The sea defines Cornwall more than anything else. Nowhere on this peninsula jutting out from the west of England, with some 300 miles of coastline, is more than 20 miles from the sea. With more than 300 beaches, varying from long stretches of sand to small sheltered coves carved out of the granite, the Duchy has something for all beach lovers.
The two coasts are an exercise in contrasts, however.
The Atlantic-facing north coast is wild, with rugged granite cliffs, rocky coves and headlands, steep valleys and extensive sand dunes. This is surf country, from Bude to Newquay and down to Godrevy where surfers find themselves sharing the water with seals.
The South coast is softer, the land sloping gently down to river estuaries - the Fal, Fowey and Helford - and sheltered beaches. Seaside towns and villages such as Looe, Fowey, Mevagissey, Falmouth, Porthleven, Mousehole have retained their character despite the attentions of the tourist industry.
There’s plenty to interest the visitor inland as well. Bodmin Moor is home to the highest point in the county, the hill known as Brown Willy, and further west lies the rugged granite landscape of the Penwith peninsula.
History buffs won’t be short of things to do either. Cornwall was one of the first regions in the world to undergo industrialisation, as tin and copper were dug out of the county’s soil. The remains of the iconic mine engine houses dot the landscape; the importance of the industry was recognised some years ago by the United Nations which designated the Cornish mining landscape a World Heritage Site. Visitors on foot, bicycle or horseback can explore the network of Mineral Tramway trails that wind through the former mining areas. At Botallack and the Poldark Mine, visitors can go underground to learn about the history of an industry that was a vital part of Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
Elsewhere, lovers of ancient history can wander round the Iron Age settlement at Carn Euny and explore the many standing stones and stone circles that tell of Cornwall’s long distant past. The castles at Restormel and Pendennis, together with the great country houses of Lanhydrock and Cotehele illuminate the Duchy’s more recent history.
Add in the great gardens of Glendurgan and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and the likes of the Eden Project near St Austell, and there’s plenty to keep the visitor occupied in this little Celtic corner of Britain.
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