Cornwall is found on the southwestern peninsula of England. Most travel to Cornwall by car or by train, although there is a small airport near Newquay. If traveling from London, there are direct trains to Cornwall departing from Paddington station to Penzance. If traveling all the way to Penzance, the train will take at least 5 hours. There are numerous other train stops between London Paddington and Penzance within Cornwall so depending on your end destination, plan to find the station closest to your accommodations.
For those visiting Perranporth, plan to take the train to Truro and organize a taxi to your accommodations in Perranporth. If traveling further down on the peninsula to St. Ives, a commonly visited town in Cornwall, there are no direct trains to St. Ives from London. However, there are hourly trains from London Paddington station to Penzance. The easiest way to reach St. Ives would be to take a direct train to St. Erth, which is about 20 minutes from St. Ives. The train from London to St. Erth is nearly five hours so get comfortable for your long journey. From the St. Erth station, there are trains running to the St. Ives station every 30 minutes lasting a duration of 10 minuets to reach St. Ives. Alternatively, you can catch the 17 bus into St. Ives, which leaves you near the train station as well and takes about 20 minutes. Lastly, you could opt to book a taxi into town from the station.
Another convenient way to reach Cornwall is by car. This is especially helpful if planning to explore different areas of Cornwall. If visiting St. Ives and traveling by car from London, plan for about a 5 or 6 hour journey without traffic. Rather than renting a car from London or an alternative starting destination, take the train and book a car hire near the train station. Truro is one train station with car hire available directly at the station. Hertz car rentals has a branch right at the station. To travel to St. Ives, the drive from Truro train station to St. Ives is approximately 30 minutes.
Cornwall is the peninsula on the southern tip of England. It consists of many small, coastal towns with rolling hills, coves, and quaint fishing villages.
As there are lots of towns, beaches, and areas to explore, a car provides the most flexibility when visiting Cornwall. Without a car, you will be more restricted to staying around your accommodations so note this when planning your holiday. There are taxis which can take you to different areas, and also a public bus.
If planning to stay put and visit one town, like St. Ives in the south or Perranporth on the west coast, then it can be done without a car. The towns themselves are small and, for adventure seekers, you can plan to hike to other towns and / or leverage the local bus system.
That being said, for those looking to visit different parts of Cornwall in the same trip, you will need a car. There are a few different rental car options throughout Cornwall, but keep in mind they are not open every day of the week (i.e. many are closed on Sundays).
It is imperative to note the roads are very narrow in Cornwall. Aside from the main highway, most roads are thin, barely wide enough for two cars and matched with hedge plants or rock walls along the edges of the road. Do NOT get a large car when visiting Cornwall. Instead, the smaller car, the better as you will be able to more easily maneuver on the smaller roads. Most people will warn you about the roads in Cornwall, but this really should not be overlooked as there is a high likelihood of a flat tire with the thin roads and rocks on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, this happened to us on a Sunday and there was no spare tire in the trunk of the rental car. When we phoned roadside assistance, the roadside assistance team noted they were unable to source a new tire because all tire shops were closed. Additionally, it took nearly 4 hours for us to be visited by a roadside assistance team member. The car then had to be taken to the nearest Hertz rental location where we left the car since we were not going to be able to get a repaired tire the next day either. As you can imagine, this very much changed our original plans. Fortunately, there are trains and buses which we could leverage for the remaining duration of our trip, but we were not able to visit many of the original planned destinations.
Cornwall has many different areas to visit and various options on where to stay as a home base. If looking to explore multiple areas together and you have a car, consider staying in a few different locations across Cornwall to enable you to visit areas in the neighborhood. Many first time visitors will stay in or around St. Ives.
For those looking to surf or see one of Cornwall’s nicest, large white sand beaches, Perranporth is a good option or the nearby town of Newquay. There are nice walks from Perranporth to Newquay or St. Agnes, while also having the large beach and a small town. If staying in Perranporth, it will be easier to take the train from London to Truro and then take a taxi from the station to your accommodations (only about a 15 minute drive).
Surfer town just up the coast from Perranporth, known for being a bit livelier than it's neighbor, Perranporth.
St. Ives is one of the bigger towns in Cornwall, with a variety of accommodation options. With this, it does bring a more commercialized feel and tourist crowd into the town, and in the summer months it can be quite busy. Look for accommodations around the Wharf for easy, walkable access to the many restaurants, cafes, bakeries, pubs, and shops in the town.
One of the more northern towns in Cornwall, Padstow is known as the food capital of Cornwall. Rick Stein has opened a variety of food stores and restaurants here, helping make the town what it is today as other chefs have followed and opened more fine dining establishments in and around the town. The cute port town is busier than some others, and is nearby to some other nice beaches and ports including Port Issac and Harlyn Bay.
This hotel is one to book for those looking to spend time at the hotel and enjoy relaxing accommodations. The Pig has locations across the UK, each with their own charm. The hotel makes for a nice all around experience with a few restaurants on the property (serving locally sourced food), outdoor patios, fancy bars, and quaint sitting areas around the property. The hotel is very nice and is recommended for those looking to stay onsite for some or all of the stay as you will want to take advantage of the different luxuries the hotel offers.
