With stunning estuaries and ancient creeks, hidden coves and tiny fishing villages, West Cornwall is one of the most picturesque and unspoilt corners of the West Country. Whether you’re hoping for an action-packed family holiday or a relaxing break enjoying coastal walks and fresh seafood, our holiday cottages in West Cornwall offer a great base to experience everything the region has to offer.
Built around the third largest natural harbour in the world, Falmouth is a bustling port town with so much to see and do. Life here revolves around the sea, so whether it’s a gentle ferry ride to St Mawes, paddleboarding around the harbour or setting sail, a holiday in Falmouth isn’t complete without taking to the water. Head to the National Maritime Museum to learn about the town’s vibrant history, step back in time at Pendennis Castle, or take your time to explore Falmouth’s many art galleries, boutique shops, cafés and restaurants. With shops, restaurants and a whole host of attractions on its doorstep, Falmouth is an ideal destination for family holidays.
One of the best things to do in West Cornwall is visit the many beautiful beaches. Just west of Falmouth, tucked away between wooded headlands, are the golden sands of Maenporth. This pretty beach has clear waters, soft sand and lots of rockpools - perfect for young families. Thanks to its sheltered position, it’s also a great spot to try your hand at a range of water sports, such as kayaking, paddle boarding and even scuba diving.
Slightly further along the coast is the stunning Helford River estuary. Described as ‘the jewel in Cornwall’s crown’, the beautiful river is lined with wooded banks, ancient fishing villages, hidden coves and tranquil creeks. Here you can stay in old coastguard cottages and wake up to boats sailing past your window, eat freshly caught seafood in the waterside pubs and walk along the river’s tranquil inlets, including Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. Two subtropical gardens line the river valley, offering great days out for adults and children alike, and a visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek is a must.
West of the Helford River lies the Lizard Peninsular - one of the best places to visit in West Cornwall. This rugged stretch of coastline juts out into the sea, marking the most southerly point in Britain. Tiny fishing villages line the cliffs facing the wild Atlantic waves, and colourful boats and lobster pots fill the sheltered coves. Due to its jagged rocks and hidden reefs, shipwrecks pepper the coastline here, making the Lizard a fantastic spot for scuba diving.
The South West Coast Path runs all the way along this stunning stretch of coast, making West Cornwall a great location for both walking holidays and dog-friendly holidays. Head west along the craggy cliff tops of the Lizard or set off in the other direction to reach West Cornwall’s beautiful beaches, including Gyllyngvase, Swanpool, Castle and Maenporth - either way you’ll be treated to breathtaking sea views and friendly village pubs.
From lazy beach days, culture fixes and Cornish cuisine, to water sports, coastal walks and family fun, a holiday in West Cornwall has something for everyone.
The lively harbour town of Falmouth is one of Cornwall’s most popular seaside resorts. A mecca for sailing and water sports, it sits on the edge of one of the world’s largest natural harbours. From museums, art galleries and gardens, to castles, diving schools and beautiful beaches, there’s so much to see and do. There’s also a vibrant array of boutique shops, high street stores, artisan cafés and seafood restaurants, and a busy calendar of festivals, regattas and events.
On the banks of the picturesque Helford River, Helford Passage is a small hamlet filled with whitewashed cottages. There’s a pretty beach where you can hire boats, kayaks and paddleboards to explore the many creeks and inlets of the estuary whilst keeping an eye out for the abundant wildlife. Helford Passage is home to a small gift shop and a fantastic beachside pub, which serves freshly caught seafood. The South West Coast Path runs through the village, and the subtropical gardens of Glendurgan and Trebah are within a mile.
Nestled between Falmouth Bay and the Helford River, Maenporth is home to a beautiful sandy beach. Thanks to sheltered waters, rockpools and a beachside café, it is popular with young families, and is also a fantastic spot for a range of watersports. It's also home to an award-winning restaurant, which serves high quality food and enjoys stunning sea views. The coast path runs through Maenporth, making it easy to walk to both Falmouth and the Helford River.
