Cornwall has an abundance of beautiful towns and villages, from pretty fishing villages to vibrant, thriving market towns. The county has a long and varied past dating back thousands of years to the Stone Age and across the county it’s possible to see evidence of its history sitting alongside modern life. Many of the towns and villages have a unique character and beauty but it can be hard to decide where’s best to see and stay. Here’s our guide to some of Cornwall’s most memorable and beautiful villages and towns.
Known for its incredible light, St Ives has attracted numerous artists over the years and is home to the Tate Gallery St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The town is charming and scenic; a picturesque mix of fishermen’s cottages and narrow winding streets with arty, crafty shops, cafés and boutiques. Make sure you have a drink at The Sloop Inn, a characterful watering hole that was built in 1312 and is one of Cornwall’s oldest pubs.
Undoubtedly one of Cornwall’s prettiest places, Polperro sits nestled in a cliff ravine and gets super busy in the high season. However, this town is so charming it is worth a visit any time of year. Everything is clustered around the harbour and there are steep climbs up and down narrow streets, which means you can see some amazing views and work up an appetite before going to one of the many cafés and restaurants. The great scenery means it’s a favourite artist hangout and lots of galleries show local work.
Sitting in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Fowey is a small port town dating back to 1300 with a fascinating maritime history and gorgeous medieval and Georgian buildings. The main Fore Street is a vibrant hub of independent shops selling arty knick-knacks and there’s plenty of great places to eat – if you’re a seafood fan, try the Fowey mussels.
There’s a sense of romance everywhere you turn in Boscastle, with its stunning coastline location, the beautiful natural harbour and the jumble of thatched and whitewashed cottages. There’s lots to discover about its medieval history, as well as potteries, art galleries and the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic to while away some time.
With four world-class beaches nearby, there’s so much to see and do in and around Falmouth. It’s a buzzy arty centre with numerous events and festivals happening all year round and lots of activity options such as fun watersports and boat trips off the quay and pier. There’s Pendennis Castle to explore, as well as the Trebah Garden and the award-winning National Maritime Museum. It has everything visitors might want to see and enjoy, all in a very atmospheric setting.
There’s much more to Marazion than the incredible castle at St Michael’s Mount, which is one of the best, but certainly not the only, major visitor’s attraction in town. Said to be the oldest town in Britain, Marazion has a fascinating history and boasts striking views towards the Lizard Peninsula and Land’s End. There’s also a lovely beach and great opportunities for bird-spotting and dolphin watching.
Nicknamed ‘Padstein’ after chef Rick Stein, who helped put Padstow on the culinary map, this town is an affluent hub buzzing with amazing places to eat. It’s a working fishing port and classically Cornish in its appearance with beautiful surrounding places to see, including seven golden sandy beaches less than five minutes away.
Still a working harbour, Mevagissey is a bustling fishing town and a warren of steep, narrow streets. It has its own museum, a lovely little aquarium, great restaurants and opportunities to get your own catch of the day out on a fishing boat. It’s a good base for the nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan and is half an hour’s drive from the Eden Project.
A picturesque fishing village, Looe is divided into east and west on either side of the River Looe. In medieval times, it was actually two separate towns rather than one, but is now joined together by a seven-arched bridge built in 1853. The harbour and main shopping centre can be found in the east, while the west side is somewhat quieter but with its own share of cafés, restaurants and hotels. Looe is blessed with its own beach and has lots of attractive buildings, including the Old Guildhall in East Looe, which was built in 1500.
There’s a lot about Penzance that is unusual and memorable. The name comes from Pen Sans, which means holy headland, and it’s the most westerly major town in Cornwall and a thriving commercial hub for the Land’s End Peninsular. It faces the English Channel and has one of the mildest climates in the UK, with palm trees and sub-tropical gardens dotted about. It has an fascinating history, evident in its striking and grand architecture, as well as the many ancient sites in the surrounding areas.