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Touring Cornwall

Map of Cornwall

Lands End by Barbara Ballard Coastal path halfway between Portreath and Porthtowan courtesy Cornwallcam Cornwall was a Celtic holdout for many centuries and still carries some of that mystique in its image, especially at its ancient sites. The south coast has a semi-tropical climate where gardens flourish. The popular south-west coast path is the longest of Englandís national trails. Thereís a different feel to the north where the coast is rugged with rocky headlands. Above all, the sea dominates the landscape.

Lanyon Quoitin Cornwall courtesy Cornwallcam Men-an-Tol on West Penwith Moors by Cornwallcam The 27-foot long prehistoric tomb, Lanyon Quoit, is the remains of a chambered tomb from BC 2500. It was altered in the 19th century. The capstone weighs in at a hefty 13 tons. Itís located off a minor road two miles north-west of the village of Madron. Nearby is another relic of pre-historic times, Men-an-tol. There are two uprights on either side of a round stone that has a hole in its centre. Legend gives it magical curative powers.

Chysauster Ancient Village Cornwall by Barbara Ballard Chysauster, an ancient Celtic settlement, is reached by an uphill walk. At the top the stone remains of eight houses are much covered with vegetation. The homesteads were courtyard houses, the type of which are only found here and in the Isles of Sicily. Built in pairs, each house had an open central courtyard surrounded by a number of thatched circular living rooms. There are far reaching views over the windswept heather.

Old Lizard Head courtesy Cornwallcam Cornwallís Lizard peninsula is home to a heritage coast that extends from Porthleven to Enys Head. The rough and rocky coastline is spotted with a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Many steep, dead-end roads lead down to little villages. Inland is flat farmland with some rolling hills and lots of hedges. To get a feel for the area visit the Lizard Countryside Centre in Trelowarren for displays on wildlife, geology, and plant life.

Lizard view from Lighthouse Cornwall by Barbara Ballard Lizardís Lighthouse sits on high cliffs overlooking the ocean. You can take a tour inside and go outside at the top.

Jamaica Inn by Barbara Ballard Readers of Daphne du Maurier will be familiar with Bodmin moor and the 18th century Jamaica Inn, scene of Daphne De Maurierís story. The inn has been much altered but at the front is still authentic. The drive over the barren moor is atmospheric. According to legend Excalibur was thrown into a pool on the moor. Itís worth going out of the way to visit the moor and its strange stone structures, but go in clear weather, knowing that mists and fog can come down suddenly.

Tintagel view of Mainland by Barbara Ballard If you have time to visit only one place in Cornwall, make it the sparse ruins of 13th century Tintagel Castle, but go in good weather and be there when it first opens. Itís dramatically sited high on a rocky headland with the water foaming all around. After walking a long way down a steep hill from Tintagel village, there are 139 steps to climb from a mainland bridge to the ďislandĒ to reach the top where the views are spectacular. There are a few further steps to reach the flat plateau at the very top. Itís moody and atmospheric.

Tintagel Mainland Castle Steps by Barbara Ballard There is more to the castle, with part being back on the mainland, reached by another set of steps after re-crossing the bridge. Tintagel Old Post Office by Barbara Ballard Itís an experience and a half and one not to be missed. You can also walk down to the rocky beach at low tide from the site entry. When youíve finished climbing back up to the village, take time to visit the Old Post Office.

Pendennis Castle Falmouth by Barbara Ballard Other castles to visit in Cornwall are Pendennis, St Mawes, Launceston, and Restormel. Pendennis castle, built by Henry VIII, sits outside Falmouth on a windy headland. It was one in a chain built to defend the coast against France and Spain should they attack England. Falmouth is also the place to learn about the countyís maritime history at the Cornwall Maritime Museum.

Lostwithiel from Restomerel Castle Cornwall by Barbara Ballard Opposite Pendennis Castle at the mouth of the river Fal is St Mawes Castle, built for the same purpose. St Mawes is a beautiful little harbour town with well-kept and attractive houses. Restormel castle ruins and keep are on a high mound with views over Lostwithiel, an old mining centre. Itís worth the drive for the atmosphere.

Minack Theatre Cornwall by Barbara Ballard If you have time to visit only two places in Cornwall make the second the Minack Theatre, on a dead-end road up a cliff. The theatre stage and seats were carved out of the granite hillside by Rowena Cade, who started the work at the age of 38 with the help of two gardeners. Itís a remarkable story, and an exhibition at the site gives the full details. Take time for a coffee in the small cafť at the top. Open air performances are held to the sound of waves crashing just below the stage. The view is mesmerizing.

