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Best Village / Port Town to stay in Cornwall

Hello all

I appreciate your feedback and responses regarding Cornwall vs Lake District and some of the suggestions you provided on one of my previous threads. I am now heavily looking into Cornwall and need a bit of suggestions, advice, insight on where to stay.

I will be traveling to Cornwall from Wells, and intend to stop at Tintagel Castle on the way towards the Penwith Peninsula, in which I want to visit but do not necessarily have to stay in that area (Minack Theater, Porthcurno, St. Michael's Mount). I intend to stop at Dartmoor on the way back. Rick Steve's itinerary suggests to set up camp in Penzance. I looked into it, and feel it just wouldn't be the right fit for me -- due to it being a larger, working day city -- and not sure of the charm it would provide.

My ideal place to stay would be a coastal village / town, situated off the water, that provides a similar feel and port town ambiance of that of St. Ives -- but without the immense size and traffic. I also do not want a little village too small where there are no restaurants / pubs to enjoy during the evening.

So far, I have looked into Port Isaac, Mullion, Fowey, Polperro, and Looe.

Do any of you know of these destinations, and if so, would any of these places fit the description I am looking for?

And are there any additional destinations that I have not noticed that you would suggest?

Thank you in advance for your help!

Posted by
13042 posts

Are you traveling solo, and will you have a car?

Posted by
36 posts

Traveling with one other and yes, will have a vehicle. Thanks!

Posted by
9673 posts

I stayed for 3 nights in Penzance on an RS tour and it did not catch me. I visited Fowey for a day trip and it was cute. Port Isaac I've visited twice and it was so busy with tourists I'd not want to stay there although it is close to Tintagel.

On another tour (Road Scholar) we stayed in Falmouth 6 nights and really liked it. It IS a distance out to Lands End etc but we did it as a day trip. There were lots of restaurants there, plenty going on and although lots of visitors it didn't have the same feel that Port Isaac did. You can take the ferry across the River Fal to St Mawes for an afternoon, lots to see ALTHOUGH I am not sure how it would be getting there by car day by day.

One of the sights I thought was really interesting was the Chysauster Ancient Village which is out toward Penzance. If you have an interest in Iron Age hill forts this was one of the best I'd seen (and, trust me on this when I tell you I've seen way too many Iron Age hill forts, lol!!).

I've visited both Lost Gardens of Heligan and Lanhydrock House and Gardens and enjoyed Heligan more. I loved the different garden sections and really loved wandering around there.

Cornwall has a strong mining history so if you decide you want a mine tour, I've done 3. I went in both sides at the Geevor Tin Mine (Geevor and Levant) on different trips and it was OK if you've an interest. I liked the Wheal Martin China Clay mine (near Heligan) better but it didn't look so "mine-y" and was sited on a lovely reclaimed hillside. I am not a big "mine" person but visited on different tours.

I enjoyed the small harbor towns of Mevagissey, Boscastle and Charlestown along with Fowey.

Posted by
108 posts

I am not sure I would call St Ives immense but in the summer it's certainly heaving. Penzance is bigger but a town not a city (the only city in Kernow is Truro and that only has around 20k people). Penzance is much easier for parking than St Ives which is a total nightmare in summer.

Falmouth is bigger than Penzance and has two universities and students bring bars and nightlife. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is based there and cruise ships call regularly. There is also the National Maritime Museum.

Port Isaac is tiny with a couple of pubs and an expensive restaurant. Also rammed in the Summer mainly with fans of a TV show called Doc Martin (never seen it). Parking your car would be a real challenge so you would probably have to leave the car at the top. The walk down to the village verges on the vertical.

My suggestion would be St Agnes where my in laws live. It is a proper community with proper pubs and decent eateries. The surf crowd are there in the summer. A few too many Chelsea tractors perhaps but a nice village.

More remote is St Just the most Westerly town on the main land but not directly by the sea. Look also at Mousehole (pronounced Mowzl) and Zennor although this is tiny it's handy for St Ives. Mevagissey, Cadgwith?

Posted by
2 posts

My sister and I did a wonderful trip in Cornwall a couple years ago and LOVED staying in Bude. It's pretty far north on the west coast, but right on the coast and a darling little town. Smaller than St. Ives, but still has plenty to offer with nice restaurants, walking trails, and a quaint local museum. We hired a local driver to take us to Tintagel Castle for the day and he drove us along the coast road to see more sites, as well as Boscastle. Beautiful area and lovely people. I highly recommend staying there.

Posted by
21026 posts

No matter where you end up staying, if you want to eat dinner at a table (as opposed to frequenting food trucks) in a coastal town, make a reservation. The infrastructure in Cornwall hasn't kept up with the demand.

Posted by
4653 posts

the only city in Kernow is Truro and that only has around 20k people.

If you're going to start using Kernow (and confusing those who don't know what it means) then you should remain consistent and use Cornish for all the other place names such as Pennsans, Lannstefan, Porth La, Lyskerrys, Truru and so on.

Posted by
591 posts

They have food trucks in Cornwall? The problem here, and it is the same in many parts of the U.K., is that you want somewhere small, quaint and unspoilt with a good choice of restaurants. You cannot get that together in the same place.

Posted by
108 posts

If you're going to start using Kernow (and confusing those who don't know what it means) then you should remain consistent and use Cornish for all the other place names such as Pennsans, Lannstefan, Porth La, Lyskerrys, Truru and so on.

I will certainly try to learn from the error of my ways. (Have you nothing better to do?)

Posted by
32 posts

Seconding the suggestion of Falmouth, lots of restaurants & pubs (the Chain Locker and Beerwolf Books were excellent last summer), lots of charm and plenty to see & do.

Posted by
8293 posts

In the late ‘90s I attended a family reunion in St Erth, which is about five miles from St Ives. Nothing terribly special about the village, but the hotels are not expensive and it is close to the more popular villages. Not many other tourists either, I’ll wager.

Posted by
1886 posts

Note that some of the villages are down long narrow winding roads. That being so, you might want to consider somewhere more central - such as Truro - from which you can drive out to the various places that you have mentioned. Look at the map - zoom down on the places - then look at them on street view. You will learn a lot from the comfort of your home and help avoid making mistakes:>,-4.5266116,9z/data=!5m1!1e1

Posted by
925 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
Truro, Penzance, or St. Just. Truro has a good web of roads so you can head out in any direction to see new and wonderful places. Penzance because it is a major fishing port, well Newlyn is and it is next door. It is big enough to have more than one restaurant. And St.Just, a real authentic Cornish village. A couple of butchers, three grocers, fish and chips take away, bakery, coffee shop and only two or three tourist shops/art galleries. Plus it is the heart of Poldark territory, so if you are interested, he might still be there with his shirt off. You just never know. Plus you have the North Inn a short drive north of town on the "main" road. An interst selection on the menu all done well.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
5106 posts

I haven't gone yet, but am looking forward to a Cornwall adventure this summer! The first few days we are staying at St. Ives at the HF Holidays Country House and taking part in a 3 day guided walk. After that, we are going to Penzance for several days (Premier Inn). We prefer to use public transport where possible so these options looked like they would work well for us.

I 'm very excited about visiting Cornwall and seeing some of the places my Grandfather lived as he was growing up.

Posted by
276 posts

Two big thumbs up for Mevagissey — I actually stayed about 3/4 mile away at Portmellon Cove Guesthouse with a view of the water in mid-June. I’ve traveled around world and it’s one of the nicest places I’ve stayed, for variety of reasons. Down the hill is a pub or a nice uphill walk to Mevagissey with view of the lovely harbor. Plenty of dining choices in Mevagissey.