Little Known Cornwall Destinations
We all know about the popular tourist attractions in Cornwall but there is so many more hidden gems to be discovered. Step away from the well-worn tourist path and find these delightful attractions. There is much more to Cornwall than its top attractions.
These hidden delights are tucked away in special locations throughout Cornwall. Discovery of these cool and unusual secret places will enhance your stay here. It is nice to escape from the crowds and find your own unique or quirky spot; you just have to look a little further.
Hidden Valley Garden, near St Austell
Well not really surprising but Hidden Valley Garden is located in a valley nestled away in Par close to St Austell. Much smaller in scale than its well-known counterparts at only three acres, but as they say the best things come in small packages. A little slice of paradise awaits you here, with many species of plants, flowers, pond wildlife and pretty butterflies occupying these awe-inspiring gardens. These award winning gardens although small has a diverse collection of plants, flowers and shrubs, with many themes including, a Mediterranean area, iris garden, Japanese garden, cottage garden, primrose garden and hot border that is resplendent in the summer months with fiery colours. There is also a small orchard and you can gather the fruits of the seasons as well as pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants that grow alongside the fruit trees. There is a leaflet and everything is well labelled so it easy to navigate these gorgeous imaginative gardens that are brimming with colour regardless of the season.
Let the colours, scents and views invade the senses as you sit in the tranquil courtyard, making the most of the peace and tranquility. If inspiration strikes you can purchase some plants or seeds to create your own stunning garden back home. The entry cost includes a make it yourself drink which is a nice touch.
Gwennap Pit, Redruth
Located off the beaten track in a region with strong associations with Cornwall's rich mining history. A truly remarkable sight which is basically a large hole in the ground. Formerly a collapsed copper mine shaft, the site was converted into an amphitheatre and used by agitator John Brand who preached Methodism to the thousands in the 18th century, he declared it "The most magnificent spectacle this side of Heaven."
It is now a memorial and you can walk around the twelve rows of seats from top to bottom, these concentric circles are exactly a distance of one mile and hold 1500 people when full, all were cut by local miners from 1803-06. Although off the beaten track it is worth a visit, not your usual all singing and dancing attraction but a unique piece of history with a spiritual ambience. The perfect place to sit and contemplate and try out the awesome acoustics.
There is also a small simple white church with an attached village hall. There is signage and information about the site and regarding the tin and copper mining here in Cornwall.
It is still used for religious gatherings, in particular the annual gathering on Whitsun, and there are also services throughout the summer months.
The Helford River and Frenchman's Creek
Frenchman's Creek is the most well-known of the seven creeks leading off the Helford River, and found fame in the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name.
It is nature at its best, a little piece of paradise, serene with a calming beauty. Ancient woodlands and trees overhang the waters. Not to be missed by boat or kayak, you will delight in the tranquility of the waters.
There are delightful walks through the woodlands and glades that take you along the Helford estuary and provide the most amazing vistas. At low tide you can walk along the rocks.
You could take the Helford Passage ferry and start your walk from here.
St Cuthbert's Cave, Holywell Bay at Newquay
Holywell Cave or St Cuthbert's cave can be found at Holywell Bay, to the right-hand side of the beach and is revealed at low tide; you have to clamber over some boulders for access. From the beach it appears as a mere slit, look out for the cave with the wooden pole in it.
Situated in the south west corner of Kelsey Head it has a natural spring, descending through a dreamlike, multi-coloured grotto from the back of the cave. Often described as one of the most remarkable sites in the British Isles. An impressive natural phenomenon, but be careful of the slippy rocks and it is best to wear appropriate footwear and take a torch. There are some steps that lead up several stepped pools ascending towards a hole in the cave roof. It is the colours inside the cave that adds the wow factor, you will be amazed at the colourful ceiling and limestone pools. The mineral deposits that come through the stone are responsible for forming the striking red, green, blue and yellow hues. It can be credited for the vivid red, green, blue and within the cave is the Holy Well, if you look to your right and up above you will see it. This sacred spring is said to have healing powers; it was the site of pilgrimage for many hundreds of years as the lame, sick and disabled made their journeys seeking salvation.
There is an air of magic surrounding the cave.
Goldiggins Quarry, near Bodmin Moor
Although the beaches here in Cornwall are stunning you might want to escape to somewhere different. Head to Hurler's car park at Bodmin Moor and take a walk for around 20 minutes you will come across a hidden crystal clear quarry lake, tucked away in a small grassy amphitheatre. The idyllic destination for wild swimming.
This blue spring fed lake is very deep but there are gentle shallow spots and a waterfall that children love. Home to a few fish but nothing more. Ideal for adrenalin junkies who can jump from the high cliffs surrounding the lake. If not brave enough to jump straight in, you can build up your confidence by jumping from ascending heights. Swimmers can access the water by walking down grass-clad rocks to the waters edge.
The wide flat rocks unearthed from the quarry are brilliant for sunbathing on after a dip, or you can spread out on the grass, sublime. There is lots of space here for intrepid swimmers, picnickers and adrenaline junkies.
Hidden WWI Shipwreck, Padstow
Not the easiest attraction to find as only revealed at certain times and conditions. Hidden away at Booby's Bay in Padstow is a ghostly shipwreck of a German Naval ship SV Carl, a three-masted sailing vessel. Unfortunately, it ran aground during World War I, in 1917 on the outer reef during a storm and broke apart on the rocks. Whilst being towed to London for scrap it broke free and beached itself, it was then abandoned in Constantine Bay.
