Attractions in Cornwall
Monkeys and museums, gardens and galleries, ponies, paintings and parks! Cornwall has an attraction for everyone.
Kids love Cornwall! If you fancy a break from the beach there are many kids attractions to keep your little ones entertained. It's also home to some of the country's most beautiful gardens and historic houses, with a rich heritage to be explored in its many museums.
With art galleries, open air theatres and a photo opportunity around every corner, Cornwall is world renowned as an artist's mecca. Remember to bring look through our Holiday Extras as many offer discounts to Cornish Horizons customers.
For a glimpse of Cornwall's shyer animals like otters, seals and sharks try exploring an animal park where you can have a close encounter! Cornwall is also home to some slightly more exotic animals too... lions and zebras, parrots, flamingos and monkeys are residents at Cornwall's animal parks.
Zoos and Animal Parks
• Newquay - Newquay Zoo
• Newquay - Blue Reef Aquarium
• Padstow - National Lobster Hatchery
• St Columb - The Screech Owl Sanctuary
• Looe, near Fowey - The Monkey Sanctuary
• Hayle, near St Ives - Paradise Park
• Gweek, near Helston - The National Seal Sanctuary.
Animal adventure parks
• Newquay - Dairyland Farm World
• St Columb, near Newquay - Springfields Fun Park and Pony Centre
Sea life safaris
Cornwall has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world which are home to some pretty amazing animals. Why not try spotting some in the wild too?
• Newquay Sea Safaris & Fishing
• Padstow Sealife Safaris
AONB and Open Spaces
Cornwall's north coast is synonymous with rugged coastline and crashing waves while the south coast likes things a little gentler! In between lies rolling countryside filled with wooded valleys, moors, lakes and farmland. Whatever your mood, Cornwall will have a landscape for it!
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Cornwall's beautiful and diverse countryside and coastline is recognised as being special with 12 areas designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As well as the whole of the Lizard Peninsular in the south, Cornwall's AONB include:
• The Camel Valley around Padstow
• Bedruthan Steps near Mawgan Porth round to Padstow
• The south coast around Looe near Carlyon Bay Between Polzeath and Widemouth Bay including Boscastle and Tintagel
• Bodmin Moor near St Kew Highway and St Breward
• Hartland near Bude
• St Agnes to Perranporth
Other areas of countryside
• Upper and Lower Tamar Lakes, near Bude. These two lakes offer a variety of activities including watersports, angling, walking and relaxing.
• Siblyback Lake, near Liskeard. The scenic Siblyback Lake situated on Bodmin Moor, near Liskeard is a great day out for all the family with a variety of activities on offer.
• Porth Reservoir, near Newquay. A mature coarse fishery and designated bird sanctuary The lake is a peaceful and picturesque site is certainly worth a visit to enjoy the Cornish countryside. There are bird hides and a visitor centre.
• Crowdy Reservoir, near Camelford. Situated within the Bodmin Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest, birdwatchers will not be disappointed at this moorland lake. The banks, except around the Nature Reserve, are open for walking and picnicking and a bird hide, open to all visitors, is a pleasant 20 minute walk, from the car park along the north bank. In recognition of the high conservation value of this lake, no activities, apart from free wilderness trout angling, take place at this location.
• Colliford Lake, near Bodmin. Located south of Jamaica Inn, the famous smugglers haunt immortalised by Daphne du Maurier, Colliford is a tranquil lake providing some excellent moorland walks. With ample parking, picnic areas and lakeside walks, Colliford provides the opportunity for a peaceful day in the countryside. Three way-marked walks take in neighbouring moorland and the Nature Reserve is an important site for birdlife including over-wintering wildfowl.
Visit the South West Lakes Trust website for more lakes to explore.
Cornwall has long been a famous holiday destination in the UK, and no wonder given the choice of 'things to do' in the region. Besides the beaches and activities on offer there are plenty things to keep the kids entertained rain or shine, including adventure parks, theme parks and indoor play centres.
• Flambards Theme Park, Helston - Cornwall’s best day of the week - whatever the weather. Great fun for all ages, brave the sky high thrill rides, or enjoy the undercover soft play area. For opening times and admission prices please see website.
• St Newlyn East, near Newquay - Lappa Valley Steam Railway. Lappa Valley is situated just outside of Newquay. You will discover a fantastic day of adventure and discovery, all in one ticket!
