Blessed with drop-dead coastal landscapes, fabulous beaches and gorgeous seaside towns it’s no surprise Cornwall is voted as the top UK staycation destination. Use this Cornwall road trip itinerary and immerse yourself in nature and culture. From Tolkien’s Middle-Earth to King Arthur, to shipwrecks, castles and picturesque towns, start planning your perfect Cornwall holiday here!
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Know before you go: travel items and tips for your Cornwall holiday
Accommodation | Check availability and the best deals for your Cornwall cottages and holiday rentals or hotels in Cornwall. You’ll find specific suggestions for accommodation in or near each of the towns and landmarks in the itinerary below.
Travel guides | Use these handy travel guides to plan your Cornwall road trip: Lonely Planet Devon & Cornwall; Cornwall Pocket Map with clear maps, popular routes and places of interest; AA 50 Walks in Cornwall
Travel | Want to go on a Cornwall road trip but don’t have your own car? No worries, find your affordable rental car here.
Tours | What about a private tour of Poldark film locations or an exceptional King Arthur tour?
Books | The following novels have all been inspired by the places mentioned in this article: Thomas Hardy – A Pair of Blue Eyes; Geoffrey of Monmouth – History of the Kings of Britain (the first written account of King Arthur); J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
Map Cornwall road trip itinerary 7 days
All must-see places in Cornwall mentioned in this itinerary are indicated on the map below. You can follow the route either way, but the article follows the counter clock direction.
Below is a suggested Cornwall road trip itinerary for 7 days. One week in Cornwall allows you to spend more time in the bigger towns. If you’re short for time, you could skip some sights of course and possibly reduce the schedule to 5 days in Cornwall.
Day 1 | Boscastle – Tintagel Castle
Day 2 | Newquay
Day 3 | St Ives
Day 4 | Geevor and Levant Tin Mines – Land’s End – St Michael’s Mount
Day 5 | Lizard Point
Day 6 | Falmouth
Day 7 | Truro
Top 10 must-see places in Cornwall
This article was compiled with the help of fellow travel bloggers. Sharing their personal tips for must-see places in Cornwall, this itinerary is especially catered towards holidaymakers with interest in history and culture.
The first stop on your Cornwall itinerary is the historic fishing village of Boscastle. Located on the northern Cornwall coastline, Boscastle is a beautiful small port town that dates back to the 12th century.
Steeped in history and surrounded by glorious landscapes, most of the land in and around Boscastle is owned by the National Trust. Though slightly remote, it’s a top destination for a day trip in Cornwall and certainly worth visiting.
Set in a river valley, Boscastle has a distinct fairy tale vibe to it, best discovered during one of the many scenic Boscastle walking trails. The most popular walk in Boscastle follows the meandering River Valency along a pedestrianised path. During this easy stroll you’ll pass some great landmarks such as Boscastle Harbour and the eccentric Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
Established in 1951 already, the museum boasts an extensive collection on witchcraft, magic and the occult. It’s a fascinating point of interest and also one of most unusual things to do in Cornwall.
Enthusiasts of English literary will be eager to follow into Thomas Hardy’s footsteps. Having met his wife near Boscastle, their courtship inspired this famous English novelist and poet for his novel A Pair of Blue Eyes.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay, then there are some lovely cottages and farmhouses in Boscastle to choose from. However, if you want to stay somewhere that’s a bit livelier in the evening, then Port Isaac or Padstow may be more suitable options for you.
2. Tintagel Castle
Located at just 15 minutes from Boscastle awaits Tintagel Castle. This fantastic Cornish gem is one of the top things to see in Cornwall. Famous for its connections with the world-famous King Arthur legend, this English Heritage site is soaked in history and myth.
Situated on Tintagel Peninsula, the site of Tintagel Castle has been Inhabited since the late Roman period. Known as a significant trade post with the Mediterranean it was a prosperous site around the 5th century. Historical evidence shows that it was probably even one of the royal residences of Dumnonia, king of Cornwall and Devon.
Having been forsaken for a few hundred years, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th-century book History of the Kings of Britain would ensure Tintagel’s eternal fame. Describing the tale of King Arthur, Monmouth set Arthur’s conception at Tintagel Castle.
