It might sound sacrilegious to say this, but Cornwall’s interior is more than a match for its coastal landscapes. You might come here for the beaches, but what you’ll also discover is a huge variety of natural countryscapes, from rivers and lakes to moorland, farmland, heath, hilltop, rolling fields – and smattering of stunning woodlands.
They’re everywhere. Green enclaves on the edge of villages, tree-filled gardens in the centre of towns, sweeping acres of ancient forests, and sprawling country parks thick with vegetation: Cornwall is indeed a green and fertile land.
Standing as attractions in their own right, you can walk, cycle and horse ride miles of scenic trails, find a secluded picnic spot, spy rare plant and animal species, roam historic sites, and even enjoy a theatrical performance.
And, of course, if you’re bringing your four-legged best friend with you to Cornwall, a dog friendly woodland ramble would be the highlight of their stay too! Here’s a round up of some of the most must-visit woodlands in Cornwall...
Best for: Special events and stunning trails
Tehidy, Camborne TR14 0HA
Situated just outside of Camborne in a National Landscape (formerly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), Tehidy is west Cornwall’s largest woodland area, encompassing 250 acres of unspoilt woods and lakes. With no less than five different access points including South Drive, East Drive and North Cliff car parks (all free), getting here is easy enough – the main quandary is deciding how to spend your time, as there’s over nine 9 miles of paths weaving through a myriad of habitats. Pick the pink trail around the lake and North Cliffs for a wheelchair and pushchair friendly amble, or opt for something more challenging by way of nearby Portreath.
A café, visitor centre and picnic area all provide ample space and facilities (including toilets) to stop off, rest and refresh, after which you might wish to embark upon a cultural walk, immersive trail, or one of the sporting events that occur throughout the year. Admire a range of plant-life from Japanese maples, bluebell woods and a monkey puzzle tree to a wealth of native species while keeping an eye out for residents including swans, ducks, squirrels, eels and dragonflies.
The fantastic Rogue Theatre is also based at Tehidy, whose unique brand of wild entertainment is an absolute must for families fancying an escape into their fantasy world through Forest Days and themed adventure games in the woods, and performances from the stage and trapeze set in a clearing with straw bale seating. With walking and cycling trails aplenty (and off-road mobility vehicle hire), not to mention – oodles of things to see and do, a trip here is guaranteed to spoil all ages.
Best for: Activities and adventure trails
Bodmin PL30 4AL
Nestled toward the far eastern edge of the county, Cardinham Woods covers 230 hectares, being both an escapist’s and an adventurer’s dreamland. Adrenaline junkies will delight in the cycling and mountain biking trails including the Bodmin Beast, Dialled-in-Dave and Hell’s Teeth routes, while the variety of walking routes range from the easy Lady Vale route (complete with Superworm Activity Trail and Gruffalo sculptures) to the more challenging Wheal Glynn walk, which will lead you along the river to the old lead and silver mine of Wheal Glynn.
The Badger Forest School runs a series of outdoor learning sessions, while the pretty Woods Café serves tasty homemade food in the heart of the forest. Dog friendly and with outside seating (including a marquee) for summer and a log fire for winter, tuck into a Cornish cream tea, Yallah coffee, sandwich, salad box or soup – or order a takeaway for an alfresco bite.
Best for: Nature, art and sculpture
Tolver, Nr Gulval TR20 8YL
Running parallel to Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens in a suntrap valley between the villages of Ludgvan and Gulval just outside Penzance, these woods are small but beguilingly beautiful.
You can explore the wildflowers, mature trees and pretty stream on their own – or combine them as part of a longer route along St Michael’s Way, or a visit to the celebrated sculpture gardens that are home to world-renowned installations from James Turrell, Richard Long, David Nash, Peter Randall-Page, Kishio Suga and Tim Shaw. Save time for a stop-off at Tremenheere Kitchen, Gallery, Shop and Nursery for local produce, local and international artwork exhibitions, and paradisiacal plant-life to admire and take home. Plus, bird’s eye panoramas of the bay can be enjoyed pretty much from every angle, and are simply jaw dropping.
