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Things to do in the rain in Cornwall

Bigstock National Maritime Museum 44646640

Whilst nobody can deny that Cornwall is at its absolute best when the sun is beating down, chances are you might be treated to some rain whilst you’re on holiday here. Even though Cornwall’s beaches can be just as much fun in the rain, if you’d rather stay dry there are plenty of places to hide away indoors, from historic homes and galleries to museums, animal sanctuaries and gin distilleries. Here are some ideas for things to do in wet weather in Cornwall.

Visit a museum

The award-winning Maritime Museum in the lively town of Falmouth is full of fascinating, interactive displays, from the lofty main hall where a flotilla of full-size boats hang from the ceiling to the underwater viewing window that looks right into Falmouth’s harbour. With treasures collected from over 150 shipwrecks, the Charlestown Shipwreck Museum is a real gem. It has the largest private collection of shipwrecked items on public display in Europe, including the only intact barrel of coins ever recovered from a wreck.

If you’re staying further south, the wonderful Museum of Cornish Life in Helston houses one of the largest social history collections in the south west, with some fascinating exhibits, including a fully-stocked 1950s village shop and Bronze age finds from the beautiful Lizard Peninsula.

Wander round a National Trust house

Cornwall has several National Trust properties that will absorb a rainy afternoon. The biggest and best has to be Lanhydrock near the Fowey River in south Cornwall, a sprawling Victorian country house that gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there.

The Elizabethan manor house of Trerice is another good option and has a brilliant secondhand bookshop where you can while away an hour or so plus a cafe barn serving hot drinks and light lunches. Further south, you’ll find Trelissick House near Truro — whilst the stunning gardens on the Fal Estuary are the biggest draw, the house is a good place to shelter from the rain with its warren of rooms bursting with family history and collectibles.

Visit a vineyard or gin distillery

If rain is on the cards, why not book in for a tour and tasting at one of Cornwall’s many vineyards? Near Newquay, Knightor Vineyard runs various tours and experiences, from a ‘Cornish Cocktail Experience’ to guided winery tours, most of which is undercover. If gin is more your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Cornwall. One of the most popular distilleries, Tarquin’s Gin, runs tours and tastings from their HQ in Newquay where you can expect a botanical masterclass, explore the coppers stills and round it off with a tutored tasting of their four signature gins.

Have an arty afternoon in Falmouth

Falmouth is full of art galleries and creative spaces to while away a rainy day. The award-winning Falmouth Art Gallery is free to enter and has some fantastic exhibitions on throughout the year, whilst the live arts venue The Poly at Falmouth in the heart of the town runs an arts cinema, workshops, exhibitions, talks, music, theatre and a makers guild. The wonderful Inspire Makers brings together the work of over 50 local artists and makers, with workshops, gallery space, studios and exhibitions.

For families 

Let off steam in a soft play centre

For many parents, being in an enclosed space with dozens of screaming children is no way to spend a holiday, but if the rain is lashing down and the kids are climbing the walls, a soft play centre is a good place for them to let off some steam. At Raze the Roof near Falmouth children can enjoy a huge play frame with slides, climbing wall and ball cannons, or have a go at laser tag.

Visit the Eden Project

Home to the largest indoor space in Cornwall, the Eden Project is perfect for a rainy day. The giant greenhouses, or ‘biomes’, house thousands of plants, and children will love the rainforest canopy walkway, rope bridge and waterfall, and the fragrant and colourful Mediterranean biome with ancient olive trees, vines and herbs.

Discover an underwater world

From reef sharks to giant octopi, the Blue Reef Aquarium in the bustling town of Newquay has plenty to see and is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in the town – they also do a huge amount of conservation. It’s home to exotic and local species, hosts daily talks and feeding demonstrations, and boasts an underwater tunnel offering the best views of the aquatic inhabitants.

Explore a castle

The impressive Pendennis Castle defended Falmouth against invasion for 400 years. Visitors can explore the winding stone staircases and gun rooms, scramble up to the top for panoramic views and discover underground tunnels where ammunition was stored. Across the water, St Mawes Castle is one of the most well-preserved and elaborately decorated of all of Henry VIII’s coastal fortresses.

Ride a steam train

Chug through the Cornish countryside on an old-fashioned steam train at Lappa Valley, near Newquay. Although the mini railway is the main attraction here, there’s also a boating lake, children’s play areas and woodland trails for when there’s a break in the clouds.

For dog owners

Visit a gallery

Galleries are often off limits for dogs but there are several in Cornwall that welcome dogs. In the heart of the Penzance’s creative quarter, Newlyn Art Gallery has been celebrating contemporary art for over 100 years and showcases a huge variety of Cornish, national and international artists.

Hidden down a narrow street in Cornwall’s arty capital St Ives, the Penwith Gallery was founded by Barbara Hepworth in 1949. This former pilchard packing factory has three galleries exhibiting works from contemporary artists, both renowned and little-known, from Cornwall and beyond. Entry is free and dogs are allowed in all areas of the gallery, including the cafe and bookshop.

Wander around the Seal Sanctuary

Home to otters, sea lions, penguins and, of course, dozens of seals, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary on the banks of the Helford River in Gweek is one of south Cornwall’s favourite attractions. Even though the exclosures are mostly outdoors, there are plenty of places to nip into when the rain is hammering down, such as the viewing gallery and seal pup hospital. Dogs are welcome across the site.

Swig some cider

This family-run cider brewery and visitor centre near Newquay provides tours of the distillery with tastings, a cyder making museum and a tea room. Apart from the production halls and jam kitchen, dogs are allowed across the site, including in the cellars and museum and on the covered tractor rides. 

Need more inspiration? Discover more things to see and do in Cornwall in our blog