Surrounded by countryside, yet only a couple of miles from both Falmouth and the Helford River, Mawnan Smith is perfectly placed for exploring this beautiful stretch of Cornish coastline. The pretty village is filled with traditional thatched cottages, a selection of shops and cafés and a friendly village pub. There are several sandy beaches and pretty coves nearby, and the popular gardens of Trebah and Glendurgan are less than a mile from the village.
On the east coast of the rugged Lizard Peninsular, not far from the Helford River, Porthallow is a quintessential Cornish fishing village. Once home to a busy pilchard fleet, today you’ll find fresh seafood on the menu of the village pub and lobster pots lining the pebble beach. The South West Coast Path runs right through the village, offering spectacular coastal views in both directions.
One of Henry VIII’s finest coastal fortresses, Pendennis Castle has protected Cornwall against invasion since the Tudor period and operated throughout the period 1539–1956. When you visit you can learn about how the castle has evolved, experience the sights and sounds of battle, and examine the role of the castle as part of Fortress Falmouth during the First World War. The castle dominates a high rocky headland on the south side of the Fal Estuary, overlooking the English Channel. It’s a great day out for families or those who are just interested in the area, with lots of events available throughout the summer months. The castle is open from March to September and prices start at £7.90 for non English Heritage members.
Through their varied exhibitions programme the National Maritime Museum brings new and diverse perspectives to maritime issues, and highlight their relevance to the present day. They also bring rare objects from around the world to Cornwall to tell local, national and international stories.
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Enjoy £1 off admission with your Toad Hall Cottages Discount Card
Run by the National Trust, Glendurgan Gardens span over three valleys, filled with sub-tropical plants, exotic flowers and bright blooms. The peaceful gardens lead down to the unspoilt beachside hamlet of Durgan. Here you can take a rest and enjoy the stunning views of the Helford River, treat yourself to an ice cream, build sandcastles and watch the wildlife on the water. Glendurgan Garden offer a great day out for the entire family thanks to its impressive maze and Giant’s Stride rope swing, shop and teahouse, which serves traditional Cornish cream teas, light lunches and Children’s meals.
Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR115JZ (T: 01326 252020)
An authentic, centuries old smithy which has been restored as a working forge, offering you the chance to watch a skilled blacksmith, sign-writer, silversmith and furniture maker as they work and browse their unique, hand-crafted products. There’s also an exhibition where you can learn all about the history of Mawnan Smith and the restoration of its smithy.
Mawnan Craft Centre, Carwinion Road, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR11 5JF
Spend an afternoon exploring the stunning natural beauty of the Helford River with a boat tour helmed by an experience skipper. This memorable trip aboard The Hannah Molly – a traditional Cornish boat with room for 12 people – begins from Budock Vean. From here, you’ll travel along Port Navas Creek, past Helford Passage and Trebah Gardens, before crossing to Helford village and its surrounding creeks and inlets, including Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek.
Helford River Cruises, Budock Vean Hotel, Mawan Smirh TR11 5LG (T: 07941 027732)
A friendly café in the heart of Mawnan Smith where you can buy freshly baked bread and pastries, and tuck into homemade cakes, breakfasts and light lunches, as well as obligatory traditional Cornish cream teas!
Cornish Maid, The Square, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 251202)
A thatched traditional inn in the heart of Mawnan Smith just minutes from the South West Coast Path and a pretty stroll through the woods to Maenporth Beach. Here you can sample local ales and ciders in the raftered bar along with enjoyable food from light lunches to a evening menu packed full of fresh local Cornish produce. A great spot to stop off when walking or visiting nearby Glendurgan or Trebah Garden. Children and dogs welcome.
The Red Lion, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 250026)
Dating back 300 years, The Ferry Boat Inn sits on the edge of the beach at Helford Passage. Thanks to its waterside position, you can look out over one of the most beautiful views in Cornwall whilst enjoying a drink or delicious meal. The Ferry Boat serves a tasty menu of homemade pub classics, alongside fresh, locally caught seafood dishes. Outside, there’s a large terrace with plenty of seating, perfect for long sunny days and warm, summer’s evenings, and come winter there’s a cosy open fire. Children and dogs very welcome.
