Cornwall

Top ten things to do in the far west of Cornwall

From wild and woolly cliffs and secluded caves to turquoise waters and fishing villages, the far west of Cornwall is an unspoilt paradise jam-packed with fab things to do. Below are our top ten recommendations on what to do when in the area....lucky, lucky you!

Bringing a picnic is a must, so pack your favourite goodies and tipple......

Watch a play and enjoy a picnic at the Minack Theatre

Arguably the most famous outdoor theatre in the UK, the actors at the Minack not only have to battle with the elements (the show must go on, come rain or shine), but also for attention - the ocean and craggy cliff backdrop of Porthcurno is stunning.

It may look like a Grecian ruin, hewn out of rock thousands of years, but in fact the Minack was created by an amazing lady called Rowena Cade and her gardener Billy Rawlings almost 80 years ago. Between them they hauled materials down or up the cliff, working over the winter months each year throughout her life to create the theatre it is today. It’s quite apt that the first play performed there was The Tempest! 

With dramas, musicals and opera running from May to September, try to catch a performance if you are on holiday nearby at this time – whatever is being performed, it will be a truly unique experience. Bringing your own picnic is a must, so pack your favourite goodies and tipple (we recommend something sparkly if it’s sunny or something warming if it’s little chilly). Pack brollies and waterproofs just in case (the weather can change quickly by the sea) and cushions too – the seating is made of stone!

Matinee performances start at 2pm and evening performances at 8pm. For more information on what’s on, take a look at their website

Take a look at our luxury cottages in west Cornwall here.

 Leave plenty of time to explore the castle, marvel at the stunning gardens....and stop for a cream tea

Stroll on the causeway over to St Michael’s Mount

The subject of many a watercolour and postcard, the iconic tidal island of St Michael’s Mount lies just off the coastline at Marazion in Mount’s Bay. Dating back to the medieval times when it was owned by Benedictine monks, it is filled with narrow pathways, sub-tropical gardens and a fantastic castle, looked after these days by the National Trust.  

Many a legend clings to this lovely spot which was once surrounded by woodland (its Cornish name, Karreck Loos yn Koos, means rock in woodland), such as visions of St Michael (he’s the patron saint of fishermen) and miracles which drew pilgrims from across Europe. It’s also a spot for crossing ley lines, bringing a unique energy to the place. 

At high tide you can get to the island by boat, but when the tide is low you can amble across the cobbled causeway by foot, marvelling at the sea either side of you – a truly unique experience. Leave plenty of time to explore the castle, marvel at the stunning gardens which thrive under the milder climate, stop for a cream tea (a must!) and gawp at the lovely sea views. If the tide is still out you can walk back, or alternatively you can catch the little boat that ferries people back and forth.

You can find out more about visiting the Mount on their website.

Take a look at our luxury cottages in west Cornwall here.

Stomp across the cliffs at Land’s End

No visit down the far west of Cornwall would be complete without a stop at the most westerly point in England, so pull on your walking boots and head for this amazing spot for incredible Atlantic views, fresher than fresh air and the opportunity to walk off some of those cream teas in possibly the nicest way.

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the cliffs, open moorland and incredible flora and fauna draw many a visitor from around the world and the area is riddled with paths and trails, such as the famed South West Coast Path (which runs between Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset - a trail of 630 miles) and the ‘First and Last’ trail (a 25 mile walk from Hayle on the north coast to Land’s End). 

Shorter but no less dramatic walks include Land’s End to Sennen Cove, a three mile walk strewn with wildflowers and seabirds, and Land’s End to Porthcurno (home to the Minack Theatre).

Whilst you’re at Land’s End, make sure to poise for a cheesy pic at the famous signpost and gaze across to Longships Lighthouse, the Isles of Scilly and imagine North America beyond.

Of course, all that fresh air and exercise is bound to make you hungry, but luckily there are plenty of places to eat to grab a snack, or pack your own picnic and spend hours basking in the incredible views. 

Take a look at our luxury cottages in west Cornwall here.

On sunny days the waters around St Ives are turquoise, and you'll be forgiven for thinking you're somewhere tropical.

Spend a day shopping and swimming in St Ives

Ahh, lovely St Ives. This incredibly beautiful and popular seaside town is much loved by visitors for its beaches (there are five of them – all sandy and perfect), cobbled streets lined with boutique shops, fabulous restaurants, extremely mild climate and happy vibe.

