Cornwall; it’s all about wind-swept beaches, coastal walks and sleepy seaside towns right? Wrong.
There are many exciting attractions to be found in England’s favourite seaside escape, and in this post I’ve put together 10 of the best!
So from a theatre on a cliff to long-lost gardens and one very unusual museum, here’s my list of the best attractions in Cornwall!
1. Eden Project (Bodelva)
One of the biggest attractions in the UK, the Eden Project is simply unmissable! This enormous exotic greenhouse covers enough space to accommodate 30 football pitches, and its famous glass biodomes will take you on a journey through some of the world’s most exotic locations!
Explore the Rainforest Biome to discover stunning waterfalls, a dizzying array of exotic fruit and flowers, and to even witness first-hand where the rubber we use in so many products comes from! Or venture forth to the Mediterranean Garden for it’s amazing scented gardens, cork statues and yet more stunning colour!
In addition to the biomes themselves you will also find a number of weird and wonderful sculptures, England’s longest zip wire and even a giant climbing frame for the kids. Phew. That’s an awful lot to see and do!
2. Bodmin Jail (Bodmin)
I visited Bodmin Jail in July this year and absolutely loved it! This imposing 17th century prison is a real gem in Cornwall’s history, and one history lovers definitely don’t want to miss!
The site of over 55 grisly public hangings, the history of Bodmin Prison is gruesome as it is fascinating! Visit to learn of a legacy of smuggling, murders and riots, as well as harrowing tales of child imprisonment, grim living conditions and cruel physical punishment.
The jail is also famously haunted: in fact claiming to be the most paranormally-active attraction in entire UK! Bodmin Jail is said to be haunted by the ghost of a mother who murdered her child, a witch and a priest among others. And for those who wish to hear about the prison’s spookier tales after dark ghost-tours are another highly popular option! But be warned; they’re not for the fainthearted!
3. The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Pentewan)
There are many readers worldwide who’ve fallen in love with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden; after all, there’s few more romantic ideas than accidentally stumbling upon a hidden, long-forgotten garden.
But this was a real-life scenario for the grand Heligan estate in South Cornwall! These splendid, sprawling gardens were abandoned following WWI, and wouldn’t be discovered and restored for another 75 years!
Following decades of loving restoration, The Lost Gardens of Heligan now provide visitors with 200 acres of sheer natural beauty that is absolute heaven for flower and nature lovers! Beautiful plants, enchanting fountains and quirky natural sculptures provide a feast for all the senses – and the garden’s very own ‘Jungle’ has got to be seen to be believed! Kids will be very eager to have a go on the Burmese rope bridge, and children and grown-ups alike should keep their eyes peeled for the ‘Mud Maid’ and ‘Giant’s Head’ sculptures!
4. St Micheal’s Mount (Marazion)
Imagine a castle perched grandly atop an island surrounded by sea; only accessible by foot at one time of day. Well this may sounds like something straight out a fairly tale, but this dreamy location actually exists and can be found near the pretty Cornish coastal town of Marazion!
The island in question is named St Micheal’s Mount and has been home to a small island community since Neolithic times. The castle itself has served as everything from a priory to a family residence over the centuries, and is the main object of interest which draws visitors to this enchanting island. Other attractions include the island’s lovely Victorian pleasure gardens, as well as it’s charming village and harbour!
As for how to get to the Mount, it can actually be reached very cheaply and easily via regular motorboats to and from the island! Or if you feel like treading in the same footsteps as thousands of visitors over the centuries, why not instead follow the causeway path at low tide?
5. Pendennis Castle (Falmouth)
This imposing 15th century coastal fort was built on the orders of Henry VIII himself! Over its 400 years of active service it’s been the site of many a battle and siege, and is one of the best preserved fortresses of its kind!
Today under the care of English Heritage, it’s a place where tourists and locals alike flock each year to learn the history of this intriguing stronghold! Here you can see an exhibition detailing the role played by Pendennis in the first world war, a reconstructed Victorian War Shelter and even munitions firing demonstrations!
45 minute guided tours are also available, taking visitors to additional areas that would normally be out-of-bounds. Take the Castle Tour to survey breath-taking views from the top of the keep, or join the underground Half Moon Battery tour to experience what it was like to be caught up in a wartime raid!