Best for: A country house woodland experience
Treffry Lane, Bodmin PL30 5AD
Combine a rural ramble with a stunning Victorian house and woodland estate for a day out with a scenic difference. East Cornwall’s National Trust treasure is an all-season affair, proffering cycle and walking trails alongside themed events, shopping, eating and exploring the picturesque parkland. Hire a bike or bring your own for a spot of off-roading adventure along trails ranging from easy to moderate grade and difficult, or practice your moves at the skills area and balance bike track over rollers, jumps, banked corners and drops.
A network of (dog friendly) walks are as gentle or challenging as you like, with the Respyn Ramble covering a particularly popular area of mixed woodland alongside the historic 15th century bridge. After you’ve worked up an appetite, The Stables tea-rooms offers everything from cream teas and children’s meals to coffees and cakes, (and also welcomes dogs on leads), while the Gift Shop, second-hand book shop and Plant Centre are the perfect places to find a selection of quality local produce, gifts, treats, home wares, jewellery and accessories to take home as a souvenir or special gift.
Best for: Being at one with nature
Liskeard PL14 6RX
The impossibly beautiful Golitha Falls is an enchanting mix of ancient woodland traversed by the River Fowey, which cuts through the woodland via a string of cascades. Set in a nature reserve as part of Bodmin Moor’s AoNB, visitors can experience a palpably wild and unspoilt atmosphere. The path is easily accessible, or you can venture up the hill for sprawling meadows and, in the height of spring – exquisite bluebell woodlands. Pack a picnic and find ‘your’ place to enjoy it amongst the trees, or hop in the car for a brief drive to Liskeard for something to eat, or to the nearby historic Jamaica Inn of Daphne du Maurier fame.
Best for: Riverscapes and fairytale woodland
Nestled along the Helford River near the small hamlet of Durgan, these woods will redefine picturesque as you lose yourself amongst subtropical gardens, river valleys and a gorgeous beach. Explore the small National Trust-owned fishing village or further afield by taking a trip to nearby Trebah Gardens and Glendurgan Gardens, or by venturing into Falmouth for an abundance of attractions and things to do.
Best for: Scenic walks and wildlife watching
Ridgeway, Looe PL13 2NE
This stunning area of ancient woodland is part of a County Wildlife Site in an Area of Special Landscape Value, making it very special indeed. Dubbed ‘the lungs of Looe’, Kilminorth’s western oak woodland runs along the West Looe River valley, presenting a variety of habitats and wildlife ranging from roe deer and foxes to oystercatchers, heron and kingfishers.
A walker’s paradise, various paths will lead you everywhere from ancient monument the ‘Giant’s Hedge’ to the valley, and includes a level (wheelchair and pushchair friendly) path from the Millpool entrance to the old boatyard site. Extend your ramble to Looe for something to eat, or pack a picnic to savour somewhere en route. Meanwhile, a host of conservation activities, members’ walks, and special interest events can be enjoyed year-round.
Best for: Escaping the crowds
Near Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5JA
Dangling over the Helford Passage a few miles south of Falmouth, these woods are an absolute must for those seeking to escape into an exotic world. One entry point is the footpath next to the Cricket Path in Mawnan Smith, which will lead you into the thicket of oaks, ferns and bamboo. Follow the stream to the blissful Porth Saxon beach, where coast and countryside collide to enchanting effect.
The shingle-sand stretch gazes over the river to provide more soul-stirring scenery, and is the perfect place for a cooling mid-walk plunge. It also permits dogs year-round, though there’s no lifeguard cover. If you’re in the mood for refreshments, find your way to Mawnan Smith for the Awna, the Ferryboat Inn, Red Lion Inn or Trebah Kitchen; or if it’s more greenery you seek – carve out some time for the spectacular Trebah and Glendurgan Gardens, which are but a short drive or (longer) walk away.
Ready to explore the enchanting greenery in Cornwall? Whether you wish to stay in a cottage with a garden, snuggle up in a cottage with a woodburner, or bed down in a cottage with sea views, discover your perfect stay in Cornwall now.