Let’s face it – when it comes to holidaying in Cornwall, it really is one of those destinations where the phrase “the best things in life are free” actually rings true.
As a minority-status-boasting, almost-island like distinct nation in the furthest subtropical southwest reaches of the country, Cornwall is surrounded by a mesmerising mix of sandy beaches, craggy coastal paths and a rural interior that visitors can explore for free to their hearts’ ultimate desire.
What’s more, we’re also pretty generous when it comes to inviting guests into our homes, gardens, cultural landscapes and historical landmarks.
So if it’s a distinctive day out (on us) that you’re after, there’s an array of attractions and activities to see and do that won’t cost you a penny.
Famed for its unique sense of creativity, Cornwall is chock with galleries, museums, installations, pop-up exhibitions and arty events.
Along with galleries that are entirely free to visit including The Exchange in Penzance, Newlyn Art Gallery and Falmouth Art Gallery – every area boasts its own vibrant artistic community and spaces that often host free, interactive events such as Open Studios Cornwall.
Plus, Cornwall is a playground for creative types of all ages. Try your hand at some sand sculpting and drawing; beachcomb for driftwood, shells and other washed up treasure to create your own self-crafted mini masterpiece; or hike into the woods for some landscape photography. Set off without your wallet and see how much you can see and produce. The only limit is your imagination.
Go back to nature
With world-class gardens and natural spaces comprising a great and glorious deal of Cornwall’s landmass, there’s everything from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) aplenty to bird and nature reserves, animal parks and country houses to explore.
Some that are also free to the public include Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, Godolphin Estate in Helston, Glendurgan House on the Helford River, Golitha Falls Nature Reserve on Bodmin Moor and Tehidy Country Park.
Pack a picnic and prepare to swoon at a complimentary slice of Cornwall’s sublime as you relish the history, wildlife, nature trails and stunning scenery surrounding you.
Read our blog on A walk through Tehidy Woods >
Hit the beach
Of course, Cornwall is a globally recognised coastal destination, synonymous with golden sands, Atlantic rollers and rugged cliffscapes.
Which means that visitors can enjoy a wealth of free adventures by hiking, rock pooling, crabbing, sea and tidal pool swimming, surfing (try body surfing if you don’t have a board for a totally ‘free’ experience in every sense of the word!) – and any other beach or ocean-based activity you fancy.
Take a splash in Bude Sea Pool, Chapel Rock Pool in Perranporth, The Rock Pool in Treyarnon Bay and the beautiful tidal pools nestled in the rocks at Polperro, Portreath and Porthtowan.
Read our blog on the Best surf spots in Cornwall >
A walk on the wild side
The South West Coast Path is an itinerary itself, and joins the mass of wild walks (and cycle paths) crisscrossing the coast and country throughout Cornwall.
Wander our World Heritage Site (WHS) mining districts or embark upon a free, guided history tour around famous landmarks such as Poldark tin mine (you might even spy Ross brooding on the cliff top somewhere…)
Read our blog on Cornwall’s off-road cycle trails >
Offering entertainment for every type of visitor, a great deal of Cornwall’s eclectic range of attractions offer free entry.
Lap up some ‘cultural candy’ at Heartlands (complete with adventure playground and botanical gardens), walk the cobbled causeway onto the island at St Michael’s Mount and indulge animal lovers with a trip to Cornish Camels, Mousehole’s Bird Hospital or The Flicka Foundation Horse and Donkey Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, foodies young and old will lavish their tastebuds at Roskilly’s Farm on the Lizard peninsula, Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm near Truro, and Trenance Chocolate Factory in Helston, where you can see the sweet stuff being made and sample some while you’re at it (well, it would be incredibly rude not to!)
For more ideas on family days out read our Ten Family Attractions >
Don’t forget, there’s also a continuous array of food, music, art and cultural festivals on Cornwall’s calendar that are free to visit – think Golowan in Penzance, St Ives September Festival, Newquay’s Boardmasters, Looe Music Festival and the Great Cornish Food Festival in Truro.
View all our cottages in Cornwall >
Written by Hannah May