Chances are even if you’ve lived in Cornwall your whole life there are some beauty spots you’ve never visited. Actually we’d bet that you could add a few of these to your bucket list.
From the tropical-looking hideaway of Porthcurno beach to Bude’s unique sea pool – there are great places worth travelling to at either end of the county. To celebrate Cornwall’s beauty, we’ve picked 26 of the top spots – in an A-Z of the best. We’re talking everything from views, things to do and see.
These locations will help you forget about the usual suspects and walk the less trodden path – perhaps unearthing your new favourite location in a place that people rarely speak of- and if you are looking for somewhere to eat along the way, be sure to check out our A to Z list of the best restaurants in Cornwall here.
Read more: Things to do on a rainy day in Cornwall
A – Aleister Crowley house
Aleister Crowley was a noted, sinister and controversial occultist who founded his own religious order and designed a set of tarot cards that are still used today. A mountaineer, poet, theologian, black magician, spy, drug fiend, sex addict and ‘traitor to the British people’.
Dubbed the wickedest man in the world by tabloids, Aleister Crowley drew crowds of followers and hoards of critics. His links with west Cornwall were revealed and it’s believed the self-styled ‘Great Beast’ summoned up the very Devil himself in Carn Cottage and performed a black mass down the hill in Zennor’s church.
B – Bude Sea Pool
In 2018, Bude Sea Pool was named ninth in a list of the top ten sexiest places to take a dip in the world by Red Bull. Managed by the local charity of the Friends of Bude Sea Pool, it is visited by thousands of people every year.
The pool is a semi-natural amenity that has provided safe bathing since the 1930s. It is 91m long and 45m wide and created in a conservation area to shelter the swimmers from the occasionally rough Atlantic Ocean. The pool is open 24/7 – just once a year it is closed to be cleaned of algae. The best time to swim in the pool is during low tide. Lifeguards are on duty during peak times.
C – Castle An Dinas
Nestled just outside the clay country is one of the largest and most impressive hillforts in Cornwall – with stunning panoramic views and a dark history. Castle an Dinas at St Columb Major might be just a few miles away from the A30 but its unspoiled landscape and moorland beauty provide visitors with an ideal escape from modern life.
It also offers the perfect walk – and you can take your dogs, providing they are kept on leads as sheep graze on the site from spring to autumn. Owned by Cornwall Heritage Trust, which bought it from the Prince of Wales in the late 1980s, the hillfort is sited in an imposing position on the summit of Castle Downs with extensive and panoramic views across central Cornwall to both north and south coasts. It dates from around the second and third centuries BC and consists of three ditch and rampart concentric rings, 850ft in diameter and standing 700ft above sea level.
D – Durgan
Heading down to the beautiful Durgan Bay could make for the perfect day out, with an afternoon dip for strong swimmers. Although the bay is relatively safe, it is on an estuary where there can be hidden currents and there is no lifeguard service, so make sure you don’t go alone and take extra care.
The bay itself has a shingle shore for sunbathing, or a traditional picnic. The area is very popular with families, swimmers, photographers and boats and there is also a slipway down to the water.
If you visit the bay make time for a walk around the small beautiful village at the foot of the sub-tropical gardens of Glendurgan. There is National Trust car park near the gardens which leaves visitors with a half mile walk to the beach, through the beautiful valley and village.
E – East Looe Beach
A favourite among holidaymakers, East Looe beach is the perfect spot for swimming – as the beach gently shelves providing easy access. From the unusually shaped Banjo Pier next to the beach you can watch the fishing boats and try your hand at crabbing along the nearby harbour walls. The pier, which looks like a banjo from above, is first of its kind and thus the prototype for many others around the world.
F – Frenchman’s Creek
Frenchman’s Creek is the best known of seven creeks leading off the Helford River, made famous by the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name. It is easy to see what inspired her, and why she honeymooned here – its serene, calming beauty is well worth a visit – with its ancient woodlands and trees overhanging the waters. Best explored by kayak or boat, there are also walks through the woods giving you some incredible views.
G – Gwennap Pit
Gwennap Pit in Redruth became a preaching pit in 1762, by local preacher John Wesley. He said up to 2,000 people could be seated comfortably on the grass seating and it is claimed in 1773 he actually preached to a congregation of 32,000 there.
The original pit is believed to have been caused by a natural depression, possibly by it collapsing into an abandoned mine dig below and never collects water. The 12 terraces were cut by local miners in 1803-06.
