For my regular readers who are used to my pictorial metaphor of the UK being like some kind of alien-man reaching out to pinch Irelands bottom, Cornwall is the bit where he dips his toes in the Ocean. And how beautifully apt when you consider the deep connections this far-flung corner of the UK has with the sea. It’s all pirates, pilchards and Poldark!
BUT IS CORNWALL WORTH VISITING FOR A SHORT BREAK?
Thousands visit Cornwall every year for its award-winning beaches, seaside resorts and some of the best surf spots in the UK, but never let it be said that it’s only relevant to summer holidays. It’s rugged coastlines, pretty fishing villages, arty bolt-holes and foodie features are just some of the reasons why you should be considering a weekend break in Cornwall for your next trip.
So, we’ve put together a little Cornwall itinerary for you – a weekend in Cornwall that pulls in all the best bits, gets you a real feel for this ancient county and will leave you wanting more once you’ve dipped your toes in!
Experiencing The Best Of Cornwall
The rich heritage and dramatic landscapes of this ancient Celtic land have been inspiring artists and authors for decades and when you visit Cornwall it’s easy to see how…
The south coast (DAY ONE – see below) is dotted with fishing villages and harbours that have long sea-faring histories, including secret smugglers coves and towns with genuine pirate-tales. And if you’re a fan of the TV series Poldark you’ll be familiar with the rolling landscapes of the neighbouring copper and tin mines which brought great wealth to the area in the 1800’s. This new money paid for grand stately homes and gardens for the elite society that had the privilege of owning such mines and many are still standing today, several are very popular Cornish tourist attractions.
The south-westerly tip (DAY TWO) takes on a slightly different personality, being the starting point of many a charity-event… Land’s End. But nearby tourist attractions like St Michaels Mount and the Minnak Theatre are extra reasons to visit this distant point of the UK. Add to that a handful of Caribbean-like beaches and unusual rock formations such as Lizards Point and the tick-list for south-Cornwall just keeps on growing.
And finally, a Cornwall road trip would not be fully complete without at least a slight nod towards the reason why its on peoples radar in the first place… the sandy beaches and surf-spots of the west coast.
So if you’re only in Cornwall for the weekend, how on earth do you decide what to see and do within a limited time-frame? We have planned the perfect Cornwall itinerary for you…
A ‘Weekend In Cornwall‘ Itinerary
BEST PLACE TO BASE YOURSELF IN CORNWALL?
First of all, book your 3 days in Cornwall at The Alverton Hotel in Truro. We highly recommend their dinner, bed and breakfast deal because it free’s you up in the day to explore Cornwall, with maybe a little room at lunch for a Cornish pasty and an ice cream. It’s also the perfect location for visiting pretty much everywhere in Cornwall on day-trips – an easy 30-60 minutes from anywhere worth mentioning! (For the best deals, CLICK HERE)
CORNWALL ITINERARY – DAY ONE
Polperro, Charlestown and Mevagissey
After a ginormous breakfast at The Alverton, start your day with a picturesque 1 hour drive east across Cornish countryside to the fishing village of Polperro. This is your starting point for a slow route back to Truro via the coastal road, taking in breath-taking views out to sea and harbour-towns with their own unique personalities.
(Incidentally, if you’ve found this article whilst in the planning stages for a Cornwall road trip, Polperro would be a great place to start as you work your way around the coast)
Polperro; Cornish for ‘Popeye was ere’, I swear! Honestly, it’s so cute you’ll want to put it in your pocket.
Park in the nearby village of Crumplehorn (!) and walk the quarter-mile downhill to the sea’s mouth through car-free roads and cobbled streets. In fact, Polperro has always been a little bit tricky to get to and spurred one geneticist, Sir Francis Galton, to undertake a study of fingerprints as the residents were so inbred! – fun fact!
Owning a boat here was essential and the sea has left its mark on this town many, many times.
The Polperro Heritage Museum of Fishing And Smuggling has a few tales to tell about the illegal contraband that helped line the pockets of Polperrites in bygone days. If only the walls of the Willy Wilcox Cave (found on the other side of the harbour wall) could talk…
The Cornwall Guide website gives a brief overview of this pretty Cornwall village and tidbits of information on what to see and do in the area, and ultimately is one of those Cornwall destinations worth an hour or two of your time. A happy scene of rainbow coloured bobbing boats and cottages pimped with window boxes are the backdrop to a leisurely stroll around this beautiful 13th-century fishing village, with an opportunity to have a peek inside the villages many art and crafts shops.
