Cornwall without the car

There’s nothing quite like the sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic snaking into the distance to dampen the holiday spirit. Travelling to Cornwall by car during the holidays can be a headache, but whilst this is often seen as the easiest way to see the county, we’re encouraging our adventurous visitors who are keen to get off the beaten track to leave the car at home or at your holiday cottage. With trains running every hour from London, and extensive bus and train networks and widespread eBike hire available across the county, it’s never been easier to have a car-free holiday in Cornwall. If you still feel you need a car in Cornwall, consider hiring a car when you get there.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to getting to and around Cornwall without your car – all in the name of easing the traffic on Cornwall’s tiny roads, reducing the carbon emitted from the journey down and giving you a more real, explorative holiday.

Getting to Cornwall
St Ives Trainline

Trains from London

High-speed GWR services depart from London Paddington every hour and reach Cornwall via Reading, Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth, arriving in St Austell in 4 hours 20 minutes, Truro in 4 hours 40m, and Penzance and Newquay in 5 hours, so you can hop on an early morning train from the capital and arrive in Cornwall in time for lunch. Dog owners can take up to two dogs on trains, as long as they are on leads or in pet carriers. Many of our cottages are within easy reach of Cornwall’s train stations and are a quick taxi or bus ride away.

Hop on the coach

If you’re considering travelling down by coach, National Express operates direct services to locations across Cornwall, including all the major destinations such as Truro, Newquay, Helston, Falmouth and Penzance, amongst many others. It’s an convenient and economic option, with single trips costing as little as £15, and there are various coachcards which give regular travellers some great discounts. And with free WiFi onboard the coaches, the hours will whizz by in no time. Megabus operates a regular service to Plymouth; from here you can catch connecting bus and train services into the rest of the county.

The sleeper train

Arriving in Cornwall after a good night’s sleep instead of a hectic day on the roads is a far more civilised way of doing things! Choose to make the journey part of the holiday and catch the Night Riviera, Great Western Railway’s sleeper service from London to Cornwall, which departs London at 10.30pm Monday-Friday (23.50 on Sunday, it doesn’t run on Saturday) and pulls into St Austell at 6.54, Truro at 7.12, and Penzance at 8am — just in time for breakfast. You can choose from comfortable reclining seats or private cabins for up to four people.

Getting around Cornwall

By train

The main train line travels through Cornwall between Plymouth to Penzance, stopping at Liskeard, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne and St Erth. There are also regular connections to Looe (from Liskeard), Newquay (from Par), Falmouth (from Truro) and St Ives (from St Erth), with trains running at least every couple of hours from these stations — the train to St Ives and the connection to Looe are particularly stunning and worth doing for the journey alone!

By bus

There are almost 100 bus routes crisscrossing Cornwall, so whether you’re planning a day at the beach, heading to one of the county’s visitor attractions or wanting to explore some of the county’s more remote areas, getting around by bus is easy. Cornwall Plus Bus tickets give visitors unlimited bus travel; you can even buy the Plus Bus ticket when you buy your train ticket, so you can arrange all your travel in one go. Traveline’s easy-to-use journey planner (also available as a useful app) will give you journey times with live updates throughout the day. This handy map of Cornwall’s bus routes will help you plan your journey.

Open top coaster services

Cornwall’s open top coaster services run in several coastal areas, linking popular towns, beaches and attractions across the county, allowing visitors get around the country without the need of a car and soak up the scenery as they go. The Atlantic Coaster runs between St Ives, Newquay and Padstow, whilst the Land’s End Coaster takes in some of the region’s favourite heritage sites and coastal hotspots. The Lizard Coaster explores Cornwall’s most southerly region, whilst the Falmouth Coaster lets you hop-on and hop-off at local sites, such as Pendennis Castle and the National Maritime Museum.

Under your own steam
Walking Cornwall without the Car

Explore Cornwall on foot

With Cornwall’s 300-mile coast path and a staggering 2,400 miles of inland paths, it goes without saying that Cornwall is a walker’s paradise and its beautiful landscapes are best explored on foot. There are plenty of popular long-distance walking and cycling paths that crisscross the county, such as The Camel Trail, the Mineral Tramways Trail and the Clay Trails, but you don’t necessarily need to follow a particular route — lace up and explore the county from the doorstep and see where the day takes you. OSMaps is a handy resource and well worth downloading onto your phone so you can plot your own route and find trails and paths as you go.

Ebike hire

If you’re not averse to the odd climb or two, cycling is a great way to get around Cornwall, and there are always eBikes to take the strain when the going gets tough. The bike hire outfit Cornwall Bike Hire will conveniently deliver road bikes and eBikes to locations throughout the county; alternatively try eBike Cornwall, with outlets in Penzance, Falmouth, Newquay and Mullion on the Lizard, or our friends, Global Boarders, based in Gwithian if you’re based on the north coast. There are some great cycle paths to explore on two wheels, from easy family-friendly paths to more challenging trails.


Bike hire

Wherever in Cornwall you’re planning to go on holiday, you can guarantee there’ll be somewhere to hire bikes close by. Many of the county’s favourite cycle paths and routes have bike hire at either end, and every town in the county has at least one bike hire place — some outfits even deliver bikes to your holiday cottage to save you the trouble of collecting them if you’re holidaying without the car. There are some places to visit even have bike hire on site, allowing you to explore the grounds on two wheels, such as the wonderful National Trust’s Lanhydrock.