Cornwall in South West England is the perfect place for a UK holiday. Stunning coastlines, lovely fishing villages, secluded coves, beautiful beaches and miles of coastal paths to explore. There are heaps of gorgeous places to visit in Cornwall, including some of the UK’s most iconic sights.
This post is written in partnership with Classic Cottages, however, all views and opinions are entirely my own.
We recently stayed at Kenneggy, near to St Michael’s Mount. It was the perfect location for exploring West Cornwall which is home to many of my favourite Cornish gems. There are so many beautiful places to see in Cornwall that you’re spoilt for choice which makes it a must-do destination for any UK staycation. Scroll to the end for a handy map of these gorgeous places to visit in Cornwall.
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St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is a stunning sight in Mount’s Bay and sits opposite the small market town of Marazion. A cobbled causeway connects the tidal island to the mainland which you can walk at low tide. At high tide pay a small fee to arrive or depart the isle by ferryboat.
The island’s fairytale-like castle was built in the 12th century and can be seen from miles around. It’s the most spectacular of Cornwall attractions. Colonel John St Aubyn bought the castle in the 1700s and the family still reside there today. Explore the castle’s corridors and rooms to discover rare and unusual artefacts.
The terraced gardens and walled garden are beautiful to stroll through and there’s a small village which is home to around 30 people. The harbour and village are free to visit but you’ll need to pre-book the castle and gardens at a cost of £24 for adults and £13 for children. Under 5s go free.
The castle is a National Trust property so it’s free to members although pre-booking is required. You can book the castle or gardens separately at a lesser cost.
Be sure to check the St Michael’s Mount website for opening times as these frequently vary according to time and tide. The castle is closed on Saturday and the island is closed during the winter so plan ahead.
Tip: The climb to the castle is on steep cobbled pathways so be sure to wear appropriate shoes.
Ask anyone which places to visit in Cornwall and you’ll be told St Ives, the most captivating of Cornish harbour towns. I’d have to agree.
Wander the ‘Downalong’, a maze of cobbled lanes which lead to the port and check out the unusual names; Fish Street, Virgin Street and Teetotal Street amongst many others. Seek out the St Ives 200-year old green door.
Next head to the granite quayside for cute fishermen’s cottages, ancient pubs, cafes, galleries and boutique shops. Have a Cornish pasty on the quayside.
The Tate St Ives gallery has a range of modern art exhibitions with a focus on British artists and a fabulous rooftop café with views across beautiful Porthmeor Beach.
The South West Coast Path
I’m not suggesting you hike the whole of the UK’s longest national trail but do pull on your boots and walk a small section of the South West Coast Path. It’ll be a hike you’ll remember. The 630-mile long path runs through four UK counties; Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and is one of the longest walks in the world. Another of my favourite coastal paths is in the Isle of Wight which also has some excellent walks.
We spent half a day hiking from our cottage in Kenneggy to the town of Marazion and discovered stunning headlands, secluded coves and spectacular Cornish views that went on forever. We also saw a kestrel, if you’re lucky you might spot seals or a pod of dolphins. If you love the outdoors then the SW Coast Path is one of the top places to visit in Cornwall.
An open-air theatre perched high on the cliffs overlooking the stunning Porthcurno Beach. Surely, this is one of the most unique places to visit in Cornwall. The Minack Theatre is carved directly into the cliff-face and is a top Cornish attraction.
Minack means ‘rocky place’ and the open-air theatre, which was built in the 1920s, overlooks a dark rocky crag and gully far below. The perfect dramatic backdrop. Shows are put on from May to September, but the theatre is open to visit throughout the year.
Admission costs £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. It’s worth visiting even when there’re no performances to see the elaborate Celtic carvings designs in the rock and the beautiful botanical garden. Add the Minack Theatre to your Cornwall bucket list.
The Lizard Peninsular
Lizard Point is the most southerly point in the UK and is wildly beautiful in both good weather and bad. Park up at Lizard Village in the National Trust car park and walk the half mile to the Point. This stunning part of the Cornish coastline is a great spot for catching glimpses of marine wildlife and sea birds.
There’s an old lifeboat station at Polpeor Cove, just a few minutes’ walk from the Point, which was in use from 1914 to 1961. A newer state of the art lifeboat station is based half a mile away at Kilcobben Cove today. A lifeboat is essential because this westerly approach to the English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with up to 400 ships passing by every day.
Walk 2.1 miles west along the scenic Lizard Coastal walk and you’ll find yourself at Kynance Cove, said to be one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
A must visit on your beautiful places to see in Cornwall itinerary is Kynance Cove which sits between Lizard Point and the eastern side of Mount’s Bay. The cove is spectacular with serpentine rocks and offshore stacks rising from turquoise blue waters.
