If you’re planning a trip to Cornwall soon, there are certain things that should be on your Cornish holiday bucket list.
Read on to discover 17 must do things in Cornwall when you’re there on holiday, recommended by the Cornish Maid.
1. Explore the South West Coast Path
With over 200 miles of coastal path to explore, you’re never far from a great walk with breathtaking scenery. Put on your hiking boots, pack your water bottle and sun cream and embark on a Cornish cliff top adventure. View the ocean from a fantastic elevated position and spot hidden beaches below. There are so many incredible coastal walks to choose from but some of the best are on the Lizard Peninsula, between Porthtowan and St Agnes, Land’s End to Cape Cornwall and Tintagel to Boscastle.
2. Enjoy a Cornish Cream Tea
You can’t possibly visit Cornwall without having a Cornish cream tea. If you’re wondering what sets a Cornish cream tea apart from a regular cream tea, it’s all in the assembly. The Cornish way is to spread the jam on first and then dollop the clotted cream on top. It makes a lot of sense to Cornish people because it means you can fit more clotted cream on! The easiest way to remember is with the popular hashtag #jamfirst. A delicious cream tea is best enjoyed with a sea view.
3. Book a Surfing Lesson
When you first get to the beach, you’ll see how inviting the waves are. Unless you’re just going for a quick dip, you’ll probably need to wear a wetsuit to keep you toasty in the sea. A surfing lesson should definitely be on your Cornish holiday bucket list and even if you never manage to stand up, you’ll have so much fun trying! If you’d rather ride the waves lying down, hiring a bodyboard for the afternoon can be just as exhilarating as a surf. Some of the best waves can be found in St Ives, Gwithian, Porthtowan, Newquay, Polzeath and Bude.
4. Devour a Cornish Pasty
Unlike many national dishes or foods that are famous in a particular area, Cornish pasties are actually enjoyed by the locals as well as tourists. Most proper Cornish people will opt for a straight forward steak pasty. Whilst this is by far the best, there are many other tasty options available including chicken, cheese, vegetable and gluten free varieties. What makes a good Cornish pasty? Potato, swede (referred to as turnip in Cornwall) and onion should accompany the steak, it should be well seasoned and juicy inside, and the pastry should be golden and flaky with a crispy crimped edge. The crimping goes back to Poldark days, when Cornish miners held onto the pasties by the crimped edge with their dirty hands. Back then, pasties were an entire meal, with meat at the top and jam at the bottom! Some of the best Cornish pasties to try on holiday are Philps Famous Pasties, Ann’s Pasties and Barnicutts Bakery.
5. Swim in the Jubilee Pool
Splash about in the sea-salty water in the Jubilee Pool in Penzance. It’s just like being in the sea but in a safer environment. Go for a refreshing dip in the pool and then relax in the outdoor cafe, enjoying amazing views of the glistening sea. This stunning outdoor lido is open during the summer months from mid morning to early evening and the cafe is open until 9pm during three evenings per week. Munch on some rustic fries and stone baked pizza and sip on a fruity cocktail or refreshing beer in the summer sunshine.
6. Explore the Cornish Coast in a Kayak
See Cornwall from a whole new perspective with a sea kayaking adventure. You can book a kayaking tour or hire kayaks for a family adventure. Watersports centres such as Koru Kayaking, Newquay Activity Centre and Lizard Adventure will supply you with your life jackets and the choice of a single or double kayak. There’s no better feeling than being out on the open water, exploring caves and paddling past tiny jellyfish in the beautiful ocean.
Who knows, you may even spot some seals, dolphins or basking sharks in the water. Paddle into a secluded cove and go for a dip in the ocean before paddling back to your starting point.
7. Visit the Most Instagrammable Places
Make your friends and family green with envy with your gorgeous photographs. It will only persuade them to book a trip to Cornwall too, and that’s no bad thing! Of course, there are thousands of stunning places in Cornwall but there are a few which make for particularly Instagram-worthy shots. Firstly, Bedruthan Steps on the north coast is a dramatic area of coastline with enormous rocks that are said to be the stepping stones of Bedruthan the Giant. Kynance Cove in West Cornwall is another unique place with breathtaking scenery, often used in the filming of Poldark. St Michael’s Mount is a beautiful castle in the sea which can be accessed by a cobbled causeway at low tide or by boat at high tide. Those are just a few of the magical places to discover!
8. Cycle the Camel Trail
Cycling is a great way of exploring the Cornish coast. One of the best cycle routes is the Camel Trail, an off road route which used to be a trainline. The cycle trail connects the towns of Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow in North Cornwall. You can hire bikes in all three places, but we recommend starting in Wadebridge and choosing to cycle either to Bodmin or Padstow. The Bodmin route takes you through woodland and beautiful countryside and there’s a lovely cafe to stop in for lunch which is surrounded by trees. Alternatively, the seaside town of Padstow has great gift shops, brilliant pubs and restaurants, including Rick Stein’s, and you can even go on a speed boat trip from the harbour! The cycle route is mostly flat and has amazing views of the coast and countryside.
