Why visit Cornwall in 2024? Local writer Kirstie Newton provide 26 reasons with an indispensable A-Z guide – the only question you’ll be asking yourself is: “Why not?”
Artist have long flocked to Cornwall for the light, the people, the seascapes, an you can walk in their footsteps. Spend the day pottering around St Ives, from the magnificent Tate overlooking Porthmeor beach to individual artist studios in White’s Old Workshops. Free to enter, Falmouth Art Gallery has a large collection, historic and eclectic with the Scott Tukes of particular interest; or step back in time in pretty Portscatho, where you might even find someone painting in the fisherman’s hut.
Porthmeor Beach St Ives
Whether you love surfing or swimming, wild or tranquil, three-mile long or a dinky cove, Cornwall is a peninsula fringed by 400 miles of glorious coastline, meaning there’s a beach with your name on it somewhere. Especially prized are its nine Blue Flag beaches: Polzeath, Porthmeor, Carbis Bay, Gyllyngvase (Falmouth), Widemouth Bay, Porthtowan, Portreath, Crooklets (Bude) and Trevone Bay.
See our Cornwall beach guide here
Bijou Truro tends to be overlooked because it isn’t on the coast. Big mistake. Book a show at the Hall For Cornwall, immerse yourself in Cornish heritage at the Royal Cornwall Museum, hit the shops (the perfect mix of national and independent retailers) – and don’t forget to experience the splendour of the 19th century Gothic cathedral.
Did you know Cornwall has two International Dark Sky Parks? Bodmin Moor was awarded this prestigious accolade in 2017, followed by West Penwith in 2021. The designation recognises these areas as being naturally dark at night with minimal traces of light pollution, putting them among the best places in the world to view the beauty of the night sky. Aim for the darker months of spring, autumn and winter.
St Ives Food and Drinks Festival
Book a short break around a food festival – Porthleven ( 26 to 28 April), St Ives (May, TBC) and Scilly (12 to 24 September); fill up your basket at a farmers’ market (Wednesdays and Saturdays on Truro’s Lemon Quay – highly recommended); pull up a pew at one of Cornwall’s Michelin-starred restaurants (hello, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw); or make friends with strangers at a feast night – try Nat Tallents’ Lost Supper at Heligan.
Who needs Glasto when you have Boardmasters ( 7 to 11 August 2024)? Who needs Latitude when you have Rock Oyster (25 to 28 July 2024)? During the summer, barely a weekend goes by some kind of shindig. The Great Estate (31 May to 2 June 2024) has already announced The Darkness and Bez as its 2024 headliners, while Rattler Fest (19 and 20 April 2024) offers East 17, Dick and Dom and Scouting For Girls. Tip: look out for smaller single-day gems, like Lanivet’s Pandafest (5 July 2024).
South West Coast Path, Gull Rock near Tintagel
Lace up your boots and breathe in some fresh air. Walk a stretch of the South West Coast Path, or head inland for one of Cornwall’s lush woodlands: Cardinham (Bodmin), Tehidy (Camborne) and Kennall Vale (Falmouth) are popular choices.
Given Cornwall’s coastal nature, there are surprisingly few islands that you can visit, but those that do exist are incredibly special. Cornwall Wildlife Trust offers organised trips to Looe Island from March to October, while magnificent St Michael’s Mount is rightly world-famous. And don’t forget, 28 miles west, the Isles of Scilly – a divine archipelago of white sands, cerulean waters and subtropical gardens.
From Treleavens in Looe to Callestick Farm near Truro and Roskilly’s on the Lizard peninsula, Cornish ice cream is several cuts above your average Whippy. But ask any die-hard which is the best, and there will be one answer: Jelberts of Newlyn, who will serve you any flavour you like as long as it’s vanilla. Join the queue, and watch out for seagulls.
The Cornish language, Kernewek, is officially recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. And when you visit a place that has its own language, it’s only polite to learn a few words. Myttin da: good morning. Meur ras: thanks. Splann!: splendid! If you get the bug, head to the 2024 Cornish Language Weekend will be held on the 12-14 April 2024 at Heartlands, Pool from 12-24 April 2024 – and to Redruth in October 2024 for the Lowender Celtic Festival.
Winston Graham got hearts fluttering with Poldark, but he wasn’t the only author to be inspired by Cornwall. Daphne du Maurier was closely associated with Fowey, poet Charles Causley lived in a modest cottage in Launceston, William Golding was born in Newquay. Some best-selling authors are still alive: Nina Stibbe, Patrick Gale, Catrina Davies and Philip Marsden can often be spotted at literary festivals in Penzance, North Cornwall and Falmouth.
The Wheal Prosper engine house perched on cliffs at Rinsey Head near Porthleven, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images John Dietz
The engine houses and chapels that dot Cornwall’s landscape bear testament to the fact that tin once made this land busy, noisy, dirty – and rich as creases. Visit East Pool Mine or Geevor in West Cornwall; walk the coast path at Wheal Coates; and for something really special, don’t miss the smoking of the chimneys at Redruth’s International Mining Festival in September.
