If you make your way down to the southwestern tip of the English coast to visit Cornwall, you’ll find the most beautiful landscapes and a quintessentially English countryside.
Living in London, I told myself I absolutely need to see as much of it as possible and this is one area of the UK that I absolutely need to come back to. I felt such a sense of peace and gratitude when I was down there and I never wanted to leave.
Things to do in Cornwall:
- Take a walk in the fishing town
- Eat fish and chips with curry sauce
- Have a pub crawl (try some spingo)
- Visit the Helston Museum
- Visit the Cathedral
- Visit the Royal Cornwall Museum
- Visit the Cornwall National Maritime Museum
- Take part in watersports
- Try a Cornish Pasty (from Philips!)
- Visit Pendennis Castle
- Visit Gylly Beach
- St Michael’s Mount
- Gunwalloe Church Cove (aka Poldark Beach)
- Have a Cream Tea
Why is Cornwall so famous?
Renown for its stunning cliffs and pristine sandy beaches Cornwall is one of the UK’s most popular countryside destinations. The home of cream tea and Cornish pasties, Cornwall is also rich in traditional pub life and cuisine.
The Cornish countryside is also known to be the site of much mystery and folklore, being home to St Micheal’s Mount and the tale of Jack the Giant Slayer.
It has some of the friendliest people, a relaxing seaside atmosphere and the prettiest towns, perfect for a much-needed escape from hectic city life.
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Fun facts about Cornwall:
Before giving you the grand tour, I know I absolutely love learning a bit about the history of a place while I visit. Here are some things I learnt, which you should definitely bring up if you have the chance to talk to the locals and get them to tell you more about it!
The Cornish once had their own language and although this isn’t spoken by very many people these days, it’s super fun to learn a few bits and pieces from the locals, like the fact that ‘Tre’ means ‘where people live’ and so having ‘Tre’ in front of the name of a place means that it related to the person that lived there. Similarly, you’ll notice a few places begin with ‘Pen’, which means a land head, whereas when it is spelt ‘Penn’ the word means holy.
Cornwall is also famous for being the filming site for the popular BBC series Poldark staring Aidan Turner. If you’re a Poldark fan, Cornwall will have you indulging all the Poldark vibes.
How to travel to Cornwall / Getting to Cornwall:
To Cornwall by train:
If you’re coming from London, take the train from Paddington station. Tickets can range between £60 to £200 depending on the time of year, the type of ticket (off-peak tickets are usually cheaper) and the class on the train carriage.
It’s a five-hour journey so I’d pack some snacks but it’s a very pleasant ride across the countryside, through farmland and right on the coastline. You can book tickets online or at a ticket machine at the station.
To Cornwall by car:
If you prefer renting a car and road tripping to Cornwall, it would take about 5 hours on the motorway from Central London depending on the traffic. In my opinion, this could be quite fun if you’re with friends, playing some music with some snacks and not in a rush to get to where you’re going.
Once you’re in Cornwall itself, everything is accessible by bus and nothing is too far of a car ride away. It would be super convenient if you do drive, to rent a car and make your own way along the beautiful cliffs and through the bustling country towns.
The adorable little seaside town of Helston, with its quintessential character, is filled with all the charm you’d expect if you’ve watched enough British telly and read a few of the romance novels understandably set in this beautiful county.
The smells of fish and chips (and curry sauce) welcome you as you make your way down to the water near Porthleven and the seagulls overhead squawk as they eye your fried goods, waiting to pounce the second you’re not looking.
Traditional English pubs zigzag their way along the main road of the town as the patrons enjoy their pints of special spingo, the beverage that one of the pubs in town, The Blue Anchor, proudly brews. You could easily have a fun pub crawl of all the Helston clubs in one night and meet the locals!
Don’t be fooled by the size of the town because the young and the old of Helston know how to have a good time. If you make your way to a pub after 6pm, you’ll submerge yourself into the life of a local, singing old Cornish folk songs while downing pints before the Misses says its time to head home.
If you’re around during early spring, the people of Helston proudly hold their annual Flora Day festivities, where everyone decorates the front of their houses and all the buildings in fresh flowers and branches to celebrate the coming of Spring. Throughout the day, a silver band marches across town accompanied by dancers in period clothing, the men in their top hats and the women in their beautiful cocktail dresses.
The most prestigious is the midday dance, where only the Helston born couples are allowed to participate, the women all dressed up in beautiful ball gowns. In between and after the dances, there are lots of festivities going on in the streets as young and old make the most of a holiday to be merry so it’s a super fun time of year to be in the area.
The people of Helston are so proud of their history, and rightly so, that they have the Helston Museum, dedicated to sharing with visitors, and reminding locals of the way of life of generations gone by. They’ve got setups of kitchens, living rooms and children’s playrooms, they’ve got an old cider press and pictures and memorabilia from the still running naval base, of which the county is very proud. The museum is free to visit but if you do make your way there, charitable donations are welcome.
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The only city in the county of Cornwall, Truro is also home to one of the youngest cathedrals in the country, only having been built in the early 1900s. The Cathedral dominated the skyline and is situated right in the heart of the town, and with its free admissions, it’s not something you want to miss out on seeing.