Porth Curno beach courtesy Cornwallcam Thereís a large parking lot and a sandy beach at the small village of Porthcurno, at the foot of the Minack theatre hill. Beside the parking lot is a fascinating underground tunnel museum, the Telegraph Museumóallow a minimum of an hour to explore. The site was a secret wartime communications bunker, and equipment and information on the telegraph from Victorian times to World War II is on hand. Why here? In 1870 the valley first became a communications centre when a telegraph cable network was laid from it to India.

Cornwall offers more than its fair share of gardens for visitors. Trewithen was landscaped in the 19th century. These are woodland gardens reached by paths and trails set out with rhododendrons, magnolias, maples, camellias, and other trees and shrubs. Near the house are formal gardens, and a video of the house and gardenís history is shown.

Trevarno Gardens boathouse courtesy Cornwallcam Trevarno Estate Gardens is home to the National Museum of Gardening and a charming garden conservatory, a great place for a tea break. A fun way to visit the gardens at Trelissick is to take the little King Harry ferry (operated by a chain across a sea inlet) from the south after visiting St Mawes. The house is lived in and not open to the public. The emphasis here is on woodland and park walks. Thereís a nice restaurant and a garden themed shop.

Trebah Gardens by Barbara Ballard Trengwainton Gardens by Barbara Ballard Trebah garden is near Falmouth. The 25 acres sit in a ravine that enjoys subtropical conditions on its way down to the Helford river. Australian tree ferns, hydrangeas, bananas, and bamboo grow with ease. There are waterfalls and ponds. Trengwainton Garden is mainly a shrub garden, but there is also a walled garden. The Lost Gardens of Heligan cover 200 acres of woodland walks and lawns. There is an excellent shop devoted to all things garden related.

Eden Project Cornwall The Domes by Barbara Ballard The Eden Project is a different type of garden. Itís like visiting the Disneyland of gardens. Gigantic plant conservatories, touted as the largest in the world, are made from 800 pieces of interlocking hexagons without any internal support. Huge garden-themed sculptures are scattered around. One dome contains a Mediterranean habitat and the other a tropical one. This project is all about education. The large shop has many garden and plant related items of much interest.

Cornwall has many interesting historic homes to visit. Antony House is a combination treat of house and garden. The home of greyish-silver stone has been in the same family for 600 years. There are paintings, tapestries, and furniture that reflect this. The woodland garden is a springtime treat with azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, and more. Walks in woodlands are on offer.

Pencarrow House by Barbara Ballard Pencarrow is a lived-in Georgian home, shown by tour. Collections include furniture, porcelain, and pictures. There are walking paths in the woods, an Italian garden, and a lake. Caerhays castle and gardens sit in 60 acres of woodland gardens. Godolphin is a Tudor and Stuart mansion. One garden dates from the late 15th century. Oak furniture in the house dates from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Padstow Harbour by Barbara Ballard Prideaux Place by Barbara Ballard Trerice is a small Elizabethan manor house. In the rooms are collections of furniture, ceramics, glasses, and clocks. A converted barn houses a museum on the lawnmower. Prideaux Place, overlooking the town of Padstow, was built in Elizabethan times and is shown by tour. Of particular interest is the 16th century plaster ceiling in the great chamber. It has a small but interesting collection of china and furniture. Thereís a deer park, gardens, woods, and outbuildings.

Cotehele House Cornwall by Barbara Ballard Cotehele House was the Edgecumbe family home for 600 years. The building was begun in 1490 but not finished until 1520. The house is unique in that it is one of Englandís most unaltered medieval manors. It has not even been electrified. There are three courtyards around which the house is built. Of note are the great hallís timber ceiling, arms, and armour. There are gardens, a dovecote, a working corn mill, a 15th century chapel, and riverside walks. There is a quay with a museum that tells the history of the Tamar river.

Landrydrock House Cornwall gatehouse by Barbara Ballard Lanhydrock dates from 1640 and was built of local grey slate and granite with an inner courtyard. A fire destroyed much of the house in 1881. All that was left were the porch, north range and gallery, and gatehouse. The gallery has a 17th century plasterwork ceiling detailing Biblical scenes. The house was eventually rebuilt, and there are 50 rooms open to view, all with the Edwardian country house atmosphere. A kitchen, scullery, bakehouse, dairy, and servantís quarters are of particular interest. Gardens head up the hill behind the medieval church. There are woodland walks and parkland.

