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Cornwall in August

First of all, I do realize that this is a super busy tourist time in this area. I accept this and just keep making plans anyway since this is the time it fits into our schedules (University prof and high school teacher). I have read a few guide books and am very excited to explore an area that has a strong family connection since this is where my grandfather grew up. I do have a few questions for the forum.

  1. My sister and I generally prefer public transport only. I know many people feel that this a good area to rent a car, but that is not us. My impression is that Penzance is one location that would be a good base for public transport options. Is this correct? Is there another location that you would also suggest that be good for walking as well as public transport?
  2. Were there any locations that you particularly enjoyed or were pleasantly surprised at just how much you enjoyed visiting there? Minnick Theatre, visiting a tin mine, walking part of the SW Coastal Path are already part of our plans.
  3. We also plan to visit Plymouth and Tyneham village on the way to Cornwall. These locations are also part of the family history. Any suggestions regarding public transport in those areas are also welcome.
Posted by
15091 posts

Carol, how much time do you have in all for Cornwall? If a full week, you could divide your time between Penzance and St. Ives, which is also accessible by train. I suggest this for the guided walking offered by HF Holidays (I may sound like a broken record, as I have recommended this company so many times, but we really like their guided walking programs and their country houses).

Their house in St. Ives is well-situated, and the price includes a nice room ( twin beds available), all meals ( high quality with various options from which to choose, including vegetarian or gluten-free), guided walking, transport to trailheads, and some evening fun like pub games. The company is a member-owned cooperative but non-members are welcome. The guides are well-trained volunteers, and the houses and kitchens meet a high standard. The camaraderie of the other guests ( mostly British, but we have also met French and Aussies there) is a highlight.

You can choose between 3-, 4-, and 7-night stays and various special themed programs, but for your visit the 3-night guided walking would be my recommendation. You can view the proposed walks (choice of 3 each day) by using the Itinerary button here, or opening the Trip Notes:

After spending time there and exploring their Discovery Corner with maps and guidebooks, as well as talking tomthe guides and other guests, younwill be well-prepared to transfer to Penzance or other area and strike out on your own.

Posted by
25512 posts

Getting around by public transportation in Cornwall can be awkward and slow. It requires a commitment to researching bus schedules and a recognition that they may vary by day of the week. Dig into a comprehensive guide book and make a list of the places you must go and those you would like to see if possible. Then make sure the bases you have chosen will allow you to manage those spots as day-trips. I opted for St. Ives (I like art and ceramics) and Mevagissey. Mevagissey allowed me to reach the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project. I would certainly have enjoyed more time in Cornwall.

Hotels book up early, so try to get your plans pinned down as soon as you can.

If you intend to have dinner sitting down (as opposed to leaning against a wall down by the port, munching on fish and chips), you absolutely should make dinner reservations somewhere. Even very casual restaurants will be full every evening. I don't know how essential a reservation would be at lunchtime. I don't think dinner reservations necessarily need to be made very far in advance, except for really special places, but you should probably not wait to do so until you arrive in town.

Posted by
7810 posts

We have 11 full days (I'm not counting travel days at either end). I appreciate the comments and ideas so far. Thank you.

Posted by
415 posts

Areas in Plymouth that are fun to walk around are the Barbican area - (stop at the Barbican Pasty shop on Southside St.), Sutton Harbor, the Mayflower Steps, and the Plymouth Hoe area with the lighthouse and large ferris wheel. The waterfront in Plymouth is great to see. When we went to Cornwall we enjoyed the Truro Cathedral and the Bedruthan Steps area by the sea and coastal path there. A favorite stop was visiting Lanhydrock House with the National Trust near Bodmin.

Posted by
1292 posts

Given the time you have available, I do think it would be worth investing in one of the Bradt "slow guides" (I think some can be downloaded as e-books). There is one for Cornwall/Scilly and two for Devon (the south one is probably what you want). Bradt are by far the best guidebooks for grown-ups I've come across.

On Plymouth, I've become (reluctantly), more familiar with the city in the last few months since my next job is there when we return from Spain. I'm afraid my impression of the city overall is that it's a bit of an ugly dump. However, I'd agree with the previous poster that the Barbican & Hoe areas are definitely worth visiting. The National Marine Aquarium is especially brilliant. Public transport is also pretty good with a mainline rail station and a lots of buses. I've found just web-searching "plymouth bus" finds the details. Also, within the city taxis are quite cheap.

And, in fairness to Plymouth, it was hugely damaged during the war (apparently every public building was destroyed by the Germans), and in the rebuilding it suffered from the planners 1950/60s obsession with building concrete monstrosities and running wide roads through the city centre. Things do seem to be improving in the last few years with better development.

Posted by
5096 posts

On Plymouth, I've become (reluctantly), more familiar with the city in the last few months since my next job is there when we return from Spain.

I'm sorry to hear that Nick!

Posted by
1186 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Let me suggest St Just and not St Ives. St Ives is a tourist trap, ok a nice tourist trap but it is all restaurants and tourists and tourists in restaurants. St Just is only 15 miles away and is still a real Cornish town. Yes, there are two shops for tourists, but it has two butchers, three groceries, a nice pub with locals encased on their stools. A fish and chip take away. And the North Inn 2.5 miles north of town with really good local food plus curries. It is a real town. If you watched Poldark on PBS, the mines are really near by along the coastal path which is a good walk.

Oh, and St Ives has car parks for tourists of 600 and 900 capacity. They were full the day we visited and it was April. YIKES! must be a great place.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
350 posts

I visited Cornwall in June 2017 as a solo traveler ... it was beyond fabulous. If your schedule allows for mid to late June, I suggest going then instead of August. The weather was spectacular and I had no trouble with crowds. I took bus from Heathrow to Reading, then train to St. Austell. I’d arranged in advance for a taxi to Portmellon Cove (Mevagissey). My room in a small B&B had amazing view of sea (I could hear the surf at night with my window open), which was 5 minutes walk. I hiked coastal path every day, and walked to Lost Gardens of Heligan. After 4 days there I moved on to Fowey, which also was nice.
I’m happy to pass along names of places I stayed if you’d like.

Posted by
257 posts

We loved the North Inn! We went to see the Geevor Tin Mine after lunch at the inn. Lovely area, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to get around by public transportation. I'm wondering if taking a taxi would be a good alternative – more expensive than hiring a car (but you could keep the costs down by careful planning to keep trips short), but way less hassle, and much more convenient than taking an infrequent bus – if there's even bus service to some of these places.

We are crowd-phobic and stayed the heck away from St Ives and the other touristy places. What are some of the other ones ... Padstow maybe (sometimes called Padstein b/c of Rick Stein's restaurants, haha). We did visit Port Isaac, but in November, and had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Both times we've been to Cornwall we had a car, but I know people who hired a driver after harrowing experiences on narrow roads. We stayed in Marazion for a week one August a few years ago, and walked/boated out to St Michael's Mount several times (eating a crab sandwich on the island on a sunny day and watching the waves and the people will always be a highlight of my life!), and did a number of hikes on the Lizard peninsula. We also looked for standing stones and old churches and tin mines. I guess we're not into "sights." Oh, you say you want to walk the SW coastal path – that was our aim, too, after watching Tony Robinson's Cornwall segment, and reading Daniel Silva's books.

One place we didn't get to (just too remote, even with a car) is the church of St Just in Roseland (a different St Just from Wayne's). Someday!