Home to arguably the most diverse landscape in Cornwall, West Cornwall is steeped in ancient stone circles, fantastic surf beaches and authentic fishing villages. With some of the county’s most famous visitor destinations, including St Michael’s Mount, Land’s End and St Ives, there’s no shortage of reasons to stay in the part of Cornwall. If you’d rather be off the beaten track, there’s plenty of vast moorland and so many miles of coastal footpath to wander along – this part of Cornwall has inspired writers and artists for years, so if you’re inclined, there’s no better place to get creative. Equally, if you’re a sea-lover, there are several opportunities to get in or on the water. The beaches of St Ives, Gwithian and Praa Sands are excellent surfing locations, whilst Mount’s Bay offers world class kitesurfing waters. Hire kayaks and paddleboards, or for a little more adrenaline, try a coasteering adventure. Of course, this part of the world is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall – so you could just watch the waves lap as you relax on golden sands.
Beaches in West Cornwall have come under scrutiny recently for not having the infrastructure to cope with visitors. So we’ll be directing you away from Porthcurno, and to some other, equally beautiful, and quieter, coves.
Gwithian is our favourite beach in the county. It’s where Forever Cornwall began, and our beach chalets here are snapped up year after year. With a beach that, when the tide is out, forms a 3 mile stretch from Godrevy to the mouth of Hayle Estuary, even during school holidays you’ll be able to find a spot to really relax. A brilliant beach for storm-watching, dog-walking and (of course) surfing, Gwithian is simply wonderful.
St Ives, similarly to Newquay, is home to multiple beaches – about eight, depending on where you draw the St Ives boundary line. Carbis Bay is always a winner for its good looks, as is Porthminster. For us, the beach that sits directly in front of the Tate St Ives, Porthmeor, is just idyllic. One of our favourite ways to relax is to enjoy an early morning stroll through the town, pick up a fresh pastry and a coffee, and head to Porthmeor. It’s often very quiet first thing, and the sand hasn’t had a chance to warm up yet. Hearing the waves lap the shore, feeling cool sand on bare feet accompanied by only the smell of fresh breakfast it bliss, if you ask us.
For a hidden gem, as with most parts of Cornwall, to get a beach that’s really your own, you have to take to the coastal footpaths. Check the tides, and head to Rinsey, near Porthleven. This little cove is overlooked by an old engine house, and is the epitome of picturesque – it’s like something straight out of Poldark. Clamber down the cliffside path to golden sands and sheltered waters, with rockpools ideal for keeping little ones entertained. Coves like this can be discovered all over this part of Cornwall – but unless there’s a relatively clear pathway marked out, please don’t scramble down over cliffs!
West Cornwall has some fabulous spots to eat, from harbourside bistros to phenomenal beach bars and clifftop pubs. There are plenty of eateries to discover, and if you find some hidden gem then be sure to pop it in the guestbook – but for now, here are our favourites…
Book up early and get into Ben’s Cornish Kitchen – a modest exterior that offers mouth-wateringly incredible food in the seaside village of Marazion. It has attracted the attention of national food critics who rave about its quality – all for marvellously good value. There’s a small but excellently well-curated menu offering bistro-style dishes, each showcasing the local produce – if you can find time to eat here you won’t be disappointed.
Porthminster Beach Cafe is an unfairly modest name for what this restaurant offers – it is far from sandwiches and jacket potatoes. Think fresh seafood, prime steak and vegetarian dishes that will delight your tastebuds. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, come here to indulge in a spectacular setting overlooking Porthminster beach in St Ives.
Head around Mount’s Bay to Mousehole and find 2 Fore Street on the harbourfront. This bistro-style restaurant is a favourite with everyone in the area – so booking is a must. Their talented chef trained under Raymond Blanc and creates exquisite classic dishes, working wonders with fresh seafood locally sourced meat and seasonal veg – delicious.
From rainy day activities for all the family to galleries, theatres and long coastal walks, West Cornwall has more than its fair share of things to do. Here’re our top picks…
See a show at the jaw-dropping Minack Theatre. This open air theatre built into the cliffs above Porthcurno should be on everyone’s bucket list. Bring a blanket, some snacks and a bottle of wine and watch the drama unfold on the granite stage below you. From Shakespeare to The Addams Family, there’s usually something to suit all tastes – so as soon as your holiday is booked, check out what’s on and book your tickets.
Get up close with birds of paradise at Paradise Park. A favourite amongst kids and adults, Paradise Park is home to hundreds of species of exotic birds, as well as other rare animals and a petting zoo. There’s a great little cafe, daily demonstrations throughout school holidays and the Jungle Barn – a huge indoor play area for kids to tire themselves out. A really brilliant day out!
Tour the galleries of St Ives. This might be an activity for older kids – but it’s one we’d certainly recommend. Obviously, St Ives is home to the Tate St Ives, and also to the Barbara Hepworth Museum, but take the time to wander through the narrow streets and discover the smaller galleries showcasing work of local and international artists. Visit The Leach Pottery, The Penwith Gallery and Anima Mundi for an eclectic mix, but there are plenty of others to discover too.