Are you prepared to go large?
Because we are focusing on the absolute giants of the Cornwall experience. The ones that make the biggest splash on Instagram and the best tea towel pics.
So, pack your bags with Dad-sized pasties and join us on an epic tour around the marquee highlights of the UK’s most gorgeous county.
Readers, we’re going after Cornwall’s BIG ONES.
For those in search of smaller, gentler Cornwall tourist attractions we’ll be posting a ‘magical spots in Cornwall’ story very soon.
Where is the most visited place in Cornwall?
Coming in at number one with almost 1.1m visitors per year is the exotic domed gardens of the Eden Project. Next comes bewitching The Lost Gardens of Heligan with 354,000 visits. In third place sits jaw-dropping St Michael’s Mount with 347,000. There’s your big three Cornwall tourist attractions. Miss these legends at your peril.
It is worth pointing out that these figures, based on 2018 visitor numbers, include only paying Cornwall tourist attractions. There’s also so much that won’t cost you a penny, as you’ll see in many of the entries below…
Where are best walks?
Cornwall boasts around 300 miles of The South West Coast Path and is considered one of the world’s most awesome hiking regions. Our top choices? Sennen to Land’s End is a lovely short hop of around a mile (one way) for those not used to big hikes. You’ll definitely get your fix of jagged rocks and crashing waves. For something more challenging, you could try the 12 miles from Sennen to Lamorna. With towering cliffs, sandy coves and the famous Minack Theatre on route, it’s Cornwall’s most theatrical walk.
Where’s the best fishing village?
Possibly the one you’re standing in at any given moment. All of Cornwall’s many, many fishing villages have their charms. Want something quaint and tiny without shops or pubs but with pots and (lobster) pots of atmosphere? Sleepy little Penberth Cove is a trip back in time. For the full cobbled streets experience with pubby, foodie delights try Port Isaac. (It’s also become one of the more prominent Cornwall tourist attractions because it’s the setting for TV’s Doc Marten.)
Where is the prettiest place in Cornwall?
Isn’t that outrageously opinionated?
Possibly. But the truth is, we defy anyone to come up with a better answer. The cobbled streets of this twisty ancient town shimmer in the light of epic Mount’s Bay. And from the narrowest alley to wide-open-beach vistas, you’re treated to views of that famous fairytale come to life, St Michael’s Mount.
A castle in the sea.
Takes some beating.
What are the best arty experiences?
There aren’t many towns outside London that can feed your culture-vulture needs like Cornwall.
Focus on the west of the county. St Ives was once on a par with New York (yes, really) as a frontrunner of the modernist movement. Visit the gorgeously curvaceous Tate St Ives, which showcases the best of modern and contemporary art. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden preserves the legendary sculptor’s studio and garden. And, still in St Ives, the Leech Pottery is one of the most respected and influential studio potteries in the world.
A great arty day out.
Where’s the best ancient Cornish spots?
Head for West Penwith. This slither of farthermost Cornwall has over 700 ancient sites, from neolithic stone circles and mounds to iron age cliff castles and hill forts. Top spot has to go to Carn Euny. Here, the remains of ancient stone houses and courtyards create an evocative scene. Meanwhile, the underground ‘fogou’ will send a shiver of excitement down your spine.
There are scores of other hill forts and ancient spots to explore in this neck of the woods. Find out more here.
What’s the best beach in Cornwall?
Well, actually, Porthcurno ‘and friends’. Because a trio of beaches in close proximity just about top any beach heaven list.
Less than 10 miles west of Penzance, world-famous Porthcurno is the family hotspot flanked by magnificent towering cliffs. Porthgwarra is a gorgeous little slither of a cove loved by families. Pedn Vounder, meanwhile, has lost its way from the Aegean and wound up in West Cornwall. Bliss.
All of these beaches have one common theme: near luminous turquoise waters and sand as soft as a baby’s bum.
What is the best town beach in Cornwall?
There’s something about a town beach, isn’t there? That special something can be found at Porthminster in St Ives, the destination that has a legendary status among Cornwall tourist attractions. In this dreamy spot, the views over St Ives Bay and Godrevy Lighthouse are complemented by the heavenly aroma of garlic and olive oil from the snack bar and restaurant nearby. Like every great town beach, Porthminster combines the softest sands and clearest waters with facilities – fine eats, cocktails, nearby toilets – that make a day out effortless.
Where’s the best drive?
St Ives to St Just. This winding run betwixt wild moors and wilder oceans is an epic road trip in 16 short miles. You’ll snake through narrow, hedge-flanked lanes. You’ll soak up epic vistas of fields and oceans. You’ll pass engine houses, farmhouses and quite likely stop in cosy public houses. This is a rugged route of craggy outcrops, softened at times by swathes of purple heather and golden gorse.
Yes, there are other drives in Cornwall. But they’re not St Ives to St Just so, y’know…
Which are the best theme parks for kids?
Remember the theme parks of your childhood? Cornish ones retain that vibe of more innocent times. For choo-choo adventures ideal for young uns, choose Lappa Valley Steam Railway. Delightful Dairyland manages to theme fun rides and farmyard encounters around milk, butter and cream, without being cheesy. Flambards, meanwhile, caters to adults, kids and grown-ups with rides for children of all ages and an immersive walk-the-Victorian streets exhibition. All of these destinations are old-school Cornwall tourist attractions for all the family.
What are the best sporting activities?
We’ll start, as Cornwall nearly always does, with the sea. Surfing is still the king of the bay, setting the scene at legendary spots such as Sennen, Gwithian and Newquay. However, the range of water sports has grown significantly over the years. Kayaking, paddleboarding and spectacular kite surfing are becoming increasingly popular. Coasteering is also a thrilling activity on the up, where wild swimming, deep water cliff jumps and exploring sea caves is the order of the day.
Away from the water, there’s top cycling action along the fabulous Cornish Way which stretches from Land’s End all the way to Bude. For mountain biking, The Bissoe Trail, Lanydrock and The Camel Trail take you into the heart of picturesque Cornwall.
Which are the best gardens?
Head to the far west for a lovely cluster of gardens to suit all tastes.
Just outside Penzance, Trewidden and Trengwainton do spring favourites camelias, azaleas and magnolias in spectacular fashion. In Penzance, the famously subtropical Morrab Gardens is big on monster jungle leaves. Just outside Penzance, the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens combines subtropical planting with striking art and a Mount’s Bay backdrop with views of the castle. On St Michael’s Mount itself, the tiered gardens at the rear of the castle feature exotic species in possibly the most dramatic setting for a garden in all the UK. More on gardens here.
Photo credits: Duncan Scobie
Where is the best seaside town?
This west Cornwall town hits the sweet spot between local community and tourist hub. It also has the single most atmospheric and fascinating street in all of Cornwall in Chapel Street, a greatest hits of architecture from the past 300 years. Then there’s the glorious promenade with sweeping views of the bay, great restaurants and piratey pubs.
Add the fact that Penzance is within 45 miles of the vast majority of our top Cornwall tourist attractions list and it wins as our best seaside town AND best place to stay in Cornwall. BOOM!
Experience the biggest Cornwall tourist attractions from Penzance
Find out more about Penzance, the ideal base for all of the Cornwall tourist attractions featured in this post.