Cornwall, England’s most south-westerly county, has arguably the best coastline and a ton of history and ancient culture. Here you’ll find the magic and mystery of King Arthur, the stunning filming locations of Poldark, and more beaches than you’ll know what to do with. Time to pack your hiking boots and get down to Cornwall to see it for yourself!
Tintagel Village and Tintagel Castle
Along the dramatic north coast of Cornwall is where you’ll find myth, magic and the ruins of an ancient castle, supposedly belonging to King Arthur himself. Park your car in one of Tintagel Village’s many carparks (only £3 for the day) and leave the crowds behind as you walk south through rolling green fields dotted with colorful Cornish wildflowers. Once you reach Lanterdan Pinnacle, turn back and head north along the cliffs, above turquoise water and crumbling slate quarries, to The Island and the ruins of Tintagel Castle. Adults will pay £9.50 to get into this ancient English Heritage site but it’s worth it for the views alone.
Chapel Porth and Wheal Coates
Have you seen the hit TV show Poldark starring the gorgeous Aiden Turner as Ross Poldark? If you have then you’ll probably recognize the old tin mine at Wheal Coats, along with many other locations around Cornwall. Start this walk from the tiny seaside town of Porthtowan and climb to the top of the cliffs for jaw-dropping views. Follow the coast path to the tiny Chapel Porth beach, where you can pick up a delicious sandwich or a cup of tea at the little Beach Cafe. Climb the cliffs on the other side to the ruins of Wheal Coates tin mine, where the impressive Engine House still towers above the crashing waves below.
Porthcurno and The Minack Theatre
You’ve probably heard of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, but have you ever heard of Cornwall’s Minack Theatre? It certainly trumps the former for location and beauty, built by Rowena Cade out of stone and perched on the edge of the cliffs high above the golden sand and turquoise waters of Porthcurno Beach. You can park your car in the little village of Porthcurno and make your way to the beach, then climb up towards the theatre and follow the coast past dramatic rock formations and hand-carved caves and tunnels. If you time it right, you might even be able to catch a late show at the theatre as the sun sets behind you, otherwise, it’s only £5 to explore this (wo)man-made wonder.
Mount’s Bay and Prussia Cove
While the north coast of Cornwall has high, rugged cliffs and some formidable weather, the south coast tends to have golden, sandy beaches and a much calmer atmosphere, but it’s no less beautiful. Park your car in the free carpark at Trenalls and take a gentle stroll through fields of green, with an ocean view to your left. When you reach the tiny village of Perranuthnoe you can stop for a picnic on the gorgeous Perranuthnoe Beach. Better yet, follow the cliffs a little further around and you’ll be rewarded with a dramatic view of St Michael’s Mount, a castle that sits atop a hilly island out to sea, only accessible via boat at high tide, or a secret footpath uncovered at low tide. Take the coast path back to your car and you’ll find impossibly beautiful beaches, turquoise water and a tiny collection of houses at Prussia Cove that are steeped in the smuggling history of the Carter family.
The Helford Estuary
There’s nothing that beats a dramatic walk along Cornwall’s coastline, but sometimes it’s nice to take a gentle stroll through the woods and along the river. My favorite place for this is the peaceful but gorgeous Helford Estuary. On the north side, you’ll find the colorful gardens of Trebah and Glendurgan, while on the south side you’ll be charmed by the tiny villages of St Anthony and Helford, wowed by the views along Frenchmans Creek and Dennis Head, and find peace in the forests and fields surrounding it all.
Sennen Cove and Land’s End
If you’re not sick of beautiful beaches and turquoise waves then head to the golden arches of Sennen Cove and Gwynver Beach. There’s a free car park in St Just and it’s a dramatic cliff walk to the beaches, just watch your step around all the old mine shafts! Once you hit the beaches you’ll get a good show from the surfers, or you can even rent your own board from Smart Surf School. Have a nice stroll through the village of Sennen and up onto the cliffs above where you’ll be able to spot the rusty shipwreck of the RMS Mulheim, and eventually you’ll reach Land’s End, mainland Britain’s most south-westerly point.
Kynance Cove and Lizard Point
The Lizard Peninsula has some of the most stunning coastlines in all of Cornwall, and nothing beats Kynance Cove. The stark contrast between the white sand and the red serpentine rock, the blue waves and the colorful Cornish wildflowers make this location one of the most photographed in Cornwall. The beach is a great place to relax in the sun, and at low tide, you can explore the islands and caves that surround it. It’s an easy but stunning walk along the windswept cliffs to Lizard Point, mainland Britain’s most southerly point.
Helston to Porthleven via Loe Bar
Helston is an old town with colorful history, including the famous Flurry Dance where the locals dress up in white and dance through the town. Park your car near the Boating Lake and it’s an easy forest walk to Loe Bar. This place used to be the mouth of the River Cober but the sandbar cut it off in the 13th Century. It’s a dangerous place to swim thanks to the powerful waves, a steep slippery shingle bank and vicious currents, so don’t even think about it! Instead, make your way to the beautiful coastal town of Porthleven where you’ll find a well-protected harbor surrounded by incredible restaurants. End your day with an ice cream from Nauti But Ice and a pint at one of the waterside pubs.
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