Things to do in North Cornwall near Tintagel

Having lived in North Cornwall for nearly 40 years, we know the problem is not finding something to do, it's choosing what to do from the mind-boggling number of options that are available in this area! On this page there are some suggestions for some things to do and good places to do them. If rain is forecast, see our page suggesting which activities are particularly suitable for a rainy day.

Walking and hiking

Millook Haven
Millook Haven
Stile near St Breward
Footpath near St Breward

There are loads of good walks around the area ranging from half hour leisurely strolls to all day hikes. The famous coast path offers some spectacular scenery but there are also plenty of nice woodland and moorland walks too if you fancy something a bit more sheltered or remote. See our walks page for more information about good walks in the area and also our page of historic and scenic places includes some suggestions for walks in these areas.

Starting at Park Farm there are nice walks to Trebarwith Strand, Backways Cove, the Prince of Wales Quarry, St Materiana's church, Tintagel Castle, Tintagel, Bossiney Haven and Rocky Valley.

We've compiled a set of circular walks starting from Park Farm ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 miles, each with a route map and directions. See our circular walks page for a list and a link to the page for each walk.

If you fancy something a bit shorter then see our short walks page where we have collected some of our favourite walks between 0.5 and 2 miles.

Birding, rockpooling and wildlife watching

Stoat on Trewarmett Downs
Stoat on Trewarmett Downs
Port Quin
Anemone

Cornwall offers some of the best birding and marine wildlife in the country. There are also a number of undisturbed wooded valleys and downs rich in wildlife.

The exposed coast in North Cornwall has plenty of rock ledges that make good nesting sites for seabirds and peregrine falcons. The stretch of coast between Tintagel and Boscastle has a number of offshore rock stacks which host seabird colonies. A number of wetland areas including the marshes around Bude and the Camel Estuary attract a diverse range of migrating birds during Spring and Autumn. See our wildlife page for a list of Nature Reserves in the area and some other good places to see birds.

Basking sharks, dolphins, seals and ocean sunfish are all commonly seen off the coast and closer inshore there are kelp beds with bass, pollock and colourful wrasse. Scroll down to the sections on snorkelling and sea kayaking for more information. The exposed coast of North Cornwall has large numbers of rockpools which are home to a diverse population of fish, invertebrates and colourful plants. See our wildlife page for some good spots for rockpooling.

Swimming

Bossiney at low tide
Bossiney near Tintagel
Tregardock beach from the path
Tregardock beach with no surf

A number of sandy beaches are within reach of a moderate walk or a short drive. See our beaches page for a list of North Cornish beaches and some photos. Some that are particularly good for swimming are:

  • Bossiney Haven, which is in a sheltered bay and is also relatively quiet beach.
  • The sheltered inlets at Port Gaverne and Port Quin means there isn't too much surf even when there is quite a swell running. Make sure you don't get in the way of boats and kayaks launching as they'll also be looking for a sheltered spot.
  • Castle Beach, which is a good swimming spot as it's sheltered and the lack of sand drives tourists elsewhere so it's usually remarkably quiet plus you get some good views of the castle.
  • When there isn't much surf, Trebarwith strand and Tregardock Beach are great places to swim.
  • When the sea is completely calm, Backways cove is a glorious spot for a refreshing swim on a hot day.

Surfing

Surfer at Trebarwith Strand
Autumn waves at Trebarwith
Body boarder at Trebarwith Strand
Body boarder at Trebarwith
Surfer at Lundy Bay
Surfer at Lundy Bay

There are a number of good surf beaches nearby. We have a couple of hidden gems very close by that are good places to escape the crowds in the summer when there is a surf running:

  • Trebarwith strand - not heavily advertised as a surf destination so never gets crowded like Polzeath and Newquay. Best on a rising tide and ideally with an east or south-easterly. There is a surf school in Summer run by the local surfers. More info about the break. Latest surf forecast.
  • Tregardock - if you're prepared to carry your gear down you can have the beach to yourself and a couple of locals escaping the Summer crowds. More info about the break. Latest surf forecast.

The well-known Polzeath and Bude surf beaches are also quite close:

Other good spots include:

  • Harlyn Bay near Padstow which is unusual in that it faces North. This means when the prevailing south-westerlies are blowing out the surf on other beaches, at Harlyn the wind is pretty much offshore and standing the waves up. Surf forecast.
  • Just around the corner from Polzeath is Lundy Bay which also faces north (NNW to be precise). At low tide the waves can be fantastic if there is a southerly wind.

Snorkelling

Bass at Hole Beach
Bass at Hole Beach

There is a lot of marine life on the North Cornish coast that suddenly becomes apparent when you put on a snorkel and mask. Amongst the rocky areas along the sides of most beaches you're pretty much guaranteed to see bass, wrasse and pollock. Being surrounded by a huge shoal of bass or mackerel is an awesome experience (in all senses of the word). Grey seals are common along the coast and may come to check you out. If you're very lucky you may encounter dolphins or basking sharks. See our wildlife page for more information about the marine wildlife in the area.

