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Your Cornwall Itinerary: 3 Days on the Coast

From fishing harbours to fine-dining restaurants, here's how to spend 72 hours in Kernow

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Coastline in Cornwall

Did you know that behind the smiling faces of Jack Sparrow and the like, smuggling was a very real problem in Cornwall. And while it’s thought many pirates genuinely had a Cornish accent, the way we imagine pirates talking today was cemented in the zeitgeist by actor Robert Newton, who played Long John Silver with a preposterously exaggerated Cornwall accent in 1950.

And if you think we’ve begun this article with too much focus on pirates, then yarrr totally right. But people love pirates (not real ones; they’re scary). Cornwall is packed with some of England’s greatest natural…treasures. Its villages contain colourful fishing harbours and quaint old pubs. The Eden Project brings the rainforest to the British Isles, while the Minack Theatre provides a nice setting to watch a performance against the picturesque backdrop of the sea. It’s a large area and there’s a lot to do, so let us here at Plum Guide be your guides. Here is the ultimate Cornwall itinerary of 3 days.

Day 1: Discover St Ives

  • Stretch your legs on the Cornish Coastal Path
  • Marvel at the Tate St Ives Gallery
  • Take a trip to Seal Island
  • Enjoy dinner before a walk along Porthmeor beach

Day 2: Admire Cornwall’s green thumb

  • Explore the Eden Project
  • Spend time at Pinetum Gardens
  • Wander round the Lost Gardens of Heligan
  • Stroll through Treglyn Gardens

Day 3: Sunbathe or catch some waves

  • Head down to Fistral Beach
  • Stop for lunch at the Scarlet Restaurant
  • End your trip at the Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps

Day 1: Discover St Ives

Stretch your legs on the Cornish Coastal Path

Wake up and take in the fresh, salty air from the window of your wonderful Cornish Plum home to mark the start of your Cornwall itinerary of 3 days. Stretch those weary legs and get on down to the Cornish Coastal Path. Now, it runs for more than 600 miles, so we don’t expect you to complete the whole thing by lunch. At the western tip, you’ll reach St Ives, which is a surfers’ hub. Try to avoid any surfers…or maybe even annoy join them on a hot tepid summer’s day on the water.

The Colour Reef, Plum Guide home in Newquay, Cornwall

Marvel at the Tate St Ives Gallery

Back on land, absorb all the culture you possibly can by visiting the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and stopping by the Tate St Ives Gallery. This gallery showcases works produced by an array of modern British artists, all of whom have links to the area of St Ives, so it won’t be the same creators you’re used to encountering. The venue also hosts countless exhibitions all year round, so time your trip to see some interesting additional masterpieces.

Take a trip to Seal Island

Stop for lunch at the Lakeside Cabin Café, the Silco Searoom or the Cornish Deli, which provide you with a range of offerings. Well, obviously…that’s what restaurants do. But those three do it particularly well. Now, take your family on a scenic boat trip to Seal Island and try to resist the urge to push your little ones in the English Channel. As the name suggests, the island is packed with seals, so you’ll get a chance to get up close and take a look at those fish-dog things. It’s worth remembering though, as much as they remind you of your dog… they are not your dog. They do make for a great photo companion though, so snap a family shot and secure yourself a seriously unique screensaver.

Enjoy dinner before a walk along Porthmeor beach

In the evening, it’s time for some fine St Ives dining, with the Story by the Sea or the Sands Restaurant. Cornwall is one of those places where fish and chips can either be totally exclusive and glamorous or a quick bite. Controversial opinion alert: the only difference is the price. For something cheaper and cheerful(er), try the Balancing Eel. Then, walk along the Porthmeor Beach or Porthminster Beach for sunset, before heading back to your Plum Home to read Treasure Island and rest. You’ve earned it.

