Whatever your passion is, or your reason for thinking about visiting Cornwall, this king of counties has something for everyone. Here at Cornish Holiday we are passionate about Cornwall and all things Cornish and wanted to give and explain just 5 wonderful reasons why Cornwall should be on your destination list. We firmly believe that once you have visited ‘you will never want to go home’.
Famed for its beaches, golden sands and exhilarating surf, Cornwall has over 300 beaches, Large, Small and Hidden, all are beautiful in their own way. There is a beach to meet everyone’s tastes.
On the outskirts of Newquay is a haven for surfers, with rolling waves and a large open expanse of Sand.
Just past the Pentire headland south of Newquay with the Gannel Estuary running into it, is a must for those long summer days and evenings. With miles of sand and patrolled by lifeguards during the summer this is definitely a family favourite.
Poly Joke (Also known as Porth Joke)
This is a small intimate beach approached by foot. Again, a lovely sandy beach, sheltered by the surrounding cliffs and headlands.
South of Padstow on the North Cornish coast is Harlyn Beach. Ideal for surfing, (though not as challenging as Fistral), family fun on the large expanse of sand or rock pooling at low tide in the many varied and wonderful rock pools. We have spent many hours there catching crabs, shrimps and small fish.
With the wonderfully clear skies, excellent light (always envied by artists and photographers) along with the fantastic mix of rugged cliffs, wild moorlands, scars from the industrial age of mining and the magnificent country houses previously owned by the wealthy land owners, Cornwall is truly a county which will inspire, surprise and make you wonder.
St Michaels Mount
Located in Mounts Bay between the Lizard peninsula and Penzance this is a real jewel in the crown of the county. It stands magnificently 500m from the shore and can be reached on foot at low tide by the causeway or when this is under water, by boat. A national trust property, it is well worth a visit and if you can work out the tide times it’s great to catch the ferry one way and walk the other.
Bedruthen Steps (Carnewas)
This spectacular stretch of the north Cornwall coast, owned and managed by the National Trust, offers views of the dramatic cliffs which overlook Bedruthan Steps, The spectacular views provide a breath-taking experience. There’s something very majestic about the view across the famous wave-swept stacks. The power of the earth’s natural forces is uppermost in the onlooker’s mind and it is worth remembering that the outline of the stacks has changed within living memory, so its always worth a return visit.
The Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre is a unique open-air theatre perched on the cliffs high above the Atlantic ocean. The Theatre is at Porthcurno, 4 miles from Lands End. They put on a full programme of shows, including Drama, musicals and Opera.
A visit is probably nothing like you have ever experienced before. Created like an amphitheatre looking down on the stage and sat on grass seats, it really is a fantastic experience. Overlooking the sea, perched high on rugged cliffs, often the performance starts in day light and finishes in the dark. Depending upon the show you may even be treated to fireworks lighting up the night sky over the sea.
Nestled on the rugged coast between Boscastle and Port Issac, Tintagel Castle is where you can imagine and immerse yourself in history, myths and stunning scenery. Legend has it that this was the birthplace of King Arthur and on the island itself you can see the fantastic Gallos Sculpture depicting this noble figure. The island used to be accessed by climbing around 100 steep steps, but in August 2019, the magnificent new bridge, a fantastic piece of engineering was opened to save visitors the climb. However, the steps are still there if you fancy giving them a go.
Sport has always been a big part of Cornish Life, not only does the county love to participate in the more traditional sports of Football and Rugby, but they also have their more special and local sports which entertain and enthuse.
With over 29 Gig Racing Clubs around Cornwall (13 on the isles of Scilly), very often you will see them practicing and training of an evening around the harbours of the county.
Gigs came about when large vessels needed a local pilot to board them and help guide them though a difficult passage or safely into port. The gig was the boat, crewed by six oarsmen or women which would carry the pilot out to the vessel requiring their assistance. It is thought that this practice dates back as far as the 1700’s. Newquay, Cadgewith, Rock and Zennor are just a few of the Cornish gig clubs.
Hurling can be considered one of Cornwalls most ancient sports. Played in St Columb Major and also St Ives, the game involves two teams the ‘Townsmen’ and ‘Countrymen’ trying to keep possession of the cricket sized silver ball. Goals are normally set miles apart at either end of the villages, these can take the form of churches as in St Ives or a trough and a cross as in St Columb Major. In St Columb Major they claim it is played on the largest pitch for any ball game in the world, around twenty square miles! In keeping with the game’s origins, which are thought to be Pagan, the rough and tumble is paused if a member of the public wishes to handle the ball, traditionally thought to bring health and fertility. Once a winner is established, they return the ball to the market square.
Some say this is the ultimate coastal experience. Generally having to step outside your comfort zone, it can be an exhilarating and fun way to spend time with your friends and family. Creating many memories and having lots of stories to share afterwards, it’s the experience of swimming, scrambling, jumping and generally getting washed around where the sea meets the cliff. It must be said that this is not an activity to do on your own or without supervision. The sea can be a very dangerous place and to take part in Coasteering, we at Cornish Holiday highly recommend that you use a professional organisation who know the coast and tides to enable you to enjoy this exhilarating sport. At Cornish Holiday we have teamed up with Newquay Activity Centre who offer this amongst many other activities.
It’s not possible to write a blog about Cornwall without mentioning Surfing. It has to be the one sport that the county is most famous for, and not surprising with the many sandy beaches and varied levels of surf which roll ashore to satisfy all abilities. There are many surf schools around the county offering expert tuition. If you are just starting out, then why not treat yourself to a bodyboard and enjoy the exhilaration of the waves before you progress to trying to stand up. This is something everyone can try and is great fun for all the family. Ensure you are on a lifeguarded beach to stay safe and forget about the worries of everyday life and just enjoy taming the waves.
