Visitors who come to the UK usually head straight to London, oblivious to this little piece of heaven - Cornwall. Cornwall, in my opinion, is the most stunning and picturesque part of the UK. It's not that touristy (not counting the local tourists from the UK itself) and it has all the qualities of the British Isles, plus something extra - incredible, paradise beaches - beaches you would never guess are actually in the UK! Cornwall is extremely colorful and dotted with exceptionally beautiful little towns. It's a perfect gateway for those who love hiking, adventure, off the beaten path destinations and breathtaking natural scenery. We have driven all over the coast of Cornwall and in this post I'd like to share my favorite and most spectacular spots in this southwestern tip of the UK.
What you should know before visiting Cornwall
Cornwall is indeed the most beautiful and "summery" part of the UK. The coast is incredibly attractive and, to be honest, although my expectations had been set up high, Cornwall exceeded them greatly: white sand beaches with turquoise water, subtropical flora and little towns as beautiful as those in Spain or France.
But, (there's always a but) you must remember that Cornwall is still within the territory of the British Isles, therefore, the weather, although slightly milder, might not always be suitable for sunbathing or swimming in the sea, even in the middle of summer. However, if you're going there for the experience (like I did), it will blow your mind.
Another thing is that if you wish to visit Cornwall and see all its best nooks and corners, you must rent a car. Public transport is not too efficient and the most beautiful places are quite far from the main cities or towns. There are some tours available, but they are expensive and don't include all the amazing spots in their itineraries.
Cornwall is not too cheap either, however, if you drive, you can rent a beautiful hostel or B&B with the kitchen, so you can cook yourself saving a lot of money. All the places we stayed in Cornwall were exceptional - the quality, the views and cleanliness - everything was spotless and for what we got the value for money was perfect.
The tourist attractions in Cornwall are not too crowded - especially those natural ones that are a bit further from the main cities - you'll see some people around, however, it's nothing compared to Spain, Greece or Malta. Note that the entry to all the places mentioned here is free, however, there's a trick - you must pay for the car park - a couple of pounds at each stop - but believe me, it is so worth it.
What to See in Cornwall
Cornwall is similar to Lofoten in Norway (take a look at my post), you will see so much natural beauty everywhere that you'll want to stop at almost every turn. I've prepared a map of my favorite and the most stunning places. I hope it will inspire you to visit more places in the UK rather than only London! I would recommend at least 2 full days (driving) to visit all the places below.
1. Bedruthan Steps
I will start from the northern part of Cornwall and continue all the way to the south. The first place we stopped at was Bedruthan Steps. It is a wide, beautiful beach with golden sand and huge rocks that broke off the surrounding cliff walls. Unfortunately, you must be a bit lucky when you visit Cornwall as the beaches change their appearance according to the tidal cycles. To enjoy the most of Bedruthan Steps, the tide should be low. When we got there, unfortunately, the tide was high, the rocks were fully covered and the beach wasn't even visible. Nevertheless, the view was amazing and we got lucky with the tides when visiting other spectacular beaches - so I can't complain!
2. Mawgan Porth
A good thing about Cornwall is the fact that the attractions often come in pairs. Mawgan Porth is located only a few miles to the south from Bedruthan Steps. You can park your car in this tiny town and enjoy your breakfast in the cafe admiring the beautiful views. You don't have to pay for the car park here - enjoy the walk to the top of the cliff and the panorama of the beach and the coast. This beach, in turn, is
3. St. Agnes and Trevellas Cove
Another beautiful pair of great spots - the little town of St. Agnes, full of colorful houses with a nice beach lies next to Trevellas Cove. There's an amazing cliff walk around and if you're lucky - the tide is low and the sea is calm, on a sunny day, the two rocks immersed in the ocean are even more spectacular when you see the perfectly clear, turquoise waters around. When we were there, the sea was quite rough and the water wasn't as transparent as it could have been. Nevertheless, the place was pretty amazing.
4. St. Ives
St. Ives is definitely my favorite town in the UK. Located at the seaside, with amazing beaches and a beautiful harbor. The architectural style is just as if it was taken from a fairy tale. Right beside the old houses and typical English churches, you can witness such unusual plants for this latitude as date palms. St. Ives deserves another, full post because of how amazing it is. I will make a separate article about it.
5. Land's End
Lands End is the most westerly point of mainland England. Here, you can enjoy beautiful views of the dramatic coastline, rugged cliffs and...
6. Porthcurno beach and the Minack Theater
The two next points - 6 and 7 - my absolute winners of all the attractions in Cornwall. Porthcurno beach emerges from behind the horizon slowly and you begin to see it only when you get very near. A long, winding road, typical for Cornwall leads up to the start of the trail and the entrance to the Minack Theater from where you can enjoy the view at its best. You also have to be lucky to enjoy the Porthcurno beach - during the low tide (but not at its lowest) and in the summer, sunny day - you will be absolutely astounded. When the shallow, turquoise waters appeared in front of my eyes, I could not believe that what I was seeing was real. I had not expected that from England at all. And this is the best part of traveling to less known places - the whole surprise you get!
It just felt like, suddenly, I was in some hot southern country - like Spain or Portugal. The blue color of water was unbelievably intense - due to the low level during the low tide and the white sand. My jaw dropped and I was speechless. Later, when I showed the photos of the Phortcurno beach to others - no one guessed where they were taken. When I said it's the UK, nobody believed and asked how come this place is not famous? I think the weather might be to blame - but as I said, If you win the nature's lottery and get there during a warm day - there's no way not to enjoy it.
Right beside the trail leading down to the beach, there is another attraction - the Minack Theater. It is a unique, beautiful open-air theater that resembles the amphitheaters of ancient Rome. During the summer season, the theater is open from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm. Entry - 5 GBP (7 EUR/8 USD) - but it's worth it. The theater overlooks the amazing Porthcurno beach and during the summer, multiple shows can be enjoyed. For more information, you can visit the official website: https://www.minack.com/
7. Kynance Cove
Between Porthcurno and Kynance Cove lies the town of Penzance. It's also a pleasant, beautiful town. We stayed there only overnight and we didn't have a chance to visit it properly. But the hostel in Penzance was pretty special. It was located in an old mansion and the interior resembled more of a posh 5 star hotel rather than an ordinary hostel (see the photo to the left)! Nearby, you can admire the St. Michael's Mount - a little island with a castle on it. If you have time, do visit it as well!
Kynance Cove is yet another, totally breathtaking place. Located around 2 miles (3 km) from the village of Lizard and the Lizard point - the southernmost point of mainland England, offers some amazing views over dramatic cliffs, although its biggest attraction is the group of black rocks surrounded by turquoise sea and white sand beaches. Again, Kynance Cove is at its best during the low tide when the waters are smooth. When we got there, the tide was quite low, but because of high winds, the sea was rough. Nevertheless, the view was spectacular and again, when people see the photos from there they think it's a tropical place. There's a little trail around - you can climb the nearby hill to enjoy the best views possible. It's just perfect for a picnic. Unbelievable place - difficult to believe it's not famous at all!
8. Lizard Point
The Lizard Point is the southernmost point of Great Britain - the place in itself pales in comparison to the two previous natural wonders. There are some rocks around and beautiful greenery - but this can be witnessed all over Cornwall. However, there is one place that is special here. This place is the hostel located in an old lighthouse. It is an amazing experience - the hostel also has private rooms and the prices are attractive. The views over the Atlantic Ocean enjoyed through the large windows - just unbelievable. The Lizar Point was so amazing to us just because of this little hostel!
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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