Top 13 things to do in Cornwall this summer

As thousands descend on Cornwall’s fishing villages, winding alleyways and the dreaded A30, we look at some unmissable things to do in the sea-bordered county

Lauren Williams
28 July 2011

1. Outdoor screenings

Immerse yourself in the setting of your favourite classics with Event Cornwall’s Outdoor Screenings season, which has already seen the county host Pride & Prejudice at Pendennis Castle and Top Gun in an aircraft hangar. With Point Break (“I am an F… B…I… agent”) on Godrevy Beach and Gladiator at the Adrenalin Quarry set to take place in the coming months, grab a deck-chair, blanket, some friends and a bag of popcorn and get ready to feel part of the movie.

Prices start at £8, head to for more details.

2. Pretend you’re in the Med

A twisting, narrow nine-mile drive from Penzance, Porthcurno beach is a well-known spot among the locals. The name translates to “Port Cornwall” but while the white sands, turquoise waters and high-rise cliffs suggest isolation, the tunnels, caves and hidden slipways of the next bay attest to a history of loot-smuggling pirates. It’s easy to forget you’re on the southwest coast of the UK – indulge in the thought that any photos you take will fool you’re friends you went to the Med, not Cornwall.

3. Have a pint of Cornwall’s finest

When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in Cornwall, drink. The Cornish are well known for their beach-sitting, cider-drinking ways, so why not visit Cornwall’s only distillery and sample the tipple of the county. Based just outside of Newquay, Healy’s Cyder Farm is free to visit with guided tours, free samples and farm animals to entertain the little ones.

4. Surf at Sennen

It would be rude to head to Cornwall and not attempt to ride the waves it’s so famous for. Sennen Cove, near Land’s End, strays away from the busy, more-territorial waters of Newquay and into the realms of local people just doing what they love. Sennen Surf School offers private, family and group lessons as well as two to five day courses.

Prices start at £15, visit for more details.

5. Walk ‘across the sea’

St Michael’s Mount is separated from the mainland by a causeway that’s hidden by the sea at high tide. Hosting panoramic views across Mount’s Bay and steeped in a colourful history of legend and folklore, this little island is not to be missed. The castle perched at its top is home to the St Aubyn family who gave the property to the National Trust in 1964. While you’re there, the stone heart of the legendary giant Cormoran can be found somewhere among the cobbles.

6. Spot Wildlife at Godrevy

Godrevy Lighthouse sits on its own island just off Godrevy beach – on the north side of St Ives bay – and is said to have inspired Virginia Woolf’s, The Lighthouse. From the cliffs you can see the island’s seal colony lounging on the beach and bobbing in the water. Dolphins and basking sharks can also be spotted from here if you’re lucky, as well as the occasional beached whale…

7. Walk under giant’s footsteps

Legends of giants saturate Cornwall from coast to coast, whether they’re hurling huge rocks in games of quoits, hiding in cliffs and claiming pirate ships for booty or, in this case, using huge volcanic stacks as stepping stones. Sitting on a beach six-miles southwest of Padstow, the Bedruthan Steps offer spectacular clifftop views. Swimming is prohibited due to strong currents and the mile-long beach disappears at high-tide so take care!

8. Watch the sunset on Portreath beach

Hidden on the north coast near the mining town of Camborne, this quaint fishing village is often missed and forgotten by even locals. The spots of Dead Man’s Hut and the Pepper Pot are drenched in a bloody history of death and war while the ‘Portreath Pong’ is a stench that will linger in your nostrils for days. Sunset from this sandy beach is spectacular: the horizon – only interrupted by Gul Rock a mile out to sea – and secluded cliffs create the perfect frame to drink in the golden hour.

9. Have an arty day in St Ives

Small cubby holes and waist-height doors all lead the way to St Ives’ treasure troves of art and inspiration. The list of galleries is endless and from Tate St Ives on Porthmeor Beach to The New Craftsman, St Ives’ oldest gallery, there is something for everyone. The Barbara Hepworth Museum, based at the sculptor’s old Cornwall base, is a unique experience with sculptures taking pride of place in the large garden while her old studio peaks out under veils of greenery.

Visit for more details.

10. Learn the lingo

Don’t be offended if you hear the phrase ‘Wassonmecock’ aimed at you when you walk into a shop; it loosely translates into ‘Hello, how are you?’ You’ll also likely hear someone say they’re ‘teasy as’n adder’ (in a bad mood) on a Sunday morning after a heavy night on the cider. ‘Dear of ’im’ (how nice of him), ‘Awreet aree?’ (how are you) and ‘Wasson Pard?’ (hello) are all phrases that are guaranteed be thrown at you. If someone says they’ll do something for you ‘d’reckly’, be warned – this could be any time within the next year. But don’t worry, you’re not expected to completely understand the Cornish, you are an emmit after all…

11. Devour some Cornish steak

Try Dreckly’s Deli & Steakhouse near Penzance harbour. It’s assured that the food will not be with you ‘d’reckly’ but indeed, directly. The Deli downstairs offers a selection of olives, Cornish cheeses, meats, pasties, sandwiches and ice-creams all day long while the restaurant boasts locally sourced food and a Cornish fillet to die for in the evenings. Homemade sauces are available to compliment the mains and the red-onion marmalade comes highly recommended. The house wines are sweet, the prices are reasonable, the staff are always smiling and all of it is very, very Cornish.

Call 01736 363381 for bookings, or pop in and pick up a menu.

12. Fancy yourself as a sailor?

Hire a boat and float down the Helford river to the secluded and romantic ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ for a glimpse at hidden cottages or the Port Navas’ Oyster Farm for some local seafood. If neither of these take your fancy, lounging on deck in the Cornish sun might just hit the spot. There are also gardens at two of the ports that offer shaded strolls and cream teas.

13. A cultural cliff

The Minack Theatre, an open-air granite masterpiece is a beauty in itself even before the words of Shakespeare come tumbling from the mouths of actors on the cliff-top stage. Carved into the cliffs above Porthcurno beach, the theatre’s summer season hosts a range of musicals, dramas, operas and storytelling that will satisfy everyone. The theatre can also be visited by day and be reached by a rickety staircase in the cliff wall from the beach.

Adult daytime admission £4, show tickets from £8.

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