Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.
It’s never too early to think about planning your next holiday and with winter well and truly on its way, we're all in need of a little inspiration! If you're looking for a holiday destination that offers a bit of everything, then Cornwall should be right at the top of your list. Voted as the UK’s favourite holiday destination by the British Travel Awards for four years running, this beautiful county full of breathtaking coastline, achingly beautiful scenery, and a huge dollop of myth and legend really does tick all the boxes.
So, what is Cornwall?
Ah...what a question! In a nutshell, Cornwall is miles of sweeping bays with blankets of sandy beaches, cool azure waters and excellent surf. It is secret hidden coves under rugged and romantic clifftops; it is acres of impossibly romantic brooding moorland and it is a seemingly never-ending coastal path to discover. It is pretty fishing villages with working harbours and it is magical open-air theatres studded into cliffs and romantic castle-topped islands that you can only walk to at low tide. It is historic houses, glorious gardens and unspoilt National Trust villages; it is famous botanical attractions, animal-filled wildlife parks and fantastic family days out. It is friendly, welcoming and most importantly, it is waiting for you and your favourite people to make it your next holiday escape.
So how do we choose a destination for you that encompasses everything that is Cornwall? There are so many excellent places to choose from, we'd be cheating you if we picked just a few. With that in mind, rather than looking at specific locations, we thought we'd look at the reasons why you might be visiting, and take it from there.
So read on and find out which part of Cornwall has everything that you are looking for on your 2020 getaway.
If you’re all about the surfing and excellent beaches:
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When you put the two words Cornwall and beaches together, a few places spring to mind. Fistral in Newquay - probably the best-known surfing beach in the land, Watergate Bay in the same, Porthleven and Praa Sands near Helston, Porthmeor in St Ives, Sennen Cove near Land's End, Gwithian near Hayle and Perranporth in… well, Perranporth - all top surfing spots. The favourites tend to be in North Cornwall due to the huge waves that come crashing in from the Atlantic but you do get a few good ones in West Cornwall and the odd place in the south if you don't mind the drive.
Don't panic if you haven't got your surfing under control though - beginners and those honing their craft have a huge selection of surf schools to choose from if they need a bit of instruction, and you can hire boards and wetsuits if you haven't got your own. The schools offer classes for other types of water sports too, for both adults and children. If that all sounds like too much hard work on your well-earned holiday, sit back instead on the sun-kissed sands and lazily cast an eye over the colourful boards dipping in and out of view in the distance.
The weary vacationer looking to avoid the more popular beaches will be able to find a sprinkling of secluded beaches away from the crowds without too much effort. There are over 150 beaches along more than 300 miles of coastline so there is sure to be one for you, whether you are all about activity holidays or just want to lie back on the warm sands and think of Cornwall. Discover the secret coves along the South West Coast Path such as Housel Bay, Porthbeor, Diggary's Island Sand and Fox Cove; the best way to access them is with a walk along the coastal path - the scenery is simply breathtaking.
Five top beachy things to do in Cornwall in 2020:
- Hunt out the unique World Belly Board Championships at Chapel Porth Beach each September – a great fun family day out.
- Watch the pros at the Boardmasters Festival in Newquay in August – live music and surfing right on the most popular beaches.
- Take the cliff-top path walk to the hidden Fox Cove - it's a long one and the descent is tricky but it's worth it ten times over.
- Discover the white sands and beautiful dark red and green serpentine rock at Kynance Cove near Mount's Bay.
- Grab a blanket and hot chocolate and gaze up at the starry skies over the majestic sea stacks at Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps.
If you’re all about the seafood and pretty fishing villages:
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It’s not that they're in competition or anything, but we're having a seriously hard time choosing between the popular foodie destinations of the north, west and south. The north is blessed with smart little harbours such as Padstow, Rock and Port Isaac which offer hungry holidaymakers cool beachside cafés and famous seafood restaurants with a sea view. In the west, St Ives is a real foodie's paradise, followed swiftly by the sweet harbours of Mousehole and Porthleven, the historic Penzance and the vibrant harbour town of Falmouth with its rich maritime heritage and buzzy nightlife.
