Cornwall

Cornwall: Why go

Ancient Kernow - as it's sometimes called down here - has one of the most breathtakingly beautiful coastlines in Britain, and the longest. All the world flocks to Cornwall in summer - for, the sand, surf and subtropical gardens, the coastal footpaths and glittering creeks, the cornish pasties and the clotted cream teas, the famous seafood restaurants and the old smugglers' inns. Tin and fishing were the industries of the past but today tourism is Cornwall's biggest trade.

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Our top tips for Cornwall

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Gardens

The National Trust has a sprinkling of beautiful gardens across Cornwall. We can recommend Trelissick, Trebagh and Glendurgan, all of which have lovely tea rooms! St Michael's Mount is a great day trip, too.

Cornwall’s most famous destination is probably the Eden Project, a former 50m-deep clay pit near St Austell transformed into vast plant-filled biomes recreating tropical, temperate and desert environments. Expect a crowd: it's often billed as the 8th wonder of the world.

Nearby are the 200-acre Lost Gardens of Heligan, renowned during the 19th-century, 'rediscovered' in 1990, and now fully revived. On hot days the Jungle Garden is one of the most exotic spots in the UK. A bit disappointing in winter.

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Beaches

Porthcurno (pictured) at Cornwall's tip is unmissable: blue sea, almost white sands and the open-air Minack Theatre nearby. Further along the coast, Sennen Beach is home to great surf, good food and fabulous views from the Beach Restaurant's terrace.

North Cornwall's beaches are rightly famous: try Polzeath (party central for surfer dudes), Daymer (welcoming to well-behaved dogs) and Greenaway (small and sandy).

Along the west side of the Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove is revered for its wild beauty. Perfect for a blustery winter walk. Refuel with a cream tea or enormous homemade pasty at the friendly cafe - the views are astounding on a clear day.

Porthcurnick Beach, just beneath The Rosevine, is a glorious stretch of golden sand that's also home to one of Cornwall's most unassuming foodie hotspots. The Hidden Hut has gained a cult following in recent years for its regular 'Feast Nights'. Held in the open air throughout summer, these event book up fast, but the tempting menus and convivial atmosphere are well worth planning ahead for.

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St Ives

Everyone loves St Ives. Come for the windswept walks, the soft-sand beaches and the rugged views, the basking seals, the magical light, the windy streets, the arty boutiques and the architectural Tate Gallery. Grab lunch at Porthmeor or Porthminster Café, where beach buckets chill the white wine and the menus never fail to inspire.

We recommend travelling to St Ives by train, as the single-track from Penzance and St Erth is one of Britain's most scenic railway lines, passing Carbis Bay on the way (plus you won't have to worry about parking).

Explore further via the 6-mile coastal walk. Head to the cosy refuge of the Tinner’s Arms in Zennor for a plateful of Newlyn crab, then press on to the wonderful Gurnards Head for a pint of real ale.

Kids

Family Fun

Balanced spectacularly atop the cliff-edge, the open-air Minack Theatre hosts regular productions suited to adults and kids alike (bring all-weather togs). It's first performance - The Tempest, summer of 1932 - was lit by batteries and car headlamps. If there are no performances during your stay, you can tour the stage and visitors' centre.

The Blue Reef aquarium in Newquay is popular (picnic on the beach afterwards) or visit Dairyland, a National Farm Attraction with bottle-feeding lambs, pony rides, hay rides and indoor/outdoor play areas.

Trerice, an Elizabethan National Trust manor house near Newquay, has a grand hall filled with interactive Tudor games and suits of armour for kids to try on. Outside, the gardens are a manageable size and one of the converted outbuildings plays host to the Trerice Costume Group. Here the whole family can dress up in authentic Tudor garb to have their portrait taken.

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Penzance

The pleasant little town of Penzance has a terrific Art Deco lido and a breezy prom. Chapel Street is its most historic stretch, all period frontages, quirky galleries, antiques shops and the jolly Admiral Benbow pub. Two miles outside town, you’ll find the sub-tropical Tremenheere Gardens filled with trees, streams, sculptures and a ‘camera obscura’.

Pop southwest along Mount’s Bay to the picturesque harbour village of Mousehole. No longer the pilchard capital of Britain, it is now famous for its Christmas lights. Fishermen's granite cottages cluster prettily around the little harbour, boats bob, gulls wheel. While you’re here, sample the fresh seafood at excellent bistro 2 Fore Street.

The Scillonian ferry runs between Penzance and St Mary's (from early spring until autumn), so this is a great base from which to discover the Scilly Isles' dramatic rocky coves and white beaches.

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Falmouth

Falmouth has plenty of fun things to do, including ten-pin bowling, the National Maritime Museum (with its ever-changing array of kids' activities and fun days), Pendennis Castle, the gorgeous Gyllyngvase Beach and nearby Trelissick Gardens (easiest to access using the King Harry car ferry). If you're staying on the Roseland Peninsula, take the small ferry to Falmouth from St Mawes (pictured).