For more information see our page on snorkelling and diving which includes suggestions for some good spots.

Fishing

Beachcasting on Trebarwith
Beachcasting at Trebarwith
Fishing on Bude Canal
Coarse fishing on Bude Canal

If you're into sea fishing, there is excellent beachcasting and some great rock platforms nearby. See the sea fishing section on our fishing page for some good places and advice on bait.

There are also boat fishing trips from Rock and from Padstow on the Celtic Warrior.

If fly fishing is more your scene then there are good trout and salmon rivers in the area, plus some lakes stocked with trout. See salmon and trout section on our fishing page for a list of good places nearby.

There are also a number of lakes and even a Canal nearby where you can catch coarse fish. See coarse section on our fishing page for a list of those nearby.

Kayaking

Pentargon near Boscastle
Pentargon near Boscastle
Sunfish
Sunfish near Port Gaverne

Sea kayaks are a great way to explore the Cornish coastline. There are lots of caves and beaches that can only be reached by sea. Unlike surf skis or some canoes, sea kayaks are designed to be very stable and not tip over easily (in fact in the United States some people STAND on them to fish - we don't recommend doing that but it gives you an idea how stable they are).

In spring and early summer you can see seabirds courting and raising their young; if you're quiet you can get fairly close without disturbing them. There are lots of seabird colonies around Boscastle with razorbills, oystercatchers, cormerants, several different gulls and the occasional puffin.

Since kayaks are so quiet they are a good way of getting close to dolphins, basking sharks and sunfish which often visit our coast in the Summer. You can often spot sunfish from a large fin flapping from side to side on the surface of the water. The average weight of a full grown adult is a tonne - the largest known bony fish.

If you haven't been sea kayaking before and would give it a try then Cornish Coast Adventures based at Port Quin do kayak tours. See our kayaking page for more information, including good places to launch and places to hire kayaks.

Cycling

The Camel Trail near Bodmin
The Camel Trail near Bodmin

It's fair to say North Cornwall is quite hilly. If you're a hardcore cyclist that's probably a challenge you'll relish. There are plenty of little lanes off the beaten track which apart from the occasional tractor, you're likely to have to yourself. The Cornish Way is 180 mile cycle route around Cornwall devised by sustrans - the part around North Cornwall is known as the North Cornwall Trail which is rated "challenging". It is possible to take bikes on the Padstow-Rock ferry (at least when it's not too busy).

If you are going offroad with a mountain bike on Bodmin Moor, beware that for much of the year the ground can be very marshy. Somewhere that's guaranteed not to be is the old WW2 airfield on Davidstow which is quite interesting to explore by bike (watch out for potholes as a lot of the runways have fallen into disrepair).

For those who prefer something less geometrically challenging, the Camel Trail is ideal. It's a disused railway so it's pretty flat and has been surfaced so it's very easy to ride on. It goes through some nice riverside scenery and comes out at the Camel Estuary in Padstow. You can hire bikes in Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow if you don't have your own with you.

Horse Riding

Horse Riding at Golitha Falls near Bodmin Moor
Horse riding on Bodmin Moor

There are a number of riding stables nearby which gives you options of coastal, riverside or moorland riding:

  • Tredole farm in Trevalga (Tel 01840 250495) - great coastal scenery round here (and Trevalga itself has lovely old buildings).
  • Lakefield Equestriam Centre - near Slaughterbridge. They also have a large indoor area which may be handy if it's raining.
  • Steppes Farm Livery in Advent (Tel 07814 621815) - there are lovely riverside meadows here in the Camel Valley.
  • Tall Trees near Davidstow at the edge of Bodmin Moor.

Golf

There are golf courses at Lanteglos, St Kew, Polzeath, St Enodoc, Bude, Trevose and near St Mawgan.

Photography

Sunset over Trebarwith Strand
Sunset from Park Farm
Lundy Bay at low tide on a sunny day
Lundy Bay on a sunny day
Stained glass in St Materiana Church
St Materiana church in Tintagel

There is no shortage of great scenery to photograph in North Cornwall. Here are some tips on contending with "The Elements":