Moving along the coast up to South Cornwall, a more sedate pace of life is on offer along the Roseland and Polperro Heritage Coasts, where you'll find delightful little fishing villages and harbours nestled amongst superb beaches and gorgeous countryside. Head for the charming fishing ports of Polruan, Fowey and Looe which are not only blessed with excellent seafood restaurants, they are also wonderful places to explore if you are looking for a traditional touch of Cornish living.
Five top maritime things to do in Cornwall in 2020:
- Grab some top nosh at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow - fabulous food and impeccable service, this one is always a top choice.
- Treat yourself to a fruity ice cream or a mouthwatering Cornish cream tea under the cries of the seagulls at Moomaids of Zennor in St Ives.
- Take a stroll around Charlestown to see the majestic tall ships used in Poldark, stopping afterwards at one of the village pubs for some hearty Cornish fare.
- Visit the famous Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac and discover just why it has been awarded two prestigious Michelin stars.
- Christmas visitors should head along to Mousehole to see the famous Christmas lights which glitter and sparkle across the harbour every December.
If you’re all about the Cornish history and seeing the sights:
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If the sights are what bring you to this part of the country, then a good place to start is the North Cornwall coast. Make your first stop the picturesque village and harbour of Boscastle, managed by the National Trust and steeped in history. Head further south where you can immerse yourself in the myth and legend of the dramatic Tintagel Castle, set high on Cornwall's rugged cliffs. Linked with the legend of King Arthur, you won't have a hard time getting little ones interested either as they discover the island garden and climb the step-free path to the medieval gateway to the castle.
Down towards the St Agnes Heritage Coast, explore the tin mine of Wheal Coates, perched atop heather-filled cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean. The mining and maritime heritage in this area is fascinating - to see more, carry on to Penzance and Marazion, where the southern gems of St Michael's Mount and the Minack Theatre await.
For a change of scenery, head inland to Bodmin, where you'll not only find the wild granite moorland of Bodmin Moor, over 80 square miles in size and rich in ancient history, but you'll also be able to experience life as an 18th-century prisoner at Bodmin Jail, one of Cornwall's top historical sites. Walk through five levels of cells, dine in the Governor's Hall and, if you dare, take a ghost walk or watch a classic movie at the Scary Cinema - taking a tour around the depths of the jail beforehand with the jail's resident medium. If that's too much spook for you, stay on the moor and visit Jamaica Inn, Cornwall's most renowned smuggler's inn, made famous by the author Daphne du Maurier in her novel of the same name.
On the way up to Bodmin, you'll want to check out Lostwithiel, a treasure trove of historical treats. Hunt for antiques as you walk around the streets of this ancient stannary town or pay a visit to the circular 13th-century ruins of Restormel Castle a mile to the north. There is also an abundance of colour to be appreciated at Landhydrock House and Gardens, just a few miles drive away; head back to the town afterwards for a traditional Cornish cream tea.
Five top historical things to do in Cornwall in 2020:
- Discover King Arthur's Cornish hideaway at the legendary Tintagel Castle, set high up on the rugged cliffs of northern Cornwall.
- Take a romantic stroll across the causeway to visit the magical castle perched atop the island of St Michael's Mount, near Marazion.
- Don your glad rags for a night at the opera at the Minack, an impressive open-air theatre studded into the side of the cliffs, overlooking the Atlantic ocean.
- Get your walking boots on and discover the Wheal Coates Tin Mining Walk - take a picnic and explore the coast path with its spectacular sea views.
- Get your spook on at the After Dark experience at Bodmin Jail - enjoy a three-course meal, explore the jail at night and get to work behind the bars until you are allowed to leave at 5am!
If you’re all about the fabulous walking and breathtaking scenery:
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This is a difficult one, we’re not going to lie. Trying to find the best place for walking in Cornwall is like trying to find the best pasty – great fun searching, but without any clear winner. All of this coastline is simply breathtaking, with the South West Coast Path snaking around the whole county, starting at the Hartland Cornwall Heritage Coast and leading down to the popular resort of Bude where rugged cliffs dotted with valleys and tumbling waterfalls guide you along your way down the coast towards the dramatic headland of Pentire Point.