The role of Tintagel Castle changed significantly over time as the legend of King Arthur developed and flourished. Although according to some stories Tintagel Castle was his actual birthplace, it was eventually Camelot that would take precedence in later King Arthur stories. Yet, Tintagel Castle still attracts numerous visitors a year seeking for the roots of the famous British king whose existence is still debated.
In the 13th century, King Henry III’s brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, bought the island and had a new castle built. Visiting the castle ruins atop the island today surrounded by the blue water of the Atlantic Ocean, one can only imagine what an impressive sight it must’ve been.
Cross the spectacular new 70m-long footbridge to access the medieval ruins of the Great Hall of Richard’s castle and enjoy the superb views around the island. Another must-see landmark at Tintagel Castle is the striking 8ft-tall bronze sculpture Gallos. Meaning ‘power’ in Cornish, it portrays a majestic King Arthur with his famous sword. The dramatic backdrop of the rugged cliffs and the Atlantic are bound to give you goose bumps, it’s such an incredible sight.
Complete your visit to Tintagel Castel with a fabulous dinner and a comfortable night’s rest at the nearby family-owned King Arthur’s Arms.
Contributed by Nesha from Niche Travelling
When it comes to must-see places during your Cornwall road trip, the lovely seaside town of Newquay should be at the top of your Cornwall itinerary. Located on the spectacular UK coastal route Atlantic Highway, Newquay has been voted one of the top holiday destinations in Cornwall.
Newquay itself is full of boutique shops and backstreet eateries, which are to die for, along with bigger shops for all your necessities. During the summer, the town has a vibe that you won’t find in many other places.
One of the reasons why Newquay is so popular is that it’s surrounded by many beaches. These include gems as Newquay Beach, Great Western Beach and Fistral Beach which is one of the top surf spots in the UK.
However, one beach that you definitely need to visit when you’re in the area is Crantock Beach. Get the most out of your visit and park your car in Newquay and walk along the coast passing Fistral Beach on your way to Crantock Beach.
Just the walk alone is simply breathtaking, with ocean views as far as the eye can see. But when you get to Crantock, you just won’t believe how beautiful it is. It’s truly one of the best beaches near Newquay.
On your walk back to town, have a look around Newquay Harbour. It’s another great little spot with eateries and activities that are open in season.
As for somewhere to stay in Newquay, it caters for all budgets. Whether it’s camping, a cheap hotel or a luxury spa break, Newquay has it all.
Two of the hotels on the higher end of the budget are Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa and the secluded Lusty Glaze which you’ll find on a privately owned beach. If you feel like spoiling yourself, then both these hotels are definitely worth it.
Newquay should always be on your itinerary if you’re going on a road trip through Cornwall, and if it is, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
4. St Ives
Contributed by Claire from Go South West England
St Ives is a glorious seaside town. You’ll notice a lovely vibe as you stroll through the quirky town. And if you’re lucky enough to visit on a clear, sunny day, you won’t believe that you’re still in the UK!
Make sure that you explore the glorious coastal scenery when you’re in St Ives. Visit Porthminster Beach, the popular surfing spot of Porthmeor Beach, and the beautiful Carbis Bay. St Ives is a great surfing destination in certain spots, but there are also beaches that are safe for swimming and stand up paddleboarding.
St Ives is famous not only for its natural beauty, but also for being a residence of artists – who all moved to the town to take advantage of its astounding scenery.
One particular artist was Barbara Hepworth, a modernist sculptor and artist. She moved to St Ives at the start of WWII and stayed in the town until the 70s, when she tragically died in a fire at her studios. Her home has since been revamped into the Barbara Hepworth Museum, which is one of the best things to do in St Ives.
If you’re into art, then there’s also Tate St Ives which pays homage to Cornish, British and international artists. Tate St Ives is indeed part of the world-renowned Tate galleries with museums in London and also Liverpool.
One last thing that you must do in St Ives is eat. It’s becoming known as the gastronomical capital in Cornwall, and there’s all sorts of food to try here. From some of Britain’s best burgers to mouthwatering fish and chips!
Just a word of caution: if you eat on the beach or anywhere outside, the seagulls are ruthless. Don’t take your eyes off your food even for a moment!
With so many things to do and see, it’s worth staying in St Ives for one or more nights. Click here to find the best deals for accommodation in St Ives now.
