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8 Things to Do & Places to See in Cornwall

Updated on September 16, 2017

Things to Do and Places to See in Cornwall

From the Admiral Benbow and its smuggling tunnels at Penzance to a river trip to the famous Smugglers Inn at Tolverne!

I've gathered here thatched smugglers cottages, ghosts in caves, tin mines you can go into and a few great old pubs!

See £1million in gold bullion, the De Lorean Back to the Future car, James Bond's DB5 from Goldfinger ... and you can do most of this all free.

Places to go in Cornwall: Smugglers Cottage, Tolverne.
Places to go in Cornwall: Smugglers Cottage, Tolverne. | Source
TR2 5NG:
Philleigh, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5NG, UK

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Smugglers Cottage at Tolverne, with Tregothnan Tea

Smugglers Cottage, Tolverne
Smugglers Cottage, Tolverne

1. Smugglers Cottage, Tolverne

Dating from the 15th century, Smugglers Cottage at Tolverne is a fascinating thatched pub. Nestling on the eastern side of the River Fal in Cornwall; most people aren't even aware of its existence.

Smugglers Cottage is also a tea rooms and garden, serving morning coffees, lunchtime pasties and delicious cream teas throughout the summer season. Smugglers Cottage also has a superb collection of excellent malt whiskies.

They are only open from April to late September, Opening hours are 10:30-17:30, staying open until 20:30 in the peak summer season.

If you are a walker, there's a 3 hour walk to explore from Tolverne to St Mawes.

If you just want to visit the pub by car to see it then the easiest route is to get to Falmouth, then head for Feock and Trelissick, then take the King Harry Ferry across to the other side. Once you've disembarked from the ferry, you have to drive up a hill - after about 100-150 yards watch out for a very sharp turn to your left, take that and the Smugglers Cottage is at the end. There's no actual car park at the pub, just park on the wide access road.

If you've more time and really want to make a day out of it, then you can get a river cruise from Custom House Quay in Falmouth that takes you to the pub and back, just in time for lunch. The two boats that do this trip up the River Fal are owned and operated by the Smugglers Cottage owners.

Tolverne was used in World War 2 by the Americans for D-Day in 1943-1944. If you drive to the pub you'll have probably wondered why the approach road is a really strong concrete road that feels like it could take tanks ... it was built to prepare for the arrival of the 29th infantry with their tanks, trucks and other equipment before loading onto landing craft, bound for Omaha Beach in France as part of the Liberation of Europe on 6 June 1944.

Cream Tea: Not a Cornish Cream Tea as the holidaymaker's put the cream/jam on the wrong way round!
Cream Tea: Not a Cornish Cream Tea as the holidaymaker's put the cream/jam on the wrong way round! | Source

Tregothnan Tea

Tregothnan Tea is grown just round the corner and Smugglers Cottage have now teamed up with the Tregothnan Estate, providing Cornish cream teas and fresh Tregothnan Tea to visitors. A great way to do two things in one visit, by having a Cornish Cream Tea at the Smugglers Cottage.

A Cornish Cream Tea is always jam first, clotted cream on top! The other way round is a Devon Cream Tea. Clotted Cream has Geographic protected status, so can only be sold as Clotted Cream if the milk was produced in Cornwall.

Telephone: 01872 580309
Address: The Smugglers Cottage, Philleigh. Cornwall, TR2 5NG
SatNav: TR2 5NG

Places to go in Cornwall.  Admiral Benbow pub with smugglers' tunnels.
Places to go in Cornwall. Admiral Benbow pub with smugglers' tunnels. | Source

There is a smuggler's tunnel at the Admiral Benbow in Penzance.

Places to go in Cornwall.  Inside The Admiral Benbow, Penzance
Places to go in Cornwall. Inside The Admiral Benbow, Penzance
TR18 4AF:
Penzance, Cornwall TR18 4AF, UK

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The Admiral Benbow pub in Penzance, with smugglers' tunnel!

