It is no wonder Cornwall is such a popular holiday destination. Cornish pasties and cream teas aside, its stunning beaches and coastline, exhilarating walks, incredible gardens and mild climate makes it hard not to love Cornwall. Whether you choose to spend lazy days on the beach, or venture further inland to the moors, you cannot fail to be wowed by the beautiful Cornish landscape. Whilst a week of bright blue skies is likely to be the icing on the cake, as with any holiday in the UK, it is impossible to guarantee wall to wall sunshine!
However, don’t despair if you have a few grey and drizzly days. There are still plenty of things to do in Cornwall if the weather isn’t on your side. Whilst you can’t control the weather, you can embrace a bit of wind and rain or find some interesting and sheltered spots to explore. From heritage sites steeped in history, to unbeatable gastronomic experiences, we have compiled a list of the ten best things to do on a rainy day in Cornwall.
If you are going to get wet anyway you might as well embrace it! Surfing is such a popular activity in Cornwall that you’ll see plenty of people hitting the beach, even when the weather is miserable. By the time you’re decked out in your wetsuit you’ll hardly even notice the weather anyway. There are plenty of beaches to pick from, many of which have surf schools, one we’d recommend is Perranporth Surf School. The best surfing beaches tend to be on the north coast. Some of our favourites include Fistral Beach, Watergate Bay, Gwithian Beach, Bude and Sennen Cove.
Not all of these beaches are easily accessible or dog friendly throughout the year so make sure you check before making the trip. You may also want to take a look at our top dog-friendly attractions guide for Cornwall.
Kayaking and canoeing
If you’re not quite brave enough to take on the waves at Cornwall’s popular surfing beaches, but you are keen to have a go at some water sports, check out Loebeach Watersports in Truro or you should consider cruising along the rivers and creeks in a kayak or canoe. Two of the most popular kayaking and canoeing destinations are Fowey River and the Tamar River. Escorted excursions will take you through the beautiful Cornish countryside, allowing you to get up close with the local wildlife. Whilst you are likely to have a more enjoyable day if the sun shines, there is so much to see and do that you will hardly notice the weather.
Take a trip on a steam train
Travel back in time on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway and experience Cornwall in a completely different light. This 13 mile round trip in a heritage steam train carriage will take you through the Cornish countryside. There is a huge number of things to spot along the way and if the weather brightens up you can choose to get on and off the train at any of the stops to go for a walk or visit one of the nearby attractions. Just a 30 minute walk from Boscarne Junction you can visit the infamous Camel Valley vineyard.
The trains operate between Bodmin Parkway Station and Boscarne Junction all year round, with daily trips between June and September. Dogs are allowed to travel free, as long as you keep them away from the delectable buffet cars! The trains are easily accessible for those in wheelchairs, although some of the stations may be difficult to navigate.
A day at a gallery
Cornwall is a popular destination for artists, which means there are plenty of galleries for you to enjoy if the weather is grizzly. One of the most famous is the Tate in St Ives, which plays host to dozens of exciting exhibitions every year. There are no permanent displays here, as they change on a regular basis, so you can visit time and time again to see something different. If you’re an art enthusiast it’s worth checking out the St Ives Society of Artists for current exhibitions.
Other must-sees include the Falmouth Art Gallery, Beside the Wave, Porthminster Gallery and Waterside Gallery. All of the galleries are free to enter and are easily accessible for those in wheelchairs. This is not a day out for pets however, as dogs are not allowed inside.
One of the top attractions in Cornwall, the Eden Project, is the perfect place to visit on a rainy day. Within the numerous biomes you can see the world’s largest indoor rainforest, make your way through the olive trees in the Mediterranean garden, or explore the secret corners of a traditional Cornish allotment. There’s also an incredible hands-on learning experience to be had at the education centre, which is suitable for all ages.
