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Cornwall: the Great Outdoors

Cornwall is world-famous for its spectacular coastline, and rightly so. The Atlantic swell attracts intrepid surfers and bodyboarders, while the gentler waves of the south coast lend themselves perfectly to kayaking, SUP and other watersports.

But what of the interior? As any local will tell you, when the beaches are busy at the height of summer, there’s no better escape than to a landlocked beauty spot.

Moors and woodlands

Roughtor, Bodmin Moor. Man looks out across moorland.

Take the vast expanse of Bodmin Moor, wild and bleak and packed with windswept tors and hardy livestock. It’s not hard to imagine smugglers seeking refuge here, thanks in part to novelist Daphne du Maurier, or to envisage Gothic murders. Park at the bottom of Roughtor before tackling the summit of Cornwall’s second highest peak.

Alternatively, head for a leafy woodland complete with babbling brook, the ideal shelter on a sweltering summer’s day. Near Liskeard, Golitha Falls is a series of waterfalls along the River Fowey which offers stunning views and plenty of picnic spots. Or why not head just outside Bodmin, to Cardinham Woods, which offers walks of varying lengths, as well as family trails and routes for horse riders and cyclists.

Bodmin Moor

Lakes and pools

As for lakes, Stithians is one of the windiest inland waters in Britain, which makes it popular with sailors and windsurfers, while Siblyback is great for family days out and camping. Both also offer cycle trails and (importantly) cake. For a hefty dash of legend, visit Dozmary Pool, rumoured to be the resting place of King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. Cornish legend also says it was at this spot that giant Jan Tregeagle’s tormented spirit was ordered by the devil to empty Dozmary, using only a limpet shell with a hole in it!

Dozmary Pool

Towns and city

Truro, Cornwall. River cruise boat in foreground. Cathedral visible in background.

Cornwall has plenty of towns to explore too. Launceston and Lostwithiel both have ancient castles with strong Civil War connections. From Restormel, it’s an easy walk to the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, while Wadebridge excels at independent shopping, and Helston has a jolly boating lake and a fascinating folk museum. And let’s not forget the county’s only city, Truro, with its resplendent cathedral and pretty Victoria Park.


Castles and estates

Drive somewhere new, away from the usual honeypots, and you might discover hidden treasure: explore Castle an Dinas, one of the region’s largest and most impressive Iron Age hillforts, or wander around the grassy amphitheatre-like Gwennap Pit, near Redruth.

It’s easy to miss the Rame peninsula if you stick to the A30, yet it’s a joy to explore, as it’s home to panoramic views of the River Tamar and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, 860 acres of landscaped gardens, woodland estate and a deer park dating back to Henry VIII.

Castle an Dinas

Industry and heritage

Remains of tin mine at Wheal Coates. North coast of Cornwall.

Alternatively, step back into Cornwall’s industrial past. Take the railway branch line from Par to the Luxulyan Valley. Once a hive of activity in the china clay industry; today, greater horseshoe bats and song thrushes live among the remains of granite mine buildings and the majestic Treffry Viaduct. Or explore what was once Cornwall’s richest square mile: the conurbation of Camborne, Pool and Redruth. Although it’s not a natural tourist spot, it’s full of riches including the heritage discovery centre at East Pool Mine, a trio of engine mines at Wheal Peevor, the redeveloped playpark of Heartlands and the Great Flat Lode trail skirting the brooding hulk of Carn Brea.

Treffry Viaduct

Churches and cathedrals

Take a moment to check out a church too – St Petroc in Bodmin is the largest after Truro Cathedral, while Bodmin Moor boasts some pretty gems, including Blisland with its lovely rood screen. The sylvan setting of St Winnow, on the wooded banks of the River Fowey near Lostwithiel, also gives better-known St Just in Roseland a run for its money for sheer breathtaking beauty.

Discover more information, travel tips and Cornish highlights at Visit Cornwall.

St Petroc
10 Aug 2021(last updated)

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