The South of Cornwall is a beautiful stretch of England comprising of glittering waters, lush greenery, and rugged coastline. Best seen by car so as to stop whenever you spy anything which might be of interest (and that tends to happen every ten minutes or so when you’re driving through the South West!), here’s a highlights of Southern Cornwall road trip itinerary!
Highlights of Southern Cornwall Road Trip Itinerary: Practical advice, tricks, and tips!
Bring some water, snacks, grab a friend and head out on this Cornwall road trip for some of the best attractions this stunning stretch of coastline has to offer. If you want to make the most of your time in the depths of Cornwall, then be sure to dedicate at least a full day in order to fully make the most of all the destinations on offer.
This guide can also be followed over the course of two days if you want to extend your visit to a long weekend. After all, if you want to do some hiking and see some museums, several destinations will require a couple of hours of exploration each. For the prettiest place to stay, I recommend finding accommodation in Mousehole.
This Southern Cornish itinerary is also best attempted during good weather as much of the places listed are outdoors attractions. In terms of parking, make sure to bring spare change as several car parking machines will only accept loose coins. When it comes to fuel, I’d recommend refuelling in Penzance as this is where you’re likely to find the most affordable fuel rates!
Total distance covered: 28.5 miles
Driving time: 1 hour 10 minutes
St Levan, Porthcurno, & the Minack Theatre
Not far from Land’s End, the pretty area surrounding Porthcurno is populated by beaches and is shrouded in local legend. If you’re wanting to explore this area (and I highly recommend you do!), then make sure to start your adventure by visiting the pretty church of St Levan. Dating all the way back to medieval times, in a nearby field, there’s a church car park when you can leave your vehicle for a fee of £2.
The church itself is home to oodles of stained glass windows, as well as plenty of ornate wood carvings. In St Levan’s graveyard, there are twin rocks known as St Levan Stone. Thought to have been used as a holy rock in pre-Christian times, this place was probably once a pagan site where fertility rituals took place. Other highlights of the area include a Holy Well and Portchapel Beach, a sandy and sheltered cove.
Once you’ve seen St Levan Church and its surrounds, head back towards inland Cornwall along the road and you’ll pass by the Minack Theatre. This outdoor performance space offers beautiful views onto the turquoise sea below and near-daily performances throughout the summer months. Although viewings fill up quickly, even if you don’t manage to catch a theatre show, then it’s still possible to view the theatre from above (and for free)!
Following your visit to the Minack Theatre, drive a little further down the coastline once more and you’ll reach the pretty village of Porthcurno. Home to a telegraph museum, this historic town is also where you’ll find one of the best sandy beaches in all of Southern Cornwall, Porthcurno Beach.
Once upon a time, the main industries of the people who lived in Penberth Cove were pilchard fishing and a cut flower industry. And so, if you’re looking for the real and authentic Cornwall, then you simply must head to Penberth (known in Cornish as Benbryhi), a small fishing hamlet complete with picture perfect cottages.
Elsewhere in the tiny cove village, which remains one of the few unspoilt cove villages in Cornwall, there are plenty of hiking trails to be explored, as well as a tiny stepping stone footbridge over the Penberth River. While several houses have since been converted into holiday lets, many of the dwellings here remain inhabited by local fishermen.
In the heart of the hamlet, there’s even a 19th-century fully restored capstan. If you’re not sure what this is, I had no clue as to what the large wooden ‘capstan’ structure did until today either! Basically, the capstan aids in winching boats out of the water and up onto the slipway.
The Merry Maidens
The South West of England is a place which has been inhabited since time immemorial and great stone monoliths such as the Merry Maidens are just a small testament of this. Also known as ‘Dawn’s Men,’ the complete stone circle is located along the B3315, is thought to date all the way back to Neolithic Times, and is situated along a ley line.
Local legend explains that the Merry Maidens were nineteen maidens who disobeyed constitution and danced on a Sunday (which is traditionally a day of rest). As punishment for this, the girls were turned into stone. Nearby, two single stone megaliths are said to have been the pipers who played music for the maidens to dance to.
The pretty as a postcard fishing village of Mousehole is well worth a venture through on any trip through the Cornish countryside. Pronounced locally as ‘mow-zel’, highlights of this fishing town include many great and independent eateries (i.e. this is an ideal coffee and lunch spot), a sandy beach, and the opportunity to admire the crystal clear waters of the harbour.
Other things to do in Mousehole include perusing the many boutique stores and art galleries, as well as getting a little lost in the countless maze of streets which make up this fishing town. Historically, the town is best-known as the site where much of the town was destroyed during the 1595 raid by Spaniard, Carlos de Amesquita.
Marazion & St Michael’s Mount
The younger sibling of the much large Mont Saint Michel in Normandy was constructed by the same order of Benedictine monks and is known as Saint Michael’s Mount. Located just across the sea from the pretty town of Marazion, the tidal island of St Michael’s Mount is approachable by foot from the mainland twice a day when the waters recede.
If you want a feel for authentic Cornwall yet want a few facilities by way of tourist attractions (toilets, cafés, and town trails), then you simply must head to the stunning town of Porthleven. Located near Helston, this former fishing community is the most southerly port of Great Britain and now thrives on tourism.
Some of the very best things to do in Porthleven include visiting a large golden and sandy beach, snapping historic architecture dating back hundreds of years, and strolling along the harbourside while munching on some locally produced fudge!