Moving further south past the Trevose Head Heritage Coast, home to Padstow and its famous Rick Stein seafood restaurants, you will take in the delightful historic coast and the Cornish mining site of St Agnes, whose village of the same name has World Heritage Status - carrying on down to Godrevy until you reach the Penwith Heritage Coast and Land's End. Leaving the most south-westerly point in the country, you will then be treated to some glorious walking around the large sweeping Mount's Bay, home to the iconic St Michael's Mount, continuing along to the unique landscape of the Lizard Heritage Coast AONB, passing some fine historic mining sites and Lizard Point on the way.
Carrying on around the coast, the totally unspoilt Roseland Peninsula Heritage Coast AONB, with its beautiful coastal scenery offers some stiff competition to the north in the looks department. As does the Polperro Heritage Coast, with its historic fishing and smuggling village of the same name set within a picturesque cove and pretty harbours of Fowey and Polruan. The coastal path finally hands over the baton to South Devon at the Rame Head Heritage Coast. We haven't even touched on the country walking possibilities inland, the star of the show being, of course, the brooding Bodmin Moor with its iconic inn, jail and famous beast to hunt out.
Five top scenic things to do in Cornwall in 2020:
- Take a boat trip out to the remote Lundy Island, a 400 ft granite outcrop off the North Cornwall coast with enchanting scenery and wildlife, including seals and puffins.
- Visit Land's End and its famous landmark attraction where you can take photos against the iconic signpost and have a cream tea at the first and the last stop in the land.
- Hunt out the beast of Bodmin Moor as you hike across 200 square km of wilderness and ancient historical monuments.
- Walk from Porthcurno to Land's End, starting off with a dip in the crystal-clear blue sea then heading up to the Minack Theatre and finishing at the famous landmark attraction.
- Cool off in the shallow waters of a hidden cove and take time to just be. Try Nanjizal, Portheras, Rinsey or the Pentire Steps Beach.
If you’re all about the kids and having lots of fun:
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We’ve probably already given a hundred good reasons why Cornwall is an excellent choice for a family holiday in the sections above. All generations love a beach, most love sunbathing and water sports (we count swimming as a sport!), everybody loves eating, while those with a dog in tow will no doubt be racing to get Fido's lead on to discover all of the walkie possibilities that this part of the country has to offer. As most parents will know, historical sights are more difficult – if it’s fun, kids will do it, but if it’s purely historical (and therefore strictly for adults), you'll only be able to persuade them if they are promised their fair share of fun activities too.
Take tiny tots to rural retreats such as Dairyland Farm World where they can get involved in feeding some of the animals, learning about them as they go. Teach older children about conservation and endangered species at wildlife parks and sanctuaries such as Porfell Wildlife Park in Liskeard, Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary in Looe and the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek. For the thrill-seekers in the family, Camel Creek Adventure Park in Wadebridge and Flambards Theme Park on the Lizard both pack a good punch with their fab rides.
Pirate lovin' kids can embark on a swashbucklin' voyage through Cornwall's pirating past at Pirate's Quest in Newquay, while it wouldn't be a trip to Cornwall without a day out at the infamous Eden Project or the delightful Lost Gardens of Heligan, both near St Austell on the south coast. It goes without saying that a trip to Land's End will be a popular choice - incorporating history, walking, eating, playing and shopping - you can't lose!
Five top fun things to do in Cornwall in 2020:
- Pack up the kids and take them to the largest indoor rainforest in the world - the iconic Eden Project, where they can explore two huge biomes full of exotic sub-tropical plants.
- All ages will love the glitzy attractions of Flambards Theme Park with its sky-high thrill rides, amusements and undercover soft play area.
- Make some new friends at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek and find out how they rehabilitate and set free injured seal pups.
- Take mini-me's over to Dairyland Farm World to experience a tractor ride, as well as getting up close to a selection of fluffy and non-fluffy farm animals.
- Explore the tanks of the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay and then head down for a picnic on the wide expanse of sands below, to see if you can spot the real thing!
Inspired by all of these excellent places to holiday in Cornwall? Have a peek at our collection of cottages in Cornwall today and get one of them organised as a base for your holiday in Cornwall in 2020.