Things to do this autumn in Cornwall
The summer season may be firmly behind us but Cornwall continues to draw in the crowds with a packed programme of things to do and autumn events and activities. From fabulous festivals and feasts that celebrate the seasonal harvest to book fairs, halloween and half term entertainment, as well as lots of ideas of free things to do in the Duchy — if you’re looking for things to do this autumn in Cornwall, we’ve got plenty to keep you busy.
Food, feasts and foraging
Autumn Feasts at Nancarrow Farm — 12th October and 17th November
An organic farm and rural events venue in south Cornwall, Nancarrow Farm hosts delicious feasts, farm suppers and Sunday lunches throughout the year in their courtyard or oak barns in the heart of the farm, now in the hands of the family’s ninth generation of farmers. You’ll feast on their award-winning beef and lamb, reared in the surrounding fields, and seasonal produce plucked from the kitchen garden and hedgerows. Don’t miss their autumn feasts this October, which celebrates the very best of the seasonal harvest.
Throughout autumn, award-winning author and wild food tutor Rachel Lambert will be guiding people on foraging walks across Cornwall, scouring shorelines and hedgerows for edible wild goodies. Rachel is one of Cornwall’s best loved and most respected foragers, with nearly 20 years’ experience. Her foraging walks take place in some of Cornwall’s most beautiful spots, including Gwithian on the west coast, and Perranuthnoe and Prussia Cove on the south coast.
Free things to do in Cornwall
Art and culture
There is plenty to do in Cornwall that won’t cost you a penny. The award-winning Falmouth Art Gallery is a little gem of a place and free to enter, with a brilliant collection of nearly 3,000 artworks ranging from Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist. Truro Cathedral’s Gothic splendour in Cornwall’s only city is also worth a visit at any time of the year, with lots of events happening through the autumn, such as the touring Gaia art installation and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust wildlife photo competition. Further south, on the remote Lizard Peninsula, the quirky Museum of Cornish Life in Helston houses the largest social history collections in the South West (including a fully stocked 1950s kitchen!) and is free to enter. Watch out for their art clubs and film screenings, too.
In an attempt to turn the tide on plastic waste, the ‘Surf Wood for Good’ provides free wooden bellyboard hire at various spots along Cornwall’s coast, including Port Isaac in north Cornwall, Newquay, Mawgan Porth, St Ives and Poldhu. Check out their handy interactive bellyboard hire in Cornwall map to find your nearest free rental point. Feeling brave enough for a dip this autumn? The 1930s Bude Sea Pool — a large, semi-natural tidal pool built into the rocks at one end of Summerleaze Beach in the bustling town of Bude — allows you to swim without having to brave the waves. Best of all, it’s completely free to use.
If you’re looking for adventure on two wheels, the 10km of cycle trails on the Lanhydrock Estate are free to use and include three different grades depending on ability, as well as a skills area, a cycle hire shop, cafe and children’s play area. This year, they’ll be staging their first ever mountain bike race — the Lanhydrock Classic 2023 takes place on 19th November.
Half term fun for kids
National Maritime Museum
If you’re looking for half term things to do this autumn in Cornwall with the kiddies, the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth has Halloween-themed events to entertain little ones. The main hall will play host to a ghostly shadow puppet show — expect ghost ships, skeletons and eerie songs. Or budding puppeteers can create their own spooky shadow puppets and ghost-inspired stories. There will also be a shadow trail around the museum throughout the week, with a prize to collect at the end.
This half term, children can embark on a journey through Trebah Gardens on the banks of the Helford River following the trail map, uncovering intriguing information about creatures that thrive in the shadows of night. At each trail post, find the clue to work out the creature’s identity. Once you’ve completed the trail, make your way back to the entrance desk to receive your well-deserved prize.
Grab your broomsticks and brace yourselves for an spine-tingling day out at Cornwall’s favourite castle in the maritime town of Falmouth. Throughout the week, children will be able to take part in a spooky halloween quest around the grounds, unearthing mystical potions scattered throughout the castle and completing challenges to unravel the spooky riddles.
