Cornwall is laden with
wondrous stretches of golden sand and inviting waters. While some are within
easy reach, others take a little walking to get to – but are absolutely worth
Best for views: the
cliffs at Bedruthan Steps Beach, a
few miles north of Newquay, have eroded to leave a series of huge rock pillars
looming from the sands: the name comes from a staircase in the rock face that
leads down to the beach. There are caves to explore and cliff walks between
Bedruthan and Carnewas (staircase closed Nov–Feb).
Best for surfing: the
classic Cornish surfing beach of Fistral
in Newquay is one of the best places to learn how to surf in the UK, which is
why so many surfing schools have set up shop nearby. Professional competitions
are regularly held here too. There’s a range of surf shack and beach house
accommodation on the sands, so there’s no need to waste any time in the morning
before hitting the waves (Headland Rd).
Best for families: a
half-shingle, half-sand beach in a secluded cove, Crackington Haven near the village of
St Gennys is backed by cliffs, making for great walking, with views over Bude
Bay and out to the Bristol Channel from the nearby St Gennys Church. The beach
is dotted with rock pools, full of sealife, and the protection from the
Atlantic winds make it a recommended spot for swimming.
Best for drama: a
beautiful triangle of beach folded within the Porthcurno valley three miles
from Land’s End, Porthcurno is something
of a sun trap. Best of all, up on the cliff overlooking the beach stands the
Minack, an open-air theatre built into the rock with the sea its backdrop and
the moon rising over the waves an enjoyable distraction.
Best for history: a
fine curve of sand and pebbles by Mount’s Bay, the beach of Marazion retains a sense of peace and
seclusion despite being close to the town of the same name. At the end of the
beach nearest the town, at low tide it is possible to cross the causeway to the
island of St Michael’s Mount, the Norman monastery and castle that dominates
the shoreline. Ferries operate at high tide (Manor Office; castle admission
Best for beauty: the
Lizard Peninsula lies at the very edge of the country – all ink-black cliffs,
raging seas and open heaths. It’s covered in wild flowers in summer and Kynance Cove is the pick of the many
striking beaches here. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the
Caribbean, such is the intensity of the blue sea and the whiteness of the sand,
while the huge serpentine rock formations provide a gritty contrast.
Best for wilderness: a
three-mile sweep of flawless sand, Whitsand
Bay’s relative inaccessibility (there are few roads nearby, and to arrive
at the beach requires a cliffside scramble) lends it an isolated beauty. The
shoreline’s overlooked by Rame Head, with the ruins of a 14th-century chapel on
top (near Tregonhawke).
Best for seclusion: Lantic Bay is the sort of beach that
everybody wishes they could have as their own. The bay sits at the base of a
gorse and hawthorn-laden cliff valley, with a half-moon of white sand looking
out over the water. It takes a 20-minute walk down a cliff path to get here –
if you’re lucky, you could enjoy all of this natural splendour with nobody else
around (near Fowey).
Best for fishing villages:
the pretty fishing village of Polperro is no
secret, and the jumble of fishermen’s cottages lead to a harbour that is
regularly thronged with fishing boats. The beach here, adorned with a tidal
pool, acts as welcome respite from the bustle of the town, while the walks
along Chapel Cliff and through the valley itself are among the best throughout
Where to stay
Orchard Lodge, a short walk
uphill from the village of Boscastle, is a fine example of a modern b&b,
furnished in bold, colourful fabrics. Rates come down if you stay longer (open
Mar–Oct; from £75).
Abbey Hotel is an old sea-captain’s
house in Penzance which is full of heritage touches: wonky corridors, antique
dressers, canopied beds. There’s a lovely garden out back for a sundown drink (from
The Old Quay House in the small town of Fowey
is the epitome of the upmarket trend. This ultra-exclusive quayside hotel is
all standalone bathtubs, spotlit deck beds, varnished wooden floors and swish
private lounges. The guestrooms are a mix of estuary-view suites and attic
penthouses (from £180).
Direct trains to
Cornish stations run from London Paddington, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bristol.
It’s a five-hour journey from London to Penzance (from £30; firstgreatwestern.co.uk). By car,
take the M4 from London or M6 from Manchester, then the M5 to Exeter and A30
into Cornwall. Private transport is the easiest way to get around the county,
but roads can get very busy in summer. Local train services run to Looe,
Falmouth, Newquay and St Ives (cornwallpublictransport.info).
The article 'Mini guide to Cornwall’s beaches' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.