Unearthing Cornwall’s Historical Sites and Legends

Tintagel Castle

Cornwall is an amazing place with a rich history dating back thousands of years. If you’re a history enthusiast or just looking for some cool spots to explore, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some must-visit historical sites in Cornwall:

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is one of the most iconic and legendary sites in Cornwall. Perched dramatically on the rugged coastline, it’s said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Whether you believe in the legends or not, the castle ruins and the breathtaking views are worth the visit.

  • History: The site was possibly occupied in the Romano-British period, and there are many legends and myths associated with the castle, including its connection to King Arthur. The ruins of the castle became a tourist destination during the Victorian era.
  • Location: Tintagel Castle is situated on the clifftops of North Cornwall, and the rugged coastal landscape means there are steep slopes, sheer drops, and uneven surfaces which can present a challenge to visitors.
  • Access: Due to constant natural movement by the sea and tides, the access down to Tintagel Beach is currently blocked by a large boulder. The route involves clambering over rocks, so visitors should take extra care, especially in wet conditions. It is not recommended for visitors with mobility concerns, or those with prams and young children.
  • Ownership and management: Tintagel Castle is owned by William, Prince of Wales as part of the landholdings of the Duchy of Cornwall, and the site is managed by English Heritage.
  • Visiting: Tintagel Castle is open Mon-Sun from 10am to 6pm, with last entry at 5pm. Visitors can pre-book and save to tick Tintagel Castle off their bucket list. There is an admission fee, and visitors can also purchase an English Heritage membership for unlimited access to over 400 historic places.
  • Tips: Visitors should wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the weather. They should also bring water and snacks, as there are no catering facilities on site. Dogs are allowed on leads, but visitors should be aware that the site is not suitable for prams or pushchairs.

St. Michael’s Mount

St. Michael's Mount Cornwall

Ever dreamt of visiting a castle on an island? Well, St. Michael’s Mount makes that dream come true! This tidal island is home to a stunning medieval castle, a church, and picturesque gardens. When the tide is low, you can walk across the causeway, adding to the adventure.

  • History: St. Michael’s Mount was historically a Cornish counterpart of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, with which it shares the same tidal island characteristics and a similar conical shape, though Mont-Saint-Michel is much taller. The castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since approximately 1650. Part of the island was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1995 for its geology.
  • Location: St. Michael’s Mount is located off the coast of Marazion in Cornwall, England, UK. The island is accessible by a causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water.
  • Ownership and management: St. Michael’s Mount is managed by the National Trust, and the castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since approximately 1650.
  • Visiting: Visitors can arrive by boat or walk across the causeway during low tide. The garden clings to the granite cliff face and for many, it is astonishing that a garden exists at all. There is an admission fee, and visitors can also purchase a National Trust membership for unlimited access to over 500 historic places.
  • Tips: Visitors should check the tide times before visiting and wear sturdy footwear. They should also bring water and snacks, as there are no catering facilities on the island. Dogs are not permitted on the island, except assistance dogs. Visitors can park on the mainland at Marazion opposite St. Michael’s Mount (not National Trust)

Minack Theatre

Minack Theatre

The Minack Theatre is a unique open-air theatre nestled on the cliffs above Porthcurno Beach. It was built by the remarkable efforts of Rowena Cade in the 1930s. Catch a performance or simply enjoy the impressive views of the Atlantic Ocean from this extraordinary venue.

  • History: The Minack Theatre was constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea in 1930 by Rowena Cade. The theatre has appeared in a listing of the world’s most spectacular theatres. The Minack’s performing season runs from Easter to the end of October and includes a wide range of music and theatre.
  • Location: The Minack Theatre is located in Porthcurno, 4 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, England, UK.
  • Ownership and management: The Minack Theatre is owned and managed by the Minack Theatre Trust.
  • Visiting: Visitors can attend performances at the theatre from Easter to the end of October. The theatre is also open for visitors throughout the rest of the year. There is an admission fee, and visitors can also purchase a membership for the Minack Friends for unlimited access to the theatre.
  • Tips: Visitors should check the performance schedule and book tickets in advance. They should also dress appropriately for the weather, as the theatre is open-air. There is a steep walk down to the theatre, so visitors should wear sturdy footwear. Visitors can also bring a picnic to enjoy the stunning views of the sea and the surrounding landscape