Cookworthy Knapp, the tiny clump of trees on the Devon/Cornwall border near Launceston, goes by many aliases, but whatever you call it, it’s the “punch-the-air” moment when you realise you’re almost west of the Tamar.
The summer can be busy, consider a holiday in the shoulder seasons: April/May, or September/October. It’s quieter, you can find some fantastic deals (and a table in your favourite restaurant), and the weather is often just as good if not better than in mid-August.
Book your Cornwall 2024 holiday with Cornish Secrets
The Cornish pasty has but four ingredients: beef skirt, onion, turnip and potato, tapped in buttery shortcrust pastry. Accept no imposters.
Celebrating a lively LBGTQIA+ community, Cornwall Pride organises 11 colourful marches, from Bude to Penzance, with what is claimed to be the world’s largest Pride flag as their centrepiece. In Truro, the route passes the Royal Cornwall Museum, where the Queer Kernow project has been examining its collections to pull out any hidden queer stories – such as the life of theatre impresario Samuel Foote.
Sea Salt Sails
Wooden hulls, spars, topsails and canvas, all against the majestic backdrop of Mount’s Bay – the biennial Sea, Salts and Sail, which returns to Mousehole from 5-7 July 2024, will take you back to a bygone era. Falmouth Classics (14 to 16 June 2024), meanwhile, coincides with the International Sea Shanty Festival, so be prepared to hoist the main sail!
The subject of Cornwall’s patron saint is one of some debate. Is it St Michael, he of the mount? Or St Petroc, who gives his name to Cornwall’s largest church after Truro Cathedral, in Bodmin? Most, however, side with St Piran, who reportedly sailed over from Ireland on a millstone and was the first to smelt Cornish tin, an event commemorated by our monochrome flag. His saint’s day is 5 March, with plenty of parades in towns across Cornwall; wrap up warm and head for Perran Dunes to join the St Piran Play and procession.
Devon Cornwall Rail Partnership
Whether you cross at Launceston or Saltash, it’s worth lingering at the border, once a hotbed of industry: first mining, then market gardening. The Tamar rises three miles from Bude, and snakes its way down to Plymouth Sound. Legend has it that Tamara was a beautiful nymph, who won the hearts of two brother giants, Tavy and Torridge; her father was so incensed, he turned her into a river of tears. The giants asked their father to transform them, too; Tavy followed Tamara and joined her near Plymouth; Torridge took a wrong turn, and flows into Bideford Bay on the north coast. Pretty Calstock with its breathtaking railway viaduct is a must-see.
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced diver, you’ll be spoilt for choice for dive sites in Cornwall. Marvel at an array of abundant natural sea life, or check out reefs and shipwrecks depending on your location. Always dive with care – this blog post tells you more about Cornish sea diving, discussing issues like visibility, types of dive, depth range and water temperature. Alternatively, sign up with a fully qualified instructor – try the Cornish Diving Centre in Falmouth.
Take a trip out to the Roseland peninsula, and you’ll come across two pairs of peculiar thatched round houses at either end of the village of Veryan. Some say they were built that way by a 19th century vicar so the devil couldn’t hide in the corners. It all adds to the charm of this tranquil area, home also to classy St Mawes and the picture-postcard church of St Just-in-Roseland, where Jesus is thought to have arrived in Cornwall with his uncle, Joseph of Arimethea, en route to Glastonbury. Come in April for the annual festival which fills village halls, churches and hotels with music, talks, crafts and food.
From paddleboarding (SUP) to wild swimming, watersports are always popular. Carlyon Beach offers jet ski safaris, SUP and kayak hire so you can see the bay from the best vantage point; in season, it becomes a hive of activity, hosting street food and beach yoga. Sea pools in Bude and Penzance are highly recommended (the latter even has a geothermally heated section, and a special day for dog swimming), or seek out the more tucked-away examples in Perranporth and Porthtowan. Alternatively, invest in the book Wild Swimming Walks Cornwall for coastal and inland suggestions (always taking safety precautions).
Cornwall does Christmas so well, even Santa books in. We’re talking Mousehole lights and stargazey pie, a smorgasbord of festive food in Padstow, a beautiful garland of dried flowers at Cotehele, panto at the Hall For Cornwall and a Boxing Day swim in Charlestown (brrrr).
When in Cornwall, do as the Cornish do. If you spot someone you know, even vaguely, of any gender, try this greeting, which can reportedly be shouted from distances up to ¼ mile.
With all this activity, you’ll be in need of a good night’s sleep. Find your perfect accommodation for your 2024 Cornwall holiday with Cornish Secrets.
BOOK YOUR 2024 CORNWALL HOLIDAY WITH CORNISH SECRETS