Places to visit in Cornwall for story-loving families

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

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.  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.

Cornwall

Penhale Sands, Perranporth

There’s no shortage of places to stay. Cornish Horizons, for instance, offer family-friendly holiday cottages that can act as bases in key locations across the county.

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.

Modern-day 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 a Du Maurier Literary Centre, and The Eden Project, the largest indoor gardens in the world, is only a short hop away.

Cornwall

Eden Project, near Fowey

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.

Fairytale creatures

Cornwall

Boscastle

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.

Cornwall

Giant’s Head at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

(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.

Cornwall

Tintagel

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.

Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount

Do you have any tales to tell about Cornwall? Do let me know, in the comments below.

To read more about Cornwall, see our feature on Cornwall attractions to add to your bucket list. And don’t forget to check out the six best family beaches in Cornwall.

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Cornwall

This is a collaborative post. All views are my own. All images in this post are from Pixabay.

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44 Comments

  1. August 9, 2017 / 12:42 pm

    My family and I moved to Cornwall a year ago, Lifestyle change was on the cards…never looked back!

  2. August 9, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    What an incredibly magical place. The Giants Head is stunning. I think we will be adding Cornwall to the list next year

    • Nell
      Author
      August 15, 2017 / 7:01 am

      I know. It’s a while since I’ve been, too, and I’m hoping to go back soon.

  3. August 9, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    What a lovely post. I am so keen on taking my girls to places where they’ll learn things as well as have fun. I want to cycle the camel trail with them and my husband would LOVE the King Arthur trail, I’m going to email him the link to the map of the King Arthur Trail.
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      August 15, 2017 / 7:10 am

      Ooh, let me know how you get on. I want to go back to the county very soon!

      • September 1, 2017 / 8:13 am

        Just popping back to say thanks for hosting #culturedkids. My littlest learnt to ride a bike yesterday so hopefully our cycle of the Camel Trail might be on the cards next year!
        Nat.x

        • Nell
          Author
          September 3, 2017 / 8:30 pm

          Brilliant! Fingers crossed….

  4. August 10, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    I absolutely love fairy tales! My mom bought a box of fairy tale books from a yard sale when I was little, and I was hooked. I love dark fairy tales or happy ones. Cornwall sounds magical. My boyfriend and I just finished watching Merlin on Netflix. I’ve watched it once before. I also liked Once Upon a Time, just for the fairy tale atmosphere, but the writing could’ve been better.

  5. August 13, 2017 / 9:42 am

    There’s just so much to say about Cornwall, but I love this way of looking at it – pulling out the mysterious tales and the literary side. I’d love to go to the witchcraft museum and we really adored Tintagel and the Lost Gardens when we went last year. Both stunning places to visit with or without kids!

  6. August 13, 2017 / 9:27 pm

    What a wonderful post. We visit Cornwall every year as one of my dear friends lives there, and I still haven’t got around to visiting the Eden project, and the lost gardens of Heligan. Now I want to visit the Museum of witchcraft I bet it is so interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  7. August 16, 2017 / 9:56 pm

    Great timing – we’ve just moved to Cornwall and I love adding to our list of things to do at weekends!

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:13 am

      Ooh, enjoy!

  8. August 23, 2017 / 11:42 am

    The Lost gardens are simply amazing to see. The Italian food in the mediterranean biome at the Eden Project is fabulous. So Cornwall is definitely a family holiday spot to visit again and again for us.

    • Nell
      Author
      August 24, 2017 / 7:04 pm

      I’ve been to Cornwall many times, but still need to go to the Lost Gardens and the Eden Project. Something to look forward to!

  9. August 30, 2017 / 1:30 am

    The lost gardens look fabulous! And I would love to follow the trail of Daphne du maurier! Great post!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:06 pm

      Thank you x

  10. September 1, 2017 / 8:25 am

    Oh so fun! I have seen the Heligan Giant before – but he is just so adorable. Reminds me a green cousin to Forgotten Giants in Denmark we found this summer! St. Michael’s Mount looks beautiful. I knew Cornwall had the gorgeous coastline and beautiful nature, but didn’t realize the connections to legends of yore. Saving for later! PS – what are piskies? Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      Piskies are pixies! I’m not sure why the name is slightly different in Cornwall. Perhaps something to do with the accent, or dialect?

  11. September 1, 2017 / 8:45 am

    Oh dear, another fabulous destination to add to our ever growing bucket list. This looks amazing! I’ve read soooo many Kind Arthur novels when I was young… definitely have to visit Tintagel one day. Our little one would love the fairytale sculptures Lost Gardens of Heligan! #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      They look amazing, don’t they?

  12. September 1, 2017 / 9:34 am

    Oh wow, all the recommendations sounds amazing! I really want to visit Cornwall now!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      I hope you get to go there!

  13. September 1, 2017 / 11:23 am

    That all looks amazing! Know I wish even more we had gotten to Cornwall whilst we were living in the UK. Maybe next time. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:37 pm

      Yes, come back! It’s lovely here 🙂

  14. September 1, 2017 / 11:42 am

    We’ve been visiting Devon a lot over the last few years but not hopped across the county border to Cornwall – never quite having the time, with so much to see in Devon and Dorset. I visited Cornwall more as a child, which must have been such a long journey from Newcastle!
    Seeing all these fabulous places – The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Eden Project – just makes you realise what treasures we have in this country: the literary connections make them even more appealing.
    #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:50 pm

      Gosh, Newcastle to Cornwall. Your parents must have been committed! I haven’t been to Cornwall in a while either, and it looks even better than ever. Must get there soon!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      I’ll keep them crossed, Sam!

  15. September 1, 2017 / 12:27 pm

    Cornwall is definitely my kind of place. We are definitely a family of bookworms. It’s so fun seeing places that help the imagination come to life. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      Isn’t it just?

  16. September 1, 2017 / 1:08 pm

    I visited Cornwall as a student as my flatmate was from Fowey. Basically we did all the free stuff so I’d love to return and explore places like the Eden Project and the Minack Theatre. Looks a wonderful destination, especially if the weather is on your side.

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:52 pm

      The Minack Theatre looks amazing. I bet it would be a great experience there, even in a storm…

  17. September 1, 2017 / 2:50 pm

    I haven’t been to Cornwall in tears do this is great inspiration for a trip there. I do love visiting places with a book theme! Thanks for hosting #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:53 pm

      Books really do help bring places to life.

  18. September 1, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    Tingtagel and King Arthur gets my vote. We love The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber when the boys were small. Can I add The Lighthouse by PD James and Poldark? #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:53 pm

      Ooh, please do!

  19. September 2, 2017 / 8:06 am

    So many great reasons to visit Cornwall. I’ve yet to take my kids there as the drive always puts me off but I really need to get over that stumbling block! I love the sound of the museum of witchcraft, I’d love to visit it. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      It was so quirky! It’s haunted me ever since 🙂

  20. September 3, 2017 / 9:23 am

    I lived in Polzeath before kids…. I’m yet to get around to taking the little ones to most of these magical places although we did visit Eden Project last Summer. A trip to the West Country may be on the cards!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      Polzeath must have been a beautiful place to live.

  21. September 25, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    Looks so great and just a wonderful activity!!

  22. September 25, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Love this linking stories to places to visit in Cornwall. Know many of these places well as frequently stay in Port Issac #culturedkids

  23. September 27, 2017 / 6:33 am

    I love Cornwall – even more so after reading your post. I really want to take Freya but it seems like such a long drive from Norfolk with an energetic four year old in the car. Maybe one day 🙂 #CulturedKids

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