Bodmin Moor

Bodmin Moor

For all the moorland lovers, Bodmin Moor is a must-visit. It’s an ancient landscape with stone circles, standing stones, and old mining ruins. Keep an eye out for the famous Jamaica Inn, linked to Daphne du Maurier’s novel, while you’re there.

  • Location: Bodmin Moor is situated in the north-eastern part of Cornwall, near the borders of Devon. It covers an area of approximately 208 square kilometers (80 square miles).
  • Geological History: Bodmin Moor dates back to the Carboniferous period of geological history. It is one of five granite plutons in Cornwall that make up part of the Cornubian batholith. The moor has been shaped by various geological processes, including intrusions of granite, hornfelsing of the country rock, and the presence of peat deposits and granite boulders.
  • Natural Beauty: Bodmin Moor is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Cornwall. It features a remote and bleak landscape, covered in heather and grassland, with granite outcrops scattered throughout. The moor offers stunning views and opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and wildlife spotting.
  • Landmarks: Bodmin Moor is home to several notable landmarks, including Brown Willy, the highest point in Cornwall, and Rough Tor, a slightly lower peak. The moor also features prehistoric granite “sculptures” and is associated with legends and myths, such as being the supposed final resting place of King Arthur.
  • Activities: There are many things to do in Bodmin Moor, including hiking, exploring ancient sites, birdwatching, and enjoying the natural scenery. Visitors can also visit nearby attractions such as Dozmary Pool, which is said to be the home of the mysterious Lady of the Lake.
  • Access: Bodmin Moor is accessible by car or public transportation. There are various walking trails and footpaths that allow visitors to explore the moor and its surroundings. It is advisable to check weather conditions and be prepared with appropriate clothing and footwear when visiting the moor.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Step back in time and explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a Victorian-era garden complex that was forgotten for decades and then rediscovered and restored. It’s a mesmerising place with exotic plants, sculptures, and hidden trails to uncover.

  • Style and Design: The gardens are typical of the 19th-century Gardenesque style, featuring different areas with distinct characters and design styles. The gardens showcase a variety of plantings and atmospheres, reflecting their historical purpose as both a pleasure garden and a symbol of wealth.
  • Location: The Lost Gardens of Heligan are situated near Mevagissey in Cornwall, England. They cover an area of approximately 200 acres.
  • Attractions: The gardens offer a range of attractions and experiences for visitors. There is a network of magical gardens, woodland walks, and farmland to explore. Visitors can immerse themselves in the romance, heritage, and adventure of Europe’s largest garden restoration.
  • Visiting: The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open from 10 am to 6 pm. Visitors can purchase tickets at the entrance, with prices starting from £18.50. There are also special events and workshops held at Heligan, such as early morning openings and culinary experiences.
  • Recommendations: Visitors are advised to wear comfortable footwear and dress appropriately for the weather, as the gardens are extensive and involve walking. It is also recommended to check the event schedule and book tickets in advance for any specific activities or experiences. The gardens provide a paradise for explorers, wildlife enthusiasts, plant lovers, and those seeking a romantic garden experience

Geevor Tin Mine

Geevor Tin Mine

Get a glimpse into Cornwall’s industrial heritage by visiting Geevor Tin Mine. This former working mine now serves as a museum, offering fascinating insights into the region’s mining history. Take an underground tour and see how tin mining shaped the local communities.

