Set in the southwest corner of England, the rugged coastline of Cornwall stretches for nearly 300 miles, giving way to the Atlantic Ocean and the stunning Isles of Scilly. Typified by picturesque fishing villages, golden beaches and spectacular coastal walks, Cornwall is perfect for families of all ages. Add to that a thriving arts scene, world-class seafood, and outstanding attractions such as the Eden Project, and there’s a lot to keep you entertained.
If you’re a fan of the Doc Martin television series you’ll instantly recognise Port Isaac as the setting for Portwenn. Many visitors make a beeline here just to take a look around filming locations such as the doc’s house up on the hill. Port Isaac is a small, but vibrant Cornish fishing village and most of the area around it is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coastline. Most of the white-washed buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries when the village was a busy port for coal, timber and slate, while the narrow lanes here include the aptly named ‘Squeezy Belly Alley’
Port Isaac only has a small shingle beach, so head a few miles to Polzeath where the sand is golden and the surf is excellent, or visit Daymer Bay which is popular with families and those with dogs in tow. Take a walk along the coastal path to Port Quin for views of the rugged coastline, some kayaking, or the opportunity to see Doyden Castle which was featured in television series, Poldark. Scenic boat trips are another superb way to enjoy your surroundings. Back in Port Isaac, lovers of seafood should try celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen on the harbour front or his more upmarket Restaurant Nathan Outlaw.
Positioned at the mouth of the Camel River, the pretty coastal town of Padstow has become one of the best places to visit in Cornwall for foodies. At the centre of this thriving holiday spot is a working fishing harbour, alongside a delightful mix of old fisherman’s cottages, merchants’ houses and winding lanes that lead down to the water. There are plenty of places to eat here, including one or two renowned restaurants that have earned it a reputation as a foodie destination. Padstow is also a great base for cycling, coastal walks and boat trips, while gorgeous golden sand beaches and water sports are within a short walk or drive.
Padstow is the start (or end) of the Camel Cycle Trail for rides into the Cornish countryside, while walkers can explore the beautiful South West Coast path. Get on the water with a boat trip along the coast for sightseeing, dolphin-watching or fishing. Take the ferry across to Rock where you can walk to the lovely beaches of Daymer Bay and Polzeath, with the latter being good for surfing newbies. Great family beaches include St George’s Cove, Tregirls Beach and Hawker’s Cove, all walkable from Padstow. Back in town, make sure you visit Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant which no doubt helped put Padstow on the map.
St Ives is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall and a particularly good choice for families, as there’s a mountain of things to see and do. This seaside town is renowned for its outstanding Porthmeor Beach, which is regarded as one of the best in the UK, and holds coveted Blue Flag status. It’s a stylish town with a Bohemian vibe and plenty of great restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as fantastic independent shops and thriving art galleries for which it is famous. Meanwhile, the dramatic scenery includes the former fishing harbour, golden beaches, swirling surf and whitewashed cottages. It’s the perfect blend of beach, culture, cuisine and pretty sea views.
Whether you’re seeking the finest sands for sunbathing or swimming, you won’t be disappointed by Porthmeor, and the more adventurous can learn to surf or paddle board with St Ives Surf School, one of the best in Cornwall. Walk along the harbour to Porthgwidden Beach, which is lined with beach huts, to the headland known as the Island where incredible vistas can be savoured from the 15th century St Nicholas Chapel. Meanwhile, Porthminster has great shallows for kids to paddle in at low tide and boat trips can reward with sightings of grey seals and even Basking Sharks, Modern Art lovers should not miss the Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. We also think that gin connoisseurs should try St Ives Liquor Co’s local blend.
The small town of Fowey is located in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, along the west side of the Fowey Estuary, which has all the right conditions for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Its deepwater harbour means that it is a favourite haunt of sailing enthusiasts, who moor up here in the summer months. Narrow streets wind past medieval and Georgian buildings, while historic highlights include St Catherine’s Castle, which was an artillery fort ordered by Henry VIII. Fowey was also an important centre for air and sea rescues during WWII, including the D-Day invasions and is the birthplace of author, Daphne du Maurier.
Fowey is one of the most picturesque villages in Cornwall and perfect for coastal walks. Take a stroll along the Esplanade which offers incredible views as it winds down to Readymoney Cove and St Catherine’s Castle. Catch the ferry across the Fowey Estuary to the village of Polruan where cottages cling to the hillside and there are incredible panoramic vistas from the top of the hill. Meanwhile, the wider Polperro Heritage Coast is easily accessed from walking trails such as the South West Coast Path. Visit Fowey in May to enjoy the Du Maurier Festival, while the Du Maurier Literary Centre is where to find more on all of Fowey’s literary connections.
Portscatho is a small and scenic fishing village overlooking Gerrans Bay on Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula. Benefitting from the warm waters of the gulf stream, the climate is milder than much of the rest of the UK and many Mediterranean and tropical plants thrive here, adding to its charm. The area is also popular with yachters and the sailing club at Portscatho, along with those at St Mawes and Portloe, arrange races and events throughout the year. In Portscatho village centre you’ll find several shops including a butchers, grocers, galleries and gift shops.