TR18 4AF:
Penzance, Cornwall TR18 4AF, UK

get directions

The Admiral Benbow pub in Penzance, complete with smugglers tunnel.

2. Admiral Benbow, Penzance

I first went to the Admiral Benbow some years back, when my sister and I had in our hands an old Guide to Cornwall and it said the Admiral Benbow had a smugglers' tunnel ... so that made a good reason for us to visit Penzance for the day and track down this interesting sounding pub. And we were not disappointed. The menu is extensive, simple fayre and very affordable too.

The whole of the interior is made up of reclaimed materials from shipwrecks, there are figureheads, old barrels, everything's very much like walking back in time a couple of hundred years ... but there was still the issue of the smugglers' tunnels, so I asked the barman and he pointed to a glass pane behind the fireplace and said the tunnel was there. Obviously not much to see here, but it turned out that the landlord wanted to open the tunnels up for viistors, but to do that they'd need to do a through excavation and make it safe. Disappointing, but that's life.

I was intrigued to read a few years later that further investigations of the smugglers' tunnels had been made when builders unearthed the 200 year old smuggling tunnel network. The tunnels are believed to have been used by the Benbow Brandy Men, who smuggled brandy, gin and tobacco from the harbour in the 19th century. The spyhole above the fireplace was so the smugglers could check if the customs men were in the bar before they emerged. Reading the article though, it was obvious that the tunnels never would be available to visitors and were in part collapsed and bricked up, the rest being virtually crawling spaces, so not nice at all. So, it's good to know the end of the story!

Telephone: 08721 077 077
Address: 46, Chapel St, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4AF
SatNav:TR18 4AF

3. Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn is an ancient inn on the old coaching inn route. Built in 1750, Jamaica Inn is famed for smugglers and the book named after it, Daphne du Maurier's 1936 novel Jamaica Inn.

In April 2016 the BBC series Hairy Bikers' Pubs that Built Britain showed Dave and Si visiting Jamaica Inn, which gives good internal footage for those interested in seeing inside! Owned by the same couple for over 40 years, Jamaica Inn was sold in 2014 for £2 million.

Jamaica Inn is right alongside the main A30 road, so it's easy to stop off on your way down through the county if you fancy a break!

Telephone: 01566 86250
Address: Bolventor, Launceston PL15 7TS
SatNav: PL15 7TS

Places to Go in Cornwall: Poldark Mine, Helston, Cornwall
Places to Go in Cornwall: Poldark Mine, Helston, Cornwall

Free Car Parking at Poldark Mine

Poldark Mine was a free entry site, check their website or give them a call if you're unsure what's available for free nowadays.

There is a charge to go inside Poldark mine and it's not suitable for a lot of people due to mobility and access issues.

Free car parking on site.

TR13 0ES:
Wendron, Helston, Cornwall TR13 0ES, UK

get directions

Poldark Mine, near Helston. Take a guided mine tour or enjoy a stroll araound the site with shops, cafe and small zoo.

4. Poldark Mine

Tin mining has been going on in Cornwall for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and Poldark Mine was started in the mid-1700s and operational until 1886.

The Poldark Mine site was a free entry visitor attraction, but there is a charge to go into the mine itself. It's changed hands in recent years, so there might now be charges, they don't make that clear on the website; when I went it was a free entry site.

The Mine Tour inside Poldark mine is a guided tour and you're taken right into the mine to see how it all worked, complete with having to wear a miner's hat.

I found the tour was good, but as the group was so large and the walkways so narrow, it was difficult to stand and ponder - and sometimes difficult to catch what the guide was saying. Also, being near the rear of the group, the guide would stop and explain, then move off and there was a sense of urgency of keeping up and not holding up others, so no time to stand and stare.

On emerging from the mine, however, the guy at the door asked how we'd found it - and I said "it was good, but I'd really like to go round on my own now and take my time" ... and he let us! Now, I would say at this point that there were just two of us, able-bodied and ladies of a certain age, so on the balance of probability we weren't going to get into mischief or trouble.