9. Dance the Night Away at a Cornish Festival
The Cornwall festival scene has really improved during the last few years. There are tons to choose from including food festivals, music weekends and cultural events. The Cornish festival season really kicks off in April with food festivals in Porthleven and St Ives. The celebrations carry on right until October with Falmouth Oyster Festival. In between you’ve got everything from Boardmasters in Newquay, which has turned into one of the biggest festivals in the UK, quirky festivals like the Great Estate in Scorrier and Leopolooza in Bude, and Cornish culture events such as Golowan Festival in Penzance and Helston Flora Day. Sip on a pint of cider and soak up the chilled out Cornish vibes….
10. Go Poldark Location Spotting
We can’t promise you’ll spot Aidan Turner riding off into the sunset, but whilst you’re on holiday, why not do a bit of Poldark location spotting? You could start by visiting some of the most popular beach locations for the ITV series, such as Holywell Bay, Porthcurno and Gunwalloe and then investigate some of the old tin mines and engine houses dotted across Cornwall’s cliff tops. Botallack engine houses on Cornwall’s wild tin coast is a great place to start and often features in Poldark scenes. Then you’ve got Wheal Coates on the rugged north coast near St Agnes, often used in scenes where Ross is galloping across the cliff top. There are a few Poldark tours in operation now so it’s worth checking these out or you can go and see a real mine at Geevor or Poldark Mine.
11. Eat an Ice Cream on the Beach
Sitting on a sandy beach, eating an ice cream in the sunshine with views of the sparkling turquoise sea. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? A visit to Cornwall is not complete without sampling some delicious Cornish ice cream. Even if it rains the whole time you’re on holiday, you can still enjoy an ice cream on the beach! Some of the best Cornish ice creams include Moomaid of Zennor, Roskilly’s and Callestick. There’s also a great little cafe next to Chapel Porth beach which sells amazing hedgehog ice creams covered in clotted cream and hazelnuts – need we say more?!
12. Walk on Bodmin Moor
You can’t find anywhere more atmospheric than the remote moorland near Bodmin. Hike across the wild moorland, dotted with gorse and heather. Discover the two highest peaks in Cornwall, historic houses and churches and wooded river valleys. Visit Jamaica Inn and find out about Cornwall’s smuggling past or venture over to Golitha Falls, one of Cornwall’s most idyllic beauty spots. This rugged landscape is said to be home to the beast of Bodmin Moor, so make sure you finish your walk before nightfall!
13. Drive the West Cornwall Coast Road
This stunning stretch of road takes you from Zennor near St Ives all the way down to Sennen near Land’s End. This is hands down one of the most scenic driving routes in the country. The scenery here is unique and you often don’t see any other cars on the road, only cattle. It’s like traveling back in time! This part of Cornwall, known as West Penwith is sparsely populated with large farms and small hamlets. It’s calm and peaceful with picturesque views across an uninterrupted skyline of fields and moorland, and out across the blue Atlantic Ocean. It’s also a fantastic spot to catch a sunrise or sunset.
14. Watch a Performance at the Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre in Porthcurno is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture you will see. It’s the creation of Rowena Cade, a woman who dedicated her life to building the iconic theatre, with a little bit of help from others. Wander past the sub-tropical plants and down the magnificent stairways, made from concrete mixed with sand, and built straight into the granite cliff. The view from the top is so mesmerising that it might be difficult to focus on the theatrical performance! Arrive early to take some photos and find your seat, and make sure you have a cushion with you to sit on. Most people bring a picnic with them to enjoy before the show with spectacular sea views.
15. Discover Secret Coves
With over 300 beaches to choose from, you don’t have to stick to the popular tourist spots. If you don’t mind a beach without facilities, you’ll be spoilt for choice with pretty Cornish coves and secret beaches. Some can only be accessed by driving down a long and winding road, some can only be accessed by steep steps down from the cliff, and some can only be accessed by boat, paddle board or canoe. Cornwall’s secret coves are virtually empty, even during peak season, so don’t be surprised if you have the whole place to yourself if you visit out of the tourist season. Just be prepared to step off of the beaten track and explore.
16. Ride the Scenic St Ives Bay line
By far the most magnificent railway line in Cornwall, the St Ives Bay line has incredible views over St Ives Bay. Change trains from the main line service at St Erth and take your seat on the small train heading for St Ives. Sit on the right hand side for the best views when traveling into St Ives and admire the ocean views outside the train window. You’ll be wishing that this was your new daily commute!
17. Watch a Sensational Sunset
Finally, watching the sun go down over the sea has to be the most magical way to end each day of your holiday. On clear evenings, you can enjoy a spectacular sunset from the beach, from a cliff top, or from anywhere with an elevated view. The colours that light up the sky are mesmerising, not just during the summer but all year round. In fact, sunsets during the Autumn and Winter are often more vibrant with shades of pink, orange and gold illuminating the sky.
If you enjoyed reading this and you’re looking for more insider info about Cornwall, make sure you’re following the Cornish Maid Blog for all the best suggestions!