Halloweden at The Eden Project — From October
Join the team at The Eden Project this half term as Halloweden returns for another year of wild and wonderful activities and events. The mission this year: to protect the world’s forests, with the help of the legendary Tree Giants. As guardians of the forest, children will journey through the biomes to uncover the ancient wisdom of these majestic beings, listen to extraordinary stories along the way, and watch captivating performances — don’t miss the wand making workshops. The ice rink will once again be opening its doors to skaters and there are also non-skating ice-play sessions for children under six.
Lappa Valley fireworks — 27-28 October
Half term will end with a bang at Lappa Valley as the engine house and grounds of Cornwall’s miniature steam railway are lit up with a special fireworks display, held over the second weekend of the half term holidays. Located in a wooded valley near the town of Newquay, there’s also an indoor soft play area for children to enjoy, or book tickets for the Woodland Railway and take a ride on the steam train before the evening display begins.
Looking to get away with the family this October? Check out our cottages with availability over half term
Dog-friendly things to do
Jubilee Pool dog day — 29 October
Ever been tempted to join your dog for a swim? If so, you’re in luck. Each year, for one day only, Cornwall’s art deco Jubilee Pool — a lido in Penzance in south Cornwall’s Mount’s Bay area — is open solely for owners and their dogs to enjoy a splash around together before the geothermal pool closes for the season. If you can’t be tempted to jump in with your dog, you can cheer from the sidelines, and nip into the cafe afterwards for lunch or a cream tea. A dog show also takes place during the day — don’t miss the hilarious dog fancy dress competition! You’ll need to book ahead — tickets are available on their website.
Hit the beaches
Autumn is a great time to explore the Cornish coast with your dog. Over the summer, many of Cornwall’s beaches have restrictions in place during the day, but as soon as autumn rolls around dogs are allowed to play in the surf and sand once more. Not only are the beaches less busy than during the peak of summer, the sea’s also a lot warmer — perfect for a paddle with your furry companion.
Too soon to start thinking about Christmas shopping? Cornwall is a wonderful place to pick up some early presents, with some of the county’s best festive fairs opening their doors from October. On the first weekend of November, Makers Cornwall — a community of artists and craftspeople near Falmouth — will be returning to Penryn with more than 70 stallholders showing off their wares, from unique jewellery and ceramics to textiles, stylish homewares, art and prints. Or, if you’re staying in west Cornwall on the 23rd November, pop along to the Una Christmas Market, held in Cornwall’s newest lido in the arty town of St Ives, with wood-fired festive hot food, winter-warmer drinks, charity raffles, festive music, and an eclectic mix of local artisans and craftspeople offering their creations for sale.
Visit a festival
Falmouth Oyster Festival — 12-15 October
Celebrating the start of the traditional oyster-dredging season, Falmouth’s favourite four-day food event is packed with feasting and festivities for all the family. Expect cookery demonstrations from some of Cornwall’s top chefs and celebrated seafood experts, boat races in the harbour, live music, food stalls selling local produce, oyster shuking competitions, and oyster bars dotted around the various marquees. This year closes with a live performance from The Oggymen, Cornwall’s favourite shanty group.
Falmouth Book Festival — 16-22 October
This is Falmouth Book Festival‘s third year, bringing together an amazing line-up of poets, authors and storytellers to the town to celebrate the joy of books. Taking place over a whole week across various venues throughout the town, visitors can sign up to talks and performances with renowned authors and poets and get involved in creative writing sessions and interactive workshops. The festival coincides with half term so there are lots of activities for children to take part in, too.
Lowender Peran — 25-29 October
One of Cornwall’s most important events celebrating traditional music, song and dance, the week-long Lowender Peran festival, held in Redruth, gathers together hundreds of performers from across the Celtic nations and regions. The event includes a packed programme of folk music and dancing, as well as workshops, talks, street demonstrations, children’s activities, poetry recitals, storytelling, and plenty of opportunities for the audience to get involved in traditional dancing.