Throughout my adult years I had wanted to visit the South Cornwall coast. Being a fan of spending time near the sea, it has always made sense to visit. With sandy beaches, beautiful coastal walks and pretty harbour towns, it seemed like an idyllic part of the UK. However, being a five hour drive from my hometown of Reading, with some notorious traffic hot-spots along the way, I kept putting it off. Then one day, a musician I liked announced a show in Cornwall that I simply could not miss, so a plan was formed.
We booked a long weekend off work, loaded up the car and headed off onto the open road. We had three nights accommodation booked and two full days to spare. I’d done my research into the local area and found a few spots that I decided we should visit while we were there. Here is my list of beautiful places to visit on the South Cornwall Coast.
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Beauty spots on the South Cornwall coast
1. The Minack Theatre
Let’s go back to the beginning and the reason that I chose to visit Cornwall. There’s a folk singer called Seth Lakeman – have you heard of him? Born and bred in the South West, Seth comes from a family of musicians and has been playing music alongside his brothers since 1994. In 2002, Seth released his first solo album and has been writing, performing and touring since. I’d seen Seth live a whole bunch of times at various festivals and gigs. He played three times over one Glastonbury Festival weekend and I saw each set. Anyway, back in 2009 he played a gig in Cornwall that I was gutted to miss, so when he announced that he was playing this venue again, I just had to go.
That venue was the Minack Theatre.
The Minack Theatre, is quite simply, breathtaking. An open air theatre, constructed into the cliff side on the Cornish coast, with incredible views out across the coastline. It has to be one of the most spectacular theatres in existence. The amphitheatre style curved seating steps down towards the circular stage below. Pillars and stone archways dotted around, you could feel transported to ancient Greece.
The theatre hosts a number of music and theatre shows, during a season running from May to September. Expect to see Shakespeare plays as well as a host of other theatre productions and musical acts. If there are no shows on during your visit to Cornwall, don’t worry, as you are able to visit the Minack during the day to admire it’s beauty for a small entrance fee. This entrance fee will give you access to the theatre which is surrounded by beautiful gardens, much of the planting being sub-tropical. Mediterranean succulents thrive at this cliff-side location, and in the summer months it’s an explosion of colour and texture.
Located 10 miles south west of Penzance, the Minack Theatre is situated in the village of Porthcurno. Admission costs are £5.00
2. Porthcurno Beach
Speaking of Porthcurno, while at the Minack Theatre admiring the view, you may have noticed a beautiful beach located next to the theatre. Porthcurno Beach is the next place on my list that you really should visit.
If you think you’ve been whisked off to ancient Greek at the theatre, then take the steps down the South West Path to the beach, and you will feel like you have been transported onto a Caribbean Island. A beautiful inlet of fine white powdery sand, contrasting against the deep turquoise colour of sea and flanked by cliffs to either side, this beach is idyllic.
Granted, I didn’t visit in the height of summer, when I expect the crowds descend on mass, but this beach is beautiful. I had no idea that the sea was so blue anywhere in the UK.
There is a large car park a few minutes walk from the beach, along with a cafe, a pub and the Telegraph Museum Porthcurno if you want a little bit of history.
3. Land’s End
I couldn’t visit Cornwall for the first time without heading to Land’s End. As the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain, it’s one of those tourist attractions that you have to visit at least once if your nearby. Sitting high on the cliff top, Land’s End provides a great location for endless views out across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s mesmerising watching the waves crashing against the rocks below, or gazing out at the 19th century Longships Lighthouse.
Being a popular tourist location, there is more here than just clifftop pathways and scenery. There is a hotel and restaurant as well as a host of attractions for the younger visitors. If the kids are bored of looking at the views, then they can head to a farm, a 4D cinema experience and other interactive attractions. For us though, it was a walk along the coastal path, some lunch at the Land’s End Restaurant and Bar, and the obligatory photo of / with the Land’s End sign.
Land’s End is located 19 miles west of Penzance.
4. Kynance Cove
I had high expectations for Kynance Cove. Very high expectations. Prior to visiting, I had seen photos and they didn’t look real. Could this beach be in the UK? It certainly didn’t look like it to me. The day we were due to visit I was disappointed to see an overcast sky and a bit of rain. We didn’t have time to change plans though, as we were heading home the following day.
Kynance Cove is a stunning tidal beach surrounded by a dramatic headland and rocky outcrops rising from the turquoise waters. There is a National Trust car park located on the headland away from the cove. From here you can take a ten minute walk down to the beach. There are a couple of important things to consider at this point:
- If you visit in the summer, you need to arrive early as it can get very crowded by late morning.
- Check the tide times. The walk directly down to the beach takes about 10 minutes, but at high tide, this section becomes completely cut off. We arrived just as the tide was coming in and had to make a fairly quick dash across one section of the beach before the tide came in.
