Do stop by:
Jamaica Inn, dating from 1760, is perhaps best known for being the setting of Daphne du Maurier's book with the same title. Although the dodgy landlord has checked out, the Inn still retains an air of mysticism and rough buccaneers out for a spot of smuggling. It's situated on the middle of Bodmin Moor, and used to be one of the stops for smugglers who would take goods through Cornwall from France and sell them on to the rest of England – and several of them are said to haunt the Inn. The Inn has a good restaurant, a shop, and a smuggling museum, all worth a stop. Although not as desolate as it was in the 1700's, it still has that lonesome, slightly creepy feel to it. Stay a night or two, if you dare!
A walk around the Moor is a must, even if you're not familiar with Wuthering Heights or du Maurier's books. The eerie feeling of seeing «The Hurlers»; 4000 year old standing stones, or an abandoned mill, is unparalleled. There are also semi-wild horses, as well as several lakes there; Siblyback Lake is rather large and nice, and Dozmary Pool is where Lancelot supposedly threw Excalibur after Arthur's death. I had a closer look at the latter, but sadly, no watery tart in sight.
Such a cosy name, isn't it? This is where Arthur was killed, according to legend.There's a visitor's centre there, from where you can take a walk to the battle field and see the bridge that gave the place it's name. There's also «King Arthur's Stone»; a supposed tomb-stone, that dates from 500 A.D.
Anyone familiar with the legend of Tristan and Isolde will have heard about this place, because this is where everything happened. Tintagel Castle was built by Richard something-or-other in 1230, and was originally a complete castle set atop two cliffs – but the tides have made one of the cliffs a separate island and thus parting the castle in two. The walk up to both parts is steep and rocky, but absolutely worth it. Beautiful ruins with a great view.
The administrative centre of Cornwall; a rather large town with all the usual shops and cafés (although no Starbucks or Costa, fantastic!). Stop by the Tilly Mint bakery by the bus station if you're in the mood for cupcakes – they're delicious:) They also make all kinds of cakes, so even if you don't want to eat anything, stop by and have a look! There is also a nice cathedral in Truro. Worth a stop, but don't make it too long, as Cornwall has other more interesting gems on offer!
Pretty village that I suspect only comes alive during the summer months, when tourists flock here to surf and enjoy the beach. But it is one of those characteristic Cornwall-villages; rough landscape, and steep, narrow streets that all end up by the harbour. It can perhaps get a bit too tourist-y, so if you want to experience the true Cornwall, either go there out of season, of visit one of the smaller villages (like Port Isaac; se below).
Pretty much what the name says; Land's End is land's end, as it's the most Southern point in Blighty. There's no village as such, but there's a visitor's centre, tea house, museums and shops there. This is the start (or finish) of the Land's End –> John O'Groat's trek that goes from the far South to the far North in the UK. Might have to try that one of these days!
Just the name makes you want to stop, right? Really, really small village that doesn't have anything spectacular to see, but it's got that charm that comes with old places, and most of this village dates from the 1600's. Also, Dylan Thomas said it was the loveliest village in Britain, so that must be something:)
Kestle Mill / Trerice:
Anyone familiar with Inspector Lynley?, You know, the dark, handsome, aristocrat plod? If so, you'll know he owns a manor house in Cornwall, and Trerice is used as location in the series. It's originally a Tudor mansion, now owned by the National Trust. The facade and gardens are breathtaking, but the N.T. dissapointed me with the interiors, which seemed to be a hodge-podge of furniture from different eras just thrown into the place, with no regard to continuity or interior design. Get an overpriced ticket for the garden only, I would't be bothered with the interior.
Kestle Mill is the closest «village» to Trerice, if you consider a couple of houses and a petro station a village:)
My absolute favourite spot in Cornwall! You MUST go here, even if you're not a Doc Martin-fan (I am, and I even saw his house!). «The Victoria Café» has amazing pizza and hummus, and «The Harbour Restaurant», which is the oldest house in the village, also has the best meringe roulade in the world. I stayed at «The Ship Way» on the harbour, which is a charming building dating from 1527. Every Thursday, there's a travelling brass band playing on the waterfront, so be sure to catch that. The whole villages gathers to dance and sing, and there's a general feeling of joy throughout the village.
Looe; East & West:
Very quaint villages situated on opposite sides of a small river. Although pretty sight-less, the ambiance alone is worth a stop, if only to buy an ice cream. But be careful if you do, I did – and a seagull robbed it from me. Traumatic experience, I can tell you.
After Port Isaac, this is the best place in Cornwall. Instead of the characteristic steep streets that end up by the arbour, Polperro is flat. The streets are still narrow, but the harbour is not the centre of the village. You park a mile or two outside the village, and if you can't face the walk into town, you can ride a horse-drawn carriage for £3. There are tea houses galore, and lots of little shops selling fossils, crystals, and post cards. Lots of tourists, but still worth a stop, because it's quite different from the other villages.
Don't bother with:
Our Lonely Planet guide said that this is a place you either love or loathe – and they were right. Crappy place, pardon my French – but this place is as uninteresting as it gets. It's big, chaotic, unfriendly, has no charm or personality whatsoever, and cars seem to own the place. What a waste. Unless you love surfing - then it's Utopia. There is also a nice zoo right outside the city, which is fun for the kids. If on your way, make a stop there, if not in the city itself.