St Michaels Mount Castle by Barbara Ballard St Michaels Mount is a home in a completely different setting. Itís on a small private island that once belonged to a 12th century Benedictine priory. It was a fortified castle before becoming a private home. Time your visit so you can walk (30-45 minutes) across the causeway at low tide to reach the island, then return by boat later. But be warned, itís a steep climb to the top of the island, but well worth it. You can walk around the island gardens, see the former refectory and some family rooms (Chippendale furniture and weapons), and take in the sea views. Itís a magical place.

Mousehole closeup courtesy Cornwallcam Cornwall has more than houses and gardens and coastline to visit. There are a number of interesting towns and scenic villages. Mousehole is a scenic harbour with two tiny beaches. Mevagissy, a rather down-at-the-heels former fishing village, has two harbours and boat trips are offered.

Chapel St Penzance courtesy Cornwallcam Penzance is the main town on the Landís End peninsula. Museums of interest are the National Lighthouse Museum and the Nautical Museum. Chapel Street is home to many historic houses.

Truro cathedral courtesy Cornwall cam Truro cathedral is late Victorian with a 250-foot high central spire. Truroís Royal Cornwall Museum exhibits the history of the Duchy of Cornwall, natural history, mining, and pottery.

Hayle Flower Beds courtesy Cornwallcam Hayle is for beach lovers and surfers. Newquay is another surf and sand spot with 11 beaches to choose from. Thereís a leisure park for families and an exhibition on the mining history of Newquay at the Tunnels through Time. Walkers can take on the Heritage Trail (pick up a leaflet at the TIC).

Newquay Towan Beach bridge courtesy Cornwallcam St Ives Beach Cornwall by Barbara Ballard The former fishing harbour of St Ives is a popular summertime spot with its long sandy beaches and views over the water. The old streets are the most interesting parts of the town as they wind their narrow way up and down hill. Modern art is on display at the Tate St Ives, a branch of the London Tate gallery. St Ives also displays many flowers in its private and public spaces. Smeatonís Pier (1770) has a chapel built for the fishermen. The St Ives Museum informs of the history of the area.

Cornwall Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Antony House and Garden and Woodland Garden
Tel. 0 1752 812 364

Boconnoc Park
Lostwithiel, Cornwall
Tel. 0 1208 872 507

Bonthyon Estate Gardens
Cury Cross Lanes, Helston, Lizard peninsula
Tel. 0 1326 240 550
Web: Bonthyon Estate Gardens

Caerhays Castle and Gardens
Caerhays, Gorran, St Austell
Tel. 0 1872 501 310

Chysauster Ancient Village
Signed off B 3311 between St Ives and Penzance; 2.5 miles north-west of Gulval
Tel. 0 7831 757 934
For more information and photos see our feature at Chysauster Ancient Village

Cotehele House
St. Dominick, Saltash
Tel. 0 1579 351 346

Churchtown Farm Community Nature Reserve
On border of Saltash

Eden Project
Tel. 0 1726 811 911
For photos and more information see our article The Eden Project
Web: Eden Project

Glendurgan Garden
Mawnan Smith, Falmouth
Tel. 0 1326 250 906

Godolphin House and Gardens
Godolphin Cross, Helston
Tel. 0 1736 763 194

Jamaica Inn
Bolventor, Launceston
Tel. 0 1566 86250/86838
Web: Jamaica Inn

Lamorran House Gardens
Upper Castle Rd
St Mawes, Cornwall
Tel. 0 1326 270 800

Lanhydrock House
Tel. 0 1208 73320

Launceston Castle
Castle Lodge, Launceston
Tel. 0 1566 772 365

Lizard Lighthouse
Signposted from Lizard village on the A3083 from Helston, Cornwall.
Tel. 0 1326 290 065 or 0 1326 572 607
For photos and full details see our article Lizard Lighthouse

Lost Gardens of Heligan
Pentewan, St Austell
Tel. 0 1726 845 100
Web: Lost Gardens of Heligan

Minack Theatre
Tel. 0 1736 810 181/471 for box office; 0 810 694 for office
Web: Minack Theatre
For more information and photos see our feature at Minack Theatre

Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park
Cremyll, Torpoint
Tel. 0 1752 822 236
Web: Mount Edgecumbe

Tel. 0 1208 841 369
Web: Pencarrow House

Pendennis Castle
Tel. 0 1326 316 594

Penjerrick Garden
Budock, Falmouth, Cornwall
Tel. 0 1872 870 105

Perranzabuloe Museum
Ponsmere Rd, Perranporth
Tel. 0 1872 573 321
Web: Perranzabuloe Museum

Poppy Cottage Garden
Ruan Hill Lanes, Truro
Tel. 0 1872 501 411
Web: Poppy Cottage Garden

Port Eliot House and Park
St Germans, Cornwall
Tel. 0 1503 230 211
Web: Port Eliot

