Five Lesser-Known Towns In Cornwall

Five Lesser-Known Towns In Cornwall

Skip St Ives and leave Penzance to the pirates. We’ve toured the Cornish coastline – scoffing jam-first cream teas and platters of piled-high seafood along the way – to find five lesser-known towns for a summer escape in the South West.

the Great British seaside; the chance to wiggle into a
wetsuit, wipe our vinegar-soaked hands on greasy newspaper and feel
the sea breeze tickling our cheeks. With wild beaches seemingly
stretching all the way to Spain, day boats delivering
caught-that-morning seafood and more pasties than we can stuff our
faces with, Cornwall has us in a love affair that shows no sign of
slowing. Want to dive deeper into the characterful county? Here are
the five under-the-radar Cornish towns we’re escaping to this

Five alternative Cornish towns for a staycation

Waterfront of Fowey, Cornwall


Cornwall, United Kingdom

Forget setting sail for Balearic waters; we’re happy to sip rosé
while floating around the Fowey Estuary this summer. Sure, your
friends might be living a hot girl summer in Formentera but, trust
us, any Instagram carousel that features photos of Fowey can
contend. Candid paddleboarding pics backed by cute, pastel-coloured
houses? Check. An artsy action shot of you cycling into the
distance along the South West Coast Path? That, too. And there are
plenty of portside pubs (with patios, hallelujah) for when you tire
of posing. Then, take a wander to the sandy pocket of Readymoney
Cove, a headland sheltered by forested cliffs, for some serious
beach hours minus the headache of boombox-vibrating bars or
sambuca-splashed sand.

Where we’re staying: The Old Quay House

Before you go: Pack a few Daphne du Maurier
novels. Fowey heavily inspired the author, who lived here. Her most
famous, Rebecca, is based on the coastline just south of the

St Agnes

Cornwall, United Kingdom

Move over Perranporth and Porthtowan – we’ve found a new North
Cornwall favourite. Home to boutique bakeries, delicatessens and
zero-waste shops, the high street of this quaint old mining town is
the place to pick up picnic supplies before you lace up your hiking
boots and stomp out across its many wild, rugged coastal paths. A
walk in either direction from the town reveals old mine entrances,
Second World War bunkers and Elizabethan beacons, plus former
miners’ cottages perched precariously on vertigo-inducing white
cliffs. Return at dusk to St Agnes for a paddle at Trevaunance Cove – the town’s
dramatically beautiful main beach.

Where we’re staying: The Driftwood

Before you go: Pick up some Finisterre gear to
blend in with the locals. The ethical outdoor clothing brand has
its headquarters here.

The Cornish town of Polperro from the sea


Cornwall, United Kingdom

This fishing village delivers Cornish charm in buckets and
spadefuls. White cottages dot the craggy hills around the harbour,
while higgledy-piggledy alleyways conceal bakeries, independent
galleries and jewellery stores – thanks to the perseverance of
locals, they’re all car-free, too. We’re itching to see morris
dancers skipping alongside the quayside and want front-row tickets
to a performance by the Polperro Fishermen’s Choir when we land.
Sea shanties at the ready.

Where we’re staying: Talland Bay

Before you go: Dig out a copy of Alfred
Hitchcock’s penultimate silent film The Manxman, which is set on
the Isle of Man but largely filmed in Polperro.

Hill walks surrounding Zennor, Cornwall


Cornwall, United Kingdom

Calling the coven: this might just be Cornwall’s most
myth-imbued town. With strange tombs pockmarking the surrounding
hills, a shoreline said to be patrolled by a seductive, slayer
mermaid, and old smuggling routes lassoing its entirety, Zennor’s
invigorating sea breezes are instilled with the uncanny. Despite
being only a 10-minute drive from St Ives, where half of London
seems to decamp each summer, this grey granite town escapes the
rumbles of Land Rovers and shrill squeals of Crew Clothing-clad kid
gangs. Protected by brooding hills and rocky cliffs, its dry-stone
walls, windswept trees and mossy houses are distinctly
Poldark-esque – you half expect to meet a tricorn-hatted customs
officer galloping around a corner. Head here to enjoy easy access
to the cultural capital of St Ives without having to battle the
Boden-wearing crowds.

Where we’re staying: The
Gurnard’s Head

Before you go: Map out some walks on which to
investigate the ghostly ancient settlements in the surrounding

The harbour of Newlyn, Cornwall


Cornwall, United Kingdom

Forgot Padstein (aka Padstow) – eager eaters are all heading to
Newlyn this summer, a plucky harbour town that’s home to one of the
UK’s largest fishing fleets. Positioned right next to Penzance on
the Land’s End Peninsula, this close-knit community is striking out
to make a name for itself distinct from its more-famous neighbour.
We’re booking a lunchtime table at The Tolcarne Inn
for plates of monk’s beard-dressed hake and lemon sole cloaked in
smoked almond beurre noisette, then hitting Argoe in the
evening to scoff grilled John Dory, butter-soft, lemony octopus and
a glass or two of natural wine. No tables? Try Mackerel Sky
Seafood Bar
for tapas plates or The Old
Coastguard Hotel
to enjoy brill on the bone and butterflied
sardines, plus one of the best sticky toffee puddings we’ve ever

Where we’re staying: Artist Residence Penzance

Before you go: If you’re feeling too stuffed to
sightsee, roll into a seat at the Newlyn Filmhouse to catch a flick. Perfect for
rainy days on the Cornish coast, this indie cinema is housed in an
old fish cellar and smokery, and screens arthouse and blockbuster
films year-round.

This article was updated 29 March 2023.

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