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Cornwall - When and where to visit
The places listed below make ideal bases for exploring Cornwall.
Looe is a beautiful place to base yourself © Mike Charles, Shutterstock
Arthurian legend, wild clifftops, lost churches and plunging wooded valleys – meet Cornwall in its most romantic hiding places.
The Inny Valley
The Tamar Valley to the south and Bodmin to the west; to the north, a forgotten corner of rural England offers leisurely cycle rides between villages steeped in history.
Fresh crab and fishing boats, seabirds and waders, with grand gardens overlooking the busy Tamar estuary.
Spectacular biking and hiking in the lunar landscape of the clay mines, and idyllic canoeing and walking in The Wind in the Willows territory.
An inspirational river crisscrossed with ferries and dotted with orchards. Art students and eco-culture lead the way to Penryn.
Helston and The Lizard
Discover the wooded creeks and tiny fishing villages, iconic gardens and lonely moors in the wild far south of Cornwall.
The essence of Cornwall is in its toe-tip: artists’ colonies and archaeology, brooding moors and crumbling tin-mines, surf, fishing fleets – and a supremely romantic bay.
A cathedral city perfect for pottering, with lots going on; explore cycle trails over the mining heartland of Cornwall and take part in the renaissance of Camborne and Redruth.
The Camel Estuary
Between a rugged coastline ruled by slate and surf, Methodist chapels and hedonist beaches, John Betjeman country rubs up against a (sea) foodie paradise at Padstow.
A tangle of tracks and footpaths past rushing rivers and wooded valleys, open moorland with brooding Neolithic stones, remote villages and vintage pubs.
The Isles of Scilly
Unwind and live the Slow dream on your chosen island amid pristine white beaches, aquamarine seas and sub-tropical plant life.
Cornwall is famous for its long-and short-distance walks, and there are many references within these pages to the Cornwall section of the South West Coast Path (which follows the entire coastline and is waymarked with an acorn motif; see www.southwestcoastpath.com for further details) as well as lesser-known routes, such as the Copper Trail and Tinners’ Way. All these are well documented and easy to find online or in print; the circular walks I have suggested will often make partial use of these longer routes, but will only make sense on the ground if you are equipped with the appropriate OS Explorer map for the area.
Bodmin Moor is one of the best places in England for walking and exploring © Helen Hotson, Shutterstock
I mention a few good cycle rides, following Sustrans NCN Route 3 (the Cornish Way), the Clay Trails and routes of my own devising. Cornwall is fantastically hilly, which I thought was a curse, until I found myself feeling slightly let down by the flatness of the extremely popular Camel Trail. No uphill struggles, but no downhill, freewheeling exhilaration either.
The Isles of Scilly, meanwhile, are too small to attract serious walkers, but strollers and Slow explorers will be captivated by the tangle of paths and narrow lanes that thread about each island. Bikes are used for short A-to-B journeys as tarmac roads are in very limited supply here.