Surrounded by historic tin mines, windswept moors, sandy beaches and some of the county's finest scenery, the lively Cornish town of Camborne provides an excellent base from which to discover West Cornwall. Not only are there an abundance of local beauty spots to discover nearby, but the town is celebrated as the capital of Cornish mining and is part of the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape which became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. Open heathery moorland surrounding the town is scattered with imposing stone-built engine houses, mine chimneys and the crumbling remnants of this industrial past.
Discover some of the fascinating places which make this bustling town so unique with our local’s guide to Camborne.
About the town:
Take a wander into Camborne’s town centre and you will find an attractive square surrounded by traditional local businesses. From old-fashioned butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers to family-run shops, tearooms and cosy pubs, all offer individual service and a warm Cornish welcome.
Best known as a key location for Cornwall's prosperous former tin mining industry, Camborne is peppered with heritage sites including Cornwall’s deepest mine, Dolcoath. Several of these striking landmarks can be discovered on the town’s Heritage Trail.
Camborne is also the birthplace of Richard Trevithick, inventor of the steam engine. Known as one of Cornwall’s most famous sons, Trevithick built the first full-scale steam locomotive in 1801 and his ‘Puffing Devil’ was the first passenger-carrying road vehicle (forerunner to the motor car). It had its first test run on Christmas Eve, up Camborne Hill, and this journey inspired the popular Cornish folk song ‘Camborne Hill’. A statue of Trevithick stands outside the public library and annual celebrations are held in the town around the end of April on Trevithick Day to commemorate his legacy.
Within 7 miles of Camborne are a wealth of sandy Cornish beaches including Portreath, Gwithian and Porthtowan. All are popular with families, surfers and walkers alike with great facilities and exceptional views.
Gwithian Towans beach is a broad stretch of sand backed by rolling dunes and offers plenty of rock pools for budding beachcombers. It is seldom crowded and great for wildlife watching with common seals a regular sight as well as colonies of breeding seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills and cormorants. The beach is also a favourite destination for surfers as the constant swell coming in from the ocean provides good year-round conditions.
Portreath beach is particularly popular with families due to its soft fine sand, with shingle below the shoreline. The harbour wall and “rocky” is popular with surfers for its vortex surf break – not a wave for the faint-hearted!
The award-winning Porthtowan beach is located within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is one of Cornwall’s most popular surfing beaches bordered by soft golden sand and backed by large dunes and dramatic cliffs. A children’s play park at the top end of the beach also makes Porthtowan a firm family favourite.
Unravel the story of mining at the King Edward Mine Museum, the oldest complete mine site in Cornwall. There’s a museum where you can learn about Camborne’s local history, a self-guided tour, archaeology and ecology trails, a full demonstration of how the tin mill works and lots of other interesting events throughout the year.
For more Cornish mining history, East Pool Mine near Redruth (National Trust) is only 2 miles away from Camborne and has impressive beam engines on display, originally powered by high-pressure steam boilers introduced by local hero Richard Trevithick.
For a family-friendly day out in Camborne, Heartlands is a free visitor attraction and gateway to a World Heritage Site. It offers 19 acres of fun for all the family celebrating Cornwall's rich mining history. There are state-of-the-art exhibitions, a giant adventure play park for kids, craft studios and swathes of outdoor space where you can lay out a picnic blanket and enjoy a homemade Cornish pasty from the café.
When the sun is shining, a relaxing stroll around Tehidy Country Park is sure to delight, with 250 acres of leafy glades and lakes rich in colourful flora and fauna. There are 9 miles of enchanting footpaths to explore and it is the largest area of woodland in West Cornwall.
For more invigorating fresh air walks, Pendarves Wood Nature Reserve, run by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, is home to all manner of plants and animals. Wander through 40 acres of broad-leafed woodland where you can see yellow brimstone butterflies and carpets of bluebells during the spring, or, if you visit closer to dusk, bats and badgers too.
The food and drink:
There are plenty of places to eat in Camborne, whether you fancy a traditional pub, a friendly café or a stylish restaurant. Baker Tom’s Café is a great spot for hearty breakfasts, lunchtime specials and pasties, while Miss Molly’s Tea Room offers a fine selection of finger sandwiches and homemade cakes served with a pot of tea and china teacups.
For traditional pub grub washed down with a refreshing pint of local ale, The Shire Inn, St Aubyn Arms and St Michaels Mount Inn are local favourites. And if you’re looking for fresh, local produce to take home to your holiday cottage for a homecooked feast, be sure to visit the Camborne Produce Market every Friday in Commercial Square. From local meat and fish to artisan bread, jams, chutneys, cakes and pastries, you’ll find it all here and more.
From Tehidy Woods, you can easily access the South West Coast Path which runs along the Heritage Coast between Godrevy and Portreath. Highlights of this section of the path include Basset’s Cove, Fisherman’s Cove, Seal Cove and the dizzying cliffs at Hell’s Mouth. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and a variety of birdlife nesting around the headlands.
Another popular walk is the Great Flat Lode Trail, a 7.5-mile circular route around Carn Brea. There are some excellent examples of engine houses, tin dressing floors and other mining structures along the way. The trail is mostly flat with some gentle inclines, leading you through farmland and heathland as well as part of the Basset Mine Tramway. If you take a slight deviation to Carn Brea, the far-reaching views are nothing short of spectacular.
Whether travelling as a couple, a family or with the dog, we have a great selection of self-catering accommodation in Camborne which places you in the heart of Cornwall’s mining landscape. Surrounded by World Heritage Sites that inspired the stories of Poldark, there is living history everywhere you look. Plus, you’ll have a choice of beautiful sandy beaches within a short drive as well as spectacular countryside to explore.
Our Camborne holiday cottages are scattered in and around the town, handy for shops and places to eat and drink. We have everything from luxury cottages that sleep 12 guests, to quaint one-bedroom boltholes for a romantic break. And if you’re bringing the dog, our pet-friendly cottages in Camborne offer everything you need for a relaxing Cornish holiday.
We’ve got loads of great inspiration in our handbook if you want to explore more of Cornwall’s fascinating historical sites. Why not have a read of our guide to ‘Poldark filming locations’, or ’10 of the oldest landmarks in Cornwall’?