Across the River Tamar from neighbouring Devon at the far end of the South West peninsula, Cornwall has had a distinct identity for over a thousand years, with its Celtic traditions having much in common with Brittany in France. With a North coast of steep cliffs open to Atlantic ocean storms and a more sheltered South coast, these coasts meet at fabled Land’s End while inland are moorland landscapes. Many towns and villages have names deriving from the Cornish language – often starting with Tre, Pol or Pen.
In the 1800s Cornwall was one of the most industrialised English counties with flourishing tin mines and some copper mines. When mining ended – with haunting remains of mine buildings often visible in western coastal locations - the fishing industry became more prominent, together with agriculture benefitting from the mild climate, and Cornwall became important for its China Clay production in the St Austell area. In recent years tourism has become the major Cornish industry. Despite being one of the poorest parts of the UK, house prices are high with affluent retirees and second-home growth driving up prices.
The more rugged north coast draws surfers to Newquay with the harbour town of Padstow becoming known for its leading restaurants and St Ives for its cultural attractions. East near the Devon border is the remains of Tintagel Castle famous from the legends of King Arthur. The south coast is noted for its rivers and harbours, notably the Helford River on the Lizard peninsula, Fowey, Mevagissey and Polperro. Falmouth has one of the largest UK natural harbours. Cornish beaches have some of the best sand in the UK, surrounded by spectacular coastline or in hidden coves.
The leading attraction in Cornwall is the Eden Project with its huge biodomes. The Lost Gardens of Heligan is also a major attraction. Walkers are drawn to the South West Coastal Path which gives a complete circuit of both coasts.
Check out tours to Cornwall in our selection of touring holidays in the UK
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