Beyond the beach: discover Cornwall’s less-crowded attractions

Beyond the beach: discover Cornwall’s less-crowded attractions

Idyllic Cornwall is less so when you’re stuck in traffic near the coast. Head inland for stunning walks, gardens and hilltop views

ach summer the narrow roads down to Kynance Cove and Porthcurno grind to a halt under the weight of holidaymakers all heading to the same “isolated” beaches. With the car parks full and the verges too, visitors and locals get hot under the collar in their stationary cars. Horns are honked, tempers fray, words are exchanged and the peace everyone is seeking is shattered.

With this year set to be a year of holidaying at home, the usual honeypots will be busier than ever and there will probably be even more of a bunfight to find an unoccupied patch of golden sand. So, if you don’t want to contribute to the overcrowding problem, or just want to avoid the crush, turn your sights inland, to some of Cornwall’s slightly lesser-known gems.

Head for higher ground

Cornwall is not known for its hills – its highest, Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor, stands at just 420 metres above sea level – yet, despite this, some of the county’s best sites are on high ground. These are three of my favourites.

From the peak of mainland Britain’s most westerly hill, Chapel Carn Brea, it is possible to see the Isles of Scilly on a clear day. With the hill itself being the site of neolithic and bronze age graves and barrows, and with views to several other neolithic sites, this is ancient Cornwall at its wildest. Park in the National Trust car park and follow the well-signed path to the beacon.

Carn Brea in Redruth (not to be confused with Chapel Carn Brea) is the site of another neolithic settlement. However, while Chapel Carn Brea is the jumping-off point for adventures into ancient history, Redruth’s Carn Brea sits amid Cornwall’s once-booming tin and copper mining district. At the top of the hill is the Bassett Monument, a tribute to Camborne’s famous mining son, Francis Bassett, and just along from that is the gothic-looking Carn Brea Castle (formerly the Bassetts’ hunting lodge and now a restaurant).

From here there are views of the north and south coasts across a landscape shaped by mining history, complete with engine houses. You can also see Gwennap Pit, one of the county’s many eccentric offerings: an open-air amphitheatre formed by mining activities, which became a favourite preaching pit for John Wesley. Carn Brea is circled by the Great Flat Lode trail, which follows the lines of a former mine tramway around and across the hill, for extended wandering among the heather and gorse. Use the car park at the top of Carnkie village and take the track up to Carn Brea Castle.

Given that much of St Ives will be off-limits during the G7 summit (11-13 June), if you want a distanced overview of what’s happening there, try a decent pair of binoculars from Godolphin and Tregonning hills, which are just two miles away from each other. Godolphin Hill offers commanding views over west Cornwall – on a clear day you can see St Michael’s Mount and St Ives Bay – and from the top of Tregonning there are views across to Carbis Bay, where the main G7 action will be taking place. Park in the National Trust car park at Godolphin (booking essential).

Seek out the smaller gardens

While queues for the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project will be particularly long this year, Cornwall’s smaller gardens (some of which are close to their famous relatives) offer a more peaceful escape.

Pedn Billy is a 12-acre garden on the Helford River, next door to the subtropical paradises of Trebah and Glendurgan, both of which are also worth a visit. Pedn Billy is one of several small gardens in the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s open gardens programme, which runs between June and September. It has its own private beach and ancient woodlands, and a more laid-back, intimate feel than the bigger players. By visiting you will be supporting the Trust’s work, protecting wildlife in and around Cornwall. Entry to most of the open gardens is £5.

Another of Cornwall’s loveliest gardens is a stone’s throw from Tintagel Castle. St Nectan’s Glen is an overlooked gem with an 18-metre waterfall, woodland walks and shaded valleys, a tiny hermitage and an arbour that looks like something straight out of Middle-earth. It’s a site heavy on atmosphere, with the hermitage carved into the rocks, the Celtic vibe of faerie stacks (small piles of stacked stones) and trees hung with ribbons (adult £5.95, child £4.70).

Take to the Cornish Alps


Andy Halliday

Andy is a camping expert with over 20 years of outdoor experience. He shares his expertise through his blog that features on his very own e-commerce camping gear store. He aspires to use his knowledge and experience to help disabled families get the most out of every trip they take.

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