  • Since most of the coastline is west facing then the sun sets over the sea. There are quite a few offshore rocks such as Gull Rock at Trebarwith and Tintagel Castle which are silhouetted against the sea as the sun sets. Spring and Autumn are particularly good times of year when the position of the sun is optimal for many of the west-facing beaches.
  • You can get some great pictures of fishing villages either late in the evening or during the winter – in both cases all the tourists have gone home and sun is low in the sky on the buildings facing out to sea.
  • When the sea is calm, on a really bright sunny summer day when sun is overhead the light will penetrate the water and you can get some nice colourful shots from high on the cliffs or with an underwater camera if you go snorkelling. These conditions are also when you're most likely to see basking sharks and sunfish.
  • At low tide many of the beaches have vast extents of sand which can make interesting compositions with a wide angle lens. With a polarising filter you can get some good contrast between the sky, the sea and the clouds (see the photo of Lundy Bay on the right for an example).
  • If you're going for a stormy winter shot, you can usually spot a rainstorm approaching from the west over the sea a couple of minutes before it hits land (and you get soaked!) which should give you enough time duck into an Inn such as the Port William for a quick warm up whist it passes over.
  • On a rainy day the old churches provide a photogenic place to shelter, and have some nice features ranging from stained glass to medieval carvings which can make interesting photos. If you have a tripod, make sure you take it with you, as the light levels are quite low and you can get much warmer colours from the carved granite and oak without a flash.
  • During the colder months, sea fog can roll in and blanket everything. Sometimes you can get below it in valleys, particularly inland from the coast. Occasionally if you climb the coast path onto some of the higher cliffs you may be able to get above it and take some "church poking out of the clouds" photos. Wear shoes with a good grip as the path might be slippery.

Houses and gardens

The house at Lanhydrock
Lanhydrock

Our area has some nice old houses and gardens open to the public, some owned by the National Trust and some still owned by aristocratic families:

  • The Old Post Office in Tintagel is one of the first properties acquired by The National Trust over 100 years ago
  • Pencarrow House is the home of the eccentric but friendly Molesworth St-Aubyns family
  • Lanhydrock is owned by the National Trust and has stunning gardens
  • Prideaux place overlooking Padstow has been the home of Prideaux family for 14 generations, once known as Gwarthandrea
  • Trerice near Newquay is an Elizabethan Manor owned by the National Trust
  • At Cotehele there is a Medieval/Tudor house and a working mill

Historic buildings

Engine house
Prince of Wales quarry
Launceston castle
Launceston castle

In you're interested in historic buildings, North Cornwall has quite a number in addition to those in the previous section:

Many can be visited as part of a circular walk - see our section on walks for some more details

Indoor attractions

The Eden Project
Eden Project
Playing with a seal at The National Seal Santuary, Gweek
Seal Sanctuary

The tacky over-commercialised "tourist attractions" of the 1970s and 1980s have (thankfully) mostly faded away and been replaced by a new generation of national centres of excellence that are genuinely interesting and worthwhile often participating in conservation or academic research as well as being open to the public. These include:

  • The Eden Project near St Austell which is about 40-50 mins drive. You can pre-book tickets in visitor centre in Tintagel or buy them online so you don't have to queue to buy tickets.
  • The National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow - about half an hour's drive. They are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. There is a Visitor Centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.
  • The Cornish Birds of Prey centre rescues many species of birds (article on BBC website).
  • The Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay (about an hour's drive) which includes sharks, turtles, octopus, a huge tropical ocean display you can walk through in a tunnel plus a display of the fish and crustaceans you're likely to see if you go snorkelling in Cornwall. There is a nursery of baby fish, seahorses and cuttlefish where captive breeding programmes are being pioneered.
  • The National Aquarium, Plymouth (about an hour's drive) which has some impressive huge tanks with sharks and large sea fish such as cod and pollock. On the way are some smaller tanks with some interesting fish such as gurnards which walk around on their adapted fin rays and look extremely comical. The Barbican in Plymouth where it's situated has some nice cafés on the waterfront and some old buildings and winding streets that survived the heavy bombing during WW2.
  • The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth (1h 20min drive) which has a vast display of boats. There is also a tidal zone where you can walk under the sea at high tide without getting your feet wet. They run a programme of events throughout the whole year (not just the summer) - there are lots for children, though there are some cruises, dinners and lectures too (see their website). Many of the events have limited places so it's best to book in advance if possible.
  • The National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek (1h 30min drive) is a centre for the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of seals. Most seasons they rescue over 40 pups and occasionally the Sanctuary's facilities and expertise are called upon to aid in the rescue of other marine creatures such as Dolphins and Turtles. It is home for several different types of resident seal and sea lions who cannot be released into the wild and some otters. If you book online you can get a discount.

If you go in Summer it's worth setting off a little early so you miss any holiday traffic and booking tickets in advance to avoid queuing. You can often buy tickets online or from the Visitor Centre in Tintagel.

Some smaller things you might also find interesting are:

Pubs

Port William, Trebarwith Strand
The Port William
Open fire at the Port William, Trebarwith Strand
Open fire at the Port William

In walking distance, there are some pubs which all serve food:

  • The Mill House Inn (a former 18th century corn mill) is set in a leafy spot in Trebarwith Valley (about 15-20 min walk).
  • The Port William is on the cliffs overlooking Trebarwith Strand.