So, we went in again ... and when we were deep down inside the mine, all alone, water dripping down the walls, the sounds of silence around us we heard it ... a whistling, a lone whistle, echoing along the walkway ... and out of the gloom a figure appeared, complete with a miner's hat.... "Hello!" nodded one of the site workers as he passed us. Phew! Thought we'd discovered an old mining ghost for one minute there :)

Overall, Poldark mine is an interesting thing to see, but the site is quite small. If you want to get a bit more hands on, then the site also has an area where you can pan for real gold, or even throw a pot or make a candle. There is a small museum and a World Heritage Site video to watch. I did fall in love with the cute rabbits in the pet zoo though!

You can visit Poldark Mine, complete with a tour and a cup of tea in about 1.5-2 hours. There's a virtual tour of the top part of the mine on their website if you want to check it out.

Poldark Mine, like most of Cornwall's attractions, is only open for part of the year. Opening times are 10:00-17:30 with the last mine tour at 16:00. It is closed on Saturdays during October and November. One thing to note is that Poldark Mine is a genuine mine and therefore subject to strict health and safety rules, so you cannot carry children down the mine. If you have children aged under 4, it is at the mine's discretion if they will be allowed in at all. You also will not be admitted if you are wearing flip-flops or high heels. Poldark Mine is not suitable for wheelchairs. The Poldark Mine tour is along narrow gangways, planked areas, down lots of steep steps (some quite nerve-racking) and safety is the issue here, so you won't be able to plead your case.

Poldark Mine have an annual series of Ghost Walks on Halloween.

Contact Details

Telephone: 01326 573173
Address: Poldark Mine, Wendron, Helston, Cornwall TR13 0ES
SatNav: TR13 0ES

TR16 4HN:
Redruth, Cornwall TR16 4HN, UK

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Cornish Gold Centre, near Redruth and Portreath. Free parking.

5. Cornish Gold Centre, Portreath, Redruth

Situated just off the A30, the Cornish Gold Centre is an unremarkable building, with what seems an over-sized car park... but it is very popular with coach tours, so you'd be surprised just how quickly it fills up. There's no entry charge, The Cornish Gold Centre is Cornwall's Number One Free Entry tourist attraction.

There are many things to see, and buy, at the Cornish Gold Centre ... I tend to be the looking type rather than the buying type! There is a lot of jewellery available to buy, but beyond that, what is there to actually do?

There are two great cars you can see: the Back to the Future DeLorean is one and James Bond's Aston Martin DB5, as seen in the film Goldfinger. They used to also have a mini, completely covered in pre-decimal pennies, that was owned by John Lennon.

The cafe area has a few life-sized models of famous people (although I thought they looked a bit shabby and out of place). You can also buy some genuine Cornish local produce, such as chocolate or hampers, or enjoy the tea room.

One exhibit that you could walk past without even realising it's there is a pile of £5 notes - it's actually a whole £1million in £5 notes. I was very surprised just how little space that amount of money takes up! There's also £1million in gold bullion to see.

There's a display of the Cornish Crown Jewels (I kid you not!). There are also some Egyptian head sculptures. You can also weigh yourself and get the value of your weight in gold.

Outside of the main building, there is a series of outbuildings that accommodate an area where you can go panning for gold, make your own teddy bear or even decorate pots/plates. There are also further jewellery workshops and silver items for sale. The Cornwall Pearl company also moved into the building a few years back when their old premises just outside of Newquay were redeveloped as a hotel. The Cornish Gold Centre holds the largest collection of silver and gold jewellery in the South West.

It's worth a visit for an hour or so if it's raining, but the main purpose of the Cornish Gold Centre is to sell gold, so while there are other things to look at if you're not actually buying anything it can be of little real interest.

Cornish Gold Centre is open all year round from 09:30-17:30 Mon-Sat and 10:30-16:30 on Sundays.