• Near St Austell - The Eden Project - an educational day out
• Near Padstow - Camel Creek
There are also a host of gardens to visit, so don’t forget to bring your National Trust membership card when you stay in one of our Cornish coastal cottages. Then again you won’t need it to visit The Eden Project or The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Tim Smit’s wonderful – and just a bit visionary – masterpieces in the Cornish countryside.
Neither will you need to love plants to appreciate Newquay Zoo, Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium, The Seal Sanctuary at Gweek, the National Maritime Museum at Falmouth or even the Tate at St Ives. Kids will love a day out at a theme park – and thankfully there are a few to choose from, including Flambards, Crealy Adventure Park, Holywell Bay and Land’s End Visitor Centre. There are adventure centres all around the county who will also be able to give you a day out you won’t forget – whether that’s at sea level on a kayak or surfboard, or high up in the trees on a high ropes course.
For kids who love to bike but aren’t big enough to take to the roads, there are a few cycle trails – such as the Camel Trail, Bissoe Tramway or Clay trails – where it’s safe to let them loose on two wheels without worrying. You can also let them loose at indoor skate parks at Mount Hawke or Launceston or even on the surf rider at Retallack Resort in St Columb Major.
What if it rains?
Believe it or not, Cornwall does sometimes experience a bit of liquid sunshine! This, however, needn't mean hours of being cooped up your holiday cottage with your very frustrated kids! Many of the attractions above are kitted out for all weathers and have indoor play areas. Rain is the perfect weather for watersports - you're in the sea, you're already wet - who cares if it's raining!
Gardens and Houses
Cornwall is blessed with a plethora of glorious houses and estates with stunning gardens and grounds to explore. Many have been used as filming locations for a number of productions over the years, including Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Twelfth Night, Summer In February and Poldark.
As well as the Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian manor houses with beautiful gardens and grounds, we also boast some amazing gardens in their own right. Cornwall is blessed with a much milder climate than the rest of the country. Often species grow here happily which would perish in more northerly parts. Spring comes earlier and the array of species and colours is breath-taking.
Located right across the county, wherever you choose to stay, there will be a fabulous house or garden to explore within a short drive. Take a look at some of the highlights below:
• Glendurgan, near Falmouth - A valley garden of great beauty, created in the c1820's and running down to the tiny village of Durgan and it's beach. There are many fine trees and rare and exotic plants.
• Lanhydrock House and Garden, Bodmin - One of the most beautiful National Trust properties in Cornwall set in wooded parkland of 1,000 acres and encircled by a garden of rare shrubs and trees.
• Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell - Discover the mysteries of The Lost Gardens, explore the Victorian Gardens, a sub-tropical Jungle, pioneering Wildlife Project and beyond.
• Pencarrow, between Wadebridge & Bodmin - Georgian house boasting an impressive library, elegant but lived-in reception rooms, period bedrooms and collections of fascinating furniture and portraits.
• Pinetum Park & Pine Lodge Gardens, St Austell - 30 acre Plantman's Paradise! Over 6,000 rare and unusual plants - all labelled. Water features, formal and cottage gardens, Japanese garden and lake.
• Prideaux Place, House and Gardens, Padstow - One of the very brightest jewels in Cornwall's crown; visually and essentially Elizabethan yet with a wealth of Strawberry Hill Gothic interiors.
• Trebah Garden, near Falmouth - Trebah is a uniquely beautiful, wooded 25 acre sub-tropical ravine garden with its own beach on the beautiful Helford River. Wild and magical.
• Trelissick Gardens, Feock, Truro - Perched at the head of the Fal Estuary, Trelissick boasts jaw-dropping views and a huge array of plant species. Quite literally at the water's edge.
• Trengwainton Garden, Penzance - Experience stunning views and an abundance of exotic trees and shrubs in a garden cradled just inland of Mounts Bay. Home to magnificent walled gardens.
• Trerice, near Newquay - An Elizabethan Manor House with fine interiors and delightful garden. Challenge the family to a game of Kayling or Slapcock! Or just get away for the hustle and bustle and enjoy the tranquility Trerice has to offer.
History and Hertiage
Cornwall's rich history and heritage, from Arthurian legends, mining and industry, steam railways and an incredible maritime past gives you much to explore and discover.
• Launceston Castle, Launceston - Dates from the early years of the Norman conquest. Towering over the town, it was a reminder of the power of the Earls (later Dukes) of Cornwall.
