Cornwall is the southwesternmost county in England and is famed for its beautiful beaches, world-class surfing, and Cornish pasties. However, with a number of towns and cities in the county, it can be difficult to determine what to see and where to go on a Cornwall itinerary.
Cornwall is known to be the warmest area of England and has more sun year-round than virtually anywhere else in the country. With a culture distinct from elsewhere in England with strong Celtic roots, unique cuisine, incredible nature, beautiful beaches and fascinating history, Cornwall really makes for one of the best destinations to visit in the entirety of the country.
And while you can easily spend weeks exploring this lovely corner of England, planning a 3-day Cornwall itinerary to up to 5 days in Cornwall is enough to see and do quite a lot of what this region has to offer.
If you’re thinking of exploring this part of England, here’s everything you need to know about the best time to visit, where to stay, how to get there and where to go in Cornwall!
When to Visit Cornwall
Arguably the best time to visit Cornwall is either in the summer season of July to August if you are happy to endure the crowds in order to be able to fully enjoy the surf and the beach. Not that in the high season, it can be hard to find accommodation or even a spot in a car park due to crowds.
Or, alternatively, visiting in the shoulder seasons of May to June and September to October should allow you to enjoy the beautiful coastal walks and towns in Cornwall with a fraction of the crowds that visit this region in summer.
Visiting Cornwall from November-April might not be the best time to go as the weather is the coldest and rainiest you will get all year. However, there are a number of advantages of travelling to this part of the world in the offseason.
Accommodation prices are surprisingly affordable and tourist crowds are virtually non-existent. The obvious disadvantage of travelling in the off-season is that it makes it hard to enjoy the beautiful coastline of the area.
Not only will you not be able to dip into the water but you may experience very strong winds, making it hard to enjoy some of the coastal paths and walks on offer in the south west of England.
Regardless of when you decide to go, however, Cornwall is an area that should be on everyone’s English travel list.
How to Get to Cornwall
There are a few options for travellers looking to get from Cornwall. While this article will focus on the best way to get to Cornwall from London, the pros and cons of each method are relevant to travelling from other parts of England. There are four main options to consider: train, bus, car or guided tour
There are trains to Cornwall from all over England with one of the most popular routes being to travel from London to Penzance in Cornwall. The journey takes just over 5 hours and there are several trains a day (there is also a night train available).
If you want to get to other destinations in Cornwall such as Newquay or St Ives then that will usually require at least one change of train from London, though there are some direct trains available.
When travelling by train in the UK, it is strongly recommended to book tickets in advance as you can get much better deals when compared to booking a day or two before travel. Click here to browse train schedules.
Travelling to Cornwall by bus from London means adding at least 3 hours onto your journey time. Both National Express and MegaBus run routes from London with direct routes available to towns in Cornwall such as Penzance, Newquay and St Ives.
In our opinion, the best way to get to Cornwall from London or anywhere else in England is to rent a car. While the journey time will be comparable to taking a train, having a car will allow you to have a lot more flexibility in exploring Cornwall.
You can also take a slightly longer but more scenic route along the A-30 that goes along the coast rather than on the highway. This London to Cornwall drive can be an incredible trip on its own and it can be well worth making a few stops along the way.
Public transport within region is limited so having a car will ensure you can visit all the great destinations that are on offer! It’s certainly the easiest way to get around Cornwall.
We rented a car at Heathrow Airport which is a cheaper option than renting a vehicle from the centre of London. We recommend browsing on RentalCars.Com to find deals on car hire as they aggregate results across a number of suppliers.
It can also be a good option to take out an excess insurance policy from a third party like iCarHireInsurance to ensure you don’t need to pay any excess in the event that you need to make a claim.
By Guided Tour
If you’re staying in London and prefer to take a tour to visit Cornwall then there a few options available. Most of the tours available will be around 5 days round trip and include accommodation, transport, some meals and a guide. If this is something that interests you I suggest checking out this tour that combines Cornwall with Devon.
