Cornwall is a county in England’s most southwestern tip in its own little peninsula. It’s like no other place in England. Tiny country roads, cliffs, coves, ports and of course Cornish pasties (not pastry, but pasty without the “r” in there). The region almost fools you to believe you are in the Caribbean sea with its clear blue waters!
Cornwall even has its own language: Cornish (Kernewek) which very few speak. This is a branch of the Celtic languages, and some of the signs in Cornwall you will see English and Cornish translation.
We decided to leave early on a Friday morning and drive home Sunday afternoon, with 3 days chocked full of activities and gorgeous sights. We started on the north west coast of Cornwall and worked our way south and up around the eastern part of the peninsula.
Here’s our 3-day itinerary that worked perfect for us. We picked the highlights that we were most interested in, but there are always plenty to choose from. It’s wise if you are in England for awhile to get the National Trust and English Heritage memberships because included are castles and old houses for no extra charge!
We drove early morning and arrived to Tintagel about 30 minutes after the castle opened. The parking lot is a little walk to the castle with hills. You are able to pay for a Land Rover Defender to give you a ride back and forth for an extra charge. This would have been useful on the way back to the car.
Tintagel castle was built between the 5th and 7th centuries, and is famous for the legend of King Arthur. Remains are what are left. The steps are super steep by the way, but definitely some great coastal shots. Check out the King Arthur sculpture at the top. We were lucky enough for the tide to be low when we arrived and could go down to the beach part and walk through Merlin’s cave!
Newquay (pronounced New-key) is considered the UK’s surfing capital. A small town about an hour south of Tintagel. Our favorite view here is The Island which is a luxury boutique hotel on a small island cliff in the water, only accessible by a suspension walking bridge. We grabbed a snack and some Cornish ice cream here (they put Cornish in front of every noun, seriously).
A former Cornish tin mining site in St. Agnes, and part of the National Trust. The site is free, but National Trust members can park for free. There is a coastal path mapped out if you have time, but we got on the road to have dinner out in St. Ives.
St. Ives is another seaside town known for its beaches, surfing, and art. It has lively walkable shopping streets. If you are driving here, don’t try to park right close to the water because we wasted about 40 minutes looking for parking. Driving right through the town center is a bit of a nightmare too because the roads are so narrow. Many are one way roads and tourists walk all in the streets. We walked along the waterfront and found a place to have dinner upstairs with a view of the water.
We chose to stay our weekend in an Airbnb near Penzance. It was perfect. It was a secluded area and we had our own private annexed room to the house with an ensuite bathroom. Breakfast included as well!
This is Cornwall’s westernmost point. There is a famous sign that people take pictures with that has the distance to other parts of the world. From what I’ve read, it used to be free to take a picture with the sign, but today the whole area is very commercialized. So it costs to take a picture, but they personalize the sign to your hometown. We still got a picture of it, just without us in it or paying for it. The coastal walk is still nice, beyond either side of the sign. You can see the Longships Lighthouse, and if the weather is clear enough you can spot the Isles of Scilly from what we read.
This was one of my favorite places of the whole trip. It’s just 4 miles from Land’s End. It’s an open air theatre built on a cliff overlooking Porthcurno Beach, built in the 1930’s. It seriously looks like an ancient Greek theatre though. We paid £5 to do a self guided tour of it, with gardens, an exhibition center, and cafe. Look ahead on the times you visit because the theatre still puts on shows, so sometimes it’s not open for visitors. If you do want to catch a show, the tickets are reasonably priced.
Walk down the steep cliff to Porthcurno Beach and enjoy the clear blue waters! After we hiked back up, we had a Cornish pasty at the cafe before heading to the next spot.
Lizard Point and Kynance Cove
We drove here in about an hour from the Minack theatre. Lizard Point is the southernmost point of mainland Britain. This is part of the National Trust so you can get free parking if a member. We walked along the coast south to Kynance Cove. Now this cove was only 2 miles away, so we thought, oh that’s nothing! Walking up and down along a coastal cliff takes a lot longer than walking a normal mile! But it was worth it once we got there…even though we had to do the walk back too!
Kynance Cove is also on the Lizard peninsula. (There is a parking lot close to here too if you don’t want to do the coastal walk). This place is a beach paradise with serpentine rock stacks and white sandy beaches. Also was one of the filming spots for the show Poldark which I’m a big fan of (it’s also a book series). The beach is accessible during low tide and gets very busy during the summer months. As we were leaving, the tide was coming back in. People were swimming in the water, but I can’t lie, the water was cold!
We had dinner back at a cafe in Lizard Point called Polpeor Cafe. We cannot brag about the food enough here. Marvin got a fish pie and I got a Cornish pasty (which had steak, rutabagas, and potatoes). For dessert we got sticky toffee pudding, a very traditional British dessert. This dessert was the bomb!
St. Michael’s Mount
This place was close to our Airbnb but we went on the last day of our trip (Sunday), because we realized that the castle is closed on Saturdays. St. Michael’s Mount is a small tidal island with a medieval castle and church on top! It’s only accessible to walk to when the tide is low, which has a beautiful stone path leading to it. Otherwise, you can hire a boat to take you. When we got there, the tide was lowering and we walked some parts in calf deep water. On the way back, the water had completely subsided. The castle up top is another hike up, but nice views from the top. It’s still home to the St. Aubyn family as well as a small community today. You can just walk to the island and have a look around, even if you don’t have tickets to go to the castle.
This was our last stop of the trip. This is part of the National Trust and I didn’t really expect anything too exciting. We mainly were stopping because thought it might be a good point to stop on the way home for a stretch break. We were totally wrong about how cool this place was! Lanhydrock House is Cornwall’s most complete Victorian House (it’s a mansion) with 900 acres of land around! You walk through a huge entrance and then you get a view of the house. You can tour over 50 rooms of the house and they set it up with real props and even smells of what real life might have been like during it’s time. The brothers that lived here during its time loved hunting as you can see from all the taxidermy work around.
Now we had a 4-hour drive back home to Surrey. We were sad for our Cornish weekend to come to an end. It felt like we went to another country for the 3 days. I highly recommend taking a visit, especially if you have some time in England. Trains are available from London as well!
Something to Beware of: Stinging Nettle
Something we discovered for the first time was a evil plant called Stinging Nettle. Marvin actually knew of this plant in Brazil called urtiga, but didn’t know it existed here. Apparently it’s in the UK and even where we live but first time experiencing it. Marvin brushed his foot on one of these plants in Newquay while wearing flip flops. His foot immediately started hurting, became reddened and swollen where it brushed, and little white dots started popping up. We didn’t know what the plant was, until we walked close to a pharmacy to get a Benadryl type drug. We explained it to the cashier…and they were like “Oh yea, that’s a stinging nettle.” So…you guys beware! We were hyper aware of every plant the rest of the trip.
There are tons of more castles, towns, and coastal walks I would have liked to check out if we had more time. In addition, I would like to visit The Eden Project, which is the world’s largest indoor rainforest, and The Lost Gardens of Heligan, which is the UK’s most popular botanical garden. Maybe next time!
What are your thoughts of Cornwall or what would your 3-day itinerary include that we missed? Comment below and let us know!