way through dramatic cliffs, rolling hills, and lush green countryside, providing the perfect backdrop for a long, stroll with your furry companion. With so many breathtaking views to take in, you and your dog will never grow tired of exploring Cornwall's captivating landscapes.

In addition to its natural beauty, Cornwall is also brimming with dog-friendly attractions. Many cafes, pubs, and restaurants welcome dogs with open paws, ensuring that you and your furry friend can refuel and relax after a day of adventuring. Whether you're chasing waves on the beach, exploring ancient ruins, or simply enjoying a picnic in the picturesque countryside, Cornwall offers a little something for everyone, including our beloved four-legged companions.

food truck in city festival

Enjoy Cornwall's festivals

Festivals and events not to be missed

When planning your visit to Cornwall, immerse yourself in the local culture and experience some of the vibrant festivals and events that take place throughout the year. From traditional celebrations to contemporary arts festivals, Cornwall offers a diverse range of events that will provide a deeper insight into the county's rich heritage and vibrant community.

One event not to be missed is the Port Eliot Festival, in Saltash held at the end of August over 4 days, on the stunning grounds of the Port Eliot Estate. This annual gathering brings together music, literature, art, and food, creating a truly unique experience for attendees. With a lineup of renowned speakers, live performances, and a plethora of local food and drink vendors, this festival is a celebration of creativity and culture.

For those interested in folklore and ancient traditions, the Golowan Festival in Penzance is a must-visit. This week-long event takes place in June and showcases the rich local history and heritage through processions, music, and traditional performances. From the famous Mazey Day parade to live music concerts, the Golowan Festival is a testament to Cornwall's deep-rooted traditions and community spirit.

To experience the best of contemporary art, be sure to visit the Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange during the renowned Open Studios event. This dynamic event allows visitors to explore artists' studios, engage in conversations with the creators, and discover Cornish talent firsthand.

In Summary...

From the stunning scenery of the Cornish coastline to its fascinating history of heroic tales of King Arthur, Cornwall is the ultimate UK holiday destination. Whether you're after a romantic bolt hole to reconnect with your loved one or to celebrate a milestone with family or friends cottages.com has Cornwall cottages that suits all tastes and budgets. With our unrivalled selection of unforgettable cottage holidays from beginning to end, we keep things simple, so you can concentrate on creating the best memories with those you love. So pack your bags, leash up your pup and head out for a break from the ordinary. If you're looking ideas for affordable and free days out in Cornwall then head over to our blog.

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