3 Days in Cornwall Itinerary
While it is entirely possible to spend a week or more enjoying the villages in Cornwall, the nature, the beaches in Cornwall and historic sites, you can cover a lot of ground in just 3 days. If you’re looking for the ideal 3-day Cornish trip, we’re here to help.
Day 1 – Tintagel, Newquay & the Eden Project
The first day of this road trip to Cornwall sees you exploring some diverse areas of this beautiful region. Start by exploring a medieval castle with mythical roots, visit an incredible indoor rainforest, or maybe try your hand at surfing in one of England’s premier beach destinations.
Begin this day in the town of Tintagel, home to Tintagel castle, which, according to folklore, was the mythical birthplace of the one and only King Arthur. This ruined fortification is located on its own small island accessible by a footbridge that leads over the dramatic cliffs below. The views are absolutely spectacular and there is definitely a certain kind of magic that can be found here.
There is a well-maintained visitors centre at Tintagel where you can learn more about the history and myth of this castle, or you can just take the time to be moved by how incredible the scenery is.
The Eden Project
From Tintagel and for a different taste of nature, head to the Eden Project which has a number of different biomes including the biggest rainforest in captivity. If you’re an adrenaline junky, it’s possible to zip line across the entire park.
And finally, end your day in the charming town of Newquay, a quintessential seaside village that is a perfect place to explore and relax by the beach. There are countless fantastic restaurants in the town as well, including The Fish House, a well-renowned seafood eatery in Fistral Beach.
Newquay is also said to be the best surfing destination in the UK and the culture here may have you thinking you’ve arrived in a coastal town in Southern California or Australia.
There are countless surfing schools in Newquay that are there to teach you how to hit the waves, should that take your fancy, or you can just occupy yourself by watching the countless surfers from the warmth and safety of the sand (or a beachside bar!).
Day 2 – Penzance, St Michael’s Mount & Land’s End
Provided the weather works in your favour (and there is more a chance of this in Cornwall than elsewhere in England), spend your second day of this Cornish road trip enjoying a number of Cornwall’s incredible outdoor sights and scenery.
Penzance & St Michael’s Mount
Begin your day in the charming town of Penzance. There isn’t all that much to see here in regards to tourist sites, however, the town itself is worth wandering through. There are a lot of points of interest around Penzance, however, that make it a great jumping-off point for day two of your time in Cornwall.
One such point of interest is the beautiful St Michael’s Mount which is one of the top places to visit in Cornwall. Located on a small island just a stone’s throw away from Penzance of the coast of the town of Marazion, the island is reachable by a man-made causeway that you can walk across at low to mid-tide (most of the day) and it only takes a few minutes to reach the island.
The main attraction of St Michael’s Mount would be the castle that lies on the island. Historically, the castle has been a counterpart of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.
The castle on St Michael’s Mount dates back as far as the 8th Century CE when the structure was built as a monastery, however, it has been home to the St Aubyn family since about 1650.
From St Michael’s Mount, hop in the car and get ready to experience some of the best natural scenery that you’ll experience in all of England, not just on this visit in Cornwall. For a man-made wonder with some of the best views in the world, take a trip to the Minack Theatre.
It’s an open-air theatre that a Cornish woman carved out of the side of a cliff. It has spectacular views of the sea and puts on Shakespeare productions during the summer season. It’s worth a visit even if you don’t see a show, though, because both the theatre and scenery are absolutely breathtaking.
Land’s End & Cape Cornwall
Now it’s time to head a little bit further southwest until you can’t drive any further — that’s because you’ve reached Land’s End, the southwesternmost point of Britain! This area is more known for its incredible views and stunning scenery, boasting dramatic cliffs and turquoise blue water.
On a clear day, it is even possible to see the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago that lies about 40 kilometres off the coast.
Driving a bit further north, you will reach Cape Cornwall, which is England’s only cape and also boasts numerous walking trails and incredible views. If the weather is fine and you’re keen to get outside a bit, I highly recommend taking a walk around here to experience some of the most amazing views you will see in the region.