Villages and ports nearby with plenty more pubs are Tintagel, Boscastle, Port Isaac, Camelford and Padstow - follow the links for a list in each case. There are also a number of pubs on Bodmin Moor if you fancy combining a pub lunch with a walk on the moor.

We have a number of award-winning local breweries served by many of the local pubs which include:

Food and Drink

View from Park Farm
View from Park Farm
Cows grazing on the coast at Trevalga
Free range beef
Mussels at Trebarwith Strand
Mussels at Trebarwith Strand
Granny Wobbly's Fudge Pantry in Tintagel
Granny Wobbly's Fudge Pantry
Hilltop Farm Shop near Slaughterbridge
Hilltop Farm Shop

If you're into cooking, the fresh air, clean water and verdent vegetation in Cornwall means that we have some great fresh food. When you've prepared it there are also some nice spots to sit and enjoy it.

Cornwall is famous for clotted cream: "This cream is peculier to Cornwall, Devonshire, and Brittany, no doubt carried over by the Cornish Britons, who settled in that part of France." It was said "that delicacy, called 'clouted cream' - matchless with coffee, fruit, or in its own simple character - a delicacy, which they who know not are to be pitied, and they who do know have no more to acquire in the knowledge of a perfect condiment."

If you fancy a bit of foraging, in Spring Minster Valley is full of wild garlic which combines well with the free range meat from Home Farm nearby. In Summer you can pick some elderflowers on one of your walks and make some elderflower cordial. In Autumn there are some good spots for picking blackberries, sloes and elderberries to take home and make some blackberry crumble, sloe gin or home-made wine. In winter the young tips of bladderwrack seaweed can be harvested which are delicious lightly simmered with fresh ginger in a noodle soup. All year round you can collect some quite large mussels on a low spring tide.

If you catch your own (or buy some) fresh mackerel, it is fantastic barbequed and served with a bit of horseradish or gooseberry sauce - feel free to ask us for a sprig of bay to barbeque your mackerel with.

Some interesting places to buy food are:

  • Granny Wobbly's Fudge Pantry in Tintagel - proper crumbly homemade fudge is made right in front of you in the shop and there are free samples to taste.
  • Free-range eggs are available on the road to Rocky Valley (on the route for some of our St Nectans Glen and Trevalga circular walk) and from New Farm just off the Camelford to Boscastle road (B3266) on the road towards Trebarwith Strand.
  • Helsett Farm near Boscastle, who make their own organic ice creams, yoghurts, milk etc from their own herd.
  • Deli Farm Charcuterie, who make their own salamis, hams etc
  • Near Minster Church is Home Farm shop - a large garden shed where they sell their own excellent fresh meat. Their chickens are so free range you need to be a little careful not to run them over on your way up the track up to the farm.
  • Hill Top Farm shop just past Slaughterbridge which sells home grown and local produce. There are also farm shops at St Endellion near Delabole, Carruan near Polzeath, Padstow, St Kew highway near Bodmin many of which raise their own organic meat and grow organic veg.
  • The fish merchant at Port Isaac, based in the old pilchard sheds on the harbour
  • Launceston Farmer's Market held every Friday morning at St Mary's Hall. Also in Launceston (this time in the town square) the Launceston Butter Market is held on the first Saturday of every month and Launceston General Market is the 3rd Saturday of every month so might be somewhere to stop on your way here, or way back.
  • Camel Valley Vinevard at Nanstallion near Bodmin - a highly rated English vineyard. They do a tour and tasting on Wednesday evenings through the Summer.

For everyday provisions there are 2 well stocked village stores in Tintagel and a butcher who makes award-winning sausages. There are several large supermarkets in Wadebridge, Bodmin and Launceston.

More things to do

Waterfall at the Prince of Wales Quarry near Trewarmett in North Cornwall
Prince of Wales Quarry

See our page on places of scenic and historical interest for some suggestions of places to visit nearby.

There are folders in Park Farm Cottages with printouts of the walks from this website and leaflets for things to do. The leaflets have more information about many of the activities above plus some other sports such as field archery, golf and tennis. We've carefully selected these so that they are all within the local area rather than scattered all over Cornwall.

If you bring a laptop you can take advantage of our free wireless broadband to get information from the internet whilst you're here. Also the maps on our walks pages are interactive in case you want to have a zoom around the route before setting off.

The Tintagel and Boscastle Visitor Centres have loads of useful information including current local events as well as leaflets for year-round attractions. Their website also has a list of events in the area.

If you're after a guidebook there is a Rough Guide and Lonely Planet guide for Devon and Cornwall, both of which are quite recent so should contain pretty up-to-date information.