  • History: Geevor Tin Mine was operational between 1911 and 1990, during which time it produced about 50,000 tons of black tin. The mine was originally known as Wheal an Giver, meaning “mine of the goats,” and was worked under the name of East Levant Mine until 1840 and then as North Levant from 1851 to 1891 when it closed.
  • Museum and Heritage Centre: Geevor Tin Mine is now a museum and heritage center, left as a living history of a working tin mine. The museum is an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage. Visitors can explore the site and learn about the history of Cornish metal mining through exhibitions, underground tours, and interactive displays.
  • Location: Geevor Tin Mine is located on the rugged cliffs of the Tin Coast of West Cornwall, near Pendeen. The site offers magnificent coastal views and is a stunning place to discover the story of Cornish metal mining.
  • Visiting: Geevor Tin Mine is open to visitors from March to October. Visitors can purchase tickets at the entrance, with prices starting from £14.50. There are also special events and workshops held at the mine, such as guided tours and educational programs.
  • Recommendations: Visitors are advised to wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the weather, as the site involves walking and can be exposed to the elements. It is also recommended to check the event schedule and book tickets in advance for any specific activities or experiences. Geevor Tin Mine provides a unique and educational experience for those interested in Cornwall’s industrial heritage and the history of tin mining

Truro Cathedral

Truro Cathedral

Truro Cathedral is the only cathedral in Cornwall, and it’s an architectural gem. Built in the 19th century, its stunning Gothic Revival style is a sight to behold. Don’t miss the chance to climb the tower for panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.

  • History: Truro Cathedral was built between 1880 and 1910 to a Gothic Revival design by John Loughborough Pearson on the site of the parish church of St Mary. It is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom featuring three spires.
  • Architecture: Truro Cathedral is an exquisite example of Gothic Revival architecture, with a stunning interior featuring intricate carvings, stained glass windows, and a beautiful organ. The cathedral’s three spires are a prominent feature of the city’s skyline.
  • Location: Truro Cathedral is located in the heart of Truro, Cornwall, UK. The cathedral is easily accessible by car or public transportation, and there are several parking options nearby.
  • Visiting: Truro Cathedral is open to visitors daily from 10 am to 4 pm. Visitors can explore the cathedral and its grounds, attend services, and participate in guided tours. There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.
  • Recommendations: Visitors are advised to dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable footwear, as there are several steps and uneven surfaces within the cathedral. Photography is allowed, but visitors should be respectful of the cathedral’s religious significance. Truro Cathedral is a must-visit destination for those interested in architecture, history, and religion.

St. Ives

St. Ives

Though known for its beautiful beaches and art scene, St. Ives also boasts a rich history. Wander through the charming streets and you’ll discover historical buildings, including the St. Ives Parish Church, the ancient Sloop Inn, and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.

  • Location: St. Ives is located on the north coast of Cornwall, UK, north of Penzance and west of Camborne on the coast of the Celtic Sea.
  • Attractions: St. Ives is a popular seaside resort with a quartet of golden beaches, stunning views, great surf, and a wide range of places to eat and drink. The town is also renowned for its number of artists and has several galleries and museums showcasing their work, such as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.
  • History: The origin of St. Ives is attributed in legend to the arrival of the Irish saint Ia of Cornwall in the 5th century. The parish church bears her name, and the name St. Ives derives from it. The town was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1639 and was once commercially dependent on fishing. However, the decline in fishing caused a shift in commercial emphasis, and the town is now primarily a popular seaside resort.
  • Activities: Visitors can enjoy a range of activities in St. Ives, such as swimming, surfing, hiking, and exploring the town’s art galleries and museums. The town also has a rugby football club, St. Ives Rugby Football Club, founded in 1889.
  • Visiting: St. Ives is easily accessible by car or public transportation. Visitors can enjoy the town’s beaches, art galleries, and museums, as well as its many restaurants and cafes. There are also several accommodation options available for visitors, ranging from hotels to holiday cottages

Activities and Adventures in Cornwall

Unearthing Cornwall’s Historical Sites and Legends Conclusion

So, there you have it – a list of fantastic historical sites in Cornwall waiting for you to explore! Each location offers a unique glimpse into Cornwall’s past and promises unforgettable experiences. Have a great time discovering the history and beauty of this fascinating region!