Although a city, it’s still very small, with winding roads leading the way through the streets filled with shops and pubs and you can very well make your way around it by car in 10 minutes. But a leisurely walking tour of the town is a unique little blast into the past, and for more of Cornish History, pay a visit to the Royal Cornwall Museum or visit one of the many gardens for lush greenery and beautiful flora.
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The bustling harbour town of Falmouth is the centre of Cornwall’s Maritime activities.
Boasting the Cornwall National Maritime Museum which sits on the harbour surrounded by little restaurants facing the waterfront, the town is a real pleasure to discover. The museum itself is around £14 to visit but if you’re a keen maritime enthusiast it’s well worth the visit.
The streets are lined with plenty of shops to peruse for clothes and swim gear if you’re going to be taking part in any water-based activities. Speaking of water activities, you can sign up for sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing on one of the many beaches of the Cornish Coast.
You’ll also be lucky because every third shop will lure you in with the promise of a famous Cornish Pasty (of which I am very pleased to say there are vegan versions). You’ll find the best pasties from Philips. Steaming hot, melt in your mouth pastries with flavourful fillings, it was well worth waiting to come all the way to Cornwall to try this traditional English delight.
Every other souvenir shop after that will 100% have something for you to take home in memory of your trip, but the one thing you won’t get enough of are the Poldark themed Memorabilia. They’ve also got boxes of Shortbreads, mugs, tea towels and pillowcases, all printed with the characters of the popular BBC series that has undeniably brought attention to this beautiful English County.
Visit Pendennis Castle built by Henry VIII. The castle is considered one of the finest coastal castles in the UK and there’s an admissions fee of £10.50 for adults and £6.30 for kids.
Take a swim (or just a walk when it’s too cold) on Gylly Beach, after having lunch at the very popular restaurant on the beach front. You may want to go earlier during the day to get a stop in time for lunch because it’s very popular and can be quite a wait.
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St Michael’s Mount
Whether you walk along the cobblestone pathway at low tide or take a boat during the high tide for £2 a person, St Michael’s Mount is worth a visit, for a little blast into Tudor past as it is one of the most iconic spots on the English Southern coast.
Built during medieval times, the castle is famous for the myths and legends surrounding the Mount on which it lies. Legend has it that the archangel St Michael would appear near the Mount in the days of yore, to warn seamen of the dangers at sea.
Locals know the story of Jack the Giant Killer and as you climb your way up to the castle, you can set foot on the very ground where the giant is said to be buried.
The castle itself was built long after these myths had been told and by the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, St Michael’s Mount had come into the possession of the monks of its sister isle, Mont St Michel in Normandy. In the 12th century, it was their hands that built the church and priory that still lie at the heart of the castle today. (https://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk/explore-the-mount/history-legends)
If you do visit the castle itself (for only £10), you’ll find within it a wonderful museum with artefacts that give you a glimpse of what life would have been like during the days of the monks, fleeing princesses and crusades.
Not to mention the view at the top, if you stand right in one of those fairy tales like turrets, is something to behold. Stay for story time as the members of staff beguile you with the tale of Jack and the mighty Giant, have tea at the little cafe, or treat yourself to a little something at the National Trust Gift Shop before you make your way back to the mainland.
If you do visit the castle itself, you’ll find within it a wonderful museum with artefacts that give you a glimpse of what life would have been like during the days of the monks, fleeing princesses and crusades. And not to mention the view at the top, if you stand right in one of those fairy tales like turrets, is something to behold.
Stay for story time as the members of staff beguile you with the tale of Jack and the mighty Giant, have tea at the little cafe, or treat yourself to a little something at the National Trust Gift Shop before you make your way back to the mainland.
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‘Poldark Beach’ – Gunwalloe Church Cove
I could not write a post about Cornwall and not include a bit of love for the popular BBC TV series. Although the friend I stayed with is not as big a fan as I am, her mother and grandmother certainly are so when her mother offered to take me to the very beach where they filmed some of the scenes from the series, you have to know I screamed a bit internally.
Even if you don’t know the series, the scenery down that side was so stunning that I would definitely recommend you pay it a visit.
We drove down to the beach and visited the little church by the cove (where Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen were married) after which we walked along the sand down the beach. If I closed my eyes, I could actually see Ross riding across the cliff on his horse.
The sun was setting as I went for a swim in the very cold water but the colours and the raw landscape truly tugged at my heartstrings. There are very few buildings in that area, so the fields run green as far as the eye can see and the cliff faces, worn by time and tide, with their caves and sharp edges, stand proudly like guardians of the coast.
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Have a Cream Tea
A trip to Cornwall is absolutely not complete until you’ve indulged in a traditional Cream Tea. This involves a pot of tea, some freshly made scones, and a generous portion of jam and cream. Most of the little café’s by the coast offer cream teas but I had them fresh from the oven at my friend’s grandmother’s house at it was so good!
Making new friends and experiencing new parts of the country was my favourite thing about this trip. Driving from one town to another along the winding roads that overlook the ocean or the splendid cliffs that Cornwall is famous for, reminded me somewhat of being back home, in a similarly small town driving around to chill at the beach or have lunch to catch up with friends.
I can honestly say that staying with friends is my favourite way of discovering a new place because you see parts of the life of the area that you may not otherwise see or you wouldn’t know to look for as a tourist. You get to hear stories from parents and grandparents and you get to imagine what it would be like if you were to live there yourself.
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next!