It is still used for religious events, in particular the annual gathering on Whitsun, but also with services all through the summer months. It is about 50 feet deep and 200×300 feet across the top.
H – The Holy Well
The incredible Holywell Cave near Newquay can be found at low tide where from the beach it appears a mere slit, but some steps lead up to several stepped pools ascending towards a hole in the cave roof. It has been described as one of the most remarkable sites in the British Isles, featuring on postcards and attracting huge numbers of visitors from around the world at the height of its popularity – but relatively few know of the hidden wonder that lies inside. Holywell Cave – also known as St Cuthbert’s Cave – is set in the south west corner of Kelsey Head and has a natural spring, descending through a surreal, multi-coloured grotto from the back of the cave.
I – Idless Woods
Idless Woods is a public forest consisting of beech, larch and eucalyptus trees. There are miles of walking and cycling trials with a paved circular route around the whole site which is hugely popular with dog walkers.
Features in the woods include an Iron Age hill fort, an abundance of bluebells during the spring and the River Allen at the western end of the forest. Woodman’s Cabin at Idless Woods has also become a favourite riverside refreshment haunt for many since it opened in 2018 but it’s amazing how many people still don’t know if its existence.
J – Jewish Congregationalist Cemetery
The Jewish and Congregationalist cemetery at Ponsharden sits alongside Stonehenge, Canterbury Cathedral, a holy well, a London mosque and a Sikh temple in Birmingham on the list of buildings which best represent faith and beliefs in England. The cemetery, which was founded in about 1780 on the south coast of Cornwall to serve the growing local Jewish community, was selected by category judge The Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s.
As Falmouth was one of Cornwall’s more urban areas it was an attractive base to settle and start to trade as Jewish people move away from London. Silversmith Alexander Moses, otherwise known as Zender Falmouth, petitioned for 20 years for the cemetery, which sits beside a Congregationalist cemetery, founded in the same year.
K – Kenneggy Sands
There is no easy way to access Kenneggy Sands, a crescent shaped beach between Prussia Cove and Praa Sands with golden sands and you should always have one eye on the tide as it is totally submerged at high tide and there is no cliff access.
In fact the way to get on the beach is either by clambering over the rocks from Coules Cove at Prussia Cove or via a rocky descent with the help of a support rope and metal ladders. Amateur geologists will love exploring the exposed large copper lode structure which is part of the former Grylls Mine.
L – Looe Island
Looe Island was once a pilgrimage site and smuggler’s haunt and is now a marine nature reserve which can be visited by boat – or if you are lucky and the tide is right (once or twice a year) you can walk there. It sits about a mile off the Looe coast and is 22.5 acres and legend has it that Joseph of Arimethea landed there with his nephew, Jesus Christ – leading to it becoming a place of pilgrimage which led to a Benedictine chapel being built there in 1139. It became known as St George’s Island, although its original name “Enys Lann-Managh”, means Island of the Monk’s enclosure and there is evidence of human habitation on the island as far back as the Iron Age.
M – Merther Church
Not far from Cornwall’s capital city, Truro, lies Merther church, which was abandoned 100 years ago due to its dwindling congregation. Now, too dangerous to enter, the church is being slowly reclaimed by nature. From the inside of Merther Church, the tower can be seen, now completely covered in ivy. The church was originally built around 1370, but has been derelict since the early twentieth century.
N – Nanjizal
At the end of of a short, shallow valley in Penwith is Nanjizal, a pretty boulder-strewn cove with unusually clear water. There are lots of caves and interesting rock formations to explore and one of the most striking features is the vertical chasm of Zawn Peggy (Song of the Sea) – a stunning 100m eyelet arch that cuts through the granite to the wild waters of the Atlantic with a waterfall and rockpools. This rarely visited smugglers’ cove is also the scene of Ross Poldark’s topless swim.
O – Old Town
Old Town is a village on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly located southeast of Hugh Town and is thought to be the oldest settlement on the island. There is a church, a pub, two cafes, a small convenience shop and a day nursery. It is a popular tourist area among those who are lucky enough to visit and is only a short distance from the island’s airport.