Like many beaches in Cornwall, Portscatho Beach is rocky, but Porthcurnick which is about a twenty-minute walk away, is lovely and sandy at low tide. Meanwhile, Carne and Pendower offer dog-friendly stretches. There are lovely coastal and countryside walks in the area including to the National Trust’s St Anthony’s Head and Lighthouse. Back in Portscatho, take a stroll around the harbour and try a pint of St Austell Ale at the cosy Plume of Feathers pub. With its seafront location and fishing heritage there are plenty of places nearby to sample seafood and the acclaimed Hidden Hut outdoor cafe serves up delights such as lobster and chips.
Mevagissey is a small and friendly fishing town is Southern Cornwall just 6 miles from St Austell. Overlooking Mevagissey Bay and flanked by Black Head and Chapel Point, the coastal scenery around here is stunning. Meanwhile, the classic Cornish narrow streets and vibrant waterfront are home to gift shops, galleries and some good pubs and restaurants, including fish and chip shops housed in buildings once used by smugglers. The town’s heritage lies largely in the pilchard fishing and boat-building industries, and today both angling and boating are popular activities here. Mevagissey is also a great base for exploring, as most places in the county can be reached within an hour
Mevagissey boasts an aquarium, a heritage museum and a model railway so there’s plenty for families to enjoy during a break here. Take a lovely walk up to Polkirt Hill, soak up the views of the harbour, then walk down to Portmellon Beach and around Chapel Point. There are plenty of coastal walks that take in sandy beaches popular with fossil hunters, quiet coves and unspoilt flora. Keen anglers can take fishing trips and there is also a ferry to the nearby port of Fowey. Mevagissey is busy in summer and in June the Feast Week offers dancing and music. Just a mile out of town is one of Cornwall’s most visited attractions, the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
The Lizard Peninsula, in south west Cornwall, is where to go to slow down – enjoy the clean air, explore wild natural beauty and relax on uncrowded beaches. Almost entirely surrounded by water and with just two roads, the peninsula is less developed than most other parts of Cornwall, which is exactly the appeal. It is also a protected area rich in wildlife, of geological significance and of international botanical importance. Cliffs shelter whitewashed fishing villages, whilst to the north the Helford River snakes through lush forests and spectacular gardens. Popular activities here include walking, horse-riding, surfing, windsurfing, fishing and sailing,
You won’t have to go far for a beautiful beach, such as the much photographed Kynance Cove, one of the most picturesque in Cornwall. From here you can walk to Lizard Point where you may spot seals, dolphins, Cornish choughs and even a whale or two. Around the point, Lizard Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in the county that you can climb. The Lizard Peninsula is also a great place for divers thanks to its marine biodiversity and shipwrecks including Dollar Cove and The Manacles. Do also visit the Marconi Centre to discover all about developments in transatlantic radio communication, while local, organic food such as crab, lobster, ice-cream and Helford Creek cider are also a must. The rugged coastline and spectacular scenery makes the Lizard Peninsula one of our favourite places to visit in Cornwall time and time again.
The Isles of Scilly have been likened to the Caribbean in terms of the azure blue water and laid-back way of life. Lying just off the coast of Cornwall, the archipelago includes many deserted islands, but of the five that are inhabited, each has its own character. Collectively, The Isles of Scilly offer visitors a blissfully remote escape and total freedom, that many describe as a step back in time, when life was simpler. Stunningly beautiful and unspoilt, with a warm climate, nature thrives here. Whether you arrive by helicopter, small plane or boat, you will know that you’ve found somewhere that feels a thousand miles away from it all.
You could easily forget that you’re just off the coast of Cornwall, whilst island-hopping between the five main islands is very much the norm. There are hundreds of archaeological sites including the bronze age burial tombs at Innisidgen on St Mary’s, the largest island. On Tresco, the second largest island, the subtropical Tresco Abbey Garden is a star attraction, while the 17th-century Cromwell’s Castle is worth a look too. For a particularly beautiful white sand beach visit Great Bay on St Martin’s. Activities also include snorkelling and paddle boarding, and there are plenty of walks and cycling trails across heathland. Through the wildflower-studded nature trails and along coastal paths, you might be lucky enough to see grey seals, red squirrels, dolphins and puffins.
Bude is one of the top places to visit in Cornwall for surfing. The town is a friendly place, small enough to feel homely, yet has plenty of facilities and things to do within easy reach. Laid-back days can be enjoyed on the spotless beaches, that are perfect for surfing and bodyboarding, as well as perusing the cool shops and art galleries. Here you can enjoy walks along the wild coastline, a round of golf, a trip to an historic house or a day fishing. Bude is also right on the border of Devon, making it easy to explore the two counties in one go on your luxury cottage holiday.
From Bude you can access the South West Coast Path, walk beside the historic Bude Canal, or take the short drive to Tamar Lakes for wheelchair and pushchair friendly strolls. Bude’s popular Summerleaze Beach is lovely and sandy, while the Bude Sea Pool, created in the 1930s, is an area where you can swim safely. For adrenaline-fuelled activities there’s rock climbing, while a programme of concerts and theatre productions includes the Bude Jazz festival held each August. Within a drive of around 30 minutes you can also visit the village of Tintagel which was home to the legend of King Arthur.
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