Free Things to Do in Cornwall

Written by: Eliot Prince

As a holiday destination, Cornwall has it all. 

Nature and culture collide in this scenic seaside county. Best of all, there’s plenty of free things to do in Cornwall.

There’s an activity for every member of the family– or even just you. Soak up the sun or keep out of the rain, there’s no payment necessary! 

Planning a visit soon? We’ve compiled a list of must-see, must-do attractions. Cheap days out in Cornwall never looked so good. 

Hit the Beach

Gwithian beach from clifftops

If there’s one thing Cornwall’s known for, it’s great beaches. In the summer months, the notoriously gloomy UK becomes a warm haven for holiday goers. 

Cornwall residents and visitors have their pick of hundreds of gorgeous beaches. Land’s End, located on the Penwith Peninsula, is home to many of them. 

White sand, golden sand, rocky cliffs, pebbles, aqua water, good views — Land’s End has it all. 

For a cheap day out, pick a beach near you. Or, take a road trip to a special secret spot!  

Try the popular Porthcurno Beach. This easily accessible beach has golden sands and turquoise water. There is a shallow stream for paddling, and cliffs all around.  However, if you’re bringing a furry friend, take note of the seasonal dog ban. 

One holidaymaker named Porthcurno, “One of the best beaches in the country”!

For something more secluded, try Bosahan Cove. It’s located next to the historic Bosahan Estate. 

You can’t access it by car — only by boat or on foot. It’s not easy to reach, but it’s truly tranquil if you can make it there. 

Explore the South West Coast Path

south west cost path steps near kynance cove

There’s nothing more British than a brisk walk in fresh air.

If you’re up for a scenic walk, try the South West Coast Path. Though, perhaps not the whole Path end to end– which is 630 miles and would take you about a month to cover! 

There are plenty of short walks better suited for a vacation. These range in difficulty depending on length and terrain. 

For an easy walk, accessible for people in wheelchairs and motor scooters, try Hannafore Point. You’ll find 2.7 km of great views and fairly level ground.

For a moderate walk, attempt Constantine Bay to Mawgan Porth. This is a longer walk with several hills. The 556 bus route runs alongside the path, so you can hop on if you get too tired or want to circle back and walk it again. 

Those seeking a challenging walk would do well to choose Crackington Haven Circular. This track is muddy, hilly, and not for the faint hearted. Traverse the cliffs often studied by geologists. Can you handle a hilly 5.7km

Use the Walk Finder tool to find a suitable track near you. There’s no shortage of great trails in Cornwall!

Falmouth Art Gallery

Inside falmouth art gallery

We’re all well aware that British summertime is a little hit and miss. At the top of the list of things to do in Cornwall in the rain: Visit the local gallery, of course! 

Falmouth Art Gallery holds over 2,000 artworks for you to see. The gallery boasts “the largest contemporary collection of automata in a public museum”.

Automata are interactive art pieces that move on their own if you press a button or flip a switch. Bring along your budding mechanic or magician to see the automata in action. 

There’s also a collection of illustrations for children’s books, and plenty of material on Cornwall’s rich history. No matter who you are, there will be something of interest at the gallery. 

It’s open Monday to Saturday, and entry is free — another to check off on the cheap things to do in Cornwall list! There is also easy wheelchair/pushchair access, and dogs are welcome

Checking out a local gallery is a rainy-day vacation staple, and Falmouth Art Gallery has an incredible range of art for a building its size. 

So now if it rains on your holiday, or you like art, you know where to go. 

Truro Cathedral

Truro Cathedral from a side street

Truro Cathedral is a treat, truly. No matter your religion (or lack thereof), you’re welcome inside the enormous structure built at the turn of the 19th century. 

You won’t miss it — the Cathedral dwarfs the other buildings around Cornwall’s only city. Your eyes will widen at the sight of intricate Gothic detailing and three tall turrets. 

Everybody is welcome to stop by for a peaceful moment. There are prayer groups and other activities on, like the Cushion Concert or Sunday Eucharist. 

Keep an eye on the Cathedral’s website for event details. 

Visit Golitha Falls

The day after rainy weather, visit Golitha Falls to see some impressive nature. 

Golitha Falls rushes through a wooded forest, which is a National Nature Reserve. There are unusual species of flora and fauna around, including moss and bat varieties. 

Spring is the best time to visit the Falls, when wildflowers cover the ground and the wildlife sings. Breathe in the glorious scents. 

The sound of the rushing water is very peaceful. “Could have easily sat here all day”, said one wistful daydreamer, sitting on an upturned tree. 

Swim in Bude Sea Pool

Bude sea pool

Bude Sea Pool is a very unique swimming location, being right next to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Defined as a “semi-natural tidal pool,” it’s a way to swim at this north coast beach without being in the ocean… officially. 

There are no bookings necessary, and it’s totally free. When the tide is out, you’ll see the sand of the beach. When the tide is in, the ocean will rush up to meet you at the pool’s edge. 

Visitors have enjoyed it since the 1930s, when it was built to provide a safe place for swimming. Perfect if you have inexperienced swimmers or don’t want to face the waves

And a warning — the water might be cold! 

This Redditor says, “I’m actually a member of the Friends of Bude Sea Pool! Spent many summers going up and down that pool. It’s such a beautiful little community hub.”

Find Merlin’s Cave

merlins cave underneath tintagel castle and the bridge

If you find Tintagel Castle, take a look at Merlin’s Cave located beneath it. 

