Important note: we are currently living through a pandemic, and visits to some of these places may not be advisable when you read this post. Please check the latest government guidance before making any plans.
Cornwall is a great destination for families. 300 miles of dramatic coastline, as well as brooding moors and atmospheric forests, make it perfect for outdoorsy types and there’s no shortage of places to stay. Hotels.com, for instance, offer family-friendly holiday cottages that can act as bases in key locations across the county.
The Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay is one of the many places where youngsters can learn to surf, kayak and bodyboard. Cycling families are well-served, too. The Camel Bike Trail is a safe and gentle 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.
But Cornwall is more than just a good place to enjoy outdoor activities. Story-loving families will find plenty to fuel their imaginations, and build a holiday woven with enchanting tales.
Twentieth century writers have drawn inspiration from the rugged Cornish coastline. Daphne Du Maurier, author of the haunting novel behind the recent hit film, My Cousin Rachel, lived in the picturesque town of Fowey. The pretty harbourside town has narrow, winding streets and white fisherman’s cottages – perfect for little explorers. Fans of the writer can visit the Du Maurier Literary Centre, and The Eden Project, the largest indoor gardens in the world, is only a short hop away.
Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek are other places on a Cornish Du Maurier literary trail that takes in glowering moors, wind-swept clifftops and smugglers’ coves.
Cornwall isn’t just for adult readers. Young children can visit the tranquil river north of Fowey, supposedly the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. The harbour town of Mevagissey, six miles south of St Austell, is said to be the fictional town of Trewissick. This was the site of otherworldy derrings-do in Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, the first of her Dark is Rising sequence.
Cornwall’s moorlands are said to be infested with piskies, or pixies. These mischievous little sprites gather at night to dance and make merry. Family visitors who want to find out more about the creatures can visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic at Boscastle, on the north coast. It’s the world’s largest and oldest collection and is 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 piskies?).
A slightly less spooky place to visit is the Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey. The spectacular 200-acre gardens were restored after being covered by a tangle of weeds. Last year the gardens won a British Travel Award for Best UK Leisure Attraction. It’s full of natural playspaces, with farm animals and emus that children can enjoy. For fairytale lovers there’s a 60-acre wood, where sculptures of a Giant’s Head, Mud Maid and Grey Lady loom large.
(Readers interested in other fairytale destinations in Europe can read my post here).
Kings, wizards and giants
Cornwall is a Celtic land. It’s home to many places associated with the legendary Celtic leader, King Arthur. Arthur has become a familiar figure across the world, with his stories being told through sources as diverse as poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and film director Guy Ritchie. Families who want to retrace the magic and mystery of his reign can visit Tintagel Castle, legendary birthplace of King Arthur and a place where the wizard Merlin supposedly wove his magic. Other sites associated with Arthur lie close by, 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.
A glimpse of St Michael’s Mount, near Marazion, will immediately transport visitors to a land of legend. The former medieval monastery and picturesque castle is set on an island that’s only accessible by foot at low tide. The popular attraction was said to be home to Cormoran, the fierce giant from Jack the Giant Killer. Young visitors these days can hunt for a giant’s stone heart, as thankfully Cormoran is now long-gone.
Do you have any tales to tell about Cornwall? Do let me know, in the comments below.
In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own. All images in this post are from Pixabay.