• Pendennis Castle, Falmouth - 450 years of fascinating history can be discovered, from Henry VIII's coastal stronghold to its last military role as a secret Second World War base.
• Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel - Surrounded by a deep, dry moat and perched on a high mound, the huge circular keep of this Norman castle survives in good condition.
• St Mawes Castle, St Mawes - St Mawes Castle was built near the waterline by Henry VIII to guard the entrance to the safe anchorage in the Carrick Roads.
• Tintagel Castle, Tintagel - In a spectacular setting on the North Cornwall coast, it has long been one of the county's most popular attractions. Steeped in Arthurian legend you can still visit Merlin's cave.
• Bodmin & Wenford Railway, Bodmin - Discover the excitement and nostalgia of steam travel; journey through beautiful countryside on Cornwall's only full size railway still operated by steam locomotives.
• Carnglaze Slate Caverns, Liskeard - 3 caverns formed as part of a slate quarry. The Rum Store cavern, is so called because the Navy used it to store rum in WWII. Recently used as a concert venue.
• Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre, Charlestown - The artefacts on display are the largest private collection of this type and one of the most unusual and interesting on display in Europe.
• Geevor Tin Mine, Lands End - Mining museum, heritage centre, shop and café set in beautiful coastal scenery. Underground tours into Wheal Mexico, where Cornish miners toiled more than 200 years ago.
• The Jamaica Inn, is the Old Coaching Tavern made famous by Daphne Du Maurier, and which she based her story of wreckers. Situated just off the A30, in the middle of wild and beautiful Bodmin Moor.
• Levant Mine & Beam Engine, near Penzance - Unique steam-powered Cornish beam engine in action. Part of a World Heritage Site, the only Cornish beam engine in the world still in steam on its original site.
• Poldark Mine, Helston - Genuine 18th century Cornish tin mine featuring guided underground tours. Museum, entertainments, gardens, restaurant, gift shops and craft workshops.
• Tintagel Old Post Office, Tintagel - 14th century building on the plan of a medieval yeoman farm house, with a large hall. Used in the 19th century as a letter receiving office and restored as such.
• Tolgus Tin Mill - Tolgus Tin Mill is now the only original working example left in the country. An ongoing restoration project, the mill was established in 1865 and is home to the mighty Cornish stamps. Free to enter, Tolgus Mill still recovers and smelts tin onsite which is used for its own jewellery collection which helps pay for its preservation.
• Maritime Museum, Falmouth - Dipping its toe in Falmouth's harbour, the multi-award winning National Maritime Museum Cornwall celebrates the sea, boats and Cornwall, with 15 stunning galleries.
• The Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle - Houses the world's largest collection of witchcraft related artefacts and regalia. Located in Boscastle for 50 years it is amongst Cornwall's most popular museums.
• Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance - Public gallery specialising in the Newlyn School artists. Also covers West Cornwall's archaeology and social history. Set in an elegant Victorian house and park.
• Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Penzance - Became a communications centre in 1870 when pioneering engineers laid an undersea cable network from the beach to India and the British Empire.
Theatres and Culture
With a unique quality of light, stunning scenery and a rich heritage, Cornwall is an artist's paradise. Whatever town or village you stay in is sure to have its own little art gallery. Explore the local's work or visit some larger galleries.
• Tate St Ives, St Ives - An introduction to international modern and contemporary art, including works from the Tate Collection. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is also located here.
• Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance - Public gallery specialising in the Newlyn School artists. Also covers West Cornwall's archaeology and social history. Set in an elegant Victorian house and par
• Lane Theatre, Newquay - Newquay's multi-award winning live theatre.
• Minack Theatre, Porthcurno - Cornwall's world famous open-air theatre.
• Princess Pavilion, Falmouth - A unique venue with something for everyone. Year-round live music, drama and entertainment.
• Open from June to September. Live theatre, music, classical concerts and dance.
• The Little Theatre, Padstow - a tiny theatre seating 60; puts on 3 or 4 shows p.a.
• Lighthouse Cinema, Newquay
• Phoenix Cinema Falmouth, Falmouth
• Regal Cinema, Wadebridge
• St Ives Royal Cinema, St Ives
• The Plaza Cinema, Truro
• White River Cinema, St Austell
Cornwall has many up and coming bands but also a rich culture of more traditional music such as sea shanties. In recent years the Fisherman's Friends of Port Isaac have gained national acclaim for their music. There is often live music playing in many pubs across the county. Visit Pirate FM's gig guide to see what's on.