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Gardens and historical places in Cornwall

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From the birthplace of King Arthur to Henry VIII’s chain of formidable fortresses, Cornwall is full of historical landmarks, gardens and National Trust sites. These are a few of our favourites.

Heligan Toby Strong

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

45-minute drive

A garden frozen in time, forgotten since the outbreak of WW1, and re-awakened in 1990. The history, scale, wildlife, woodland, and jungle rope bridge suspended 100 feet above ancient ferns, are waiting.

Lost Gardens of Heligan

Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps – National Trust

2 hr walk along the coast path, or a 10-minute drive

Experience the natural wonder of Bedruthan Steps, dramatic views and sea stacks towering high above the beach. Legend has it a giant called Bedruthan used the sea stacks as stepping stones across the bay. The steps down to the beach are currently closed due to a rockfall in 2019, but the popular tea garden serving cream teas and light lunches is open.

Bedruthan Steps

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Lanhydrock – National Trust

30-minute drive

Lanhydrock House is a magnificent late Victorian country house with immaculate gardens, surrounded by 450 acres of woodland. After a devastating fire in 1881 this Jacobean house was refurbished in high-Victorian style. Today you can discover two sides to Victorian life; from kitchens, nurseries and servants’ quarters to luxurious family areas, elegant dining rooms and spacious bedrooms.

Lanhydrock – National Trust

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

1-hour drive

A sheltered valley with a coastal backdrop of St Michael's Mount, the sculpture gardens often showcase internationally renowned artists through exhibitions. Permanent sculptures are interwoven with exotic planting making a dramatic and tranquil place to explore.

Tremenheere - Sculpture Gardens

Trerice – National Trust

20-minute drive

An Elizabethan manor house and a formal knot garden with wild meadow and wilderness areas, not far from Watergate Bay hotel, the grounds and house are definitely worth a visit. 

Trerice – National Trust

Trebah Matt Jessop

Trebah Gardens and the Helford River

1-hour drive

Discover a 26-acre sub-tropical garden, located above the Helford River and with a coastal backdrop. Open from Saturday to Wednesday for pre-booked visitors, the four miles of footpaths weave through exotic plants to a private secluded beach, just at the mouth of the Helford River.

Visit Trebah

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St Michael’s Mount

1-hour drive

St Michael’s Mount is one of the most recognisable castles in Cornwall if not the UK. Emerging from the mists of Mounts Bay it’s completely cut off from the mainland at high tide. At low tide you can cross the cobbled causeway and explore the medieval castle and church as well as a small residential community. Once you’re full of history you can hop back over to the village of Marazion for a proper Cornish cream tea.

St Michaels Mount

Cotehele House

Cotehele House was the ancestral home to the Edcumbe family. The Tudor house, perched high above the River Tamar is decorated with intricate tapestries, coats of arms, armour, pewter, brass and old oak furniture. Little has changed at Cotehele since the Tudor period including the mill and quay. Whether you seek tranquillity in the gardens or apple orchards or want to delve into the history of the house, quay and mill, Cotehele has a lot to offer.

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Pendennis and St. Mawes Castle, Falmouth

Built by Henry VIII in the mid-16th Century these twinned castles stand on opposite headlands in Falmouth guarding invasion against France and Spain. Their fascinating story takes them up to the 20th Century where they saw significant action during the First and Second World Wars. Pendennis and St. Mawes Castles are some of the best-preserved Tudor coastal artillery fortresses in the UK. Take in both castles in one day using the hourly ferry service across the Fal estuary.

Carn Brea Castle, Nr Redruth

This unique and imposing 14 Century building seems to grow out of the rocks below it and is visible from many miles around. In the 18th Century it was restored into a folly-like hunting lodge but today it’s used as a Middle Eastern restaurant where you can dine by candlelight enclosed by the thick granite walls.

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Tintagel Castle

Perched on the rugged cliffs above the North Cornwall coast, the dramatic ruins of Tintagel Castle are said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Settlements here date back to the late Roman period and are steeped in mythology. Open the door and navigate the steep craggy path to the beach or explore the mysterious Merlin’s Cave.

Which will you visit this year?