Road-trip guide: Cornwall

This land of irresistible coastal villages and gorgeous outdoor spectacles makes for a truly inspiring road trip. Hug the coastline and explore the affectionately-named English Riviera, before heading north for enchanting castles and secluded beaches…

Cawsand & Kingsand

Begin your Cornish adventure with one of the finest secrets on the stunning southern coastline. From Plymouth, cross into Cornwall on the Torpoint Ferry. The Rame Peninsula unfolds in front of you, a little-known beauty spot where hidden coves and craggy, sea-battered cliffs fringe this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Head for the idyllic twin villages of Cawsand & Kingsand, leaving the car near the top and walking the narrow lanes of pastel homes. A small smattering of pubs offer fine views over Plymouth Sound.

Polperro & Fowey

It is beginning to become remarkably clear why the southern coastline of Cornwall is known as the English Riviera. The Polperro Heritage Coast is a truly picturesque spot. Start at its namesake, the gorgeous, unspoilt village of Polperro. Discover quirky indie shops, small galleries and some of the finest fresh seafood. A long walk along the beautiful coastline takes you to Fowey, a larger town that similarly retains wonderful Cornish charm. Don’t miss the famed Fowey river mussels!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Heligan estate was nearly lost to the ravages of time, for rather tragic reasons. Overgrown and untouched, it was finally sold in 1974, when the new owners uncovered a small, dilapidated room in the corner of the walled garden. There, inscribed, were the names of the last gardeners, with the date 1914. The Great War had taken them; but now, the gardens and jungle have been revived. Wander over the jungle canopy on the Burmese rope bridge, explore the romance of the gardens, and prepare for a truly breathtaking adventure.

Roseland Peninsula

Enter this garden of hedgerows and pastures, where typical Cornish beauty rolls across gentle hills and off craggy cliffs. Unpick quiet coves and unspoilt beaches, before heading to Roseland’s heart, the town of St Mawes. This remarkably cosmopolitan spot has become somewhat of a ‘destination’, with a smart set of fine restaurants, boutiques and cafes, all graced by the effortlessly picturesque surroundings.

King Harry Ferry

Upon leaving the peninsula, don’t miss this wonderfully kitsch river crossing. The King Harry is a rare example of a chain ferry, crossing the river Fal and offering gorgeous panorama of the estuary. It’s a rather special experience that will also save you plenty of driving time…

Trebah Garden

These subtropical gardens are another startling find in this beautiful corner of Cornwall. A myriad of colours await, with vibrant foliage reaching high above your head. There are moments that will transport you a world away, with tropical vistas wonderfully out of place in this serene part of Britain.

Marazion

Claimed to be the oldest town in Britain, Marazion is another in a long line of charming coastal villages. Yet its piece-de-resistance, jutting and looming over the village just off shore, is St Michael’s Mount. A long, cobbled causeway, only revealed at low tide, leads to the mount. Perched above is the castle, reached by crumbling medieval pathways that make for a romantic pilgrimage to the top.

Minack Theatre

Carved into a granite cliffside, this open-air amphitheatre makes for a truly memorable evening. If you can bare to tear yourself away from the incredible sea views, catch a show at one of the most remarkable theatres in the country.

Land’s End

A famed landmark, Land’s End can mean the end of arduous journeys or the beginning of new adventures. It’s here that Britain plunges into the Atlantic at its most south-easterly point, with tall, granite cliffs marking the beginning of an endless expanse of oft turbulent seas. All that drama deserves a picnic, a quick photo next to that iconic sign, and the suppression of any urges to drive up to John O’Groats.

St Agnes

As you head for this irresistibly charming village, don’t miss the old mines that dot the landscape along the coast – fine heritage landmarks of a bygone Cornish industry. St Agnes was a tin-mining boom town, yet now enjoys a flurry of visitors to one of the finest beaches on the northern coastline. Park the car at the top of the village and walk the steep path down to the beach, where surfing, sea kayaking, paddling and rock pooling are, in essence, mandatory. Don’t forget the Cornish ice cream from the small kiosk at the top of the beach.

Port Isaac

There is no such thing as quaint village exhaustion, so here is another temptingly pretty harbour village that makes for a splendid pit-stop as you explore the north coast of Cornwall. The hit TV series Doc Martin was filmed here, which should fire this stop far up your list of to-do’s. Local, sought-after chef Nathan Outlaw has also set up shop here, making this somewhat of a foodie hotspot.

Tintagel

Legends of King Arthur abound at this mysterious and effortlessly romantic spot. Evocative 13th century castle ruins cling to a jutting headland, overlooking wild seas below. Well, actually the sea can be quite calm, so head for the secluded beach below, a setting made all the more impressive by the castle-topped cliffs and caves. Discover the myths and legends of this remarkable place, one of the most dramatic ruins in the country.

Rocky Valley

Without the name giving too much away, this valley a little east of Tintagel is a rather beautiful spectacle. As the river cuts its way to the sea, a tall, craggy gorge is cut, with hidden waterfalls and intrepid trails to unpick. Don’t miss the early Bronze Age labyrinth carvings that add a touch of mystery to an already beguiling landscape.

Boscastle

Here it is! Your final stop, one last irresistibly pretty Cornish village. Boscastle, sat low in a beautiful river valley, offers a charming backdrop for one last adventure. Whether you walk along the steep valley to sea where gorgeous views await, or simply hole yourself up in a fine selection of pubs, Boscastle is a perfect final hoorah for your Cornish adventure.