The Ferry Boat Inn, Helford Passage, Falmouth, TR11 5LB (T: 01326 250625)
A small and friendly, family run restaurant serving delicious mediterranean food that changes with the seasons. The chef sources high quality local ingredients along with specialist products from overseas to create beautifully presented, tasty meals. See website for opening hours, well behaved dogs welcome.
Casa Juan, The Square, Mawnan Smith TR115EP (T: 01326 250174)
A fantastic spot to eat, drink and relax, watching the boats go by whilst the kids go crabbing. This lovely old waterside pub, with views to die for, has a friendly atmosphere and serves tasty, wholesome food and great local beers all in an idyllic setting. Arrive by ferry from Helford Passage which brings you almost to the door, tie your boat or kayak to the pub’s pontoon or park in the car park at the top of the village and walk.
The Shipwrights Arms, Helford Village, Helston TR12 6JX (T: 01326 231235)
A scenic sweep of golden sand flanked by cliffs, this family friendly beach looks out across Falmouth Bay towards Pendennis Castle and the lighthouse at St Anthony Head. There’s plenty of sand and shallow water which is great for children and excellent facilities, including a cafe selling great food and beach equipment, plus toilets and car park. Maenporth is also a lovely spot to launch a kayak or paddleboard, both of which can be hired on the beach during summer months. Dogs allowed from October to Easter Sunday.
With its impressive crescent of sand, great amenities and Blue Flag status, it’s no wonder Gyllyngvase Beach is one of the most popular in the area. Found just south of Falmouth town centre this beach is ideal for families, and with its calm seas and gently sloping sand is a good spot for kayaking and paddleboarding too. Local company WESUP are based here offering wetsuit and equipment hire and SUP activities for all ages and abilities. And nearby is the acclaimed Gylly Beach Café with its sun terrace built out over the beach, fantastic views and a menu packed full of local seafood. There’s lifeguard cover from May to September, a large car park and public toilets. Dogs allowed from October to Easter Sunday.
This pretty sand and pebble beach dotted with boats pulled up on the sand, and backed by whitewashed cottages, is one of our favourites. Kids can play, splash in the water or explore the rockpools exposed at low tide, or the more adventurous can hire a kayak, paddleboard or small boat to explore the estuary. Sit back in the 300 year old Ferry Boat Inn for lunch and a cool drink before perhaps taking the ferry across the water to Helford Village (operating in summer months only). Alternatively there are wonderful walks in both directions with fabulous views where you can spot a wealth of birdlife and sometimes seals. Back at the beach along with the pub there is a car park and toilets, ice cream kiosk and beach shop. Swimming is safe here but bathers should be aware of boats launching and general river traffic. Dogs allowed all year round.
A lovely sandy cove on the outskirts of Falmouth with lots of sand and clear water for swimming. If relaxing on the sand’s not your thing though, the beach backs onto Swanpool Nature Reserve where you can walk dogs on leads or feed the ducks and swans, and there’s also a beach cafe, kayak hire and 18 hole crazy golf course. Dogs allowed from October to Easter Sunday
Found between Maenporth and Mawnan Smith, this is a small, pretty sandy beach with some shingle and rocks accessed by footpath from the road. It’s a five to ten minute walk, meaning the beach itself is often quiet and uncrowded with lovely swimming. No amenities though and the walk isn’t suitable for buggies or those with limited mobility. Also known as Woodlands Beach. Dogs allowed all year round.
There’s a thin arc of sand and shingle to flop on here at Falmouth’s most northerly beach, but that’s not the main attraction … at low tide a wide expanse of rock pools is exposed where kids and adults alike can spend hours discovering the watery pools packed with miniature sea life. Diving and snorkelling are popular here too, with plenty to see in the clear waters beyond the rocks. If you forget your bucket and net you can buy one at the beachside café, also serving drinks, ice creams and sandwiches that can be enjoyed on their large sundeck with lovely sea views. Keep an eye on the tide times though as at high tide the majority of the beach can be covered. There’s no lifeguard or car park, but plenty of parking along the road running parallel to the beach. Dogs allowed from October to Easter Sunday.