Telephone: 01209 204602
Address: Tolgus Mill, New Portreath Road, Portreath, Redruth, Cornwall, TR16 4HN
SatNav: TR16 4HN
Dog policy: Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a lead.
Accessibility: Ideal for wheelchairs

Fake Tram at Polperro, Tram Ride
Fake Tram at Polperro, Tram Ride
Polperro Horse Bus
Polperro Horse Bus
Cave at Polperro - probably the one where the Ghost of Willy is heard
Cave at Polperro - probably the one where the Ghost of Willy is heard
Polperro Horse Bus, Cornwall
Polperro Horse Bus, Cornwall
PL13 2PL:
Lansallos, Looe, Cornwall PL13 2PL, UK

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Polperro Car Park

6. Polperro

Polperro is a fascinating place, a proper Cornish fishing village. One thing you need to know before you go is that cars are not allowed in Polperro, unless you're a resident. There's a large car park at the top of the village and you can walk down the road into the village, or take the Horse Bus. There's also a fake tram ride, built around a land rover chassis. So if you're looking for something a bit different, then Polperro might be the place for you to visit.

The other thing that has always fascinated me has been the story of the Ghost of Willy Willcocks. I first found out about his ghost from an old Guide Book of Cornwall. The ghost of Willy Willcocks is said to haunt a cave at Chapel Cliff - he went exploring and got lost inside, never to be seen again. He can still be heard on dark, stormy nights, calling out, still trying to find his way out.

It's a few years since I read the story, but from memory I think he either lived in the house above the cave or it was named after him. Apologies for not knowing right now, but I'll see if I can track that book down again, although it has been several house moves since I read it. The picture above shows the cave I believe could be the one, and I think the cottage directly above it is a holiday home for rent.

Apart from the horse bus and the ghost, everything about Cornwall is just exactly what you'd expect of an old Cornish fishing village. There are boats in a gorgeous harbour, there are narrow streets, sometimes with intriguing tiny passageways leading off, there are pasties to buy, pubs that will sell you good local ales, fresh seafood to buy - and all the usual tourist items like ice creams. Polperro suffered greatly from surge floods in years gone by and you can even see some photos in some of the shops of the big floods of Polperro before they put in a huge new storm drain.

While you're in Polperro, why not check out the Crumplehorn Inn and Mill at the top of the village, beside the main car park.

Well worth a visit of about half a day.

SatNav: PL13 2RJ (the postcode for the Crumplehorn Inn & Mill, next to the car park)


Places to See in Cornwall: Crumplehorn Inn and Mill, Polperro, Cornwall
Places to See in Cornwall: Crumplehorn Inn and Mill, Polperro, Cornwall | Source
PL13 2RJ:
Lansallos, Looe, Cornwall PL13 2RJ, UK

get directions

7. Crumplehorn Inn & Mill

Originally a hamlet consisting of an old corn mill, Killigarth Mill and Crumplehorn Farm, the buildings were run as a corn mill until 1950, but are now run as an inn and a mill.

The Crumplehorn Inn has a fascinating history, which you can read about on their website, as well as being a great place to have lunch or even an evening mill.

Telephone: 01503 272348
Address: Crumplehorn Inn & Mill, Polperro, Cornwall. PL13 2RJ
SatNav: PL13 2RJ

8. Steam Train Dinner & Trips, Bodmin

If you're looking for something a bit special, then why not take a leisurely steam train tour - or even enjoy a steam train dinner. Bodmin & Wenford Railway Steam Train Rides

I Hope You've Enjoyed This Article

... I've enjoyed reminiscing.

I plan to be adding to it soon and writing more guides to specific areas, so I'll link those in. I'd love it if you bookmarked it and came back for more in the future.

Thanks for reading!

© 2009 Dedicated Content Curator


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    • BristolBoy profile image


      9 years ago from Bristol

      Some very interesting places - thanks for sharing!

    • KCC Big Country profile image


      10 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for sharing! I love Cornwall. My first experience with a little harbour town and a Cornish Pasty was in Padstow.

    • magdielqr profile image


      10 years ago

      Very good this hub. Thanks for sharing.


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