6 mins

Top 10 things to do in Cornwall

Ice-cream, home brews, surfing and miles of sandy beaches: no wonder Cornwall was chosen for the G7 summit. Here's what the world leaders can do on their day off…

The coast around Newquay (Shutterstock)

1. Scoff Cornish pasties in Padstow

Cornish pasty (Shutterstock)

Cornish pasty (Shutterstock)

Crumbly yet crispy, with a generous beef-to-potato ratio: you haven’t had a pasty until you’ve had a real Cornish pasty. Basking in their delights is an absolute must when heading to the county – try one from the Chough Bakery in Padstow, which has been run by the Ead family for over 30 years. Their traditional Cornish pasties are made using local ingredients, including meat sourced in nearby Wadebridge. Uniquely, each steak pasty also includes a dollop of Rodda's Cornish clotted cream for extra richness. Alternatively, why not head for the Bodmin-based Proper Cornish? As the name suggests, the company’s pasties are a traditional D-shape, with side crimping and top-quality beef.

2. Get fat on ice-cream in St Keverne

Cornish ice-cream (Shutterstock)

Cornish ice-cream (Shutterstock)

Who doesn't love ice-cream or clotted cream? How about both together? Cornwall is famous for its smooth clotted cream ice cream and a visit to the county leaves you spoilt for choice. Roskilly’s is a family-run working organic farm, with woodland walking trails and farmyard animals including quail and turkeys. It also has a milking parlour, and most importantly, an ice-cream parlour, which serves organic ice-cream, ice-cream sundaes, sorbet, yoghurt and milkshakes.

3. Spot sealife in Penzance

See dolphins (Shutterstock)

See dolphins (Shutterstock)

The Cornish coastline is one of the best places in the UK for spotting common, Risso's and bottlenose dolphins, the harbour porpoise and the basking shark. Most Cornish beaches have wildlife groups that regularly monitor activity in its waters, but the best places for sneaking a peak of these creatures are Lizard Point and Penzance. Take a boat trip with Marine Discovery Penzance and you may spot seal colonies, seabirds, minke and humpback whales and leatherback turtles – making it a must for wildlife enthusiasts.

4. Step back in time in Tintagel

The ruins of Tintagel Castle (Shutterstock)

The ruins of Tintagel Castle (Shutterstock)

With steps carved into cliff sides, dramatic sea views and a history steeped in myth and mystery – from the legend of King Arthur to the tale of Tristan and Isolde – Tintagel Castle is a Cornish icon where culture meets natural beauty. Explore a secluded pebble beach, walk through magical caves and cross a bridge to discover the rugged fortress ruins that hang over the sparkling, wild Atlantic.

5. Taste Cornish tipples in St Austell

Heck beer brewed in St Austell (Shutterstock)

Heck beer brewed in St Austell (Shutterstock)

Cornwall is worth a visit for its beers alone. Explore St Austell Brewery with its fascinating museum, Victorian Brewery and 21st-century brewing equipment and discover some of the south-west’s favourite brews: Tribute, Proper Job, HSD, Trelawny, Proper Cool IPA and Korev Cornish Lager. Regular tours include free samples and a chance to touch equipment as you learn about the brewing process. Don’t fancy a tour? Then head to a local pub instead to try any of these drinks on tap – as well as the beloved Rattler, a cloudy Cornish cider that tastes like drops of heaven.

6. Hit the waves in Polzeath

Surfing in Polzeath (Shutterstock)

Surfing in Polzeath (Shutterstock)

Surf’s up! Famed for being the best place to hit the waves in Britain, it’s no surprise surfing has made our Cornish top ten. Polzeath – with its gentle yet consistent waves – is perfect for beginners. It’s a crime to not give learning a go if you’re staying here. That said, be prepared to make an idiot of yourself. ‘Popping-up’ (aka standing up on the board as it floats), takes quite a few attempts. The experienced chaps at George’s Surf School go easy on you though – and usually don’t laugh when you smack your face into the sand or get walloped in the head with a surfing board fin. Their tuition is also private, so you won’t have to fight for that much-needed one-on-one guidance.