P – Pentargon Waterfall
The “chasmal beauty” at Boscastle described in Thomas Hardy’s poem Under the Waterfall refers to Pentargon waterfall, which plunges over a sheer drop of around 120 feet at Beeny Cliffs. Hardy met his wife in Cornwall and was inspired by its landscape, including the waterfall, which is part of a hanging valley, where the sea has eroded the cliffs faster than the river above cutting through the valley floor. The falls are particularly spectacular after heavy rain, and in windy conditions the water has been known to blow straight up in a fine spray.
Q – Lanyon Quoit
Although it is not clear if it was a burial chamber, a mausoleum, a backdrop to ritual ceremonies or somewhere bodies were left to be eaten by carrion birds, Lanyon Quiot is one of Cornwall’s most recognisable megalithic sites. Nearby lie a number of small stone burial chambers, knows as cists, with a longstone about 100 yards north-west of the quoit and evidence that there were once a number of neighbouring barrows. It is also worth visiting the unusual and attractive Men-an-Tol, believed to belong to the Bronze Age, which consists of four stones, the most memorable being the circular and pierced upright stone.
R – Roche Rock
Hidden in the heart of the clay country is an ancient haunted chapel built on a rocky plateau with a hidden dark history. The small village of Roche is probably best known for the rock from which its name is derived – the Roche Rock, a solitary outcrop of black granite looming above the surrounding moorland.
Nestled within the dramatic jagged rock formation, is a 15th century chapel which is said to have once been a hermit’s cell. According to legends, Roche Rock was once buried beneath the earth, but after Noah’s flood the soil was washed away, uncovering the formidable structure. The rock later developed a fearsome reputation as a convenient resting place for witches and demons. It is said that when Christianity first came to Cornwall, holy men prayed in a hermit cell between the rocks, praying to vanquish the evil forces and protect the villagers.
S – St Nectan’s Glen
It’s been named Britain’s third ‘happiest view’ and is one of the most beautiful spots in Cornwall and is an area of woodland stretching for around a mile along both banks of the Trevillet River, boasting three waterfalls and a beautiful woodland walk. St Nectan’s Glen is a place where it is claimed animals and birds play amid the Cornish mysticism of fairies, piskies and spirits serenaded by the wonderful sound of bird song. The waters are said to have healing powers which probably explains the ‘faery stacks’ of stones, which many people create in memory of loved ones who have died. There are also huge logs and benches covered with coins inserted by people making wishes.
T – Trewavas Head
The dramatic ruins of Trewavas Head at Porthleven are perched precariously on the cliffs and consist of two engine houses which worked four copper lodes running under the sea bed. Running between 1834 and 1846, it was a fairly successful operation, with around 160 men working there mining around 17,500 tons of copper. Flooded and abandoned later on, the circular stone platform of the western engine house was used at times for landing practice by RNAS Culdrose pilots.
U – United Downs
Once-famous Gwennap mines include Poldice Mine, Wheal Busy and Consolidated Mines, which in its heyday had nineteen engine houses for pumping, winding and crushing. Due to the faling price of tin, most of the mines in the Gwennap area shut down during the twentieth century.
V – Ventonwyn
A well-known local landmark near Hewas Water, this enginehouse and chimney are all that remains at surface of the Ventonwyn tin mine, last worked in 1903-7.
W – Wheal Roots Tin Mine
Wheal Roots is the only complete tin mine in Cornwall open to the general public for underground guided tours. Generally regarded as one of the most historic locations in the annals of Cornish Mining History, it has been open to the public for 45 years. The mine is on several levels and the guided tours by experienced guides receive many accolades for their unvarnished presentation.
X – Excalibur’s Lake
Fine so it’s not officially called Excalibur’s Lake… But Dozmary Pool is the site that is claimed to be the home of the Lady of the Lake. According to the legend, it is here that King Arthur rowed out to the Lady of the Lake and received the sword Excalibur. The pool is also the place where Bedivere returned Excalibur as Arthur lay dying after the Battle of Camlann. The lake on Bodmin Moor is also thought by local people to be bottomless.
Y – Yeolmbridge
The village takes its name from the bridge, Yeolm Bridge which crosses the River Ottery and is Grade I listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Built in around 1350, it is considered the oldest surviving of medieval Cornish bridges. In 1951 Nikolaus Pevsner described it as Cornwall’s “most ambitious” bridge.
Z – Zennor Head
Zennor Head is a 750-metre long promontory, between Pendour Cove and Porthzennor Cove, facing the Atlantic Ocean It has truly spectacular coastal views but the trail to St Ives is long and quite challenging in places..