St Ives, Cornwall, UK

Day 2: Admire Cornwall’s green thumb

Explore the Eden Project

Eden Project, Cornwall UK | Photo: Richard Szwejkowski / Flickr

To start your second day, head out from your quintessentially Cornish cottage and make your way to the Eden Project, which is like a bunch of big bubbles with their own eco-systems that teach us about all things nature. It’s pretty enormous, actually, and gives you a chance to admire the Earth’s natural diversity all in one place. You lazy so and so. Seriously though, it’s one of the highlights of Cornwall, with its rainforest and Mediterranean sections proving enough to make you forget the drizzle outdoors. Just kidding, England has great summer weather (sometimes), and Cornwall is one of the sunniest and warmest parts.

Withy Lane, Plum Guide home in Cornwall

Spend time at Pinetum Gardens

Just down the road from the Eden Project, you can find Pinetum Gardens, a family-owned garden covering roughly 38 acres of land. As well as classic plants and greenery, Pinetum Gardens specialises in water features, with a large array of stone sculptures and fountains taking centre stage. It’s a wonderful place to take the family for a peaceful day admiring the beauty of nature, and is perfect for both a short visit or a longer activity - there are certainly worse ways to spend a full day. No matter the weather, you’ll discover a range of picturesque plants and fascinating little creatures, so this option is never off the table.

Wander round the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Drive down to the nearby Historic Port of Charlestown and enjoy a meal at the Boathouse Charlestown. There’s a play area for the little ones and, oh look, there’s that Cornish Coastal Path again (which some people are boringly calling the South West Coastal Path). Better get back on it and get a-walking. Not too far along, you’ll reach the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which comprises Victorian gardens and a tea room. These gardens cover a mind-boggling 200 acres of land, and boast areas ranging from Pleasure Grounds, to the Jungle, to their popular Productive Gardens. There’s also the Heligan estate, where you will discover free wildlife, eye-catching woodland, and even a selection of farm animals. Definitely one for the kids, this one.

Stroll through Treglyn Gardens

Just a short drive away from the Lost Gardens of Heligan, St Austell boasts Treglyn Gardens, a smaller family-run nursery, open garden, and woodland. You’ll struggle to comprehend how so much can be packed into the gardens, but the abundance of shrubs and plants will keep you entertained for hours, as will the perennials - the speciality in these parts. You can also pop in for some refreshments if you need a quick pit stop, with fresh food served daily. You could also find a nice restaurant nearby, with plenty of places ready to fuel the remainder of your day. On the eastern side of Charlestown lies Edie’s Kitchen, while if you go southwest to Falmouth, you can dine in style at the upmarket Restaurant Four. Once you're ready to call it a night, head back to your home-from-home and get some rest ahead of another day of exploring the best of Cornwall.

Explorer's Base, Plum Guide home in Cornwall

Day 3: Sunbathe or catch some waves

Head down to Fistral Beach

Time to explore the north-eastern part of the area for the final leg of your Cornwall itinerary of 3 days. Head out from your gorgeous Plum home and get yourself a sunbathing spot on Watergate Bay Beach or Fistral Beach. With its strong waves, it’s (another) surfing hub, while the Blue Reef Aquarium features an underwater tunnel allowing you to feel like you’re diving or swimming with sharks and rays.

Wild Furze, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

Stop for lunch at the Scarlet Restaurant

The Scarlet Restaurant is a gem that makes for an idyllic lunch destination. Overlooking the Newquay waves from the Scarlet Hotel, this is undoubtedly one of the finest places to eat in the whole of Cornwall. Unsurprisingly, fish is a popular dish here - perhaps it’s the sea air that reels everyone in. Eat away as you watch the waves roll through repeatedly, almost tempting you to grab the surfboard out of the car (or hire one from nearby). Once you’ve filled your gullets, it’s time to return to Cornwall’s famous sandy strands and soak in the sun. You can't exercise that soon after eating. (You’re welcome for the perfect excuse.)

End your trip at the Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps

Once your food has (finally) gone down, travel a little east to the Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps to see the rock formations in the sea. Marvel at the unique rock formation as your look out into the sea, and lose yourself in the tranquillity of the area. A large part of Cornwall is its sea if you hadn’t already figured that out, with the sounds, smell and sights truly making this a lovely holiday destination. In the evening, discuss the amazing memories you’ve made with your family at the exclusive Samphire Restaurant or the Beach View Restaurant, both of which have…views…of the beach.

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