Close Icon
Helford Village

We have chosen 9 of the best hidden gems in Cornwall that you need to see on your next visit to this beautiful part of South West England.

Famous world-wide for its pretty fishing villages, stretches of golden sand, crystal clear waters and sumptuous cream teas, the western-most county of the UK is also alive with its own culture, heritage and language. The Celtic Kingdom of Cornwall – or ‘Kernow’ as it is known in its native tongue – has long been a favourite of holiday makers from the UK and abroad.

As soon as the sun begins to shine, crowds flock to Cornwall. Some head for the beautiful beaches and the numerous scenic trails, others to top activities and attractions like the world renowned Eden Project or the majestic Minack Theatre. Although such popular sites are well worth visiting, sometimes its nice to get off the beaten path and to find something a little unusual, away from the hustle and bustle.

Read on for our selection of 9 of Cornwall’s best hidden gems…

Cornwall’s Literary Locations

1. Pentargon Waterfall (Boscastle)

Pentargon Waterfall

Follow the South West Coast Path North from Boscastle Harbour and visit the beautiful Pentargon Waterfall. The falls are a wonderful sight to behold, with the river rushing over the lip of the valley and falling 100 ft to the shore below. At one point they were even enjoyed by the renowned writer, Thomas Hardy.

Although more commonly linked with his beloved Dorset, Hardy had strong connections to this area of Cornwall. It was where he met his wife and also inspired a great deal of his poetry. Pentargon Falls in particular, was the inspiration for his love poem ‘Under the Waterfall’.

2. Frenchman’s Creek (Helford, Falmouth)

Frenchman's Creek Helford

One of a number of small inlets off the River Helford, Frenchman’s Creek is a serene haven with birdsong often being the only sound to be heard. The calm waters of the creek are lined by ancient overhanging trees and the surrounding woodlands that are carpeted with wild garlic and blue bells in the spring.

The creek is best explored by boat or kayak, but if you prefer to stay on dry land, there is a picturesque trail that links to the charming village of Helford, with its traditional white washed cottages and lovely inn. No wonder Daphne Du Maurier chose to this area as her honeymoon destination and later the backdrop and title of her 1941 novel, Frenchman’s Creek.

3. Hawker’s Hut  (Morwenstow, Bude)

Hawker's Hut

Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was appointed vicar of Morwenstow in 1835. The congregation at this time was the home of many smugglers and wreckers, many of whom would even guide crippled ships towards the rocks instead of safety in order to steal any profitable goods.

Reverend Hawker’s influence soon put a stop to this. He was an eccentric man, owning a number of wild animals for pets including a stag and a pig called Gyp, as well as building a hut on the cliff side out of reclaimed timber from shipwrecks. It was here that he would often sit and write his poetry, and later where he would be visited by Charles Kingsley and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The hut belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public.

Cornish Myths and Legends

4. St Nectan’s Kieve (Trevethy, Tintagel)

St Nectan's Kieve

St Nectan’s Glen is located in the woodlands of Trevethy, just a short distance from Tintagel. It is a calm spot, with ancient trees overhanging the trickling the water below and was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the 1980’s due to its variety of wildlife.

Its major feature is St Nectan’s Kieve, a UK waterfall that drops 60 feet into a 20 ft deep basin and on through a natural arch in the rocks. The site is believed to have mystical properties, you will often see ribbons, crystals and small shrines around the Kieve as offerings to mythical creatures such as piskies (Cornish pixies) and fairies.

5. The Mermaid of Zennor (Zennor, St Ives)

Zennor Mermaid

Cornwall has plenty of folk tales involving mermaids, but the Mermaid of Zennor can be found within the church, her likeness carved into the side of a medieval chair in the South side of the chapel. Her long hair flowing behind her, a mirror in one hand and a comb in the other. Although other churches in Cornwall have depictions of Mermaids, St Senara’s possesses the only surviving carving.

The village itself has been linked to mermaids for centuries. It is said that a local squire’s son, Matthew Trewhalla, was once member of the church choir, having been gifted with a pure singing voice. The mermaid, Morveren, had heard his song and visited the church in disguise to listen and soon became enamored. The stories differ on whether she lured him, or he left willingly, but all end with Matthew never returning. The villagers, only ever hearing echoes of their songs emanating from the ocean beyond.

Quirky Cornish Museums

6. The Shipwreck Museum (Charlestown, St Austell)

Charlestown Shipwreck museum

Situated just outside St Austell, Charlestown is a traditional Cornish village and port easily recongnisable from the BBC adaptation of Poldark, based on Winston Graham’s series of historical novels. Set back from the harbour lies the fascinating Shipwreck Museum, a small centre filled with a fascinating artefacts brought together over the last 50 or so years. The collection varies from local history to artefacts from more than 150 shipwrecks, including those from the World Wars and HMS Titanic.

7. The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (Boscastle)

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic was established in Boscastle in 1960, located on the edge of the River Valency, close to Boscastle Harbour. It offers two floors filled with over 3,000 artefacts, 7,000 books and a number of displays and exhibitions. There are activities for kids, a naturally occurring spring and shrine, as well as exhibits dedicated to Cornish Piskies, charms, Christian magic and curses.

The Cornish Coastline

8. Nanjizal Beach and the Song of the Sea (Trevescan, Penzance)

Song of the Sea - Nanjizal

Nanjizal Beach is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the Penwith peninsula. However, due to its isolated location it is also one of the quietest and is often left deserted. You won’t find any signposts pointing the way to Nanjizal, no car park, beach cafe or toilets. It’s a three-mile walk from the village of Trevescan, but well worth the walk.

This untouched beach possesses a number of natural sculptures, such as the Diamond Horse, as well as a number of caves that only become visible as the tide begins to retreat. A natural slit between rock faces known as the Song of the Sea, allows a beam of light to illuminate a crystal clear pool of water trapped by the tide, nearby a freshwater waterfall drops down to the shore offering a convenient place to wash away the sand and sea water.

9. The Crantock Cave Carving (Crantock, Newquay)

Crantock Cave Carving Woman

Crantock Beach features a long expanse of golden sand, backed by rolling sand dunes to one side and sheer cliff faces to the other. It is a great spot for sun bathing, surfing and of course, building epic sandcastles. However, within one of the caves close to the headland of Pentire Point West is a mysterious carving, only accessible at low tide. Within the cave is a woman’s outline carved into the rocks with the lines:

“Mar not my face but let me be,
Secure in this lone cavern by the sea,
Let the wild waves around me roar, 
Kissing my lips for evermore.”

The depiction was carved by artist Joseph Prater, but no ones knows why. The story surrounding the carving states that a woman was riding her horse along Crantock Beach when they were cut off by the tide, despite trying to shelter near the caves, she and the horse later drowned. Her heartbroken lover is said to have repeatedly walked the beach in hope of finding her and carved the image in remembrance of her. Whether this same lover was Prater may never be known, with the identity of Crantock’s Lady still remaining a mystery.

Our places to stay in Cornwall guide is sure to offer the perfect retreat for you. Find even more things to do in Cornwall.

Images Courtesy of: Chris Lovelock (CC BY 2.0); Dawn Robinson-Walsh (CC BY 2.0); mrjeep222 (CC BY-SA 3.0); Nilfanion (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Get involved in the Discussion

Sign up to receive discounts, exclusive offers, travel tips and guides.