Many of us our planning our next trip, and what better place to go than Cornwall? Right on our doorstep, with plenty of things to see and do, there’s a reason Cornwall has been a holiday favourite for generations.
It may be that we’re biased, but we think that exploring Cornwall by train is one of the best ways to get to know this beautiful area. Not only is it better for the environment than driving, but it also means you won’t have to worry about parking in a busy area. Plus, you may end up discovering places you may not otherwise have visited.
We’ve put together a 7-day itinerary, pulling together some of our favourite Cornish tourist attractions, plus a couple of ideas to take you off the beaten tracks with CrossCountry.
Day 1 - Liskeard
Our itinerary starts in Liskeard. Although not many tourists stop off in Liskeard, we’d argue they should! This lovely historic town is totally Instagrammable and boasts picture-perfect historic architecture, as well as being in the heart of the windswept Cornish moors, which are simply begging to be explored.
If you’re travelling with kids (or even if you’re not) we recommend checking out the Liskeard Heritage trail. This is a great way to stretch your legs and find out more about the history of the area. The downloadable PDF guide is filled to the brim with interesting facts and anecdotes, and the whole walk should only take 1.5 hours to complete, perfect for even little legs. The Liskeard Tourist Information Centre also has a couple of complimentary maps for younger family members, so drop by if you think that would be of interest.
You couldn’t start off your holiday to Cornwall without a Cornish cream tea, so we recommend stopping off at Stuart House in the afternoon. Spend some time exploring this amazing historic property and the carefully manicured Gentleman’s Garden, before stopping by their tearoom. Make sure you spread your jam on your scone first to avoid upsetting any locals!
Day 2 - Looe
Today takes you slightly off the CrossCountry network, but if you’re as big a fan of trains as us, then you can’t just miss the stunning train journey from Liskeard to Looe. The short 33-minute journey is perfect for a day trip, and you’ll even enjoy the time spent on the train. You’ll emerge from the dense woodlands near Liskeard on the banks of the river which widens into the sea. If you’re a keen twitcher (or bird watcher) you may be able to see some amazing wading birds out of the train window.
Once in Looe there’s plenty to see and do. The beach is always a family favourite, or you can explore the lovely shopping streets tangled in the town centre. Most of the shops are independents with lovely local products, although you can find some of your favourite chain shops, too. Kids will love stopping in at Roly’s Fudge Pantry, where you can see how the fudge is made, try a free sample, and choose from loads of amazing and unique flavours.
If you find yourself getting peckish, then we recommend grabbing a bite to eat at The Old Sail Loft. We love this fish-forward restaurant, which serves family favourites using the amazing fresh catch available in Looe. If you can’t wait, why not check out their amazing Seafood Tagliatelle Recipe?
Day 3 - St Austell
St Austell is often overlooked in tourists’ haste to get to the Eden Project. We’ve got that next on our itinerary, don’t worry, but first, we recommend you take some time to explore the local area. Many get put off by the town centre, which has been jokingly referred to as “St Awfull” by locals. However, the surrounding areas more than make up for any of the town’s shortcomings.
Head down to the port in Charlestown, which has been used as a film location for Poldark, or head to some of the incredible nearby beaches. There’s always something to see at the port, with boats regularly docking and leaving. We recommend grabbing a cup of coffee or bringing a thermos before indulging in a bit of people watching.
There are also plenty of other cute fishing villages within a stone’s throw of St Austell. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not pack a picnic and head to Mevagissey, just a few miles down the coast. It used to be the centre of the Cornish Pilchard industry, so is the perfect place to sample the amazing fresh seafood.
Day 4 - The Eden Project
A favourite tourist destination for visitors from around the world, it’s easy to see why this green oasis is so popular. You could easily spend a week exploring everything on offer at The Eden Project, but we’re giving you just a day in this jam-packed itinerary.
A particular favourite with kids, there are loads of talks, activities and games to play, as well as acres and acres of nature to explore. With its famous domes, the Eden Project isn’t weather-dependent, but there’s lots to enjoy in the great outdoors if it’s a sunny day. Even big kids and grownups will learn something new with exhibits about sustainability and science, as well as agriculture and plants more generally.
The restaurants at The Eden Project are worth the trip all by themselves, with plenty of dietary options on offer as well as loads of fresh local produce. You can also bring a picnic to enjoy if you’d prefer. There’s also a gift shop that is second-to-none, so make sure you leave plenty of time for shopping!
Day 5 - Truro
Truro is the county town of Cornwall, and is well worth a visit with its mostly-low skyline dominated by a very pretty cathedral. There are plenty of pretty shopping streets to explore in the town, and we definitely recommend following your nose and finding a fresh Cornish pasty. One of our favourites is the traditional Oggy Oggy Pasty Shop on River Street, but there are plenty of options around.
If you’re in Truro with kids, it might be worth popping into the Royal Cornwall Museum. There are tonnes of exhibitions, many of which are hands on. Find out about local history and culture, and explore their fascinating Egyptian, Green and Roman collection, which is always a family favourite.
However, there’s also loads to do for adults. Head to Red Elephant Beer Cellar, a hidden gem of a shop which stocks floor-to-ceiling shelves filled to bursting with every beer you could possibly imagine. You could spend a great deal of time exploring by yourself or ask for advice from the knowledgeable staff. Why not a pick up a few bottles to enjoy when you get home from your holiday?
Day 6 – St Ives
On day 6 we’re taking another day trip off the CrossCountry network to visit a local favourite: St Ives. Best known for its amazing surfing beaches, it also had a thriving arts scene. There’s plenty to explore and enjoy here, so definitely worth the slight detour.
The seafront Tate St Ives gallery has a rotating exhibition of incredible modern art, mostly showcasing local and British talent. While it’s perhaps one of the best-known galleries in St Ives, it’s far from the only one – there are plenty of small galleries lining the streets and seafront, so get out and explore. If the weather is nice, you’re sure to see artists with easels trying to capture the pretty town, unrivalled sea views and picture-perfect lighthouse.
The fresh sea air is likely to make you feel a little peckish. Who couldn’t make time for fish and chips on the sea-front? So grab a takeaway from one of the many Fish & Chips shops around the harbour and head down to Harbour Sand to munch away.
Day 7 – Penzance
The last day of our itinerary takes you all the way down to Penzance, right at the furthest tip of Cornwall. There are loads of things to do in Penzance, so you could extend your stay here past our itinerary. The city has been a popular tourist destination for people travelling by train since railways were introduced in the 19th Century.
After a busy 7-day trip, if the weather is good, we recommend heading to the Jubilee Lido, an amazing salt-water lido right by the sea. There’s also a fantastic café best known for its incredible sausage rolls. Whatever you choose to do in Penzance, it’s a great place to hang out for the whole family.
If you’re keen to keep moving, why not go to explore St Michaels mount? This iconic tourist attraction is well worth a visit – you can explore the Benedictine castle and the subtropical gardens, enjoy spectacular views, and during the high season there are often family friendly activities happening on the village green.
Exploring Cornwall via train is an excellent option, and CrossCountry has services across the county running from all over the country. You can buy tickets on our website or Train Tickets app, and remember to check out our cheap tickets page to see how you can save money on your travel with CrossCountry.
Written by Seb