However, it is only when the sand shifts that it can be seen. One of the masts remains intact and this along with 60ft foot steel hull and timbers are visible. The first spotting was in 2014 when the rib cage was spotted by visitors to the beach. The shipwreck of SV Carl is frequently exposed in winter, as the sand that usually covers its skeleton is washed away by storms and then quickly filled back in again, often within hours.
Former Gunpowder Factory, Ponsanooth
Kennal Vale is a hidden valley nestled away in the countryside at Ponsanooth. This beautiful woodland has a fascinating past. Deep amongst the forest is remnants of its intriguing past as one of the largest and most complete gunpowder works to be found anywhere in Britain, producing explosives for use in the nearby mines. Today it is managed as a nature reserve by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and home to several species of wildlife. An interpretation board provides information about this 20-acre site.
The woods in the area are dotted with old granite ruins with a number of mills found along the length of Kendall Vale. They all feature the same design of a gap which would have housed the waterwheel between twin granite sections.
These powder mills were in operation between 1812 and 1914 and would have supplied the local mining industry which was prevalent at this time. Over time gunpowder was replaced by more successful explosives like gelignite and dynamite and this resulted in the mills closing and being abandoned.
Today these sturdy ruins are a haunting glimpse into the areas industrial past. Moss and foliage coat the walls and soften the impact of these strong stone buildings. Cogs, steps and leats remain which are in good shape, so lots to stimulate the imagination and discover. Look out for the broken mill stone in the river bed. You are literally walking through history.
During its peak it would have employed 50 men, producing 4-5 thousand barrels of quality gunpowder a year. The huge wheels and cogs would rarely have stopped turning. The worst explosion to occur was a spectacular accident that caused five of the production buildings to explode in quick succession with the roof of one building landing a mile away and killing a William Dunstan, a father of ten children, simply tragic.
13th Century Moated House, near Crackington Haven
Moated manor houses are extremely rare here in the south-west making the 13th century Penhallam manor a rarity. They were mostly found in central and eastern England. This unique historic house was built by Andrew de Cardinham but later abandoned in the 14th century. Originally you would have reached the manor via a drawbridge over the protective moat, however in the 13th century a fixed stone bridge was built.
When Cardinham died, the lands were split between his daughters as there was no male heir. By the 14th century the land had been passed to tenants and by 1428 the lands had been partitioned off.
Sitting amongst a beautiful woodland setting all that remains today are grass covered ruins that are cared for by English Heritage. It is likely that having been abandoned the locals would have helped themselves to the building materials. This would explain why it was reduced to its bare foundations. The full medieval ground plan has survived unaltered by later building work and provides a valuable insight into the social and domestic structure of these types of site. Excavation has revealed a wealth of information.
Close by are the remains of an earthwork castle at Week St. Mary, considered to be the first home of the family in the area before they moved to the more sheltered location of Penhallam.
Najizal is an isolated cove found at the end of a short, shallow valley in Penwith. The cove is spread with boulders and has unusually clear water. It is necessary to walk to get here and is approached via a very steep hill to reach the actual cove; good footwear is needed. Owing to its off the beaten track location, it is generally deserted so is a very peaceful spot. For the best experience you need to wait for the tide to go out. Although it is impressive when the tide is in and the water crashes over the boulders.
There are numerous caves and interesting rock formations to explore here, but the main attraction is the impressive features of the vertical chasm of Zawn Peggy (song of the Sea), a remarkable 100 metre eyelet arch that cuts through the granite to the wild waters of the Atlantic. Najizal also has a freshwater waterfall, archways and rock pools, simply splendid. The azure waters give the impression you are in a foreign country but be warned the waters are cold but great for swimming in.
The surrounding coastal countryside with its wild flowers is stunning and adds to the experience. A magical cove to visit, it is mother nature at its best.
The Hawker's Hut, Morwenstow
The Hawker's Hut at Morwenstow in Bude is a historic hut; it was built by the eccentric clergyman, antiquarian and poet Reverend Robert Hawker, and was used as his retreat. He was the vicar of Morwenstow from 1835 to 1874 and wrote the Cornwall's unofficial anthem “The Song of Western Men.”
His congregation at the time mainly consisted of smugglers and wreckers who would often guide ships towards the rocks to steal their goods, but Reverend Hawker helped put a stop to this, he did not agree with their practices. He would rescue shipwrecked sailors and recovered the bodies of the dead and gave them a Christian burial.
He built his cliffside hut from the timbers of shipwrecks and driftwood. This small rectangular hut is built into the cliff overlooking the sea. It has a stable door, and the interior has a slate floor, fixed timber seats with the roof of the hut covered with turf. Reverend Hawker was visited by both Charles Kingsley and Alfred Lord Tennyson here, you can just visualise them sitting here smoking opium and contemplating life in general. Much of the original huts construction material remains, it was restored by the National Trust and is open to the public.
It is located on a lovely cliff top walk and sits amongst stunning scenery, it is so tranquil and serene here. The views out to sea are incredible and on a clear day, Lundy Island can be seen. You will also come across a beautiful church that is thought to date back to Saxon times. The area is home to a variety of interesting local wildlife. Make sure to sign the visitors log. A unique and quirky piece of history.
The Rectory Tea Room nearby is excellent and serves a lovely selection of refreshments.