5. Geevor and Levant Tin Mines
Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
The north coast of Cornwall is known for its tall tin mine towers that litter the landscape. Some are crumbling and forgotten while others like Geevor Tin Mine are open to the public, offering a fascinating insight into the lives of the miners through the centuries.
The tin mining industry has shaped the Cornish Landscape and has now been identified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Besides Geevor and Levant, the listing also includes a number of other locations in Cornwall and North Devon.
Geevor and Levant Tin Mines are located within a short distance from St Just, close to Land’s End and about 8 miles from Penzance on the A3071.
The Geevor Tin Mine Museum shows how the mine grew over time right up until it closed in 1990. But what makes a visit to Geevor truly unique is the chance to walk through some of the tunnels that were dug by the miners as they searched for tin deposits. The tunnels are dark and narrow but give a real feel of the harsh working conditions of the time.
After a short walk along the cliffs you’ll find Levant Mine which also houses a small museum. While Levant Mine may be smaller than Geevor Mine, it still has a working steam beam engine that would have taken men down to the various levels within the mine.
Close to Geevor Tin Mine there’s also the pristine white Pendeen Lighthouse. Built in 1900, this is one of the iconic landmarks in Cornwall. You’ll find some beautiful cliff top walks and hidden beaches to explore all along the coast. But if you’re after unique places to stay in Cornwall, then take the opportunity to spend the night at the Pendeen Lighthouse cottages!
6. Land’s End
Contributed by Fiona from Travelling Thirties
One of the most well-known things to do during a trip to Cornwall is a visit to Land’s End. Easily accessed along the M4 motorway from London, Land’s End is an extremely unique tourist attraction and home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the United Kingdom.
Land’s End is the westernmost point in England, and is the starting point for the journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats, the northernmost point in Scotland. Connecting the two most extreme points of mainland Great Britain, this 847-mile long route is one of the most epic UK road trips. At Land’s End, you can visit the End to End exhibition which displays the journey people have taken along the entire length of Great Britain.
Not only does Land’s End have some stunning views of the English coastline, it also has some unique attractions. One of the most iconic sites at Land’s End is the signpost which was established in 1950.
Another attraction along the headland is the 200-year-old farmstead Greeb Farm which demonstrates a typical Cornish Farm. Of course, there is a gift shop, a craft store and a small shopping village if you would like to stock up on some gifts at Land’s End.
The First and Last Inn, is the First (or last, depending on the direction you are coming from) Inn, in England. No matter the season it is always a great place to grab a meal during your visit.
There are plenty of places to stay in Cornwall but The Land’s End Hotel is located on top of 200ft cliffs with stunning views over the Isles of Scilly right at Land’s End. It is the perfect place to stay to explore more of the headlands at Land’s End.
7. St Michael’s Mount
Contributed by Claire from Go South West England
St Michael’s Mount is South West England’s answer to Mont St Michel in Normandy. The striking St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island with a castle sitting on top. You can only access the castle at certain tides, so make sure that you plan your trip before you go!
What makes St Michael’s Mount so famous is its epic appearance. Looking out over the water and seeing the castle sitting majestically on the top of the island is certainly a sight to behold. However, the castle on St Michael’s Mount has a long history spanning back to the 14th century, as well as lots of legends and myths surrounding it.
The castle was used for military purposes during a Cornish Rebellion, the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. Eventually, Sir John St Aubyn bought the castle in 1660 who then used it for residential purposes. The St Aubyns planted beautiful gardens that are still present today, and in the castle you can learn about both its military and residential history.
Nowadays, St Michael’s Mount is owned by the National Trust and is used only for tourism purposes. Its staggering beauty and uniqueness as an attraction definitely make it one of the best places to visit in Cornwall. End your dreamy Cornwall day trip in style with a night at the fabulous St Michael’s Bed & Breakfast.
8. Lizard Point
Having visited Land’s End, Britain’s westernmost point already, the next stop of this Cornwall road trip is Lizard Point, the most southerly point on mainland Britain. The special signpost indicating this unique location looks out over the stunning yet notorious coastline.
The treacherous coast along Lizard Point is still filled with ancient shipwrecks that tried to make their way through this busy passage in the Channel. For this reason, they built the beautiful Lizard Lighthouse in 1751 which is definitely worth a visit. It’s still operational in bad weather and seeing its mesmerising beacon pulling your eye towards the tower, it’s not hard to imagine this sight was to inspire the famous British author Tolkien for his eerie image of the eye of Sauron.
