Where to stay in Cornwall: Sea, Sand and (Hopefully) Some Sun

Heading to the coast but not sure where to stay in Cornwall? We’ve found the best areas to stay for foodies, beach lovers and culture cats.

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View of St Ives, Cornwall

If all you want from your holiday is pasties, look no further than Cornwall. It’s basically the only thing going for the place. We jest. Rugged coastlines, an enviable food scene and enough attractions to keep the most energetic of tourists happy as a pig in the proverbial, mean the question of where to stay in Cornwall is easy to answer. Alongside the Eden Project, Bodmin Moors and the art scene of St Ives, there are plenty of quieter spots to kick back and pretend other humans don’t exist. If you’re unsure which is the best area to stay in Cornwall, do not fear, we’ve done a hell a lot of hard work (and eaten truckloads of pasties) and lined them all up for you. We've even got a separate guide on where to stay with family. Oh, you’re welcome.

Padstow

It’s not all Rick Stein here, though you will find four (yes, four - cheers Rick) of his restaurants here. Foodies have long been coming for the Michelin stars of Paul Ainsworth at No.6 and salty chips with a pint at the harbour. Both equally good. This is a quintessential English seaside town, so grab yourself an ice cream cone and dig your toes in the (beautiful) sand. If you’re a food-obsessed Rick Stein lover visitor and are unsure where to stay in Cornwall, Padstow tops the list.

St Ives

As well as dreamy coastlines and walks to suit all feet, St Ives is the art capital of this glorious stretch of England. Come for the galleries, exhibitions and people that wouldn’t look out of place in the Guardian Homes section. With the Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden as well as a host of smaller galleries, you can spend the day wafting around, staring at white walls feeling confused inspired.

St Ives, Cornwall, UK

St Ives, Cornwall, UK

Truro

Truro is the UK’s most southern city, but if you’re after a slice of the urban life you probably won’t find it here...and it’s all the better for it. Admire the gothic towers of the cathedral, wander quaint streets searching for independent boutiques and sail along the River Fal towards the Trelissick Gardens - it certainly beats miserable commuters, jam-packed streets and the waft of body odour you’d find strolling the typical city.

Tintagel

When one of a place’s calling cards is it’s ancient, iconic post office (yes we used the word iconic to describe a post office), you know it’s going to be an absolute hoot. Okay, we’re being sarcastic but the post office is actually worth a visit - so old, so wonky, so vintage, darling. Areas to stay in Cornwall don’t come much more quaint than Tintagel. History is rich here –King Arthur called it home a while back– and the rugged coastlines are yearning for the next HBO dramatisation.

Bodmin

Spend your days in Cornwall searching for ghosts, ghouls and proof that the Beast of Bodmin isn’t just a large house cat gone awry. Legends and tall tales were made here, making this one of the best areas to stay in Cornwall for any history buff. Take pleasure in walking the moorland and making your way to its highest peak, delightfully named Brown Willy. When you’ve exhausted all conspiracy theories, the town is actually quite tranquil (we didn’t find any ghosts) and a great spot to explore the Cornish coast.

Polperro

If you cross your eyes whilst looking at the harbour of Polperro (not too much, don’t hurt yourself for this experiment) you’re transported straight back to the 13th century and a simpler life. Thank god, that’s not our time and we can get an oat flat white and a decent croissant from one of the little cafés. If picture postcard, chocolate box vibe is your thing, head here: original features abound and the village often tops Prettiest Village in Cornwall lists.

Isles of Scilly

It’s difficult to believe you’re only an Olympic-world-record-breaking stone’s throw from London here; azure waters, white-sand beaches and an abundance of wildlife awaits. Full disclosure: it’s a quick flight on one of those tin-can planes from the tip of Cornwall to reach the Isles of Scilly, but oh so peaceful and quiet. Perfect for pretending you’re a character from an Enid Blyton book. Spend your days frolicking on the beach and your evenings around a fire with marshmallows - or at one of the fantastic restaurants.

The Lizard

Hide from the crowds and head to The Lizard - a name derived from the Cornish lezou meaning headland, not because it was once infested with mythical dragons (sorry). Walkers, adventurers and nature lovers will delight here, it’s not quite untouched bliss, but it’s pretty close. Visit the Kynance Cove and see for yourself why it is one of the most painted spots in the UK. This is arguably the best area to stay in Cornwall if you want to get away from it all, and the Plum Guide's selection of cottages, apartments and homes are second to none.

Penzance

Insert pirate joke here. Insert Poldark reference here. Sprawling coastline backs onto the rugged countryside, you’ve got the best of both worlds here. Wander pebbly beaches and make friends by asking strangers ‘how do pirates know they are a pirate?’ ‘They think, therefore they ARRRRRRRR.’ (sorry, really sorry). Afternoons are best spent lounging at the Art Deco saltwater lido Jubilee Pool before decimating a cream tea whilst overlooking the sea.

Falmouth

The less ostentatious cousin of St Ives - Falmouth may not be as picturesque but it makes up for it with a lively restaurant and pub scene, an infamous sea shanty festival and hidden beach coves aplenty. When you’re done lying prone on the beach for hours (you’re on holiday after all) the area boasts world-class gardens and ubiquitous Cornish castles to admire.

Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall UK

Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall UK

So after figuring out where to stay in Cornwall, time to start planning how you'll spend your time there. Or you could just leave it to us and our expert three-day itinerary.

Wild Furze, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

Wild Furze, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

All you need now is a place to stay…and luckily, we can help with that. As the official selection of the world's best rental homes, whether you're looking for a beachside retreat or an architectural delight, we've got an amazing collection of homes to choose from. Independent home critics vet each each property for quality –from the neighbourhood down to the art on the walls– so your high standards are always met.

Dune Cottage, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

Dune Cottage, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

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