Back in the car, head west towards the town of Fowey, stopping to cross the River via a little car-ferry at Bodinnick, which runs 3 times an hour and costs £5.
Depending on how quickly you explore places and whether or not your full-English is wearing off, you may like to stop in Fowey and grab yourself a Cornish pasty at the award-winning Cornish Bakery on Fore Street. But with 2 other more interesting towns on our Cornwall itinerary, we would suggest you just grab your pasty and keep on driving.
A bit of information should you choose to stop…
Pronounced ‘Foy’ to those in the know, Fowey is a hilly collection of medieval and Georgian homes clinging to the slopes of the River Foy. It’s quaint and cute but perhaps a better town to choose as a base for a longer Cornwall holiday as some of the more interesting things in the area are mostly a short drive away – like Lantic Bay and the Eden Project. However, if you are looking for things to do in Cornwall with kids, the Fowey Aquarium may well be a hit with little ones.
From Fowey, take the A3082 to Charlestown, taking particular note of the ‘Poldark’ views over to the sea from Polmear Hill, 5 minutes after you leave Fowey Harbour.
I just LOVE Charlestown! I’m not quite sure where it started but I have quite the propensity for the rigging of tall-ships (we have far too many photo’s of ropes and sails in our back-catalogue!). So you can probably see why an unspoilt charming Georgian port would have me rubbing my knees? It’s also the harbour used in the TV drama Poldark, so any opportunity to see Ross Poldark, right…
But apart from all of that, Charlestown is just the perfect collection of handsome Georgian Villas contrasted with squat little fishermen’s cottages, and full of character. And yet despite feeling like you’ve time-travelled back in history there’s a healthy handful of trendy coffee-stops and eateries introducing some of Cornwalls finest fares.
Grab yourself a proper cornish-cream ice cream from the little detached shack, Tallships Creamery. Followed by some sort of rum or gin beverage at the tiniest bar you ever did see – The Rum Sailor on the harbourside. The hospitality is inviting and you may find yourself sampling more than one of their 100 varieties of rum, but no stress – a quick espresso at the Short & Strong Cafe and you’ll be ready to get back on the road… 😉
From Charlestown, follow the signs to Mevagissey along the B3273 and park on the outskirts of town – driving through Mevagissey is not for the faint-hearted.
Fish. Fish. Fish. Craft shops with fish-shaped goods, some of Cornwall’s best fish restaurants, fish door-knockers and an Aquarium, genuine fishermen in the harbour – we think this place should be renamed Mega-fishy!
But there ain’t nothing fishy about Mevagissey – this buzzing little harbour town is the genuine article in terms of its connections with the sea. Locals aren’t just cashing-in on an opportunity to please the tourists – this is a bonafide working fishing town and has been since the beginning of time.
In fact, we once watched a small trawler dock-in with the days catch and people came out of nowhere to quickly barter and buy before he’d even unloaded his haul! Restauranters, fishmongers and locals alike rapidly relieved him of his goods. And if that isn’t a testimony to the roots of this colourful working fishing village, well what is?
There was a time where smuggling became the main source of income for locals but famous Methodist preacher John Wesley soon put paid to this. He effectively convinced them all of their damnable fate if they didn’t abandon their thieving ways – back to fishing it was!
The scrambled network of narrow streets filled with fishermen’s cottages are fit for the finest hobbit and many of the craft and gift shops require a bob of the head to get in through the front doors. Once you’ve stocked up on fish-souvenirs head on over to the tiny aquarium (housed in the old Lifeboat Station) on the harbour front for a 10 minute glimpse at the real thing. It’s only little but the Mevagissey Aquarium aims to connect visitors to its sub-aquatic neighbours and its a bit of an unexpected treasure.
Take the A390 back to The Alvreton Hotel for a cosy evening in, kicking off with a local gin (& tonic) at the bar. And if you order the catch of the day, who knows – it may have raced you to the table from Mevagissey!