Day 3 – Mousehole & St Ives
After spending so much time out in nature on the first two days of this 3-day Cornwall itinerary, your final day will be spent exploring some iconic Cornish villages.
Begin your day in the lovely town of Mousehole, a traditional fishing village that is sure to steal your heart. While there may not be a huge amount of tourist points of interest here, it is packed with charm and well worth a wander through.
There is also a charming harbour to enjoy along with a number of cosy cafes, cute shops and other places to take it. It’s a great peaceful stop that can take you a bit away from a lot of tourist crowds.
From Mousehole, it’s time to head to one of the most popular places to visit in all of Cornwall, St Ives.
The city of St Ives boasts a lively art scene and even has its own branch of the Tate. There are a number of great restaurants and shops there as well and the winding cobbled streets exude a classic English charm.
The city itself has a lot to offer including some wonderful beaches, plenty of art galleries, locals shops to browse, great restaurants and much much more.
There are also ample walking opportunities that begin and end in the city so if you’re keen to get out into nature just a bit more, make sure to find some hikes that you can go on to enjoy the scenery around this lovely village an this part of Cornwall even more.
There is enough to do in St Ives to keep you occupied for the rest of the day, especially if you’re interested in hitting the beach or going for a walk. There’s no doubt that visiting St Ives is one of the best things to do in Cornwall.
The city also makes for an excellent place to end this trip to Cornwall.
Have More Time?
If you’re looking to spend five days or even a week in Cornwall, there are plenty of ways that you can extend your time in this lovely region.
If you’re keen to get outdoors, then make sure to take advantage of all of the incredible walks that are on offer in the area. You also could allot one or two days for a surfing lesson and for time to spend just lounging on the beach.
If you’re interested in exploring more towns and villages, then there are countless more settlements in Cornwall worth visiting including the city of Truro or the coastal towns of Bude and St Austell, the latter of which is home to the famed Lost Gardens of Heligan.
All in all, there is so much to see and do in Cornwall that you can’t go wrong with any length of a Cornwall road trip itinerary.
Where to Stay in Cornwall
There are myriad places to stay whilst in Cornwall, from small cities to tiny fishing villages and if you have a car it doesn’t really matter where in the county you stay as you will have the freedom to go wherever you’d like.
If travelling in high season, it is highly advisable to book ahead as Cornwall is an extremely popular destination for both international and local tourists.
If you prefer to stay in a bigger town with a larger selection of restaurants or pubs around then staying in places like Penzance, Newquay or St. Ives are good options. Here are some suggested places in each town.
Where to Stay in Penzance
Chiverton House B&B – A cosy bed and breakfast run by a situated in the heart of Penzance. They offer a range of private rooms suitable for up to two people with all modern amenities. Click here to check their availability
The Dolphin Tavern – A traditional inn located right on the coast making it the perfect choice if you want to enjoy lovely sea views every morning. Breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Where to Stay in Newquay
Cliff House – A great place to stay in Newquay that is well located in the centre of town and next to the beach. Rooms are suitable for couples or families with a great breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Selkies NQY – Located a few minutes’ walk from the beach, this is a great luxurious option for couples looking for a place to stay in Newquay. Staff are friendly and there is a bar on site. Click here to check their availability
Where to Stay in St Ives
Palma Guest House – A lovely guest house situated on the bay in St Ives with incredible views from each room. This place is ideal if travelling as a couple with the rooms available all modern, clean and comfortable. Click here to check their availability
Lifeboat Inn – Also located on the bay in St Ives, this place is suitable for either couples or if travelling with up to two children. Rooms are spacious and there is an option to have breakfast on site. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places to stay in Cornwall!
Planning the perfect 3 days in Cornwall isn’t a difficult task, with so many beautiful and historic places to visit. No matter how long you plan to spend in this incredible region of England, you’re sure to have an incredible time exploring the historic towns, beautiful nature, and stunning coastline.
Are you planning a Cornwall trip? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!