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15 Historic Sites and Cultural Gems around Cornwall

The countryside in Cornwall is so stunning that it offers plenty of reasons to visit. From rugged cliffs to serene countryside to storybook villages to lush gardens, Cornwall has everything you would want in a holiday and more. Aside from all that obvious beauty, though, there’s a rich history to explore. In Cornwall, historical landmarks and cultural heritage spots are everywhere you turn, and with good reason. The Celts, the Romans, and the Vikings have all called this area home, leaving behind historic sites Cornwall visitors would be remiss to overlook. Neolithic ruins, medieval castles, UNESCO World Heritage listed mining sites, Tudor mansions, and more grace this county, where you will find myth and magic mingled with history around every corner. Here, we offer a list of some of our favourite places to visit.

Must-Visit Cornwall Attractions

  1. Truro Cathedral: Built in the 19th century, this beautiful cathedral features impressive architecture and stunning stained glass. Visitors are welcome every day of the week, and admission is free.
  2. The Lost Gardens of Heligan: These gorgeous gardens were lost to the wilds during WWI and reclaimed in 1990 as the largest garden restoration project in Europe. Far from ordinary, these gardens feature a jungle, a Victorian garden, a vegetable garden, and iconic woodland sculptures. You will also find a farm, a restaurant, and a gift shop onsite.
  3. Geevor Tin Mine: This UNESCO World Heritage Site takes you back in time, with an interactive museum, underground tours, and even the chance to pan for gold. It is far from the only mine in the area, though, as the Levant Mines at Bottallack are nearby. Evidence suggests that this area was mined in the Roman era or perhaps even the Bronze Age.
  4. Mên-an-Tol: This small formation of standing stones is believed to date back to the Bronze Age, and it is thought that the four stones were part of an ancient circle or a chamber tomb. In days of old, it is speculated, these stones were used in fertility rituals. In fact, local legend holds that a woman who passes through the holed stone seven times backwards will soon fall pregnant.
  5. Lanhydrock House and Garden: Built sometime around 1720 by wealthy tin traders, this site is one of the most impressive and visited historic homes in Cornwall. During the Civil War, it was used by the Parliamentarian general, and it has been under the care of the National Trust since 1953. Having suffered a devastating fire in 1881, most of the house has been rebuilt, though the chapel, gatehouse, two-story porch and north range are all original. Today, visitors can explore 50 full open rooms, decorated in the style of an Edwardian country house, along with kitchen and servants’ quarters that stand in stark contrast to the grandeur of the family’s rooms.
  6. Tintagel Castle: This cliff-top medieval fortification is linked with the legend of King Arthur and its dramatic location on the stunning coastline has been inspiring artists and writers for centuries. Sometime around 1135 to 1138, Geoffrey of Monmouth made the claim that this spot is where King Arthur was conceived. Today, the castle is owned by King Charles and managed by English Heritage.
  7. Wheal Coates: This tin mine, which operated from 1802 to 1889, makes for an iconic silhouette on the breathtaking Cornish coast. The metal mining industry was huge from 1700 to 1914, as it was important for the Industrial Revolution, but it was a hard life for miners, and by the mid-19th century, the mines were abandoned and in disrepair. This is one of several mining landscapes selected in 2006 as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and though the mine is closed, there are scenic walks around it and Chapel Poth, a popular Cornish beach, is nearby.
  8. Tregiffian Burial Chamber: A Neolithic or early Bronze Age chambered tomb, this site was almost certainly an important place for ceremonies. It is likely part of a larger monument that at one time included the Merry Maidens stone circle, just a short walk away.
  9. Chysauster Ancient Village: Containing the ruins of a late Iron Age and Romano-British settlement, this site is thought to have been inhabited from about 100 BC until the 3rd century by the indigenous Dumnonii tribe. Now operated by English Heritage, the site contains the remains of about 10 ancient houses, set on a tall hillside and offering magnificent views across the countryside and out to sea.
  10. Launceston Castle: First built after the Norman Conquest, this castle overlooks the town of Launceston from atop a large natural mound. It was once the administrative headquarters for the Earl of Cornwall, and now consists of a 13th-century round tower inside an earlier shell keep. The castle grounds are perfect for a day of relaxing, picnicking, and enjoying the views of the valley.
  11. St. Michael’s Mount: A magically beautiful spot, this tidal island in Mount’s Bay features a medieval castle and lovely garden. It is open to visitors during the summer months, and is accessible on foot during low tide.
  12. The Eden Project: One of the most fascinating and iconic places in all of Cornwall, this ecological park features two massive biomes with plants from around the world. Nature lovers will revel in the Mediterranean biome and Rainforest biome, learning about the plants within them. There are also organised activities, with special events on major holidays, and an on-site restaurant offers delicious food. The ‘Eden Sessions’, a series of outdoor live music concerts held annually in the summer months, feature notable artists from many different genres, including rock, pop, and folk.
  13. The Minack Theatre: A unique landmark, this open-air theatre is built into the cliffs above Porthcurno Beach. There are shows performed there, and the site is also open to visitors during the day. The theatre was created in the 1930s, by Rowena Cade, and features an exotic, subtropical garden on the cliff.
  14. Pendennis Castle: This historic fortress is located in the town of Falmouth, owned by English Heritage, and open to the public as a popular tourist attraction. Built by King Henry VIII in the 1540s to help protect against invasion from the Holy Roman Empire and France, it has been important for military purposes for hundreds of years. Pendennis Castle played a significant strategic role in defending the Carrick Roads waterway at the mouth of the River Fal, and was of substantial importance during the English Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars.
  15. Bodmin: The Bodmin Jail is a notable historical landmark, at once spooky and fascinating, with guided tours of its cells and a museum that provides an opportunity to learn of the infamous inmates who once inhabited the space. It is far from the only draw for Bodmin, though, as there are many other places of historical significance in the town, including the magnificent 15th-century church of St Petroc, seven holy wells dotted throughout the town, and various heritage museums. There is also the Bodmin Moor, which was awarded Dark Sky Landscape status in recognition of its lack of light pollution and excellence as a star-gazing location. Just outside Bodmin Moor, there are more than 200 square kilometres of granite moorland, grassland, and heater wilds to explore. Work up a thirst in the great outdoors, then pop in for a drink at the Jamaica Inn, immortalised in Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name.
Cornwall from The Old Quay House Hotel