Point two, above, is also something you should consider if you are there to see the gorgeous white sands of the beach. At high tide, there is no sand! Can you see how this didn’t really go to plan? After our quick dash across the pebble beach, I have to say that despite my terrible timing, this place was still absolutely beautiful. We wandered the pathways around the headland admiring the views.
After all of the walking and fresh air, if you need a break, there is a lovely little cafe in the cove. Kynance Cove Cafe is open from Easter until the end of the October half-term school holidays. The cafe serves hot and cold meals, a selection of sandwiches as well as delicious home made cakes and cream teas. There is a large outdoor seating area, but the views from inside are spectacular.
If it’s still high tide when you are ready to leave there is an alternative pathway back to the car park. This is longer and takes about twenty minutes, but is pushchair friendly. There is no access by vehicles to the cove.
Kynance Cove is located 25 miles from Penzance on the Lizard Peninsula.
5. St. Michael’s Mount
St. Michael’s Mount was one of those Cornish landmarks that I really had to visit during the trip. A tidal island located in Mount’s Bay slightly offshore from the village of Marazion, there are two options to reach the island. This will depend on the time of day you visit. During high tide St. Michael’s Mount becomes surrounded by water and taking a boat across is your only option. At low tide, a cobbled causeway appears, where you can take the five minute walk to the island. This was by far my preference, but the changing tide times mean that you have to plan your day around it.
Note. We visited St. Michael’s Mount and Kynance Cove on the same day, hence the fun of trying to time our visits with the tides. Bad planning.
Once you arrive on the island, there is much to explore. From the harbour and village, to the sub tropical gardens and castle looming high above the terraces, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. If you need a break, the island has a range of cafes and restaurants. St. Michael’s Mount is managed by National Trust, and an entrance fee applies. There are ticket options for access to the entire island, the gardens only, or the castle only. I would recommend the full access ticket to make the most of your visit.
Exploring the gardens
We explored the trails around the garden terraces. Much the same as the Minack Theatre, the planting here lends itself to the slightly warmer micro climate that Cornwall offers compared to the rest of the country. Succulents, agave, aloe and other tropical plants seem to thrive on the steep banks of the gardens, along with an abundance of bright colourful flowers. If you are a keen gardener, it’s a feast for the eyes.
Visit the castle
High above the garden, the castle stands proudly dominating the island. You can take a walking tour through the castle, which has been home to the St. Aubyn family since the 17th century. Wander through various rooms of the castle taking in all of the history, before heading out to the roof terraces which provide some awesome views of the surrounding coastline and the island itself. It’s really beautiful.
Marazion is located 5 miles east of Penzance. There is plenty of parking along the St. Michael’s Mount slipway car park for a small fee.
Getting to the South Cornwall coast
You might have noticed that I have mentioned Penzance a fair bit above? Well, the reason for this is that Penzance is the main town of the area. If you are travelling by train, this will be your final destination. Great Western Railway runs regular services from London Paddington to Penzance, with a journey time of just under six hours. There is also an overnight sleeper train (the Night Riviera Sleeper) which travels from London Paddington if you want to arrive in Cornwall super early. I’m really hoping to experience this one day!
We drove to Cornwall from Berkshire. It was a straightforward drive along the M4 motorway, onto the M5 to Exeter, before taking the A30 down to the south coast. It’s a simple route, but during peak summer periods there roads can get really busy due to the sheer number of visitors. Be aware!
If you are looking to fly to the South Cornwall coast, there is an airport in Newquay, 40 miles north of Penzance. Flying to this airport is an ideal way to reduce your journey time.
Where to stay on the South Cornwall coast
There are no shortage of places to stay in the area. We wanted to base ourselves fairly centrally and near Penzance, so that we didn’t have far to travel each day. Searching around local hotels and B&B’s, we stumbled across the Mount Haven Hotel in Marazion. A small boutique hotel of 19 en-suite rooms, the Mount Haven is located in an elevated setting on the outskirts of the village. The benefit of this location, is that rooms facing south have a terrace overlooking St. Michael’s Mount.
There is a beautiful bar area featuring a large decked area with views out across the coast, as well as a restaurant serving high quality food using local produce. These areas are undergoing an extensive refurbishment, and will be open for the 2019 season in April. Our stay was fantastic, and despite having little time to appreciate the hotel fully, service levels were outstanding, as was the evening meal that we had. I look forward to returning to check out the refit.
Check out reviews of the Mount Haven Hotel here.
We visited a few other destinations while were in Cornwall, but made sure to leave plenty more for the next time we return. I’ll definitely be checking the tide times and hoping to visit Kynance Cove on a sunny day, that’s for sure!
Have you visited the South Cornwall coast? What was your favourite location?
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