Legend has it, King Arthur was born at the now crumbled Tintagel Castle. Merlin, a wizard, is said to have lived in the cave below. 

Merlin picked up Arthur from the sea, and carried him in his arms to safety. 

Make of the legend what you wish — it’s a magical place regardless. There’s even a carving by local artist Peter Graham of Merlin’s face on the rock. 

Know the tide schedule before you climb down into the cave, because it fills up with water when the tide comes in. Bring a light source too — naturally, it’s dark in the cave. 

One visitor cheekily rated the attraction: “4/5 as Merlin was not in his cave.” Maybe you’ll catch him there!

Have Fun at the Heartlands

Cornwall’s Heartlands are a special place. They’re home to a World Heritage site: The Mining Landscape. 

Within the Heartlands you’ll find a museum, gardens, and a huge adventure play area for kids. You can access all of this for free. 

If you have children, the giant playground will be a hit. It’s an enormous open space you won’t find in congested cities. 

Dogs are welcome on the grass areas, just not on the adventure playground. Stop by for some fresh air and a run-around.

Mountain Bike at Poldice MTB Valley

A bike rider turning on a berm in Poldice Valley MTB

If walking isn’t your thing, give wheels a try! Bring your own bikes and the experience is free. 

The tracks are always evolving at Poldice MTB Valley. Poldice Valley was once a world-class mine. The area was rich with tin, copper and arsenic, all which were in high demand. 

Poldice helped put Cornwall on the map for mining. It provided thousands of jobs over the years, until its closure in roughly 1870. 

Nowadays, Poldice Valley “is scattered with the remains of buildings, while strange lunar-like humps rise out of the heathland, so poisoned by mining that nothing grows on them.” 

The fact you can ride a bike around the place is quite surreal. There are clay and gravel tracks, so less experienced riders should be careful. 

For a workout, a history lesson, and a good time, take a bike down to Poldice Valley. Explore the unique paths created by miners way back when.

Royal Cornwall Museum

Royal Cornwall Museum

Museums — another rainy day hotspot. Or, a favourite spot for history lovers. 

The Royal Cornwall Museum is everything you want in a museum. There’s no better place to learn about everything Cornish. 

A standout exhibit is Edith Williams’ Trousseau, a collection of Victorian clothing, accessories and homeware. 

Edith lived at Pencalenick, a wealthy estate in Cornwall. Her treasures were passed down the generations and donated to the museum. 

Adult tickets are £7.50 each, but under 18s can enter for free. 

New exhibitions are displayed regularly, alongside good old staples.

Discover History, Myths, and Legends

King Arthur statue in Tintagel

Settled midway through the Stone Age, Cornwall sure has some history. Along the timeline of history, many interesting things have happened, and wild myths have arisen. 

The Industrial Revolution was when Cornwall’s mining scene really got going. Tin, copper, and other minerals were harvested there at a volume and rate seen nowhere else in Europe. 

You’ll see remnants of mining dotted across the county. It’s a stone-set reminder of Cornwall’s heyday. 

There are many interesting people related to Cornwall, from the mysterious King Arthur to Andrew Pears, the founder of Pears Soap

Cornwall is a place rife with myths and legends, from smugglers hiding in coves, to mermaids luring fishermen to their deaths. 

You might have heard of Cornish pixies (or piskies or fairies), little mischievous creatures that you should never ask for directions. 

There’s even a Beast to beware — the Beast of Bodmin Moor, which may or may not exist. 

If you see any large black felines with glowing yellow eyes skulking about, tell someone you trust!

Ask a local about their favourite Cornish legend, and you’ll enter a very interesting conversation. Everything you see has a story behind it just waiting to be told.

St Michael’s Mount

st michaels mount from above

Only a handful of people live on St. Michael’s Mount. It’s a majestic island with a castle built on it. 

It’s a popular filming location, even used for HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’, the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel. You can get there by boat or walk across the flats when it’s low tide. 

It will cost you to get into the castle, but you can see the harbour and village for free. Make sure to ask about the Mount’s history and legends while you’re there. 

A Cornish legend says that a giant settled on the island and stole cattle when he got peckish. A boy, Jack, took the giant down, landing him the title ‘Jack the Giant Killer’.

Local Gardens like Trenance Gardens

trenance gardens with a stream in the foreground

Cornwall is known for its beaches but also its lush gardens. If you’re not a beachgoer, don’t worry. There are plenty of gardens around with a wide variety of plant life. 

A relaxing afternoon could be spent at Trenance Gardens. Pick up a ‘Tree Walk’ booklet from the Information Centre, and use it to identify the tree species around you. 

Within the gardens there is a quaint little tearoom where you can indulge in a traditional Cornish Cream Tea. 

If this sounds like an ideal afternoon to you, be sure to add Trenance Gardens to your Cornwall itinerary.

Final Thoughts

Cornwall is a fabulous holiday destination. You can dive into history, myth, art, nature and play, all in one trip. 

Even if bad weather turns up on your vacation, you can find some worthwhile activities open. Wherever you turn, there is something to see. 

Most importantly, a Cornwall trip doesn’t have to be expensive! Though you can pay for lots of tourist-y things, it’s not necessary in order to have a good time. 

It takes approximately two hours to cross Cornwall, so you can factor in lots of attractions into your holiday– all for fantastic value.

Want to get some exercise without spending a penny? Check out our guide to the best Parkruns in Cornwall.