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7 Unique and Unusual Places to Visit in Cornwall, England

Mike Grindle is a digital nomad and culture writer sharing insights from his travels

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Known for its ancient sights, Arthurian legends, and natural beauty, Cornwall often feels like a place quite apart from the rest of England and the UK. And, with residents that are proud of their distinct cultural heritage and known for their love of endearing peculiarities and oddities, it's no surprise that the county is home to some quirky attractions and locations. As a result, Cornwall is a perfect destination for those looking for something a little different from their travels.

7 Unique and Unusual Places To Visit In Cornwall, England

1. Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

2. The Eden Project

3. Minack Theatre

4. St. Nectan's Glen

5. Carn Brea Castle Restaurant

6. Merlin's Cave

7. The Merry Maidens

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1. Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Located in Boscastle, the museum of witchcraft and magic aims to shine a light on folk beliefs, occult practices, and pagan rituals of the past and today. Though it appears to be little more than a cottage, the museum houses the world's most extensive esoteric artifacts and Regalia collection.

The collection includes talismans, witch bottles, ceremonial garbs, occult books, ancient paintings, and items that once belonged to famous and infamous occultists such as Aleister Crowley and Alex Sander. You'll also find a recreation of a wise woman's home (known as Joan's Cottage) and a section dedicated to the history of the witch trials. All in all, the museum contains over 3000 objects and 7000 books.

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2. The Eden Project

The Eden Project is a series of gardens housed in tropical biomes that is a must-visit for anyone who finds themselves nearby. The most impressive of these gardens is the tropical biome, which holds the record for the largest rainforest in captivity and the world's largest greenhouse. Here you can experience the wonder of the rainforests and even stand above the canopies. There is also the Mediterranean biome, which features orange and lemon trees and olive groves. There is also a 30-acre outdoor garden focusing on plants such as hemp and sunflowers and their potential uses.

The center also includes many other facilities and forms of entertainment for the family. You can even go on England's fastest Zip Wire, which traverses above the biomes at speeds of over 60MPH.

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3. Minack Theatre

Perched on the cliff overlooking the Porthcurno Bay, the Minack Theatre is an open-air arena that has the appearance of something built by the ancient greeks. However, it was built, mostly by hand, in the early 20th century by a woman named Rowena Cade and a group of helpers[2].

The theatre is a fantastic place to explore, offering panoramic views of the bay below. There are also sub-tropical gardens nearby, full of exotic plants. If you want the whole experience, though, you'll have to book your place for one of the many live performances that take place there every year.

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4. St. Nectan's Glen

Described as one of the most sacred sites in Britain, St. Nectan's Glen is a series of three waterfalls located beneath an ancient hermitage. It is said that a Celtic saint established the hermitage in the 6th century and spent many hours praying there. Today, it remains a place for personal reflection open to people of all faiths.

The glen itself is a place of great beauty, the water there having bored through Devonian rock to create an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Moreover, due to its spiritual association, the water is said to have healing properties. While that's questionable, it will be hard not to leave the place feeling uplifted.

If you go, be sure to look out for St. Pirana church and holy well and the Roman milestone located at the start of the walk down towards the glen.

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5. The Carn Brea Castle Restaurant

You'll never be short on castles to explore, no matter where you are in the UK, but few offer the dining experience you'll get with Castle Brea. With middle-eastern-styled food and a unique atmosphere aided by music, log fires, and candlelight, you'll do well to book a place.

Carn Brea itself is worth a visit in its right. Perched atop a hill, the castle, which can be dated as far back as 1379, offers excellent views and fascinating history.

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6. Merlin's Cave

Found under the coastal cliffs near Tintagel Castle, Merlin's cave is a 330-foot-long sea cave formed over time by erosion. It is an impressive natural structure in its own right, but what makes the cave notable is its association with Arthurian legends.

As can be guessed from the name, old tales suggest that the wizard Merlin spent a period of time living in the cave and ended up saving the future king Arthur when he drifted ashore nearby as a castaway. Perhaps hoping to cash in on the story, local authorities commissioned an artist - Peter Graham - to carve Merlin's face into a rock near the cave's entrance, a decision that proved controversial.

Whether you think Merlin's face adds or takes away from the place's natural beauty, it is still an interesting spot to explore. That said, do take care if you plan on fully exploring the cave as it does fill with water at high tide.

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7. The Merry Maidens

Located a little southwest of Penzance between the fields of Lamorna and St Buryun, you'll find the ancient standing stone circle known as the Merry Maidens. The stones were constructed sometime between the late stone and early bronze age. They are unique amongst such monuments due to their perfect circular form and regular spacing. There are 19 stones, which gradually decrease in size from the southwest to the northwest - possibly to symbolize the waxing and waning of the moon.

You'll find ancient nearby, too, including the Tregiffan burrow. There is also a menhir stone about 200 meters to the west known as 'Good Rith' or the 'Fiddler'. Another pair of standing stones lay 300 meters to the north and are referred to as the 'Pipers.'

So you might be asking, why all the unusual names? As with many standing stones across the UK, there is a Christian folk-tale to explain their origin. The story goes that a group of girls (the 'maidens') broke sabbath by dancing to the music of two pipers and a fiddler. As punishment, God turned them to stone. Seeing what happened to the girls, the musicians turned to run (hence the distance between them all), but it did them no good, and they were turned to stone also.

© 2022 Mike Grindle

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