6. Bodmin Moor (Bodmin)
The eerie, perilous Bodmin Moor provided the atmospheric backdrop to Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 novel Jamaica Inn, and it’s easy to see how it stirred her imagination!
This 208 kilometres of granite moorland is about as wild as you can get, dominated by rock formations, black heather and marshland. Neolithic monuments scatter the moors, and wild ponies can even be found grazing here!
Particular areas of interest include the spooky Dozmary Pool – the rumoured resting place of King Arthur’s Excalibur – the excavated remains of a Neolithic village and the Cheesewring; a bizarre formation of wind-eroded rocks whose origins are the subject of much local folklore!
And for those literature lovers who don’t know; yes the Jamaica Inn really does exist, and can still be found on Bodmin Moor! This cosy 18th century inn continues to offer weary travelers hot food and a bed for the night; the perfect place to rest after a busy day exploring the moors!
7. Screech Owl Sanctuary (Saint Columb)
Now I don’t know about you but I love owls, and any opportunity to come in to close contact with them is a dream come true! Well if you can relate to this then you really don’t want to miss Cornwall’s Screech Owl Sanctuary!
Originally opened in 1990 as a sanctuary for sick and injured owls, it’s expanded over the last few decades to become a breeding centre, a passionate educator on conservation issues and even a mini-zoo!
The centre gives visitors the opportunity to see and touch birds that would normally only be glimpsed in the wild, and the centre also includes the likes of meerkats, raccoons, alpacas and even pygmy goats – which are adorable by the way! So there’s plenty to delight the kids – and animal-loving grown-ups like me too!
8. Minack Theatre (Penzance)
This awe-inspiring cliff-side theatre was not the work of a modern-day architect, nor an entrepreneurial theatre company. Instead it was the creation of a lady named Rowena Cade who, in 1931, took a look at the cliffs below her house and decided they would make the perfect stage for a Shakespearean performance.
Over the next two years she and her gardener Billy Rawlings toiled long and hard to move boulders, rubble and earth to create the theatres lower terraces, and over the last 80 years it has only continued to grow! The Minack Theatre now stands as one of the most unique and visually stunning theatres in the world, and with over 80,000 yearly theatre-goers a very successful one at that!
A wide selection of productions are staged every year, ranging from the works of Shakespeare to musicals, concerts and even ballet! But even if you don’t feel like checking out a live performance, daytime visits to the theatre are still a spellbinding experience that won’t be forgotten easily!
9. Cornish Seal Sanctuary (Gweek)
Who doesn’t love seals? Chubby, playful and a tad dopey it’s extremely hard not to find them endearing! So what better way to round off a seaside holiday than meeting some of these lovable rascals!
Originating from humble beginnings the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is now one of the UK’s leading sea-life rehabilitation centres, and cares for hundreds of sick and injured animals every year! The goal of the sanctuary is to re-release as many animals back to the wild as possible, and much like the Screech Owl Sanctuary it has also expanded its range of animals to include penguins, otters, sheep and even ponies!
In addition to this wide (and adorable!) range of animals, visitors to the sanctuary can also expect to take a behind-the-scenes look at the sanctuary hospital, watch feeding times and listen to fascinating talks by the centre’s dedicated keepers!
10. Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (Boscastle)
Originating – like most great museums do – from the fascinations of a single individual, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic was established by folk magician Cecil William in 1960, and now houses the largest collection of witchcraft related objects in the world!
The intriguing and morbid objects on display include the likes of wax ‘poppets’, ancient drawings, crystal balls and even the bodies of two mummified cats! The museum also showcases a chalice once owned by occultist Aleister Crowley, and recreates the cottage of 19th century ‘Cunning Woman’ Joan Wytte, whose skeleton was also once displayed within the museum.
On the more chilling side of things the museum also houses a gruesome collection of torture instruments once inflicted on those poor, unfortunate souls accused of witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries; a stark and grisly reminder of the brutalities of the past!
Have you visited any of the attractions on this list? Are there any you think I’ve missed? Do share your thoughts in the comments!
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