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8 of the best places to go in Cornwall to avoid the crowds

Places like Lantic Bay are among the most unspoilt parts of the county  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Places like Lantic Bay are among the most unspoilt parts of the county (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Several places spring to mind for the classic UK staycation, whether it’s the honey-hued villages of the Cotswolds or the elegant cityscape of Edinburgh. But in summer, few destinations seem to capture the British imagination like Cornwall does.

From the shores of St Ives to the inland capital of Truro, Cornwall is a perennial staycation favourite thanks to beautiful beaches, picturesque towns and villages, and some of the finest walking trails in the country.

However, occasionally its highlights can become its undoing, as parts of the county become almost overrun during the summer, with locals and tourists alike competing for parking spaces and hotel places.

The best way to avoid these crowds? Try exploring the parts of Cornwall that remain ‘off the beaten path’. This may sound like a challenge in a county that’s so popular with tourists but if you know where to look it’s possible to find peace and serenity.

From hidden stretches of golden coastline to quaint fishing villages and locally famous landmarks, a tour of some of Cornwall’s less crowded spots is also an exploration of Cornish culture, history and natural beauty. Read on for a selection of less visited spots.

Frenchman’s Creek, Helford

Novelist Daphne Du Maurier named a book after this part of the Helford River (Getty Images)
Novelist Daphne Du Maurier named a book after this part of the Helford River (Getty Images)

Frenchman’s Creek is a particularly scenic point on the Helford River, near the village of Helford itself. The width of the river around here means that kayaking and even small boat trips are possible, and there’s a popular three-mile walk that takes in the woodland and farmland while leading you to the top of a nearby hill for the best views over the creek itself.

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Cawsand and Kingsand

These twin villages were once a haven for smugglers, and were almost attacked by the Spanish Navy in 1596 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
These twin villages were once a haven for smugglers, and were almost attacked by the Spanish Navy in 1596 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Cawsand and Kingsand are twin villages in the southeast of Cornwall, on the county’s quieter, more secluded Rame Peninsula. This area, also known as Cornwall’s ‘forgotten corner’, is an officially designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and this, combined with it’s difficult-to-reach location, means that it is a natural haven that avoids the type of crowds that are typical of a Cornish summer.

Both of these villages are quintessentially Cornish, with narrow streets lined with fishing cottages that lead down to small stretches of ‘village beach’. They can get busier on the weekends due to day-trippers from Devon, but these villages remain firmly off Cornwall’s beaten path.

Lantic Bay

Lantic Bay is a good swimming spot thanks to calm waters (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Lantic Bay is a good swimming spot thanks to calm waters (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Lantic Bay is found between the towns of Fowey and Polperro, on Cornwall’s southern coast. Verdant hills, golden sands and turquoise waters combine to offer one of Cornwall’s most picturesque beach spots, and despite being a fairly well-known part of the county, it is rarely packed with visitors. This is mainly down to the difficulty in reaching the shores, with steep and sometimes uneven paths – but the effort is more than worth it.

Roche Rock

Roche is around six miles north of St Austell (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Roche is around six miles north of St Austell (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Roche Rock is a 20-metre-high rocky outcrop near the town of Roche, in the heart of Cornwall’s china clay country. On top of the rock sits a supposedly haunted 15th-century chapel, dedicated to St Michael, which rises out of the granite landscape . The chapel is said to have been home to hermits, and to this day is still the subject of various local folk tales.

Pentire Steps

Pentire Steps is a popular surfing spot (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Pentire Steps is a popular surfing spot (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Pentire Steps is the quieter, more northerly neighbour of Bedruthan Steps. It lies between Padstow and Newquay, and this cove is the ideal secluded spot for a brief stop during a walk or hike. It’s not suitable for a day trip – due to lack of facilities, strong currents and the fact that the beach disappears at high tide – but this means that it is rarely crowded, so there’s a chance you’ll have the golden sands to yourself.

Port Quin

Port Quin is just a couple of miles from Port Isaac, one of Cornwall’s tourist hotspots (Getty Images)
Port Quin is just a couple of miles from Port Isaac, one of Cornwall’s tourist hotspots (Getty Images)

Port Quin is another secluded coastal spot in the north of the county. This sheltered inlet lies on an unspoilt part of the coast, perhaps less visited because of its lack of sand. The rocky shores are more popular with those looking to paddleboard or kayak in the calm waters. Four cottages line the beach here, all of which belong to the National Trust and can be rented out for the ultimate in secluded accommodation.

Cadgwith

Cadgwith is appears to be from a time gone by (Getty Images)
Cadgwith is appears to be from a time gone by (Getty Images)

Cadgwith is another picture-perfect Cornish fishing village. It’s located on the eastern side of the Lizard peninsula, and usually remains free from the crowds that can plague places such as St Ives. The village rises gently from the shores, with the rolling hills sparsely populated with thatched fishing cottages and a lively local pub, which give this charming village a real sense of tradition and, in places, a sense of being lost in time.

Rough Tor

A tor is a large, free-standing rock (Getty Images)
A tor is a large, free-standing rock (Getty Images)

Bodmin Moor has 35 different tors, but Rough Tor is certainly one of the most impressive of these rock formations. The site itself has an ancient beauty – in its neolithic monuments and Bronze Age hut circles – that’s somewhat comparable to Stonehenge, and if you visit at the right time during a walk or hike, you might have part of the moors to yourself.

Read our reviews of the best hotels in Cornwall