CORNWALL ITINERARY – DAY TWO
Lizard Peninsula (St Michaels Mount The Minack Theatre & Land’s End)
If you managed to fit in all 3 of our towns yesterday then you obviously visit places at the same speed as us and will have no problem achieving our Cornwall road trip for today. But, if you like to linger longer at a place then maybe choose one or two of the following suggestions…
ST MICHAELS MOUNT
Out of our 3 destinations, St Michaels Mount will probably require the most time so we suggest you start here and plan the rest of the day accordingly. It’s also better to get there earlier too to avoid the crowds. By the same token, it’s equally acceptable to just do a World Heritage Site drive-by and take in this unique island scene from a slow drive along the seafront of Marazion.
The UK has 43 unbridged tidal islands but St Michaels Mount has to be one of the most impressive. The island used to be inhabited by Benedictine monks and it was an 11th-century pilgrimage site. Today it is owned by the St Aubyn family but ran by the National Trust as a castle to visit, whilst the St Aubyns still reside in a part of the medieval castle.
It’s an exciting 500-metre causeway walk at low-tide or a pleasant little boat-ride over to this historical island. Whichever you choose, it’s an interesting half-day excursion at a unique location with great views of the Cornish coast and an immersion into medieval history and fascinating legends.
Check out the St Michael’s Mount website for tide times and ticket prices (be aware – it does close over the winter months).
The next stop is just a 30 minute drive along the B3283…
THE MINACK THEATRE
Rowena Cade bought the Minack Headland for £100 in the early 1920s and built herself and a mother a clifftop home. Fast-forward a couple of years and she finds herself offering her clifftop terrace to an amateur dramatics group for a seaside performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. And the rest, as they say, is history!
What began as a makeshift stage of rocks hauled up the cliff’s from the beach and deckchairs carried downhill from her garden, ended up as one of the most wonderful open-air theatres in the world.
If you can time your visit with a performance, do it! You won’t experience anything like it. But if not, it’s absolutely worth the ticket price to see this amazing sea-side stage and landscaped terraces.
Again, coupled with a visit to the Minack Theatre, it would be very easy to while away several hours in this little corner of Cornwall. The Minack is sandwiched between two Caribbean-like beaches of white sand and turquoise waters, so if the weather permits you may want to bring your bathing suit! Plus, there are some amazing views of the Cornish coast from the footpaths along the clifftops.
For our last stop, make the trip along the B3315 for 15 minutes…
I would love to know just how many chicken suits and tutu’s Land’s End has seen in its time! Being the starting point to so many charity runs from the UK’s most south-westerly point to John O’Groats in the north, this place is pretty iconic.
What I wasn’t expecting was how much more interesting it is than just a distinguished charity starting block!
Land’s End has a pretty long list of acclaimed shipwrecks attached to it, some attractive coastal walking routes and even a little shopping village with some family entertainment arcades.
Ultimately though, you just want to say you’ve been right? But I was more than a little captivated by a bit of ship-wreck spotting (aided by several notice-boards) and actually could have spent quite a long time staring out to sea.
In short, Land’s End is just one of those places you’ve got to go, if only to tick off a list! But it’s also a little bit cool too.
(TIP – It’s also one of those ‘must see’ Cornwall destinations that attracts a lot of tourists so you may like to book your parking ahead of time – £6 pre-booked, £7 at the gate)
Things To Know When You Visit Cornwall
If you’re from the UK you will more than likely be well used to British country lanes but I thought it was worth mentioning for all my American readers that Cornwall can be a pretty hairy place to drive. Our road numbers prefixed by an ‘A’ are almost always a standard width lane, often a dual-carriageway. However, in order to get to many of the places on our Cornwall road trip, you will need to travel on ‘B’ roads (road numbers prefixed by a B) so be prepared for narrow lanes, sometimes with only room for one car so passing-places need to be utilised.
Cornwall can also be very busy and unless you are an intrepid explorer and don’t mind navigating steep or narrow lanes it might be best to stick to parking in designated car parks which are generally found on the outskirts of villages. They are usually well priced and mostly you can pay by the hour.
Restaurants often need to be pre-booked as Cornwall is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK, however, most pubs take walk-ins. And compared to the rest of the UK, Cornwall seems to stop serving meals earlier than other areas – we noticed several restaurants actually closed at 9pm and weren’t serving any later than 8pm.
We hope you have found our Cornwall guide useful but if you have any more questions about the area, get in touch and we will always endeavour to help! Thanks for stopping by.
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