Long beach spanning from Pinhole Point to Perranporth. This is a great surfing spot in Cornwall.
Large boulder sitting in the middle of the Perranporth beach and easy to climb but becomes an island 2 times per day at high tide
South end of Perranporth beach has a series of natural caves and archways
Enjoy a beer on the beach as the sun sets over the water
Take a coastal walk from Perranporth to St. Agnes along the SW coast path. The views along the way are beautiful and especially unique with the cliffs and rock formations as you approach St. Agnes. The path to St. Agnes takes about 90 minutes at a distance just under 4 miles. In St. Agnes, head down to the beach level at low tide and walk along the beach enjoying Trevaunance Cove. Grab lunch or a snack in town while visiting before turning back towards Perranporth.
Visit Newquay by taking a hike from Perranporth to Newquay, passing Holywell Bay along the way. On the walk there, you will pass through the Penhale Dunes, which are the highest sand dunes in Cornwall. Enjoy the view of Perran Sands beach as you leave Perranporth. Then plan to drive or take the bus back for a quick 15 minute journey.
The brewery can be found about a 15 minute walk from the beach and is an independent brewery. Stop in the brewery for a visit to their taproom and grab a drink, sitting outside at their picnic tables on a nice day. Check opening hours as they are typically only open on the weekends and serve beer along with pizzas for a bite to eat.
Walk through the town of St. Ives meandering into shops or stopping for a drink, enjoying viewpoints over the bay, walking along the harbour, and sitting at the beach to enjoy an afternoon in St. Ives.
Visit Porthmeor Beach to enjoy a beach afternoon on a longer beach
Explore Tintagel, found in the northern part of Cornwall, and visit the town where the legendary King Arthur was born. Book tickets to visit the remains of the castle, which is mainly ruins. The castle dates back to the 1200s and visitors can explore parts on the mainland and walk over onto an island, which is connected by a large bridge. The parking is about a 15 minute walk from the entrance to the castle so plan some time to reach the entrance if booking tickets in advance. The castle grounds can be visited in an hour or you can spend much longer depending on how much you would like to read and explore. Check out tickets here
Just north of Padstow, this small fishing town has coastal views and provides a nice short stop if traveling nearby
The town of Padstow is busier than some others found throughout Cornwall. Padstow is known for being the food capital of Cornwall, with many fine dining restaurants. The town itself sits on a port and has a variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs to pop into when visiting.
Bays around Padstow - Harlyn Bay, Mother Ivy's Bay, Constantine Bay, and Porthcothan Bay
Found on the south side of Cornwall, Kynance Cove is often referred to as the most beautiful spot in Cornwall. Visiting Kynance Cove requires a car as it is remote and separated from most of the larger towns. Drive up and park in the National Trust parking lot where you pay a few pounds to park. Then walk down into the cove, stop at the Kynance Cove Café, and hike around the area. You can reach the cove and café after walking for about 10 minutes from the parking lot. For those who enjoy walking, plan a longer walk. A nice out and back from Kynance Cove would be to Lizard Point, which is the southern most land point in the UK. The views in Kynance Cove are beautiful with large rocks sitting in the water, green and blue clear water, and views down the coastline. Plan to visit Lizard point and Kynance Cove together.
Another bonus when visiting Kynance Cove is Ellie's Soul Kitchen. This little van serves up hot drinks, baked goods, wraps and more. This quaint spot is perfect for a snack before or after visiting Kynance Cove.
The southern most land point in the UK. You can drive here and park in the National Trust parking lot where you pay a few pounds to stay. Then walk down to Lizard point (about 5 minutes from the parking lot). Check out one of the cafes and grab a snack or enjoy the views on a clear day. Visit Lizard point and Kynance Cove together.
This shop and brewery is on a pedestrian only street in St. Ives. Stop in to shop or taste some local beers.
Open air theater with nice views over the sea. Book tickets to visit the theater and bring headphones to listen to the audio tour and learn about the site. Book tickets for your visit here
When planning meals in Cornwall, keep in mind many towns are very small and will not serve food late. This includes pubs and the kitchen will often close by 20:30. If you are used to later dinners, be sure to get a reservation, head to dinner earlier, or plan to cook for yourself.
Small bakery on the wharf in St. Ives with excellent homemade bread and pastries including focaccia, sourdough, croissants, cruffins, millionaire shortbread bars, meringues and more. They do not have coffee, but it is a great spot to grab a snack on the go.
Along the water, this tiny little coffee shop has takeaway coffee and serves ice cream too. Stop in here for a morning coffee before heading out for your day.
This café is a kiosk, just a simple small window in the wall offering takeaway coffees and some small snacks depending on the day. They are open earlier than some of the other coffee shops, convenient for an earlier morning start.
Sitting on the pedestrian street of Fore street in St. Ives, this café has a variety of options. They open their window daily from 7 am, serving takeaway coffee and pastries, and then open the café from 10:30 for dine in guests. Try a sweet cinnamon swirl here.