4. Bird Watching
With many enthusiasts around the country, Cornwall offers fantastic opportunities for bird watchers, not only due to its very varied landscape but also with the onshore winds from the Atlantic, many migrating birds are blown off course and can be found in the county.
Sea birds can be especially entertaining as not only do you get to see wonderful, sometimes rare and less common birds, but while you are possibly perched high on a cliff top, surrounded by lots of beautiful scenery, you may even see a Basking Shark, Seal or pod of Dolphins.
Where best to watch
It can depend upon many factors, but the weather, wind direction and speed can play a huge part. For the chance of large shears and the hope of a rarer seabird, a good option is to firstly aim for the far west of Cornwall. If the wind is westerly, the likes of Pendeen or St Ives. If it’s a southerly, then perhaps Porthgwarra.
Pendeen perhaps becomes one of the better sites when winds are due west as birds come down and out of the Irish Sea.
Strong westerlies veering overnight to northerlies or north westerlies can trap birds in St Ives Bay (leading to good or exceptional views as they exit by St Ives Island), and Porthgwarra can sometimes perform well in a light southerly or south-easterly.
The Isles of Scilly are a great place to see the Puffin. A day trip on the Scillonian, by Plane or Helicopter is a fantastic day out to these sub-tropical islands. If this could be topped with seeing some of these wonderful birds, what could be a better holiday experience.
Brief guide to the main seawatching sites
Pendeen has a convenient wall around the lighthouse providing shelter and some level ground, with a small (free) car park by the road above. A line of reefs offshore provides a good reference point with most birds passing just beyond in normal conditions, although the larger shearwaters and petrels are normally further out, and in certain conditions some birds will pass through closer.
Viewing can be good from the furthest north west tip of the island, or when birds are being strongly blown into the bay and being swept close in, from the railings on the north side. The (pay & display) car parking situation later in the day can be very awkward, and even first thing it can be a problem as it is used by B&B guests for overnight parking.
There are a couple of options, from some of the nearest cliffs beyond the (pay & display) car park where most seawatchers tend to gather loosely in the shelter of the rocks near the top (Hella Point) or a quarter mile or so beyond (Gwennap Head), as used by the Seawatch South West team a few years back. The third option is the cove – viewing from the benches at the top of the beach between the car park and the foot of the cliffs, and better for certain species in certain conditions. The Runnel Stone, circa.1 mile offshore and marked by a distinctive floating warning buoy is a useful marker.
A lovely place, especially for an evening walk in the summer, Cudden Point is owned by the National Trust. It is a place where you can regularly see one of Britain’s rarest birds – the Cornish Chough.
The best photograph, the composition, landscape, light and subject can be very much personal preference. However, there are very few that would disagree with the statement that ‘Cornwall is one of the best places in the country to capture that fantastic picture.’ With miles of dramatic coastline, stunning sandy beaches and quaint fishing villages there really is something for every budding photographer, whether a keen amateur or hardy professional.
Cornwall is photogenic throughout the seasons, but in the summer months the coast is crowded with holidaymakers, this can make photography challenging, but also allows for some rewarding pictures showing families and children enjoying those glorious beaches. Who doesn’t love a smiling child’s face with a sandcastle and bucket? It tends to be quieter during autumn and winter when the coast can be stormy and dramatic. In spring, the cliff tops are carpeted with wild flowers, adding interest and colour to large, sweeping views. But whatever time of year you decide to visit, you won’t be short of content or landscape opportunities for that fantastic picture.
To list the best places for photography in Cornwall is in our opinion impossible, as it depends on your subject matter and what you are trying to capture, along with the time of year, but here are just a few places that you might like to visit with your camera when you come and stay.
Boscastle is a tiny port, just 25 miles north of St Columb Major, with a natural harbour, set in a narrow ravine, and boasts some very attractive thatched and white-washed cottages. Before the railways, Boscastle was a thriving port, serving much of North Cornwall. It received prominence as a result of the terrible floods of summer 2004. Many may not believe it until they see it, but it also has a blow hole out in the cliff face on the entrance to the harbour which is spectacular if you can catch the tide just right.
Just 7 miles north of St Columb Major, mentioned early in this blog as a great place for sight seeing, it is also a great landscape to capture at any time of year.
Located in the heart of china clay country, to the north of St Austell and south of St Columb Major, Roche is perhaps best known for the rock from which its name is derived -the Roche Rock. There are several legends attached to this rather spectacular granite outcrop most notably that of Jan Tregeagle, the tortured sinner who tried to find refuge in the chapel here when being chased by demons.
The 15th century chapel is said to have been built by a hermit as a cell. The identity of the hermit is not certain but some say he was a shunned leper from the Tregarnick family, whose daughter, St Gundred tended to him. The chapel is accessible, but only by a steep ladder. Inside it is split into two levels by a further ladder.
Perched High on the rugged cliffs above Chapel Porth beach near St Agnes stands the ruins of one of Cornwall’s most scenic and iconic mines, Wheal Coates tin mine. The area around Wheal Coates was originally worked in medieval times, but most of the present ruins date from around 1870.
The most immediately recognisable feature at Wheal Coates is the Towanroath engine house. The engine house was built in 1872 when Wheal Coates reopened after a long period of inactivity. Inside the engine house was a steam engine used to pump water from the mine.
There are some fantastic cliff walks and opportunities to capture that stunning picture of industrial Cornwall from the past.
Whatever your hobby or interest, Cornwall is a fantastic County to visit, at any time of year, whether it is for a family holiday or a short break. Our intention is to write and post more blogs all about Cornwall to promote the area, its scenery and organisations within it, so please keep reading them, any feedback you have would be gratefully accepted.