7. Traverse the rocks in Newquay

Explore the coast around Newquay (Shutterstock)

Explore the coast around Newquay (Shutterstock)

Feeling adventurous? Cornwall’s mild temperatures and craggy shorelines make it a great spot for coasteering. You can scramble through caves, spot sealife from clifftops and clamber across rock faces above the deep blue before jumping into the bracing waters below. It’s a thrilling activity – and not for the faint-hearted – as it really gets your heart racing. Try the Newquay Activity Centre for exploring waters at low and high tides as well as discovering inaccessible parts of the Cornish coastline. The centre also specialises in surfing and bodyboarding – Newquay’s Fistral Beach is a great place to ride the waves when you’ve conquered Polzeath and become a more competent (and confident!) surfer.

8. Stand at the tip of the UK, Land’s End

Longships Lighthouse at Land's End (Shutterstock)

Longships Lighthouse at Land's End (Shutterstock)

If it’s unbridled beauty you’re looking for, Cornwall has it in abundance. And few places in the country are as stunning as Land’s End, the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain. With the sun shining overhead, active travellers can walk the coastal Heritage Trail, intersecting 40 hectares of wild Cornish countryside and seaside, before taking a picture at Land’s End iconic signpost. Even if the weather is stormy you can still watch as the sea crashes over the Longships Lighthouse, or take in inspirational views from the First and Last Point. For more organised fun there’s Arthur’s Quest, an interactive exhibition that takes you on a journey of Dark Age discovery, and the 200-year-old Greeb Farm, a restored Cornish homestead where you can meet the animals.

9. Experience nature at its best at the Eden Project

The Eden Project (Shutterstock)

The Eden Project (Shutterstock)

With its striking gardens and landmark biomes, the Eden Project is one of Cornwall’s most renowned attractions. See tropical trees, jungle plants and waterfalls in the humid rainforest biome before relaxing on the whitewashed terraces of the Mediterranean biome, breathing in the scent of dried chillies. The outdoor gardens are equally interesting: you might spot hemp, hops and barley. Feeling brave? Once you’ve explored the former quarry on the ground, head back to the entrance for an aerial view of the biomes. The 660m Skywire flies right across the site at over 48km/h, giving you a bird’s-eye view of the gardens. 

10. Unwind… anywhere

Padstow (Shutterstock)

Padstow (Shutterstock)

Slow down the pace and opt for a bit of relaxation – something that Cornwall knows plenty about. Its laidback locals and atmosphere make it the ideal spot for a touch of escapism. Strolling along the county’s many beaches is a good place to begin: from Polzeath you can meander to Rock, Daymer Bay and Trebetherick or join the South-West Coast Path along the sand dunes of St Ives Bay. Take your time to explore and you’ll soon find yourself losing track of time and days. Bliss.

Essentials

Beach sign (Shutterstock)

Beach sign (Shutterstock)

Where to stay: If you’ve got family in tow – or simply like plenty of space and killer views – try Doyden, a three-storey beach house in Polzeath. The balcony overlooks the beautiful beach of the same name. The four-bedroom lodge is in a prime location in one of the world’s most renowned surfing destinations, and a great base for foodies: try OystercatcherThe Waterfront and Nathan Outlaw’s restaurants in nearby Port Isaac.

Getting there: GWR'
s high-speed Night Riviera sleeper train from London Paddington to Penzance takes around six hours. Other, shorter routes are also available. It takes less than five hours to drive from London to the heart of Cornwall. Take the M4 from the capital, the M5 to Exeter and the A30 into Cornwall. The county's nearest airport is Newquay Airport.

When to go:
 June to August is dry and warm, making summer ideal for surfing. However, roads can get clogged with traffic in July and August. Winter is mild yet damp, but suitable for hiking in waterproofs.

Read more about Cornwall:

Cornwall is launching a new 240km cycle route

9 reasons we’re crazy about Cornwall

12 inspiring books about Cornwall

10 pretty villages in Cornwall

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