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With beaches that rival the Mediterranean and a distinctive culture unlike anywhere else in Britain, Cornwall feels like a place far removed from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The truth is, from its striking black-and-white crossed flag and its rolling Gaelic language to its spectacular coastline, Cornwall (Kernow, to the locals) is different. Even its remote location, stretched out into the Atlantic, is as far away from the UK as it can manage without breaking off entirely.
With the Atlantic on both sides, Cornwall holidays tend to be focused on the seaside. Dotted with tiny coves, long sandy beaches and everything in-between, the county is famed for its breath-taking beaches. Whether you’re seeking epic coastal walks, endless days out in the surf or a spot to get lost in a good book, Cornwall has a beautiful beach for you.
Throw in its pretty towns, like St Ives, Padstow and Truro, the vast sweeping green of Bodmin Moor, and the delicious food – Cornish cream teas, fish fresh off the boat – and you’ll soon see why this remote corner of Britain captures the hearts of all who visit.
Wondrous beaches, sweeping national parks, cobblestone towns, homely little pubs and world-renowned restaurants – Cornwall’s got the lot. Whether you’re dropping in for a few days or a staying put for a two-week holiday, staycations in Cornwall cater for all interests and ages.
Best things to do on a weekend break
Combine beaches and art with a mini break in St Ives, Cornwall’s de-facto capital of culture. Home to Tate St Ives, popular surf beach Porthmeor and the Barbara Hepworth Museum, there’s loads to keep you happy for a few days by the sea.
Meanwhile, the tiny city of Truro offers a taste of inland Cornwall, with whitewashed pubs, bunting strewn streets and one-off boutiques. Feeling a bit more active? Rent some bikes in pretty Padstow and head out along the Camel Trail. Flat and easy for all ages, the route follows the North Cornwall Railway for some 27km (17 miles) to the edges of Bodmin Moor.
Best things to do for families
Family holidays in Cornwall are all about the beach. Give the kids a taste of the waves with a surf lesson in Newquay, one of Cornwall’s most popular family resorts. Schools abound on main beaches Fistral and Towan – both of which are ideal for a family day out on the sand – as well as in nearby Watergate Bay.
Bring history to life at one of Cornwall’s ancient landmarks: Tintagel Castle, a ruined fortress steeped in the myths of King Arthur, and St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island topped with a mysterious castle are ideal for curious kids. Make time for The Eden Project, with its alien domed gardens, and a visit to Land’s End, England’s most westerly point, too.
Best beaches in Cornwall
When it comes to beaches, Cornwall really does have an embarrassment of riches. Take spots like Porthcurnick, Porthpean and Kynance Cove. Fringed with rugged cliffs, lapped by Caribbean-blue water – anywhere else, you’d be happy for one beach this beautiful. Cornwall has countless.
Some of the best can be remote – the Strangles, Pentire Steps beach and Portheras Cove, for example – and you’ll need a car to reach them. Popular towns, St Ives, Bude and Padstow, meanwhile, all have beaches within walking distance.
For surfing, the north coast tends to have the better beaches: try Fistral Beach in Newquay, Holywell Bay, or Perranporth. On the south and west coasts, your best bets include Perranuthnoe, Church Cove and Sennen Cove.
Best walks in Cornwall
Moorland rambles, seaside circuits and one-way coastal wanders – there’s no shortage of brilliant walks in Cornwall. In fact, all 300 miles of the county’s spectacular coastline can be walked as a part of the South West Coast Path. A bit long for you? No problem. Try the Sennen Cove and Land’s End circular, instead – a very manageable, very beautiful 9.5km (6 miles) highlight reel of Cornish coastline.
If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, longer, one-way walks worth tackling include Portreath to Hayle (around 19km or 12 miles), Crackington Haven to Tintagel (18km or 11 miles) and Par to Polperro (23km or 14 miles). Bleak and beautiful, Bodmin Moor also has its fair share of walking paths.
Best restaurants and bars in Cornwall
With a long history of fishing and farming, Cornwall’s cuisine takes most of its inspiration from the sea and its rural hinterland.
For top fish restaurants, try any of the following: Rick Stein’s flagship The Seafood Restaurant, Prawn on the Lawn (both in Padstow); The Rum & Crab Shack in St Ives; and The Fish House, Newquay. After a pub with some decent grub? The Victoria Inn, Perranuthnoe; Hub Box in St Ives; Roseland Inn, Philleigh; Pandora Inn, Mylor Bridge; and Star & Garter in Falmouth are our tips.
This being Cornwall, a beer by the beach goes without saying. And you won’t get much closer than the Watering Hole in Perranporth, Blue Bar in Porthtowan, and Hub Box in Pentewan Sands.
With white-sand beaches, pretty fishing villages and a footpath that hugs a dramatic, craggy coastline, Cornwall's got all the ingredients for the perfect summer break. Discover the best of it here.Read moreabout 10 of the best places to visit in Cornwall