There’s so much to explore in Cornwall and with our central location we are perfectly positioned for you to get out there and discover the highlights with Great Gardens, picturesque fishing villages and so much more. Have a look at our recommendations for the best things to see in Cornwall including gardens, villages, museums and shopping – plus our favourite places to get off the beaten track.
Please note that for 2021 many of Cornwall’s gardens and attractions are operating ticketed entry schemes to control their daily visitor numbers. Many of these have to be booked at least one day in advance of your visit and tickets do sell out. So we definitely recommend that you book up the attractions from your wish list before you holiday begins. After all half the fun is in the planning!
One of the true highlights of Cornwall are its beautiful gardens, especially if you visit in the spring-time when the gardens are a riot of colour with exotic plants, colourful camellias, magnificent magnolias and radiant rhodendrons. And that’s even before we mention the stunning bluebell woods and banks full of primroses and daffodils.
Less than 10 minutes’ down the road from Pengelly is Godolphin, a National Trust property with beautiful formal gardens, spring-time bluebell woods and a great walk up Godolphin Hill with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. Of course, if you feel like staying a little closer to your luxury yurt or lakeside lodge then you can enjoy Pengelly’s luscious expanse of private lakes, gardens and meadows – yours to call home for the duration of your holiday in Cornwall.
St Michael’s Mount in Mounts Bay, near Marazion, is a real highlight of any visit to this area. A fairytale-like manor house perched upon an island and surrounded by lush gardens and stunning views of the bay. It’s about 25 minutes’ drive from Pengelly, check on the National Trust’s website for times when you can access by boat or by walking across the causeway.
Also within easy driving distance (25-40 minutes) you’ll find some of our other favourite great gardens: Trengwainton, Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, Trewidden, Bonython, Trebah, Glendurgan… the list goes on!
Finally, slightly further afield (about an hour’s drive) but worth a visit if you are staying longer are the intriguing Lost Gardens of Heligan and the famous biodomes of the Eden Project.
Picturesque Villages & Towns
The county is known for its quaint fishing villages and picturesque harbours, and no solo break or romantic getaway in Cornwall would be complete without visiting some of the real beauties that are within easy striking distance of Pengelly.
15 minutes’ drive away you’ll find Porthleven, which is a bit like an unspoilt and less touristy version of Padstow. There’s a pretty harbour, packed with fishing boats surrounded by a semi-circle of cobbled roads. In recent years it’s become a bit of a foodie centre, hosting the annual Porthleven Food Festival and home to an excellent range of restaurants and cafes plus galleries and craft shops. There’s also a little beach, a famous surf break where you see surfers catching the waves all year round and a beautiful coastal walk to from Porthleven to Penrose.
The famously picturesque coastal town of St Ives is around 25 minutes from Pengelly and it’s a must-see for many of our guests. Cobbled streets, fishermen’s cottages, a whole range of shops, cafes and restaurants plus several gorgeous sandy beaches – you can see why it’s so popular! There’s also the Tate St Ives which overlooks Porthminster beach, showcasing the best of Cornish modern art and the St Ives School.
St Ives is an absolute pack out in the summer and trying to get a parking space is no fun. Our best advice is to visit outside of the school holidays to see it at its quieter best. Our favourite way to get there is to park at nearby St Erth railway station and take the St Ives branch line for a 15 minute train ride along some of the UK’s prettiest coastline. St Ives also has some great dog-friendly beaches, too.
Back on the south coast and about 40 minute’s drive from Pengelly is the fabulously named Mousehole (pronounced Mawsal down this way), another of our favourite fishing villages. This is a picture-postcard little harbour with high walls protecting the fishing boats, a little golden sand beach and charming cobbled streets. There’s a great deli cafe here or have a meal in the Old Coastguard’s garden for the most fantastic views over Mounts Bay – just look out for the seagulls! If you happen to be here in December the Christmas lights in Mousehole are famous across Cornwall, with everything from brightly-lit sea monsters to mermaids reflecting in the waters of the harbour.
Museums & shopping
We’re also spoilt for choice here with museums and art galleries, an ideal option for those inevitable rainy days in Cornwall. West Cornwall is something of a mecca for artists and creative types, and this is also reflected in the enticing range of independent and boutique shops you’ll find here. There’s the Tate (and plenty of shopping) in St Ives, but there’s also lots more to explore…
We’re about 25 minutes away from the coastal town of Penzance. Formerly neglected, Penzance is now enjoying something of a renaissance boosted by the overnight sleeper train from London making this a popular weekend destination. There’s the excellent Penlee Art Gallery in the Penlee Gardens, home to beautiful Newlyn school paintings and regular exhibitions. In the nearby Morrab Gardens you’ll find a garden surrounded by beautiful Victorian streets and an intriguing Victorian Library. The art deco Jubilee Pool is an absolute classic example of 30s architecture, this outdoor lido is a real gem. While around Chapel Street and Bread Street you’ll find a whole range of interesting antique, boutique and independent shops, perfect for browsing around in.
