Cornwall attractions to add to your bucket list

Penhale Sands Cornwall

Have you visited Cornwall? Judging by the numbers of people flocking to the most south-westerly corner of the UK, it’s one of the best places to visit in England. An estimated 41 million people made trips to Cornwall England last year, drawn by all the family-friendly Cornwall attractions, and clement weather. So right now, it’s top of our UK family travel bucket list. I’ve put together a bucket list of things to do in Cornwall with kids, for when we next visit.

Things to do in Newquay

Three hundred miles of dramatic coastline make Cornwall perfect for people who love beaches and watersports. The Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay, near the seaside town of Newquay, is one of the many places in Cornwall where youngsters can learn to surf, kayak, SUP and bodyboard. But if you’re looking for things to do in Cornwall in the rain, try some of the wet-weather Newquay attractions, like Pirate’s Quest, an immersive walkthrough experience with actors and amazing special effects. There’s also the Blue Reef Aquarium, where visitors can see local marine species from the Cornish coast, and walk through a clear underwater tunnel to watch tropical species like sharks and octopus.

Cornwall UK by bike

Cycling families will find plenty of fun things to do in Cornwall. The Camel Bike Trail is a safe and gentle 5-mile route along a former railway track from Padstow to Wadebridge. It’s a good place to begin an exploration of the county on two wheels.

Things to do in north Cornwall

Boscastle in Cornwall

Visitors who want to find out more about the wild and mystic history of Cornwall can visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic at Boscastle, on the north coast. It’s the world’s largest and oldest magic and witchcraft collection, and it’s crammed full of witches’ charms, corn dolls and misshapen wands used to summon demons. It’s the sort of place you could visit ten times and still spot new items in its dimly lit rooms (maybe moved around by the Cornish piskies who are said to roam Cornwall’s moors?).

Things to do in Fowey

The pretty harbourside town of Fowey has narrow, winding streets and white fisherman’s cottages. Author Daphne Du Maurier lived in Fowey, and the nearby brooding moors, wind-swept clifftops and smugglers’ coves inspired her to write the classics My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek. Fans of the writer can visit a Du Maurier Literary Centre or venture afield to the real-life Cornwall destinations of Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek.

For younger bookworms, the tranquil river north of Fowey was supposedly the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. It’s a good spot for a picnic, and a relaxing afternoon.

Things to do near St Austell

Giant's Head at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

The Giant’s Head at the Lost Gardens of Heligan is a friendly chap, really

Consistently rated as one of the top things to do in Cornwall, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey and St Austell is a top recommendation for a day out in Cornwall with kids. The spectacular 200-acre gardens were restored after being covered by a tangle of weeds. They’re full of natural playspaces, with farm animals and emus. For fairytale lovers there’s a 60-acre wood, where sculptures of a Giant’s Head, Mud Maid and Grey Lady loom large.

Places to visit in Cornwall that are full of legends

Cornwall is a Celtic land. It’s home to many places associated with King Arthur. Families who want to retrace the magic and mystery of his reign can visit Tintagel Castle, legendary birthplace of the legendary Celtic leader and a place where the wizard Merlin supposedly wove his magic.

How to get to Tintagel Castle: Tintagel is along the B2363. There is no parking on site, but the closest pay-and-display car parking is in the village of Tintagel, 600m away.

Other sites associated with King Arthur are near Tintagel, including his stately Great Halls, and Camelford, said to be the magical town of Camelot. Visit Cornwall have published a helpful map showing locations on the King Arthur trail.

What to do in Cornwall if you love history

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle is one of the Tudor fortresses built by Henry VIII that can be found along the south coast of England, as far east as Kent. The Tudor monarch built Pendennis from 1539 to 1545, to guard against Spanish invaders.

Visitors can watch knights battling it out at Pendennis with clubs and shields,  and learn about how the fortress was put to use during the first and second World Wars.

St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle Cornwall

St Mawes Castle was built by Henry VIII

A Tudor sister to Pendennis and also built by Henry VIII, St Mawes sits on the opposite side of the River Fal’s mouth. St Mawes has more of the fine details dating back to its creation than Pendennis, like carved Latin inscriptions in praise of Henry VIII and his son Edward VI. St Mawes Castle is strewn with cannons, and visitors can go into the ‘oubliette’ where prisoners were held captive.

English Heritage run and maintain Pendennis and St Mawes Castles. Entry is free for English Heritage members. Check the website for up-to-date information on prices for non-members.

How to get to Pendennis and St Mawes Castles

Pendennis Castle is close to Falmouth, along the A39. The postcode address for SatNav is TR11 4NQ. A shuttle bus runs from Falmouth, and Falmouth Docks rail station is half a mile away.

St Mawes Castle is in St Mawes, on the A3078. The postcode address for SatNav is TR2 5DE. A ferry service runs directly from Falmouth. This lets visitors sail up to the castle, just as invaders would have done.

Days out in Cornwall: Saint Michael’s Mount

St Michaels Mount Cornwall

The causeway to St Michael’s Mount is covered when the tide comes in

St Michael’s Mount is set on an island near Marazion. If you’ve visited Normandy in France, Saint Michael’s Mount may look familiar. It was built by the same order of monks who built Normandy’s Mont St Michel in the twelfth century. Like Mont St Michel, you travel to Saint Michael’s Mount via a causeway that is covered when the tide is high.

Like a lot of places in Cornwall, St Michael’s Mount is child-friendly. Youngsters can explore muskets and weapons, or hunt for a giant’s stone heart. The Mount was said to be home to Cormoran, the fierce giant from Jack the Giant Killer. The gardens at St Michael’s Mount are remarkable for the chilly UK. The Gulf Stream warms the island enough for exotic plants like puya, agave and aloe to grow in abundance.

How to get to Saint Michael’s Mount

From Marazion, visitors can walk to Saint Michael’s Mount, along the causeway. When the tide’s in during the spring, summer, and autumn, frequent motorboats leave from landing points along the shore at Marazion. One-way fares are £2.00 for adults and £1.00 for children.

Where to stay in Cornwall

Cornwall’s well set-up for tourists. There are a plethora of hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering houses and apartments. If you’re looking for holiday cottages by the beach, in the countryside or large properties for extended family getaways, Cornish Horizons would be a good place to start.

From the Eden Project and the Minack Theatre to Bodmin Moor and the glorious seaside town of St Ives, there are lots of other places to add to a list of the best places to visit in Cornwall. What would you add?

For more Cornwall tourist information, see the Visit Cornwall website. And don’t forget to check out our feature on the best family beaches in Cornwall.

This is a collaborative post. All images are from Pixabay

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Cornwall attractions to add to your bucket list

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