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Cornwall Location for stay suggestions

Four female friends are planning a stay in Cornwall for 8-9 days in May 2023. Several of us spent 3 days in Camborne a few years ago to visit ancestral home location. We loved visiting St. Ives for a day by train from there. We are having a hard time deciding where to stay this next trip.

Some things we'd like if it all comes together would be: Staying in one location (or 2 maximum) probably an apartment or home rental; easy public transportation for day trips to sights (we will not be driving); quaint village would be ideal, but if we need to consider a larger town for public transportation options, that would be fine; we are interested in walking paths, shopping, dining, gardens, historical sights.

We will be in London for a few days prior to heading to Cornwall and would appreciate any suggestions on train or bus travel to Cornwall in general. We've done a bit of research on the Riviera Sleeper train, which is intriguing, but will depend on where we book lodging...perhaps from suggestions from this forum!

Traveling from USA,
I'm sure I've missed some details that might help the forum members in making suggestions. Please let me know and I'll reply ASAP!

Posted by
6559 posts

My wife and I are looking at Cornwall in the same timeframe, and were there, in St. Austell maybe 18 years ago.

We have opted to rent a car, just seems to be the easiest way to get around, given the places we want to go. However, if I were toss out some suggestions:

Penzance is popular for the area of the very tip of Cornwall, not sure on train transport around the peninsula, but there are likely buses, and maybe a private driver/taxi is an option.

Falmouth looks interesting, ferries to the Roseland peninsula, some things to do around there.

St. Austell is nicely located, with Mevagissey, Lost Gardens of Heligan, and Eden Project nearby

Newquay and Padstow are popular as well, but pretty touristy.

Posted by
7574 posts


Hour train ride from Truro.

Truro is a Cornwall station.

From Penzance:

Bus to Mousehole. 20 minutes.

Bus to Trewidden Garden. 30 minutes

Bus to Merry Maidens Stone Circle. 25 minutes

Bus to Land’s End. 60 minutes.

Posted by
389 posts

Cornwall isn’t well served by public transport. It won’t be very easy to get around by bus unfortunately. You will definitely need to stay in a bigger town. I’d just pick one and stay for the whole time. Cornwall isn’t that big so it’s not necessary to move location.

I’d urge you to really think about hiring a car as you will be able to do a HUGE amount more.

Posted by
14529 posts

I know your plan is to rent a cottage or vacation home and then figure out how to sightsee from there by public transport, but if you cannot find a suitable cottage or appealing town, or options with good public transport, you might consider this one-week program in St. Ives:

HF Holidays is not a tour company; they are a member-owned cooperative with walking-focused themed programs at country houses or manors they own or lease all over the UK. This “Discovery Tour” offers more sightseeing and shorter walks than their “signature guided walking” holidays ( which come in 3- and 4- night versions as well as full weeks if you would like something shorter and less expensive). So although they call it a “tour”, it is more like a week-long stay in a nice all-inclusive resort hotel.

Most of your fellow guests will be British, and some will know one another, but they warmly welcome newcomers. One need not be a member, but there is a small supplemental fee over the basic price. This program is only offered May 13-20, but there are other programs on offer on other May dates, including the 3- and 4-night options.

Our experience with this company has been excellent—-lovely rooms, very good food ( a choice of mains at dinner), and informative and interesting walks and sightseeing, with guides who are trained volunteers. We really enjoy the camaraderie of the other guests.

On our last trip with them, to their Juriassic Coast location, there was a group of four friends (retired academics) from Bristol, whom my husband dubbed “the girls from Bristol” which seemed to delight them. They even worked out a little demo of the Bristol Stomp at the evening social.

If the “tour” itself does not appeal to you ( or is too expensive), you can use the brochure as a source for ideas on what to see and do in Cornwall.

Posted by
14529 posts

I don’t know if it is still the case, but when we went to Port Issac a few years back we found there was very limited bus service on Sundays. Or maybe none. So check the schedules for your location carefully.

Posted by
24069 posts

A few rather random thoughts:

I believe you'll find it not easy to move from one coastal village to another by public transportation, so it will be important to really dig into bus/train schedules before you finalize your plans. I didn't rent a car, but it would be a good idea to do so if you're brave enough and value mobility and not wasting time.

As of 2017 it was possible to get from Mevagissey to both the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan by public bus. At least one of the trips involved a transfer, probably at St. Austell; that might be a convenient place to stay, at least for sightseeing targets on that side of Cornwall. The two gardens are large enough that I didn't attempt to see them on the same day. They both require quite a bit of walking and might not be suitable for folks with mobility issues and those without much patience for looking at growing things.

I spent a forced night in Truro because of extreme difficulty in finding affordable coastal accommodations when booking late. I really liked Truro. Its size might make it a suitable base; some of the coastal villages are small enough that I'd be bored after a few nights, even taking a side trip every day. There's more to St. Ives, I know (I stayed in that area for 4 nights, I believe), at least for those interested in art and/or ceramics, but you've already been there. There's a new branch of the V&A [oops--no, it's a branch of the Tate Gallery, and it opened in 1993] at St. Ives--perhaps new since you were there?

You probably already know this from your earlier trip, but lodging for high season books up really, really early in Cornwall. If you're going to depend on public transportation, you'll be somewhat limited in your choice of base(s); you should book something ASAP. Make sure it's cancellable so you can continue to refine your plans.

Something else you probably already know: If you don't make dinner reservations, you'll probably be eating fish and chips from a food truck. There aren't enough restaurants in at least some of the coastal villages to meet summer demand. I don't know what the situation is like at lunchtime; that might be OK if a lot of the visitors spend most of the day at the beach.

The train from London to Cornwall can be punishingly expensive if you don't buy the tickets early.

Posted by
6559 posts

Maybe someone knows...the OP sounds to be there in May, I'll be there in early May (the first week or two), when does the season really get going?

My thinking was that it picks up mid-May, maybe weekends first, then really starts to congest in June. Am I off-base?

Posted by
24069 posts

I don't know, Paul; my trip was in mid-August 2017, high season by anyone's definition. It's a good question. You might be able to deduce the answer by looking at lodging availability and rates on

Posted by
24069 posts

Thanks, kernow1300.; that was careless of me. I was confusing the St. Ives museum with the new V&A in Dundee. But I surely didn't know how long Tate St. Ives had been open! Local artists (painters) were complaining about the all-ceramics exhibition currently running, and I somehow thought the issue was that it was the museum's opening exhibition.

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you all for your replies thus far! I will look into some of the suggestions! And pop back in with some questions, I'm sure!

Posted by
2191 posts

The train company between London (PAD) & Cornwall is:>
Best to pre-book train(s) around 11 weeks out for cheapest fares. I would suggest that you might get a Railcard to reduce the prices by around a third.

For short hops in Cornwall - pay on the day. However, this Day Rover might be cheaper.

Truro might make a good hub in central Cornwall and is on the main line from London. If you base yourself’s in a village, it will be difficult to get in/out to other places if relying on public transport. Car hire would be best option.