There is so much to love about Cornwall. It’s pretty harbour villages wedged between cliffs, wild moorlands blanketed in soft purple heather, it’s golden beaches, enthusiasm for well-hopped local ale and it’s fine, rhotic accent. As humble as a Newlyn fisherman, Cornwall is an honest county; a county where copper veins run through the soil from its hinterlands through to sparkling sea.

Galleries, eateries, museums and castles, silent beaches, sunsets which set the sky on fire and clear waters that beg for moonlit skinny dips. With so much to explore, here we shortlist our top picks for a holiday to Cornwall.

What to see

The county’s best castles

With its long coastline tempting invaders for centuries, Cornwall’s cliffs are dotted with castles and fortifications. From the ruins of Tintagel Castle sprawling over sea stacks in the north of the county to St Michael’s Mount atop it’s very own island in the south; there’s a castle for every history loving traveller. For visitors to Fowey, it has to be St Catherine’s Castle on the southern edge of Readymoney Cove while Falmouth and the Roseland welcome visitors to the castles of Pendennis and St Mawes respectively. 

Quintessential fishing villages

MouseholeBoscastle and Polperro; Mevagissey, Cadgwith, Sennen, Port Isaac and Portloe; Cornwall is bursting with fishing villages that regularly find themselves splashed across the travel section of some of the country’s most esteemed publications. Each holds its own unique character, coastal walks, quirky inns and gorgeous views, along with the standard Cornish village checklist of fish and chip shops, boutique eateries and art galleries aplenty.

Beach life

No trip to Cornwall is complete without at least one day spent with toes buried in the sand. The north coast, famed for large sweeping stretches of sand beneath towering cliffs, is where the county’s most reliable surf can be found, while the gentle, undulating south coast hides small coves surrounded by greenery and warm, shallow waters abundant with life. Try the northern side of PerranporthCrantock or Holywell Bay on the north coast; or Porthcurno on the south for some of the county’s finest beach days.

Great Cornish gardens

A sub-tropical climate makes Cornwall an obvious choice for horticulturalists to let their creativity flow. Visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan, where a jungle transports visitors to faraway lands, Trebah with its private beach and children’s adventure play area, Trengwainton for a spring magnolia feast for the eyes and lastly, for dog-friendly walks galore, head to Trelissick at the head of the Fal Estuary.

What to do

Explore by sea

See Cornwall from a different perspective by hiring a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, joining a sea-safari or a coasteering adventure led by a professional. There are plenty of companies and hire-points around the coast and on most beaches, with Newquay and the surrounding area offering a range of options for all abilities throughout the year.

Hike, hike baby

Whether the coast or moors are your poison, Cornwall offers a hike to suit every ability and interest. Cornwall’s lesser-known moorlands, which stretch from Madron to Zennor are filled with ancient stone circles and pagan monuments, while the 630 miles of coastpath traverse up and down cliffs, through riverside creeks and over secret coves only accessible by precarious path. The Fowey Hall walk, a circular route through Fowey and Polkerris, takes in the very best of this slice of Cornwall with passenger ferries, quiet beaches and pubs en masse.

Tour Poldark’s Cornwall

Spanning the length and breadth of the county, Poldark film locations can be found all over the county; head to Charlestown to wander the streets of Poldark’s Truro, Botallack for clifftop encounters and dramatic engine houses, and Porthgwarra for the turquoise waters of that famous scene. For a glimpse of Nampara, Ross’ cottage, hike across Bodmin Moor, or stomp up to St Agnes Head to experience the fictional Nampara Valley.

Art galleries

St Ives is the obvious choice for art lovers visiting Cornwall (with the Tate and Barbara Hepworth Museum taking prime position), but this most-southern county is absolutely bursting with creativity from top to toe. Visit Newlyn for its famous gallery by the sea that drew so many artists to the area in the 1800s, or Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens to marvel at the latest exhibitions. Further north, head to Padstow for a variety of galleries - not missing the Circle Contemporary on the nearby Atlantic Highway.

Where to eat and drink

Nancarrow Farm

Although more widely known for its rustic weddings, this organic working farm is one to put on the list when holidaying in Cornwall. Keep an ear out for pop-up feast nights, mini food festivals and Sunday roast openings; the locals like to keep this place a secret, so they won't be well advertised! 

Kota

Awarded three rosettes from the AA, Kota celebrates Cornish seafood with an Asian twist, right on Porthleven’s dramatic harbour. A tasting menu of six courses showcases the very best of the seasonally evolving menu, while an enticing wine list has been carefully selected to pair with the artisan food. Kota is a warm and relaxing venue where pretentiousness is left at the door.

Prawn on the Lawn

While Padstow is famed for Rick Stein’s empire of eateries, nearby Prawn on the Lawn offers a fresh take on locally sourced produce. With the evening's cuisine sometimes changing by the hour, depending on what the fisherman bring to the door, enjoy supper overlooking the very estuary that much of the menu was sourced from.

The Rocket Store

A modern north coast classic, this pocket-sized restaurant on Boscastle's harbourside prides itself on seafood fresh from the owner's boat and quality meat from nearby farms. Slurp on oysters, cut into scallops and share a whole John Dory over a bottle of white.

Where to stay

If you're looking for the perfect place to stay, whether a stylish couples' bolthole on the north coast or family pad on the county's soft southern edges, discover luxury accommodation in Cornwall.