This Cornish chain was voted best Cornish pasty in 2013. They sell a variety of flavors including beef and Chipotle, cheese and onion vegetarian, steak and stilton, bacon leek and cheese, vegan vegetable and more.
This hotel has a small coffee shop at the entrance. Found at the top of the town of St. Ives, right next to the bus station, stop in here if you're waiting to catch a bus or checking out the view overlooking the town.
Sitting at the base of Kynance Cove, this café has a variety of takeaway options to enjoy at the outdoor picnic tables. From ice cream to Cornish pasties to a variety of baked goods and sandwiches, grab a snack and a drink here and enjoy the views in Kynance Cove.
Cute little bakery in town serving sweet treats, coffee and other morning snacks
Coffee shop in town with sit-down or take away options
Delicious ice cream shop in town to fill your ice cream craving after a day in the sun
Grab a taste of the local cuisine here, picking from the assortment of Cornish pasties available.
Silco stands for St. Ives Liquor Company. Try a cocktail made from the Silco specialities or keep it simple with a glass of wine or classic cocktail. This spot serves delicious Mediterranean snacks. Do not miss the hummus and flatbread.
One of the restaurants at the Pig hotel at Harlyn Bay. This spot has a nice outdoor area and takes walk-in guests if there's space. Stop in here after visiting Harlyn Bay or Padstow to enjoy some snacks and a drink outside on a nice sunny day.
Pub in the village of St. Agnes, this is a perfect spot to grab lunch or a snack and beer after a walk from Perranporth.
This quintessential British pub is between the towns of St. Ives and Penzance. If traveling to Minack theater from St. Ives, you'll likely pass this pub. Just on the side of the road, this pub has a cute beer garden. Nice for a stop with a view of the British countryside on a warm day.
Along the harbour, this is a good spot to enjoy snacks and a view.
A little van sitting off the road when driving up to the Kynance Cove parking lot, this little shack has some delicious snacks and friendly owners. Stop here for a quick bite when visiting Kynance Cove. I can recommend the jackfruit wrap
Cute little wine bar in St. Ives with some indoor and outdoor seating. They have small snacks to enjoy, wines available by the glass and bottle, and also have some cocktails for those who prefer something different.
Wine bar on the main street in St. Ives. The vibes here are casual but fun, and they serve a few different unique organic wines.
This bar overlooks the water and has a drinks area as well as a restaurant. Stop in for an afternoon drink on a rainy day, or before dinner for a livelier crowd with louder music and a fun atmosphere.
Located on Porthmeor Beach, this spot is best for a drink on the beach on a nice day. There's not much to this spot otherwise, but the location is prime when the sun is out. It is also a perfect spot to catch a sunset if you are lucky enough to have a nice one while visiting.
This pub is on the beach, providing a fantastic spot to watch the sunset. Grab a beer and enjoy a beach sunset here.
Cocktail bar right along the beach with a variety of drink options
Found on Fish Street in St. Ives, the Mermaid is a quaint little fish shop. The interior provides a charming and cozy atmosphere, with many wooden booths and bottles hanging from the ceiling. It is a no frills spot, but the food is pretty tasty offering a variety of seafood options. Try the Mermaid seafood platter, scallops, or seabass fillet for a few good options.
One of Cornwall's oldest pubs, the Sloop Inn sits along the St. Ives Bay on the harbour front. With tables outside and inside, this spot always seems to be busy especially in the summer. You can grab food from the pub, or book the Captains table which is the upstairs dining area for something a bit nicer. The seafood paella is an excellent dish and the chips are delicious.
You can choose between visiting a specific area of Cornwall or taking a road-trip of Cornwall. Both options are nice, but after having done one of each type of trip, I prefer picking a single destination and exploring the area around it. Although there is not a ton to do aside from roam the towns, take a hike, visit the beach and grab a traditional Cornish snack, it is more relaxing than driving along the narrow roads in Cornwall. Since Cornwall is made up of many different small coastal towns, the towns are each quaint in their own way and nice to visit, but if you pick a few to visit, you get the feel for the area. Rather than trying to visit too many, pick one or two to spend more quality time in and enjoy the visit.
A long weekend is a perfect amount of time to visit Cornwall. Although you could spend more time, exploring different beaches, a long weekend provides a perfect city getaway and enough time to slow down and enjoy the relaxed pace of Cornwall.
Summer months are by far the busiest in Cornwall as it is a prime British warm weather destination with lots of beaches, coves, coastal walks, and a relaxed vibe. The benefit of going in the summer is a much higher chance of good weather. Traveling in the shoulder season can also be nice (before late May or from mid September). The shoulder season is less likely to be long sunny days, but may still provide nice weather while also being less busy with visitors.
With Cornwall being on the coast, the weather can change quickly. When visiting at the end of April / beginning of May, we often had cloudy mornings which then turned into nice, sunny afternoons. Be prepared for sometimes quick changing weather!
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks