Cornwall - or Kernow to the locals - isn’t exactly a well-kept secret. Its wealth of gardens, beaches and superlative restaurants have long attracted visitors to its sunny climes. It’s got it all - from a cliffside theatre to a multi-award-winning English winery. But there’s only so much you can fit in. So where should you choose to spend your precious time off?
Luckily, Plum Guide’s fastidious travel experts have done the research for you (the words tough life don’t even begin to cover it) so you can focus on the fun. And why not book into one of our exclusive homes? Here at Plum Guide, our homes critics have professionally vetted each and every one of them - from the design to the practical details like water pressure - to make sure our listings contain only the top 3% of holiday rental homes. Either way - and without further ado - let's take a look at our absolute favourite things to do in Cornwall.
Go all the way to Land’s End
View from Land's End, Cornwall
The famous counterpart to Scotland’s John O’Groats, Land’s End is at England’s most south-westerly point - and this is one of the quintessential things to do in Cornwall. Head out here for a windswept walk, before warming up inside with a cream tea the Cornish way (with jam then cream on top - and don’t try to tell anyone here if you prefer it the other way around, it won’t end well). Be sure to stick around for sunset.
Explore Cornish art at Tate St Ives
One of Cornwall’s more famous institutions, Tate St Ives makes a compelling case for a visit all by itself. It barely requires the hard sell from us, but here goes. Numerous artists have gravitated to St Ives because of its gorgeous light, including Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Alfred Wallis and Mark Rothko. And this gallery, set in a white building that’s all curves and clean lines, with a view of Porthmeor Beach, is all about celebrating them.
Learn how to forage
Head out onto the lands surrounding the amusingly named Portwrinkle fishing village, with a professional forager from Totally Wild. Depending on what you find, you could be rustling up a wild risotto, elderflower cheesecake or orange and hogweed seeds cakes over an open fire. This is a great one for anyone who fancies themselves as a forager but is fearful of poisoning themselves the wrong mushroom. The course leaders are all government accredited, so you’re in safe hands.
Head to Padstow
Padstow Harbour, Cornwall
If in Cornwall, exploring Padstow is a must. Head out and take a walk on the harbour, ice cream in hand to enjoy bobbing boats and the quaint British seaside atmosphere. If you like, take a boat trip from here to spot dolphins and puffins. Or if a stately home is more your thing, take a walk around the Elizabethan Prideaux Place, complete with gardens and a deer park. Padstow is also a top location if you’re looking to explore the Cornish food scene. Learn how to make a show-stopping lobster thermidor, or a Singapore chilli crab at Rick Stein’s cookery school: you can enjoy eating your take on these fresh catches with a chilled glass of white and a sea view. If eating is more your bag than cooking, head to Paul Ainsworth at No 6, a Michelin-star restaurant set in a cosy Georgian townhouse, serving modern British food made with Cornish produce.
Explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan
The clue’s in the name: a chance discovery three decades ago led to the restoration of these centuries-old gardens, which had been left untouched since the First World War. The flower gardens and pineapple pits at the Lost Gardens of Heligan date back to the 1700s, and these 200-acre botanical gardens are well worth exploring for a sense of English horticultural history.
Enjoy a clifftop hot tub at The Scarlett
This is one of the most dramatic and, frankly, inspired places in the world you could think of to stick a hot tub. Perched on a clifftop, spa-goers can stay warm and toasty in the water, whether they’re sunning themselves, stargazing or enjoying a storm (though if you do bring your champagne with you, it is admittedly much nicer without rain in it). Retreat inside to the day spa for a hammam, pools, meditation and massages.
Cycle the Camel Trail
Head out early and hire bikes and set off from Padstow to Bodmin on the Camel Trail. Don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned cyclist: this former railway trail is gloriously flat. On this gentle, hour-long route you’ll pass along the gorgeous Camel Estuary and through Camel Valley woodland. Keep an eye out for kingfishers and marsh marigolds along the way. You might want to reward yourself with a beverage after the cycle, which helps us segue nicely into our next suggestion - handily situated just off the trail.
Drink English wine at Camel Valley Vineyard
There’s little better than sitting in sunshine, sipping fine wine just metres from where it was made. And these expert viticulteurs might just have more gold awards to dust than bottles in their home cellars (the list is very, very long). Head to the family owned vineyard for a tour and tasting on the terrace and then select your favourite vintages to bring home. Perfect for a special occasion.
Visit the Eden Project
Eden Project, Cornwall UK | Photo: Richard Szwejkowski / Flickr
Next on our list of the best things to do in Cornwall, we have the famous Eden Project. You’ll find enough enthralling rainforest plant species under the Eden Project’s iconic domes to beat the average millennial’s houseplant collection by some distance. Set in a reclaimed china clay pit, the Eden Project brings together plants from all over the world, from pineapple trees to striking dahlias, highland tropical pitcher plants and the pleasingly named hottentot sugarbush (its pink blooms are as striking as they sound). Keep an eye out for summer concerts, too (previous acts include Elton John, Oasis and Muse).
Watch a performance at the Minack Theatre
Go to the open-air Minack Theatre for the setting alone: the performance space is built into the granite cliffs. With dramatic Cornish coastal views and the seating facing out to the Atlantic Ocean, you’d be forgiven for getting distracted during a performance.