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The 5 Best Places to Visit in Cornwall, England

Judi has explored Cornwall's most popular destinations and best-kept secrets. She enjoys sharing her experience with others through writing.

Cornwall is revered by travelers and locals alike for its stunning coast and storied history.

Cornwall is revered by travelers and locals alike for its stunning coast and storied history.

What to Do in Cornwall

Cornwall, the south-westernmost county in England, has built a reputation among holiday-makers as one of the UK's premier coastline destinations. The county boasts hundreds of miles of beaches, some of which are punctuated with quiet coves and picturesque harbours, while others are bustling with throngs of surfers and sunbathing families.

Cornwall has a lot more to offer than just sun and sand, however. Venture away from the sea and you'll discover a veritable corn-ucopia of delightful and secluded places to visit. Some of the following destinations are already popular with visitors and locals, while others are still a few steps off the beaten path. If you plan to visit Cornwall in the near future, be sure to check out these five must-see locations.

5 Great Places to See in Cornwall

  1. St. Nectan's Glen
  2. Cotehele
  3. Trebah
  4. Minack Theatre
  5. Levant Mine

1. St. Nectan's Glen

Cornwall has a reputation for being a magical place, and this feeling of magic is perhaps nowhere more tangible than in St. Nectan's Glen. The Glen is set in a secluded woodland valley along the banks of the rIver Trevillet near the village of Trethevy, not far from Boscastle.

St. Nectan's Kieve is a small but stunning river cascade that marks the focal point of the glen.

St. Nectan's Kieve is a small but stunning river cascade that marks the focal point of the glen.

What Makes It Memorable

Although the valley itself is a great setting for a peaceful walk, most people who journey to the glen are in search of one thing: St Nectan's Kieve. The Kieve is a breathtaking, 60-foot waterfall that is considered to be one of the UK's most spiritual sites.

Whether there was ever a real St. Nectan remains a subject of debate. The name may refer to the Cornish water god Nechtan or may simply be a romantic re-branding of the local surname Nathan. To this day, people still leave offerings such as stones, coins, brooches and notes along the ledges of the Kieve as tributes to the water deity.

Access and Fees

St. Nectan's Glen can be reached from several directions along marked footpaths. One of the easiest routes to find is behind the Rocky Valley Centre on the road between Boscastle and Tintagel. Entry to the Glen is free, but if you want to view the waterfall or enjoy a cream tea in the gardens, a small entry fee must be paid.

Additional Attractions Near St. Nectan's Glen

  • Tintagel Castle: The reputed birthplace of King Arthur
  • Boscastle: A nearby village that hosts the Museum of Witchcraft

2. Cotehele

Cotehele, one of Cornwall's premier Tudor mansions, is located in the county's southeast near the village of St. Dominick. This solid-grey, granite-fortified house dates back to the 14th century, but was largely rebuilt by the Edgcumbe family during the early Tudor period. It remains one of the county's finest examples of Tudor architecture.

This architectural marvel is a must-see for any mansion enthusiast visiting Cornwall.

This architectural marvel is a must-see for any mansion enthusiast visiting Cornwall.

What Makes It Memorable

The house contains a fine array of armour, tapestries and furniture. An ongoing exhibition examines the lives of the Edgcumbes and their servants within the Cotehele during the Tudor period, and special events and workshops are hosted on location throughout the year.

Outside of the mansion, fine gardens slope down to the river Tamar where visitors can encounter an ancient quay alongside a restored Victorian sailing barge. Another highlight of the gardens is a well-preserved stone dovecote that used to house domesticated pigeons. Also on the estate are orchards and a working watermill that is still used to press apples and grind corn.

Access and Fees

The Cotehele, gardens and mill are owned by the National Trust. Parking and refreshments are available on-site. Current admission prices can be found on the National Trust's website.

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3. Trebah

Thanks to its temperate climate, Cornwall boasts countless acres of gardens. Professional and amateur gardeners alike have taken advantage of the area's hospitable climate for centuries, and the county is now blessed with a diverse variety of plants and flowers. Trebah, one of my favourite gardens in Cornwall, features a stunning array of sub-tropical plants.

