North Cornwall is one of the hottest holiday destinations in the UK, thanks to the diverse range of things to do and see. It offers a romantic ruggedness and honesty with its black craggy rocks and stunning coastline dotted with vast expansive sandy beaches, popular with surfers seeking the thrill of riding the gigantic Atlantic waves. Stretching from Bude to Perranporth, North Cornwall’s stunning coastline offers a great choice of seaside holiday destinations with diverse appeal. For magical myth and legend head to Tintagel or Boscastle; for those seeking culinary excellence, the bustling harbour town of Padstow has to be top of the list (particularly for seafood lovers!); TV buffs can live the life of Doc Martin in Port Isaacs (known as Portwenn); or stay inland a little in the ancient town of Camelford and discover Cornwall’s hidden heart in nearby Bodmin Moor. You could even go a bit further to check out Liskeard, Polmartin Riding is perfect for horse riding enthusiasts. Wherever you choose, we have a great choice of Cornish self-catering accommodation including lots of last minute deals for those desperate to hear the cry of the gulls.
From surfing in Newquay to family fun at Crealy Adventure Park, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in North Cornwall. We know there are hundreds of reasons to visit this beautiful part of the British coast, but we didn’t have the time to write about them all! Instead, we’ve picked seven of our favourite things to do and see, which we hope you’ll enjoy.
1. Surfing in Newquay
No trip to North Cornwall will ever be complete without surfing in Newquay. Millions of people visit the UK capital of surfing every year, from beginners to pros. There are dozens of surf schools set up around the beaches of Newquay, so you’ll be able to brush up on your skills if you need to. Some of the best surfing beaches in the area include:
- Watergate Bay – A mid to high tide beach that is great for novices.
- Fistral Beach – Both North and South Fistral are great for beginners.
- Tolcarne – Perfect for novices and bodyboarders, with a pretty consistent surf.
- Lusty Glaze – The waves can be incredible to surf here, but be wary of rocky outcrops.
Grab your surfboard and get ready for an adrenaline rush like no other! Be advised that only Watergate Bay and Fistral are dog friendly beaches in the list above, so you’ll have to leave your four legged friend at home if you’re planning on surfing some waves between Easter and October 1st.
2. Cycle The Mineral Tramways Coast to Coast
If you and your family are keen cyclists, then you’ll adore the Mineral Tramways Coast to Coast trail in North Cornwall. This cycling trail is fairly flat and mainly off-road, stretching for 15 miles between Portreath and Devoran. What makes it so spectacular is that you’ll be able to tick off a whole ton of attractions and stunning landscapes along the way. We recommend hiring from Cornwall based Go by Cycle.
The trail itself goes through a world heritage mining site, also taking in coastal views, woodlands and even quarries. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, such as Bissoe’s Bike Chain Cafe and Devoran’s Old Quay Inn; perfect if you can’t manage 15 miles in one sitting. This is ‘penny free’ fun for the whole family with the added benefit of getting some exercise and burning off some holiday calories!
3. Lappa Valley Steam Railway
Lappa Valley in itself is a beautiful place to spend time, in a peaceful setting surrounded by wildlife. However, if you want to experience North Cornwall in a completely different way then you have to take a trip on the steam railway. Travel along one of Cornwall’s oldest train tracks, through the woods and over to the Newlyn Halt outdoor activity centre. Here you’ll find mazes, electric cars, a boating lake, crazy golf and much more. Both children and adults will be entertained for hours, before taking the steam train back home.
The steam train has ramped compartments which are easily accessible for those in wheelchairs, there are also wheelchairs available to borrow at no extra charge. If you want to bring your dog along then you can, as long as they are well behaved and on a lead. Everybody can enjoy Lappa Valley Steam Railway and the outdoor activity centre, which is what makes it such a popular attraction in North Cornwall.
4. Day trip to Exmoor
If you fancy taking some time away from all of the hustle, bustle and adventure in North Cornwall, then how about a day trip to Exmoor? Depending on where you are situated, it shouldn’t take too long to travel to; Newquay is the furthest, at two hours and thirty minutes. Once there you can soak up the stunning landscapes of this world famous National Park, whilst visiting many of the attractions within.
Everyone adores all that Exmoor has to offer, from Tarr Steps to Dunster Castle. Most of the places to visit in Exmoor are also dog friendly and there are miles of walking routes for you and your dog to enjoy. Make sure you plan which attractions you wish to visit before setting off, in order to make the most of your time.
5. Explore Tintagel Castle
This English Heritage site is a must for anyone visiting North Cornwall! Tintagel Castle can be found high up on the coast, ensuring that visitors can take in dramatic sea views whilst exploring these 13th Century ruins. The location itself is absolutely breathtaking, so make sure you bring your camera for photos of the beautiful Cornish coast. When you’re not taking photos, there’s plenty of areas to explore in the ruins themselves, including the remains of The Great Hall, chapel and tunnel.
There are plenty of events taking place throughout the year at Tintagel Castle, many of which focus on the history of this great building. Make sure you check the English Heritage website for details of the latest events happening when you plan your visit. There are plenty of stunning coastal paths nearby, also, which are perfect for taking the dogs out on a walk. Unfortunately, wheelchair access is limited due to the steep steps, however you can get to the viewing points and visitor centre fairly easily.
6. Rock-pooling at Crantock Beach
Crantock beach, in Newquay, is definitely one of the most popular destinations for visitors to North Cornwall. Maybe it has something to do with the giant sand dunes and caves to explore, or perhaps it’s due to the soft sand, ice cream stalls and water sports. Once you have caught some rays on the beach, head to the River Gannel which can be found on the Eastern side of the beach. Here your family can enjoy rock-pooling, padding and trying to net some crabs.
Everything at Crantock beach and the River Gannel is child-friendly, even the rock-pooling. It is easily accessible with good facilities and car parks nearby. Crantock beach is also dog friendly all year round, so your beloved pet can paddle in the sea as well. The local Fern Pit cafe serves cream tea and crab sandwiches, for a proper Cornish experience. This is a must-visit if you are planning a trip to North Cornwall, so add it to your list.
7. Family Fun at Crealy Adventure Park
Last up, is the world famous Crealy Adventure Park. Cornwall’s Crealy is packed full of park rides, both indoor and outdoor (great for a rainy day), as well as plenty of wildlife attractions. There is something for everyone, from giant rides for big kids, to the little less daunting for younger children. The family can get up close to the animals at Pets Paddock and Old MacDonald’s Farm, or enjoy a leisurely stroll on one of the pony rides.
Crealy Adventure Park has been well thought out for those with disabilities, with a wide range of facilities to cater for everyone. This includes disabled parking and toilets, wheelchair access to rides and attractions and free admittance for carers. You could easily spend all day at Crealy Adventure Park, so make some time for it in your North Cornwall itinerary.
Whether you want to enjoy a cream tea and crab sandwich on the beach, or fancy something a little bit more adrenaline-filled, North Cornwall has something to suit every taste. This makes it the perfect holiday destination for fun-seeking families, romance-seeking couples and thrill-seeking groups of friends. The next time you’re thinking of a UK holiday, consider adding North Cornwall to your list.