Fun, free and unusual things to do in Cornwall.

My children enjoying Perranporth beach

There’s not many people I have met who don’t have a special place in their heart for the most southerly county in England. Many of us remember Cornwall fondly from childhood holidays, in caravans and camping: maybe it’s my skewed, hazy memory but the sun always seemed to be shining and it always seemed to be hot.

I remember our Cornwall holidays in the 80s and 90s: the excitement would build in the weeks leading up, new clothes we couldn’t wear until the first day, hair bobbles to be left in the packet until we arrived and the most coveted of all – new sandals. We used to hire a caravan at Liskey Hill Caravan site in Perranporth, and being able to see the sea from the window was something we held in awe. Growing up in the Midlands meant the sea was always a treat.

Our first morning always started with my dad asking us to make an itinerary at the little kitchen table after our traditional holiday breakfast of those multi-pack miniature boxes of Kellog’s cereals that were always exciting, but never quite filling enough. Being the oldest, I was the one who created the list while my siblings would fire out the names of places they were desperate to visit. The whole fortnight held so much promise and adventure. We continued to go to Cornwall almost yearly until we gradually started to leave home, and then we started to take our own children, the beautiful process starting all over again.

I went to Perranporth beach a few weeks ago, just my husband and I. Walking along the golden expanse of sand my eyes welled up with tears. My husband thought I was getting nostalgic about the time we had spent there with our children, and it was partly that, but so much more. Remembering ice creams on the beach with my grandparents who are no longer with us, of laughing hysterically with my cousins and siblings as the frothy tide came in and began to wrap itself around the ankles of our gran who was dozing, fully dressed. Of donkey rides, picnics, body boarding, my toddler son eating sand, chips being stolen by plucky seagulls, building sandcastles, huge family meals at The Watering Hole. So many, many memories.

My children are adults now, and we still visit Cornwall. But we found that we were getting into a rut, visiting the same places time and time again. It’s nice to relive the memories of the past, to keep the little anecdotes alive, but it’s always nice to experience something new too, to make even more memories I can cry over in years to come.

So, here is my list of things that might be a little more unusual, off the more common tourist route. Plus, I like free things, so these things come at no cost.

The Men-An-Tol
These ancient healing stones in Madron are about 3,500 years old and are surrounded in folklore. Some believe that passing through the holed stone can aid fertility and cure back pain – although its pretty low to the ground, I would think if you had a bad back it’d be near impossible to clamber through. Every time we go as a family we make a silent, secret wish as we pass through. Not as magical as it sounds though, as no one looks graceful getting out of that hole!
There’s parking on the verge by the gate, and the stones are about a 20 minute walk along a gravel path. Its very peaceful and we rarely see other people when we are there.

The Men-An-Tol

The Wishing Tree at Madron Well
Just a short drive from the Men-An-Tol is a pretty special little place we stumbled upon a few years ago. Head from Madron towards Lanyon and you will see a signposted parking area. Take the path that runs along a little brook through deciduous trees and you’ll come across an ancient tree hanging over a pool of water, festooned with colourful ribbons and rags, little trinkets and tiny wind catchers. Ancient pagans tied organic matter to the tree then bathed in the waters below, it was thought that as the material disintegrated, so did your illnesses.

The Cheesewring stone at Minions
This is a really unusual stone that is shaped by the wild wind that blows across Bodmin Moor. It looks other worldly and eerie in the fog and mist that often hovers over the landscape. There are also loads of ruins of ancient settlements scattered around here, so it if you want to get your History geek on – this is the place.

Merlin’s Cave
On the beach at Tintagel is a wonderful huge cave where Merlin the Magician was thought to have lived for a time. All around is rugged, exposed coast which is quite simply breathtaking. At low tide you can go into the cave, a bit slippery and wet, but what else would you expect? An artist has carved Merlin’s face into the wall of the cave, some think this is tacky, others think it is dishonourable. I think its a bit of fun and great for kids to explore a bit of folklore and legend. Of course, if you fancy putting your hand in your pocket there is also the castle ruins to visit which are wonderful.

Chapel Rock natural pool in Perranporth
Head down to the big rock flying the St. Piran flag and you will find a natural pool that is filled with fresh sea water every high tide and is warmed by the sun throughout the day. Great for families if you want to experience the sea but are a little intimated by the waves.

Swim in Goldiggins Quarry
Take a wild water swim in this spring fed quarry. With natural ledges for jumping in, this deep blue secret is actually a lot warmer than you’d expect. Its a bit of a walk to get there, but well worth it. Dry yourself off in the Cornish sun on the banks while you eat a picnic for a perfect summers day.
Obviously the quarry is in the wild so there are no life guards and mobile reception can be intermittent on the moors – safety first!

I’d love to hear your experiences of childhood holidays and any places that you think are fun and unusual. I’m always up for a new adventure somewhere new!

2 thoughts on “Fun, free and unusual things to do in Cornwall.

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