Top things to do in North Cornwall holiday cottages

Top things to do in North Cornwall

The legendary home of King Arthur, North Cornwall is defined by its dramatic coastline, wild moorland, booming culinary culture, outdoor activities and thrilling attractions. From historic houses to steam railways and theme parks to zoos, there are some brilliant days out.

Narrowing down our favourite attractions in North Cornwall hasn’t been an easy task – there are so many exciting experiences that the whole family will love! However, we have managed to choose a small selection of ideas that will keep you entertained come rain or shine.

Here are the top things to do in North Cornwall which we think simply cannot be missed:

Discover the legend of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle, North Cornwall

Proudly standing on a cliff-edge amongst the dramatic scenery of the North Cornwall coast, the iconic 13th-century ruins of Tintagel Castle conjure up images of brave knights on horseback galloping through the crumbling archway, Celtic kings feasting in the skeleton of the Great Hall and the doomed romance of Tristan and Isolde. Most famously, the site of the castle is fabled to be the birthplace of King Arthur and it’s impossible not to get swept away by local myths and legends as you step into the rocky mouth of Merlin's Cave which is exposed on the beach below at low tide – supposedly, this is where the wizard once wove his spells.

Looked after by English Heritage, visitors can browse the exhibition, traverse the new dizzying footbridge which spans the 70-metre gap between the mainland and the headland, and soak up the theatrical views over the wild Atlantic with its booming surf and wheeling gulls. Dogs on leads are welcome on-site, and the café serves fresh local lunches and Cornish cream teas.

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Enjoy a magical journey on the Lappa Valley Steam Railway

Lappa Valley Steam Railway, North Cornwall
From Instagram: @lappavalley


One of our favourite family-friendly days out in Cornwall, the Lappa Valley Steam Railway puffs its way through the beautiful Cornish countryside along one of the region’s oldest train tracks. Board one of the wonderful steam engines at Benny Halt and experience a nostalgic and exhilarating journey to East Wheal Rose where a secret world of play and family adventures awaits.

With a striking engine house and mining chimney at its heart, there is a boating lake, crazy golf, a huge playground, pedal cars, nature trails and a maze.  And most popular of all, there are two additional miniature railways which chug through the woodland, looping under tree canopies, making kids whoop with joy - it’s a real children’s wonderland!

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Help to save the seas at the National Lobster Hatchery

National Lobster Hatchery, North Cornwall
From Instagram: @padstowlobster


A pioneering marine conservation research centre, the Lobster Hatchery in Padstow is a fun attraction in Cornwall for children and adults alike. Colourful claws guide you through the visitor centre, on a journey discovering the fascinating world of lobsters, marine life and their environment. Learn all about these pincer-wielding beasts and crucially, how we can make fishing for them sustainable and safer.

You’ll see the baby hatchlings being reared ready for release along with Herman the resident giant lobster, a colossal crustacean called Captain Barnacles and a variety of crabs. Kids can get stuck in with a variety of interactive activities, pick out a souvenir in the gift shop and there’s even the chance to adopt a lobster of their own.

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Take in the incredible views at Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps, North Cornwall

A true Cornish highlight, the majestic wave-swept stacks known as Bedruthan Steps are a must-visit for some of the best views in Cornwall. Legend has it a mythical giant called Bedruthan used the huge rocks as stepping stones – and it’s only when you reach the beach that you’ll take in the sheer scale of them. Access to the beach isn’t for the faint-hearted though as there are 120 steps to descend, but if you take your time, you’ll be rewarded with golden sand and stunning photo opportunities.

Positioned between Padstow and Newquay and part-owned by the National Trust, this free attraction in Cornwall is best to visit around low tide to fully explore the beach areas as they get cut off once the tide comes in. And if you don’t fancy navigating the steps, you can also enjoy the breathtaking views over a slice of homemade cake from the comfort of the café at the top of the cliffs.

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Discover more of the best beaches in North Cornwall with our useful guide.

Stroll around the magnificent Lanhydrock House

Lanhydrock House, North Cornwall

The impressive late Victorian Lanhydrock House near Lostwithiel is cared for by the National Trust and offers a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the two sides of Victorian life that once lived here, from ‘below stairs’ to above. With the feel of a wealthy but unpretentious family home, the country house has 50 lavish rooms to explore, including the Long Gallery which is home to a rare book collection.

Nestled within 1,000 acres of wooded parkland, there is plenty to enjoy outside too, with dogs welcome on the walking routes through the extensive gardens and informal woodland. Why not bring your bike and ride around the trails? During spring, over 120 species of cream and white magnolias carpet the woodland, so don’t forget your camera!

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Unleash your inner animal at Newquay Zoo

Newquay Zoo, North Cornwall
From Instagram: @newquayzoo


Set in 13 acres of lush, sub-tropical gardens, the award-winning Newquay Zoo is one of the most popular things to do in Cornwall with kids. This oasis of fun features over 1,000 of the world's rarest and most endangered animals, from slithery snakes to marvellous meerkats and tropical toucans. Discover the amazing savannahs of Africa before trekking through the rainforests of South America, then stop for a bite to eat in the café overlooking Lemur Island.

There are regular feeds and talks throughout the day where you can get to know your favourite animals a little better, and unique experiences such as feeding the friendly penguins and meerkats. Plus, children are sure to love the exciting activity trails, face painting, play areas and dragon maze.

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Explore the Smugglers Museum at Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn, North Cornwall

If you’re out hunting for the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor, chances are you may come across Jamaica Inn. Made famous by Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name, this 18th-century coaching inn has been welcoming travellers for centuries. And it’s not just the delicious Cornish food and ales which still draw weary walkers after a day on the wild moor; the inn is also home to the renowned Smugglers Museum.

The largest smuggling museum in Cornwall, it houses one of the finest collections of smuggling artefacts in the country. Learn of some of the less respectable guests that have stayed here, including murderers and villains, and watch an educational film which recounts many of the myths and legends associated with the inn. The Daphne du Maurier Room is a highlight of the museum and contains many of the writer’s personal possessions such as her famous Sheraton writing desk which she wrote many of her novels on. A fun quiz will keep children entertained as you explore.

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Hit the rides at Camel Creek Adventure Park

Camel Creek Adventure Park, North Cornwall
From Instagram: @camelcreekadventurepark


Camel Creek Adventure Park is an exciting all-weather attraction in Cornwall which offers wild rides, animal encounters and masses of indoor entertainment for the whole family. Swoop and soar on the Morgawr roller coaster, splash down Raging Rivers, be thrilled by the 5D Simulator Experience and escape to the dark mists of the Crocodile Corner Reptile House.

Tiny tots can meet Swampy and Dina, Camel Creek's resident characters, while older kids can strap themselves in and brave the terrifying drop on The Beast. And animal lovers shouldn’t leave the park without meeting the cutest critters and gentle ‘Shire’ giants who all live here – there’s even the chance to become a junior keeper for the day.

Places to stay nearby:

Stay in North Cornwall with us!

After fun-filled days of exploring these top attractions in North Cornwall, you’ll be needing somewhere to put your feet up and unwind. Treat yourself to a cottage on the beachfront and wake up to the gentle lapping of waves on the shore or choose a rural retreat, perhaps in the wilds of Bodmin Moor, and let the relaxing sounds of nature lull you to sleep.

From big beautiful boltholes that the whole family can enjoy to romantic getaways for two, and even dog-friendly properties where your hound is as welcome as you are, we have cottages in North Cornwall to suit every type of holidaymaker.

If you’re looking for more great things to do in Cornwall, check out our guide to ‘the 20 best attractions in Cornwall’.

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