During high season it’s best to park at nearby St Erth and take the very pretty 20 minute train ride in – this is by far the less stressful way of arriving and the views are spectacular (on entering the train, make for a seat on the far side – nearest the estuary - for the best views). In winter when it’s a little less busy you’ll find parking dotted throughout the town.

If beaches are your thing, head to the white sands of Porthminster Beach – perfect for swimming, SUP boarding or kayaking. The vista is incredible, with Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance (the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’). Porthmeor, Porthgwidden and Harbour Beach are also great – on sunny days the waters around St Ives are pure turquoise, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere tropical.

For those more of a cultural bent St Ives is of course home to the fabulous Tate Gallery as well as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The incredible light of the area has drawn artists for hundreds of years, so when the sunshine gets a bit much or it’s a drizzly day, head inside and feast your eyes on the fabulous artwork.

St Ives has super shops too, plus some top notch places to eat. For something a laid back, head to The Rum & Crab Shack on the harbour front (it has great views) and Porthminster Kitchen or The Hidden Kitchen & Dining for something a little special.

Take a look at our luxury cottages in St Ives here.

Explore the quintessential Cornish fishing village of Mousehole

Situated just 3 miles up the coast from Penzance, Mousehole is a picture-perfect fishing village just bursting with charm – a photographer’s delight and well worth a detour whilst out and about in this part of Cornwall.

Renowned for putting on a fabulous light display at Christmas (usually from mid December to early January – visit their website for exact dates), this is a village that thrives on its community spirit. Indeed, Mouseholes’ most famous story, ‘The Mousehole Cat’, tells of a brave fisherman battling a storm at sea, and how he found his way home through the narrow harbour entrance (the ‘mouse hole’) with the help of his cat Mowser and the villagers, who lined the harbour walls with lanterns to guide him in. This is the origins of the Christmas lights.

With a history like that, it’s no wonder people fall in love with the place. There’s narrow streets, whitewashed cottages, lovely shops and great places to eat – head to The Hole Food Deli for a spot of lunch or coffee, or 2 Fore Street for a fantastic meal (make sure to book as it’s only a small place). 

Alternatively, just grab an ice cream and sit on one of the many benches or on the soft, sandy and incredibly safe harbour beach, watching the world go by. We have a soft spot for Mousehole, as it’s where Boutique Retreats started.

Take a look at our luxury cottages in Mousehole here.

Newlyn has also been a great inspiration for artists and even had its own movement - The Newlyn School.

Watch the fishermen unload their catch at Newlyn (whilst eating a Jelberts ice cream)

Newlyn is a fascinating village just outside Penzance – its modest appearance belies a rich history and has a very important place in the history of Cornwall.

Home to one of the biggest fishing fleets in the UK (there is over 40 acres of harbour), Newlyn may not be as attractive as its neighbour Mousehole but it has been a thriving fishing village for hundreds of years and has a huge significance economically for Cornwall.

In honour of this, there is an annual celebration of all things fishy at The Newlyn Fish Festival which takes place over August bank holiday weekend – be sure to go if you’re about as there’s plenty of stalls, boat races, fish auctions and sea shanties galore to keep you entertained (take your camera for the incredible fish displays).

During the rest of the year you can watch the boats chug backwards and forwards – there’s a fish market if you’re up early and some great shops where you can buy the freshest of fresh fish and seafood which you can take back to your retreat – Rick Stein eat your heart out! 

But it’s not all about denizens of the deep – Newlyn has also been a great inspiration for artists and even had its own movement – The Newlyn School – many works of which can be found in the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in neighbouring Penzance. There’s also the Newlyn Art Gallery which hosts fabulous exhibitions of local artists and also holds classes and courses.

One final recommendation – make sure to visit Jelberts. This shrine to ice cream has not been tempted to stray from what it does best – a single flavoured  ice cream made daily (there’s no preservatives so it can’t be kept) topped with clotted cream and a flake. Go on – you deserve it.  

 

Wherever you choose to explore, there's a vast array of  paths along this spectacular part of the coast.

Walk the South West Coastal Path

Ribboning the coastline from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, this incredible walk runs over 630 miles, and in the far west of Cornwall you’ll not find a more dramatic section to hike along.

Whether you want to attempt the whole section or just parts of it, there is something for everyone, from the gentle ambler to the seasoned hiker. All you need is a pair of sturdy boots and a map – take a look at the organisations’ fantastic website for more information on routes.

The far west section runs from Gwithian on the north coast to The Lizard on the south. The north coast is especially rugged, with the section from St Ives to Pendeen being noted to be some of the most challenging walking, but with rewarding views of rugged cliffs, the Atlantic, wild surf beaches, estuaries and headland.