Try to schedule your visit around one of the many events the Eden Project put on. You can have a go at ice skating, art and craft activities or even fly through the air on a zip wire. Many of the events do cost extra, so check the website before heading over. Discounts are given to those who walk, cycle or take public transport, so buy your ticket on the door if this applies to you. Dogs are welcome at no extra charge, as long as they remain in the outdoor gardens. The Eden Project has won an award for their accessibility, so those with limited mobility or wheelchair users will be able to enjoy all parts of the attraction too.
If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket than a crab sandwich on the beach (not that there’s anything wrong with this!), then head to Padstow. The home of famous chef Rick Stein, this beautiful harbour town is packed with exquisite restaurants to tantalise your taste buds. If you want to really treat yourselves, head to the renowned Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, which is a perfect place for a romantic dinner.
Alternatively pick up some fresh fish or seafood from the harbour side and cook up a feast in your holiday cottage. There’s nothing like a seafood supper caught fresh that day or a lobster BBQ if the sun comes out.
If you want to stay out of the rain and enjoy something spooky, then take a trip to Bodmin Jail. Entrance to the grounds, bar and restaurant are free, so this is an excellent way to save money during your holiday in Cornwall too. If you want to experience the inside of the jail, which is a rather spine-tingling trip, then there’s an admission charge.
This historic attraction is a great place to while away the day, with plenty of events and tours taking place during busy times. If you’re feeling a little more daring then you can visit Bodmin Jail at night, when one of their Overnight Ghost Walks takes place. Dogs are allowed in and around the jail, but not near the restaurant or bar areas. Due to the constraints of the building wheelchairs are not able to access the jail.
Lanhydrock House is the type of attraction you would want to visit come rain or shine. However, it’s perfect if you want to stay sheltered for the day. With over 50 rooms to explore, a leisurely stroll through this National Trust building will keep the whole family entertained for hours.
If the sun does decide to come out then make sure you take a wander through the beautiful gardens and exquisite estate that surrounds this atmospheric house. There are also woodland cycle trails nearby which are perfect for adventure lovers. Dogs are welcome in the park and wooded areas, as long as they are on leads. The building itself is also easily accessible for those in wheelchairs, with single-seater PMVs available for the gardens. Lanhydrock is about a 40 minute walk from Bodmin Park Station on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway so it is possible to combine a trip here with a ride on the steam train.
Shipwreck and heritage centre at Charlestown
There’s fun for the whole family at the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre at Charlestown with a wide range of things to see and do, including the fascinating story of the Titanic. Here you’ll find artefacts from over 150 shipwrecks, along with historical facts, tours and photographs to browse through. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre as it caters for all tastes and interests. Make sure you check out one of the showings at the Audio Visual Centre for a fascinating insight into the Charlestown Harbour and the clay industry that once thrived here.
There is a treasure hunt for the kids and the four legged members of your family are welcome too. This is an accessible building, which makes it easy for everyone to enjoy all of the exhibitions.
Learn about Cornwall’s mining heritage
Cornwall has a rich and varied mining heritage, which has led to many attractions and museums springing up all over the county. One of the best places to visit to learn more about this unique way of life is the award winning Geevor Tin Mine Museum where there are plenty of hands-on experiences for you and the whole family to play with.
Be dazzled by the incredible machinery of yesteryear, enjoy some interactive fun at the Hard Rock museum and even go underground into the 19th century mine. You and the children can have a go at gold and gem panning where you get to keep what you find (be lucky!). This is truly a fantastic day for everyone, so make sure you take a trip when the weather is grey. Much of the museum is accessible for those in a wheelchair but the underground mine and some of the rough terrain may be difficult to navigate.
This is just a small taste of a few things to do on a rainy day in Cornwall. The list could go on and on for ever! Come rain or shine, summer or winter, there is more to Cornwall than lazy days on the beach. So don’t despair if you need to stow away your sun cream and beach towel for a few days. Embrace the weather head on and discover what incredible things this beautiful part of the country has to offer.