This is a real gem but quite tricky to access, so it’s not for everyone. Almost hidden on the southern banks of the Helford River, this idyllic sand and shingle cove is surrounded by thick woodland and is a fantastic spot to swim or sunbathe, often without another soul in sight. To get there either cut through the gardens of the Bosahan estate (summer months only, admission charges apply), bring a small boat or walk about a mile along the coast path from Helford Village. No amenities due to its location, dogs allowed all year round.
A quiet and secluded shingle beach on the Helford River in between the villages of Durgan and Mawnan. Access is via a short woodland walk from Durgan and then a steep path down to the beach, which means it’s rarely crowded and ideal if you prefer peace and quiet to cafes and facilities, of which there are none. The water is safe for swimming here and there are rocky outcrops to explore and jump off. It’s worth bearing in mind though that while there is a large beach at low water, with the highest tides it’s completely covered. Dogs welcome all year round.
Owned by the National Trust, the scattering of cottages that make up the tiny village of Durgan form a pretty backdrop to this sand and shingle beach. With stunning views in both directions over the Helford River, Durgan has strong boating links and there is a slipway running down to the beach and moorings offshore. This south facing beach is a peaceful place to relax on the sand and watch the boats go by while children play in the rockpools. If you forget your bucket, spade or net you can borrow one from the National Trust Fish Cellar building which also sells teas, coffee and ice creams during the summer months. Like many of the beaches along the Helford, Durgan Beach is almost entirely covered during the highest tides so keep an eye on the tide times. There is no parking in Durgan itself, however, there is a carpark on the main road and signposted path to the village and beach. Dogs welcome all year round.
A pretty sheltered cove in a secluded setting surrounded by low cliffs and woodland, Bream Cove consists of a sand and shingle beach dipping down to clear water with excellent swimming and snorkelling. At low water rock pools are exposed which children will love to explore and it’s possible to scramble over the rocks to the sandy beach next door at Gatamala Cove. There are no facilities here and no car park, but there are parking spaces on the nearby road between Maenporth and Rosemullion Head close to the Meuden Hotel, with access to the beach via footpath. Dogs welcome all year.
Prisk Cove beach can only be reached on foot, either from the village of Mawnan through a pretty wooded valley or via the South West Coast Path. Located just south of Rosemullion Head the beach consists mainly of shingle with a huge expanse of rockpools exposed at low tide. Parking at Mawnan Church or on the road, dogs welcome all year.
A small sheltered pebble beach with lovely views where fishermen used to launch their boats in their hundreds. Today there are still a few working fishing boats pulled up on the shore and the unspoilt village has a popular pub, aptly named The Five Pilchards. Car parking literally on the beach so not far to carry all the kit, lots of rockpools exposed at low tide and great snorkeling just offshore.
A pretty fishing village with a large sandy beach ideal for swimming and snorkelling, and popular with windsurfers and sailors. The pretty harbour has a few cafes, shops and toilets and the beach is easily accessible from a small car park on the edge of the village . Dogs welcome all year.
Owned by the National Trust, Kynance Cove is well known for its white sand, turquoise seas and spectacular rock stacks. As the tide goes out caves, islands and pools provide hours of entertainment for families. In peak season Kynance gets very busy with the car park full by mid morning so it’s worth arriving early. Small cafe and toilets available in summer months only.
Godrevy Cove is a lovely sandy beach over 300m in length and unlike other beaches in the area, there is still plenty of sand at high water. Access is via the Coast Path but it’s not a difficult walk, only about 500m from the hamlet of Rosenithon where you can leave the car on the road. There’s good swimming and snorkelling here, as well as rock pools at low tide and the beach is never crowded. You can also access next door Leggan Cove across the foreshore at low water, a similar but smaller and more sheltered beach.