The exquisitely cultivated Trebah garden allows visitors to explore an enchanting valley of subtropical flora.

The exquisitely cultivated Trebah garden allows visitors to explore an enchanting valley of subtropical flora.

What Makes It Memorable

Located on the Cornish coastline, Trebah's gardens tumble down a deep, fern-cloaked valley into a lily-pad-covered pond and finally out onto a private beach. There are plants in bloom all year round, and events take place in the gardens regularly. Children love the adventure playground and treasure-trails that weave through the gardens.

The private pebble beach offers stunning sea views and is a fantastic place to sit and relax with an ice cream. The beach below Trebah wasn't always so peaceful, however. In 1944, the 29th US Infantry Division debarked from this area en route to Omaha Beach during the infamous D-Day Landings.

Access and Fees

Trebah is open year round and offers discounted rates to members of the National Trust and Royal Horticultural Society. Dogs on a lead are welcome. Current admission fees can be viewed on the garden's website.

4. Minack Theatre

The Minack theatre is a world-class entertainment venue located near Land's End, the westernmost point in Cornwall. The Minack is a must-see destination not only due to its stunning, coastal-cliffside setting, but because it is a testament to one woman's amazing vision and determination.

Minack Theatre's sea view and open-air construction make for some truly memorable shows.

Minack Theatre's sea view and open-air construction make for some truly memorable shows.

What Makes It Memorable

Looking at the Minack, it is easy to imagine that it is a vestige of the Roman invasion of Britain. Not so! A remarkable woman names Rowena Cade began building the theatre in 1931 with the help of her gardener and his mate and continued to develop the structure until her death in 1983.

Watching a performance at the Minack is always unforgettable. If you are lucky, the memory etched in your mind will be of a beautiful, balmy evening with a sparkling azure sea providing the backdrop to a wonderful play. Occasionally, however, an evening at the Minack may result in a soggy night of watching talented actors battle against the elements to make themselves heard!

If you want to watch a performance, plays run from May to October. Bring a cushion to sit on (the stone steps get uncomfortable after a while) and pack a picnic basket for the half-time interval. Some people take their Minack picnics very seriously—don't be surprised if you see more champagne and salmon than tea and sandwiches.

Access and Fees

While seeing a play at the Minack is recommended, you don't have to attend a performance to visit the the theatre. You can enter during the day to learn about Rowena Cade at the Exhibition Centre and wander around the site. The views are fabulous and it's well worth the entrance fee.

5. Levant Mine and Beam Engine

Several mines across Cornwall have been granted World Heritage status for their historical importance, but the site that best exemplifies the county's rich mining legacy, at least in my mind, is the Levant Mine and Beam Engine near St. Just.

While parts of this mining complex have fallen into disrepair, a functional steam-driven beam engine—the only of its kind in the world—remains intact.

While parts of this mining complex have fallen into disrepair, a functional steam-driven beam engine—the only of its kind in the world—remains intact.

What Makes It Memorable

Set atop a seaside cliff, Levant was a tin mine whose workings once snaked out under the sea for miles. Nowadays, you can explore the engine house and observe the only remaining functional steam-driven beam engine in the world. If you are feeling brave, you can descend a tunnel to the main shaft of the defunct mine. If subterranean settings give you the chills, feel free to stay above ground and take in the refreshing seaside atmosphere among the ruined buildings of the complex.

Access and Fees

The National Trust now owns the Levant Mine, so plenty of events and activities are hosted year round. Parking is available on-site, but refreshments are not, so be sure to bring your own food and drink. Current admission prices are viewable on the National Trust's website.

Honorable Mention: Golitha Falls

Not a beach in sight! Peace and tranquillity reign at Golitha Falls near Bodmin Moor.

Not a beach in sight! Peace and tranquillity reign at Golitha Falls near Bodmin Moor.

Map of the Locations Listed in This Article

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