Kynance Cove is at its best in the sunshine at low tide when the white sands contrast with the emerald carpeted Asparagus Island and clear azure waters. But even on a blustery day at high tide with darkening skies the cove is still beautiful.
At low tide hike down to see the caves, small coves and sea stacks. The right-hand path which leads down to the beach and the café is the fastest but steepest route to the cove with dramatic views on the way down.
Tip: Be sure to check the tide times before your visit to avoid becoming stranded on the rocks as the tide advances and wear good walking shoes for the trek down to the cove. It gets busy so visit early or late in the day or even out of season.
The cove might look familiar if you’ve watched the TV show Poldark – it’s the fictional location of Nampara Cove.
Mousehole, pronounced Mow-zel, is one of the prettiest fishing villages in Cornwall and sits on the western shore of Mount’s Bay near Penzance. How it got its unusual name is not clear although some believe it’s due to a nearby cave that’s shaped like a mouse hole.
At one time, historic Mousehole was a major fishing port landing pilchards by the tonne. Today, wander the narrow streets, quayside, pretty galleries and shops. Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin honeymooned in Mousehole and I can see why he described it as the ‘loveliest village in England’.
There’s a small beach within the harbour walls and a small tidal rock pool by Rock Pool Cafe. Heading west, beyond the harbour, discover a small stone staircase which leads down to the rocks with views out to St Clements Island.
Travelbunny Tip: If visiting Mousehole by car try and park on the outskirts of the village where there’s some roadside parking. The village lanes are very narrow with no passing room in places, and there’s limited parking. Better still take the bus.
Set high on a rocky headland on the North Cornwall coast, the ruins of Tintagel Castle stand surveying the choppy Atlantic Ocean below. Said to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur this is one of the places to visit in Cornwall that’s steeped in myth and history. Tintagel Castle is managed by English Heritage and you’ll need to book before your visit.
Cross the new Tintagel Bridge which links the mainland to the castle headland over a deep chasm. The walk offers incredible views of the dramatic coastline and you’ll arrive at the castle the same way that visitors did in the middle ages.
Don’t miss Gallos, an 8ft bronze statue of an ancient king and head down to the beach below the castle to visit Merlin’s Cave and the waterfall. The pathway is down steep steps and over rocks but worth the effort and there’s a shuttle that’ll take you down and back up again, if you need it. Check the tide times before your visit.
Cornwall does pretty villages incredibly well, and next up is a Cornish gem. Down the coast, ten miles south-west of Tintagel, sits the charming fishing village of Port Isaac. Narrow lanes lined with whitewashed fishermen’s dwellings and quaint Cornish cottages meander through the village down to the harbour. Look out for ‘Squeezy Belly Alley’ – it’s meant to be one of the narrowest lanes in the UK.
The 14th century village, which you might recognise from the TV show Doc Martin, makes for a pleasant wander or you can book a scenic boat tour during the summer season.
The village and its surrounds are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of the Heritage Coast area with some good walks and a small beach to explore.
Tip: You’ll see the main car park when you first arrive in the village so park up and make the downhill walk to the village. You’ll get the best harbor views from the car park.
Land’s End is a top Cornish attraction where you’ll catch some of the county’s most breath taking views, dramatic scenery and full force of the elements.
The Greeks called Land’s End ‘Belerion’ – place of the sun. It’s the most westerly point on the English mainland and where you’ll experience nature in full force with waves crashing against granite rocks and towering cliffs before being whipped away by the wind. It’s a good place to catch a sunset.
You’ll find the famous Land’s End signpost showing the distances to places like John O’Groats (874 miles), New York (3,147 miles). It’s become more commercial since we last visited and there’s a charge to have your photo taken beneath the sign but it’s the closest point to the US and the Atlantic views are superb.
Tips: Land’s End is a short drive (4.2 miles) from the Minack Theatre and Lizard Point so you may wish to combine your visit.
Parking is pricey so park at Sennen Cove and take advantage of the scenery, including a shipwreck view, on the one-mile coastal walk to Land’s End.
When to visit Cornwall
When is the best time of year to visit Cornwall? Cornwall’s at its best in the warmer months, although the summer holidays can be exceptionally busy. I’ve visited in February/March and October and have had both beautiful and stormy weather on concurrent days each time. Pack accordingly!
During the summer months Cornwall can be incredibly busy with heavy traffic and lack of parking. Book a cottage with Classic Cottages right in town or somewhere like Marazion, with a good bus route, to avoid this. Alternatively, take a break off season which is also more budget friendly.
They have cottages all over Cornwall and in many other locations like Devon, Dorset and in the South and West of England. Read about the gorgeous Boatshed we stayed in with Classic Cottages and find out some of the best things to do in West Cornwall.
Map of the best places to visit in Cornwall
Check out my handy map of places to visit in Cornwall to help plan your trip.
So, these are my top ten most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall, although there are many more. What’s your favourite – did it make my list?