It’s a known fact that Tolkien found great inspiration for his Middle-Earth from the wild and rugged Cornish seascape. And during your visit at Lizard Point you’ll understand just why. Covered in fabulous heather, the stunning coastline at the Lizard is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall.
The best way to enjoy the impressive views is by going on a walk from Lizard Point to Kynance Cove, voted one of the best beaches in Britain. Looking out over the cove with its white sand beach surrounded by the clearest turquoise water, you would think you’re in the Mediterranean rather than in England.
Besides stunning seascapes, you’ll also find some fascinating cultural attractions near Lizard Point which are equally worth visiting. One of them being the Lizard Wireless Station. It was from this simple black wooden hut that Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first long-distance wireless communication in 1901. Now being a National Trust property, the hut has been magnificently restored and is free to visit.
The neighbouring hut is now a beautiful self-contained cottage. Located on Housel Bay, this secluded cottage offers beautiful views over the water with the Lizard Lighthouse opposite the bay. Other great places to stay at Lizard Point are the historical Housel Bay Hotel and the cosy The Top House Inn.
Contributed by Katie from What’s Katie Doing?
Falmouth is famous for its deep natural harbour – it’s the third largest in the world! So, it’s only natural that the sea features prominently when you’re seeking out the best things to do in Falmouth.
Find some great restaurants around the marina for fantastic local fish dishes. Alternatively, check out The Shack for a great combination of comfort food and local seafood.
There are several beaches perfect for sunbathing and swimming when the weather is nice: Swanpool, Gyllyngvase and Castle beaches. Castle beach is right under the promontory (Pendennis Point) with Pendennis Castle on the top. The castle is open to visitors and hosts interactive kids exhibits and has great views of the estuary.
And should you visit Falmouth on a rainy day, then you can shelter inside in the National Maritime Museum. Located on the quayside next to the marina, the museum caters for the sea-obsessed of all ages, from toddlers to ‘big kids’.
There are loads of interactive exhibits which highlight the history of the area, from Vikings to the modern day. From the top floor lookout, you have great views over the marina while the basement offers a portal into the world beneath the waves!
If you fancy more culture than history or sunbathing, then visit the Falmouth Art Gallery. It holds a collection of over 2,000 artworks from the Pre-Raphaelites and British Impressionists to contemporary art. There are also commercial galleries selling the work of local artists for art to take home with you. And don’t forget Falmouth’s lively festivals: The Sea Shanty Festival, Falmouth Week and Falmouth Oyster Festival.
While there are lots of car parks in the centre of Falmouth, their park and ride system must be the best bit. There are several original options, including park and ride by train or park and float by boat! The park and float is seasonal, so check that it’s operating before you go.
Contributed by Claire from Go South West England
Despite being the only city in Cornwall, not many tourists visit Truro. Although it is a historic town, it only became a city in 1877. Its Cathedral, therefore, is relatively modern compared to the likes of Exeter and Salisbury. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t beautiful. It’s still well worth seeing the exterior and interior of the Cathedral!
As Truro isn’t by the sea – a rarity in Cornwall! – it misses out on the hordes of tourists that visit the Cornish coastline every year. However, there are still plenty of things to do in Truro, and it’s a wonderful place to soak up Cornish culture and a great addition to your Cornwall itinerary.
Besides the Cathedral, you shouldn’t miss the Royal Cornwall Museum, where you’ll be able to learn more about this part of the UK. There’s also the Hall for Cornwall which is the largest music venue in the county. And make sure to pay a visit to the Lemon Street Market – home to independent shops and an art gallery!
Truro is affectionately known as ‘Our Great Little City’ by locals, and it’s definitely somewhere where you can enjoy rural and urban life virtually simultaneously. Various cycling routes run through the city and span towards the Cornish coast or Bodmin Moor. Alternatively, you can take a scenic boat down the River Fal to Falmouth.
Finally, thanks to being less of a tourist hotspot, you’ll also get more for your money when booking accommodation in Truro. Rates at various hotels and guesthouses, like The Barley Sheaf Inn and the Mannings Hotel, are much cheaper than similar places on the coast.
With so many unique sights and unusual places in Cornwall to see, which of the destinations in this itinerary are you eager to visit?
Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx
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