Falmouth is one of our favourite ‘town’ hangouts, it’s got a real lively vibe here thanks to the large student population. It’s an easy half hour drive from Pengelly and home to the excellent Maritime Museum. The museum is well worth a visit on a rainy day – even if you think you aren’t interested in boat stuff, give it a try, it’s great. The main shopping street has a range of independent and local stores, perfect for a browse around; plus one of our favourite pasty shops, Pasty Presto on Arwenack Street.
And up the A30, about 45 minutes’ drive is Truro, Cornwall’s County Town. This is where you’ll find the big high street stores and including a flagship Marks & Spencers. There are also independent stores here: try Uneeqa on Boscowan Street for homewares and gifts, check out the Lemon Street Market (open daily) for food, gifts and clothing or drop in to the Saturday stall-holders market on Lemon Quay. Truro Cathedral is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture and the small but interesting Royal Cornwall Museum is also worth a visit, followed by tea and cake in the cafe next door.
If you’re looking to pick up food supplies to enjoy in your self-catering accommodation, then Helston & Hayle are 10 minutes to the south and north of Pengelly respectively. You can take your choice from Sainsburys, Tesco and Lidl in Helston or M&S, ASDA and Lidl in Hayle. If you’re looking for local and organic, then check out Trevaskis Farm Market, open from 8-8 daily (including Sundays) and less than 10 minutes’ drive from Pengelly. Trevaskis has a lovely range of high quality, local produce including fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, baked goods and general supplies.
Off the Beaten Track – our favourite wild and less well known places
Here are some of our favourite off wild places to visit around Pengelly. These are lesser known but there’s always something satisfying about discovering a hidden gem isn’t there!
Just up the road from your lakeview cabin and yurt, about a 25 minute walk (or a few minutes’ drive) you’ll find Crenver Grove, part of the larger Clowance Woods. This is a lovely area of ancient woodland and footpaths, ideal for a peaceful walk. There’s an entrance archway to Crenver at the top of Drym Road (come out of Pengelly, turn right and then take the 2nd left and you see the archway ahead of you at the top of this road). You can also access the woods from the other side if you are driving south of Praze en Beeble: drive past he Clowance Estate on the B3303 and take the next right hand turn for Drym. There’s a small parking area and entrance to the woods at this junction.
Another little hidden gem is the Helston Railway, just a few minutes’ drive from Pengelly, near Prospidnick. It doesn’t look like much as you drive in to the farm, but park up, follow the track into the woods and you’ll find a restored section of railway track with an old steam engine. All entirely rebuilt and restored by local volunteers, the line runs on Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays (mid-March to end Oct) allowing visitors to take the short trip up the restored track and back. There’s a small shop and restaurant carriage where you can treat yourself to a bacon butty while you wait for your train ride.
Continue into Helston itself and follow the signs for free parking at the roundabout by the Jubilee Park. This is the start of the gorgeous Penrose Estate. Follow the footpath from here or park up in the National Trust car park further along the road. This is a huge area of woodland, paths and an impressive inland salt lake, plenty to explore for both walkers and cyclists. Bikes can be hired at Porthleven Cycle Hire in Helston’s Jubilee Park. The Penrose trails lead to Looe Bar, a wild strip of sand by the sea and you can continue along a beautiful section of coast path to Porthleven.
The rather lovely Trelowarren Estate is about 20 minutes’ drive from Pengelly, on the Lizard, close to the little village of Garras. Drive in to the entrance and follow the road which winds through beautiful woodlands on either side. Look out for the signs to the spa and restaurant. Here you can pick up a map which marks out walks around the estate to explore its woods and meadows. The spa has a really nice outdoor ozone pool which is open to non-residents from 10-1 each day (March-Oct). They sometimes offer swim/lunch deals where swimming is free for visitors booked for lunch at Trelowarren’s New Yard Restaurant. Check the website for opening times and make sure you book in advance if planning to eat at the restaurant.
Finally why not seek out King Edward Mine, tucked away completely off the beaten track near the village of Troon. Cornwall has a rich mining heritage and its landscape is dotted with engine houses and mining relics of the past. KEM is about 20 minutes’ from Pengelly and a good place to visit to discover more about this history. It’s the oldest complete mine left in Cornwall and they have an exhibition centre plus demonstrations and events throughout the year, check out their website for more details. And importantly there’s a lovely new cafe here too, The Croust Hut, where you can enjoy a tasty lunch or tea.