Once you have passed Land’s End and move to the south coast, the scenery softens with sheltered coves and valleys and undulating hills, making this perfect for gentler strolls and with pretty spots such as Lamorna Cove. At this point you pass through the villages of Mousehole and Newlyn and into the town of Penzance, making for a very different walk, and into Mounts Bay, home of St Michael’s Mount and Marazion, which has a fabulous marsh.

Moving along the coastline there’s the fabulous Praa Sands, the very picturesque fishing village of Porthleven (with excellent restaurants) and Looe Bar before heading once again into the wilder realms of The Lizard.

Wherever you choose to explore, there is a vast array of paths along this spectacular part of the coast. There are plenty of ‘watering hole’ options along the way but it’s best to check out online to see what is available – or you might want to pack a picnic, or make like a local and grab a pasty en route!

Take a look at our luxury cottages in west Cornwall here.

Pack a picnic and spend the day exploring The Lizard

The Lizard is an extraordinary place – there is no doubt about that. Rocky, wild and unique, this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for obvious reasons – its rare geology makes it home to a plethora of unusual flowers and plants, whilst its coastline goes from rugged cliffs to sheltered sandy coves.

A perfect destination for a day out, head to glorious Kynance Cove, Coverack, Kennack Sands and Gunwalloe for some beachy action – you’ll find unspoilt sandy beaches and great swimming – bring your buckets and spades and a picnic, or maybe a few of Anne’s Pasties – the local supplier of excellent pasties on The Lizard. 

Check out Lizard Point and the Lighthouse for a bit of history (it has a great visitor centre), whilst the cafe on the point is a must for a cuppa and cake with a view (we recommend the homemade doughnuts). The Marconi Centre at Poldhu is also worth a visit – this is where the first transatlantic communication took place back in 1901.

Children will love Roskilly’s Farm, where you can watch cows being milked and ice cream and fudge being made. There’s a great restaurant on site and the nature reserve is well worth a wander around to walk off your lunch.

For the more adventurous, there are plenty places offering sea fishing trips (why not catch your supper?) or if you prefer to be in the water you can also book a diving trip. The Manacles, a notorious set of rocks, are the last resting place of plenty of ships.

Take a look at our luxury cottages in west Cornwall here.

Grab your board and enjoy the surf at Sennen

Sennen Cove is Cornwall’s most westerly surfing hotspot, so grab your board and head to this huge sandy beach backed by rugged cliffs and fields. At low tide it joins Gwenver Beach providing over a mile of sand to relax and enjoy.

With the wild Atlantic swell rolling in, it’s no wonder Sennen is beloved by surfers, and it’s laid-back feel makes it a great spot to unwind, whether or not you like to take to the waves as it’s also great for swimming. 

It’s still a thriving fishing village though, with a small harbour and lifeboat station and there’s a good selection of cafes, pubs and restaurants to satisfy rumbling tums. If you’re looking for something extra special head to Ben Tunnicliffe’s for a fabulous meal (make sure to book). 

Take a look at our luxury cottages in Sennen here.

Pretend you're in the world of Ross Poldark

If you’ve been glued to the exploits of Ross Poldark and friends, then you’re sure to know that like in the book, Cornwall has played backdrop to many a scene for the BBC adaptation, and the far west of Cornwall in particular has played a large part.

It’s not surprising – the far west is unspoilt and beautiful,old, disused tin mines still tower impressively over the cliffs and sea beyond. Indeed, Levant Mine and Owls & Crowns Mine near Botallack were used to play Tressiders and Wheal Leisure (Ross's own mine) respectively. These can be found on the coast between St Ives and St Just. This is a lovely spot and perfect for a walk, and maybe a picnic too - if you half shut your eyes you can imagine the hustle and bustle of the mines.

Porthcurno and Kynance Cove both doubled up to play Ross’s much-loved Nampara Cove, and you can see why – both boast lovely white sandy beaches and turquoise waters as well as a dramatic rocky backdrop. We can't guarantee he'll make an appearance, but on a hot sunny day there's nothing better than taking a dip in these lovely waters.

Predannack Wollas on The Lizard was much-used to film Poldark cantering about on his horse. The windswept and unspoilt headlands and pretty wild flowers made it an ideal spot for filming. The pretty beach of Gunwalloe, also on The Lizard, was used for the infamous ship wrecking scene in series one.

So grab your map (and tri-cornered hat) and head off to immerse yourself in the world of Poldark - what better way to dream? 

Take a look at our luxury cottages in west Cornwall here.

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