Cornwall is littered with cultural hotspots and the tourism industry might be to thank for that – tourism is such a large influence on our region, it is inevitable that visitors contribute to a contemporary model of Cornish heritage.
Increased visitor interest in certain sites enables locals to enjoy these all year round; without the income that is generated through tourism it would be near impossible to preserve some of these special places.
So, when you join us for your visit to Cornwall take a step away from the beaches to see our unique heritage. Your visits really do count in preserving it.
There remain many sites that I have yet to visit and every year I add more to my list but see below for a few ideas:
Geevor Tin Mine
Geevor is the largest preserved mine site in the country and is a Cornish Mining World Heritage Site located in Pendeen, West Cornwall.
Established in 1911, Geevor Tin Mine Ltd remained in business until 1990 and over that time it brought up 4.5 million tons of raw ore and produced some 50,000 tons of black tin.
Whilst Geevor is a 20th Century Mine it is located in an area that has been mined for thousands of years – one of the attractions on site is donning hard hats and going underground to explore the 18th Century tunnels of Wheal Mexico mine.
When Geevor closed down in 1991, former miners stepped in to ensure that it was not lost to decay – a real community effort. And that is how the site remains to this day, volunteers maintain the site and operate the museum and heritage centre.
What makes this site so special are the volunteers who work on site and offer tours – many of these individuals used to work within the mine before it closed and provide a wealth of knowledge as well as entertaining and emotional anecdotes.
Bodmin moor is one of Cornwall’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is home to Cornwall’s two highest peaks, Roughtor and Brown Willy. Bodmin Moor boasts a number of historical features – more than 100 Bronze Age circle huts have been excavated on the moor along with a Neolithic Tor Enclosure and the foundations of a Medieval chapel.
It is also home to Siblyback Lake, one of Cornwall’s top locations for inland water sports and Dozmary Pool, where people rumour that King Arthur’s sword Excalibur is located.
Walking on Bodmin moor you cannot help but feel like you have been transported in time; cattle and wild ponies graze this wild habitat and you frequently won’t see another soul.
The narrative which is promoted by the famous Jamaica Inn and haunts the cells of Bodmin Jail along with rumours of the ‘Beast of Bodmin Moor’ can lead many to believe the moor is a menacing and dangerous place, but don’t let that put you off!
Bodmin moor is truly picturesque and a great day out if you are keen on walking. If not, take the car and stop off wherever you like – don’t forget to stop for lunch at Cornwall’s highest pub: The Old Inn at St Breward.
Royal Cornwall Museum
The UK’s greatest museum for Cornish life and culture, founded in 1818, this institution was established to promote excellence across all fields relating to Cornwall’s world leading industries and art. This museum utilises its unique collections to provide a cultural hub that educates and inspires and in turn contributes to the economic and social welfare of the county.
The museum is home to a number of collections and exhibitions although my personal favourite is Hireth: This exhibition showcases a rotating selection of artwork which presents the visitor with images of Cornwall and attempts to encapsulate what Cornwall means to visitors and locals alike.
Hireth is a Cornish word for which there is no direct English translation. It describes an intangible feeling, a longing for the familiarity and comfort of a place. This feeling is something I believe we can all relate to, however, is particularly relevant to the Cornish community and the vast diaspora they represent.
Royal Cornwall Museum is located in Truro and has a number of family activities as well as an adjoining café and admission is free for 16s and under.
As England’s Southwestern tip Cornwall is the perfect spot to build a castle for its coastal defence advantages. These castles have now been preserved as visitor attractions and give us insight into Cornwall’s past, see below for a couple of our favourites:
The site here has been inhabited since the late Roman times and there is evidence of a flourishing community in the 5th-7th centuries. However, it was in the 13th century that Richard, Earl of Cornwall built a castle on the site and these are the remains we see today.
Whilst commonly associated with the legend of King Arthur, thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote in the 12th century that King Arthur was conceived on the site, there is little historical evidence to support this; although it may have been this factor which encouraged Richard to build his castle here.
The castle ruins are dramatically situated on the North Coast and spans the headland and an island which one were connected but is now only accessible via a bridge.
The castle is worth a visit come rain or shine (personally I love the atmosphere on a wet weather day and quite often you have the site to yourself) but please note that the site shuts during high winds.
The castle overlooks an important anchorage in the River Fal estuary which would have been critical to defend in the event of an invasion, designed with a circular artillery fort this fortress is designed to ensure 360° defence. On the opposite side of the estuary sits St Mawes Castle and these two sites worked together to protect the port of Falmouth.
Built as part of national defence preparations under Henry VIII the castle has provided important support to Great Britain’s armed forces for over 400 years and the site continued to be utilised for training purposes up until 1956.
A number of events take place here throughout the year, a personal favourite is the Medieval Joust which takes place in August and allows you to watch falconry displays, court jesters and joust re-enactments up close.
Home to a number of local touring theatre groups Cornwall’s theatre scene is rich and diverse. Cornwall boasts a number of theatres and our wonderful scenery and (sometimes) wonderful climate allow for a number of open air theatres. Keep an eye on our events page for any upcoming shows that take your fancy but see below for a summary of my favourite spots to take in a performance:
Sterts Arts Centre
This unique, canopied, open air theatre based in North Cornwall provides the opportunity to enjoy theatre and music in an outdoor setting and allows seating for 400 people.
Throughout its thirty year history Sterts has enabled many thousands of people drawn from all sections of the community to enjoy and take part in creating art in all of its forms.
Hosting a range of diverse performances as well as workshops this site is run largely by volunteers and is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Keep an eye on their website or on our events page for upcoming performances.
The Minack Theatre
This Grecian style theatre carved into the granite cliff overlooking Porthcurno bay witnessed its first performance in 1932 and has evolved into the professionally equipped venue we see today.
The site is open to visit all year round however performances only take place May-September and tickets can often sell out quickly so make sure to books yours in advance. Please also note that visiting times are limited during the summer season due to performance rehearsals and set up.
Penlee Park Theatre
Situated in the heart of Penzance in the sheltered surroundings of Penlee Park with the season running from June to September this site can welcome up to 300 visitors at a time. Penlee has welcomed shows from across a variety of genres from both amateur and professional touring companies from Cornwall and outside.
The stage is made of earth and granite and whilst seating is provided make sure you bring blankets, cushions, waterproofs and a picnic – although refreshments are available.
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