Discover Cornwall from The Old Quay House Hotel

No matter where you plan to go in Cornwall, The Old Quay House Hotel is the perfect place to make your home base, as it is located less than two hours by car to any spot in the county! Nestled in the heart of Fowey, in a beautifully picturesque location at 28 Fore Street, this riverside boutique hotel offers a modern-day bolthole away from life’s stresses and chores. Check with us for special offers, and we will do everything in our power to make your stay even more special. Stay in one of our 13 luxurious bedrooms and you will enjoy not only big comfy beds and every amenity you need for a decadent stay, but also five-course meals and exquisite estuary views.

Our location is perfect for exploring the quaint, bustling, seaside town and cultural gems of Fowey, enjoying its cafes, boutiques, and galleries, and our restaurant is one of the most popular in the area. There, you will enjoy fine dining, with delectable menus for breakfast, lunch, afternoon high tea, and dinner, in a gorgeous setting, where you can watch life on the estuary unfold from your vantage point on the terrace. In a town set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we strive to provide each of our guests with a unique experience.

Once a refuge for sailors, The Old Quay House is deeply connected to the area’s history, and the character of each bedroom is meticulously crafted to tell its own story, in keeping with that rich tradition. In our Victorian building, you will find friendly staff ready to make your stay comfortable and memorable, and while we cannot accommodate children under the age of 8, in most cases we welcome well-behaved, friendly dogs (dependant on availability).

Call ahead to make sure that your canine companion is allowed with your package.  For more information about our rooms, special offers, or our spectacular restaurant, call +44 0172 683 3302, email [email protected], or contact us through our website.

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