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum
Eastern House, Porthcurno, St. Levan
Tel. 0 1736 810 478

Prideaux Place
Tel. 0 1841 532 411
Web: Prideaux Place

Restormel Castle
Tel. 0 1208 872 687
For photos and more details see our article Restormel Castle

St Mawes Castle
St Mawes
Tel. 0 1326 270 526

St Michael's Mount
Marazion, near Penzance
Tel. 0 1736 710 507

Sylviaís Meadow Nature Reserve
St Anneís Chapel, Honnicombe, East Cornwall
Accessed through Tamar Valley Donkey Park
Tel. 0 1872 273 939

Tate St Ives
Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
Tel. 0 1736 796 226
Web: Tate St Ives

Tegrehan Woodland Garden
Tegrehan, Cornwall
Tel. 0 1726 812 438

Tintagel Castle
Tel. 0 1840 770 328

Tintagel Old Post Office
Tel. 0 1840 770 024

Trebah Garden
Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth
Tel. 0 1326 250 448
Web: Trebah Garden

Trelissick Garden
Feock, Truro
Tel. 0 1872 862 090

Trelowarren Gardens and Woodland
Trelowarren, Helston
Tel. 0 1326 221 224
Web: Trelowarren

Trengwainton Garden
Tel. 0 1736 362 297

Tel. 0 1637 875 404

Trewidden Garden
Buryas Bridge, Penzance, Cornwall
Signposted from A30
Tel. 0 1736 363 021
Web: Trewidden Gardens

Grampound Road, Truro
Tel. 0 1726 883 647
Web: Trewithen Gardens

Truro Cathedral
Tel. 0 1872 276 782
Web: Truro Cathedral

Wheal Trewavas
On clifftop edge of Trewavas cliff near Porthleven
Web: Cornish Mining Heritage

Cornwall Visitor Information Centres

Shire Hall, Mount Folly Square
Tel. 0 1208 76616

Bude Visitor Centre
The Crescent, Bude
EX23 8LE
Tel. 0 1288 354 240

North Cornwall Museum
The Clease, Camelford
PL32 9PL
Tel. 0 1840 212 954

28 Killi11 Market Strand, Prince of Wales Pier
Falmouth, TR11 3DF
Tel. 0 1326 312 300

The Post Office, 4 Custom House Hill
Tel. 0 1726 833 616
Lethlean Lane
Tel. 0 1736 754 399

79 Meneage Street
Tel. 0 1326 565 435

Market House Arcade, Market Street
Tel. 0 1566 772 321

The Guildhall, Fore Street
East Looe, PL13 1AA
Tel. 0 1503 262 072

Marcus Hill
Tel. 0 1637 871 345

Red Brick Building, North Quay
Tel. 0 1841 533 449

Station Road
Tel. 0 1736 362 207

Scilly, Isles of
Hugh Street, Hugh Town
St Marys, Isles of Scilly
Tel. 0 1720 422 536

St Austell
Southbourne Road
St Austell, PL25 4RS
Tel. 0 1726 879 500

St Ives
The Guildhall, Street-an-Pol
Tel. 0 1736 796 297

Municipal Building, Boscawen Street
Tel. 1872 274 555

Rotunda Building, Eddystone Road
Wadebridge, PL27 7AL
Tel. 0 870 122 3337

Insider Tips:

1. Skip Landís End. You will pay dearly to park, and it has been ruined by being turned into a tacky tourist venue. Instead, drive down the coast a bit, and walk along the coastal path for quiet and beautiful views over the water.

2. Tintagel Castle gets several million visitors a year. If you can go outside of tourist season, do so. If not, get to the village by 8.30 in the morning to secure a parking spot and make your way to the castle for the 9am opening. You wonít regret not fighting the hordes on the one way stairs to the top. There is a jeep that transports people up and down the steep hill from the village to the castleís entrance kiosk by the water. It runs during the main tourist season and is well worth the couple of pounds it costs.

3. North American visitors often expect gardens to have lots of flowers in bloom. In the UK, gardens quite often mean just green spaces, lawns, woods, or shrubs.

4. Go first thing in the morning to the Eden Project. It gets very busy with long line-ups. You must park your car up the hill and take the shuttle bus (or walk) down to the site. It is very hot inside the domes and in the former quarry where the project is located, so go on a cool day if possible.

Official Cornwall Tourism Information website: Visit Cornwall

Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Cornwall cam

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Some of our Cornwall Articles
Lizard Lighthouse
Restormel Castle
The Eden Project
Minack Theatre
St Michaelís Mount
Chysauster Ancient Village
Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Old Post Office
Truro Cathedral
Other England Articles

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