We've written about Cornwall so much now that we barely know where to start when it comes to talking about how amazing this area is. One question we get asked frequently is where to stay if you're planning to visit Cornwall. Looking at other blogs and articles we were surprised to see what seemed to us to be a few glaring omissions, so we thought we'd chip in with our take. Let's get into the guide:
Bodmin - best for quirky history and exploring the Cornwall Area of Natural Beauty
Bodmin definitely won't be the first place which springs to mind when you think of Cornwall - this quiet town definitely won't be at the top of many lists, but that's exactly why we've decided to give it the number 1 spot. Cornwall can be a super busy place, especially during the summer months, so it is great to visit a town where there is plenty to do and from which you can easily travel to the busier places, but which is also quiet and peaceful. Bodmin totally fits this bill! Firstly, if you're looking to explore the best of the Cornwall AONB then Bodmin Moor is a must-visit. This 200km square area of moorland is actually the largest section of the Cornwall AONB, and is great to explore on a walk.
We also mentioned 'quirky history' - this was referring to Bodmin Jail and Bodmin Keep, 2 great museums which are anything but stuffy and boring. Bodmin Jail is an 18th-century former prison which has been transformed into a slightly creepy cross between a museum and a full-on jail experience. You'll even get to see the Victorian Hanging Pit (which is fully working, by the way). As for Bodmin Keep, this museum is a must-visit for any military and history enthusiasts. Housed within the former headquarters of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, this museum has more than 12,000 artefacts to explore and includes uniforms, medals, and of course, weapons.
Boscastle - best for quaint village vibes and miles of walking
If you thought recommending Bodmin as our first choice was a little odd, you might be even more surprised to see Boscastle in this list - after all, this is a small village with a population of not much more than 1000 people. However, as we mentioned already, the key to enjoying your time in Cornwall is to pick places which allow you to get away from the crowds, and Boscastle absolutely fits that bill. Firstly, the village itself is utterly picturesque - it is centred around a 16th century harbour which is beautiful to walk around or just to admire, but also acts as the starting point for many of the amazing walks you can enjoy along the South West Coast Path (England's longest waymarked long-distance footpath).
Similar to Bodmin, you've also got some very interesting and quirky history to explore in Boscastle. The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is near the harbour and is a fascinatingly weird place to visit - packed with artefacts all related to European witchcraft and magic, this museum has been open since 1960 and has become a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike. You've also got Forrabury Stitches, a series of "stitches" which date back to Celtic times and which will excite history and farming geeks.
The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
Truro - best for staying in a city without the mayhem
Truro is the only city in Cornwall, but this doesn't mean it is the busiest or most hectic place in the area - the reality is actually very far from that, because despite being a city, Truro is actually very laid-back. You'll be surprised to find gardens, beautiful buildings and lots of excellent independent shops to explore during your time there. If you're a fan of strolling along riverbanks then a trip to Truro is also highly recommended, because the city is a place where any rivers meet and cross paths including River Allen, River Fal, Kenwyn, Tinney, and of course, River Truro.
The outdoor areas to keep an eye out for include Victoria Gardens, Penrose Water Gardens, and Boscawen Park. Penrose Water Gardens (pictured) is particularly interesting - originally opened in 1975, the gardens cover more than 6 acres and include more than 40 separate lily ponds, as well as more than 100 varieties of plants. Plenty to explore and admire for sure!
Penrose Water Gardens
St Agnes - best for staying near beaches
Cornwall is a mecca for beaches, so to give the title of 'best for beaches' to any location in this area is, we realise, a brave move. But we absolutely believe St Agnes is worthy of this title. Again, St Agnes is a village which is so often overlooked in favour of the better known locations in the area, so we wanted to shed some light on the village (not too much mind you, this is a bit of a hidden gem). The village actually sits within the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is everything you need to know about it really - it's so lovely. It's also on the North Coast of Cornwall, which means it can get a little windier than other parts of the area, but this is partly what makes the beaches so excellent - take Chapel Porth Beach for example, one of the most exposed beaches on the North Coast which can definitely get windy but is absolutely stunning. At low tide the sand stretches all the way to Porthtowan Beach, another area well worth a look. Trevaunance Cove is probably what we'd describe as the main beach area in the village, but it can still feel like a well-kept secret at times. It's a small bay which has a lovely secluded feel to it.
If you're visiting Chapel Porth Beach then you should absolutely take the time to head up the cliff towards Wheal Coates Tin Mine (pictured). Even if you're not particularly interested in the history of this 19th century mining site (which is well worth learning about because it is very interesting), the views from the cliff are completely breathtaking. There is also a 1 mile circular walk you can follow along the coast path, and back up through the old tin mine buildings.
Wheal Coates Tin Mine
Cornish Riviera - visit this beautiful area around St Austell
The stretch of south Cornwall from Gribben Head to Black Head around St Austell has long been known as the 'Cornish Riviera', a nod to the fact that often parts of this area feel decidedly 'un-English'. This isn't to say that 'English' can't be beautiful - far from it. It is more an acknowledgment that the coves, beaches and sunshine in this area aren't typically what you think of when you think of England. This area has some amazing places to see and to stay in, here are some of the highlights:
The Eden Project
This eco visitor attraction is a unique and memorable day out. Located in a former clay mine, these large Biomes are home to beautiful plant life and incredibly, the world’s largest indoor rainforest. There are also outdoor gardens to be explored, as well as an area to grab a delicious bit of food. If you're in the Cornish Riviera, this is a must-visit attraction. Learn more here - edenproject.com
St Mawes is an excellent place to go sailing, and the sailing club next to the harbour is a great place to learn. Since the 1920, this sailing club has operated at St Mawes and has been taking courses for beginners and advanced learners alike. The scenery is beautiful and the water is excellent, sailing here is amazing. Learn more here - stmawessailing.co.uk
Visit Luxulyan Valley
Away from the glistening sea you'll find the Luxulyan Valley, a fairytale-like area which the River Par runs through. Many walks can be followed here, and each is sure to take you somewhere magical and beautiful. But the real gem to keep an eye out for in the valley would be the 19th-century industrial remains, a site which was given World Heritage Site status in 2006. Learn more here - luxulyanvalley.co.uk
Visit Charlestown harbour
Charlestown is a beautiful Georgian village with plenty to see and do, but the must-see attraction here is the harbour. As a Grade II Listed attraction, it is very original and looks as it would have done when it was built in the 18th century. If you can grab a seat at one of the restaurants around the harbour, you could sit there for hours on a sunny day.
Polzeath - best for a village with a beach
Polzeath is a small village and isn't generally considered a tourist hotspot, but this is one of the things which makes it so pleasant to visit. There are a handful of things to see and do during your time in the village, here are our favourites:
Visit Polzeath Beach
You can't visit Polzeath without visiting the beach here. The first thing you might notice is surfers -
Visit Whitewater Gallery
You can't visit Polzeath without visiting the beach here.