Heritage > Counties > England


Cornwall is to be found on the most south westerly tip of England. Famed for it's affinity with the sea, Cornwall is synonymous with the romantic tales of Pirates and Smugglers.

The county covers an area of 1,370 square miles, including the Scilly Islands, and has a population of some 500,000.

The county boasts the fine towns of Launceston, Truro, Camborne, Bude, Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance and St Ives. The physical beauty of Cornwall is typified by Bodmin Moor, Land's End peninsula, St Michael's Mount and the rivers Tamar, Fowey, Fal and Camel (Is there a link with Camelot? - Many think so).

Main products from the county are Tin, mined since the Bronze Age, electronics, kaolin, fish and spring flowers.

Sons and daughters of Cornwall include Sir John Betjeman, the late Poet Laureate, Sir Humphry Davy, inventor of the miner's safety lamp, Daphne Du Maurier, author of such classics as 'Jamaica Inn' and William Golding, author of 'Lord of the Flies'

Facts on the region

Origin of name: The Welsh in Cornavia. From the Latin Cornu meaning horn. West of the Dunnoii (Devon) was the Corneu to the Britons - the land of horn. The second syllable comes from the Old English ‘wahl meaning foreign, as that was how the English called the Britons or the Welsh.

Name first recorded: 891 as Cornwalam.

County Motto: 'One and all'.

County Town: TRURO Has a strong sense of identity: it only acquired city status in 1877 (until then, Cornwall was administered from Exeter).

County Rivers: Tamar (forming the border with Devon), Camel, Fal, Fowey, Truro, Kenwyn, Allen.

Highest point: Brown Willy at 1,375 feet.

Cornwall's local government: A two-tier local government administration split between Cornwall County Council and the six Districts of Caradon, Carrick, Kerrier, Penwith, Restormel and the lion's share of North Cornwall bar the two Devon parishes of North Petherwin and Werrington.

The local landscape

Cornwall, in the far west of England, cuts down from Devon on its coast like a large piece of cake, sloping from north to south. The spine of the county - the watershed - is in the north, with the principal rivers - the Tamar and the Fowey, the Fal and the Helford - running to the south coast. Within the county's boundaries, there is a wealth of contrast. The north coast comprises a series of magnificent cliffs and headlands, backed by a high plateau of good agricultural land. The south coast is softer and greener, with tidal estuaries providing an abundance of bird life, the exception being the rugged Lizard peninsula, almost entirely surrounded by sea, whose exposed position results in it taking a severe battering from the Atlantic in winter. Inland, the scenery is again full of contrast - the barren, somewhat desolate landscape of the mining areas very different to the wild, boggy Bodmin Moor.Local Towns and Villages

BODMIN Was officially the county capital (the assizes were there) and the largest town in the Middle Ages. St Petroc's Church, the largest in the county, had a spire until lightning removed it in 1699.

BUDE A popular holiday resort with a magnificent cliffy coastline. Head for the Summerleaze beach which is so wide that when the tide is out a sea-water swimming pool is created near the cliffs.

FALMOUTH A wonderful natural harbour and an attractive town, as well as being a good jumping off point for exploring the county's splendours.

FOWEY Quintessential Cornish port and worth a stroll around at any time of the year. The 15-century church of St Fimbarrus is at the centre of the town.

LAUNCESTON County capital until 1838 crowned on a hill with castle ruins. Good trout rivers nearby.

LOSTWITHIEL Built to a medieval grid plan and with interesting old buildings, such as the 13th-century parish church spire, sloping down to the Fowey.

MOUSEHOLE Picture postcard port (pronounced 'Mouzell') with an almost all-embracing granite breakwater. Once pilchards were fished, now mackerel. In 1595 a squadron of Spanish galleons appeared off the village and 200 soldiers landed here and burnt the port and pillaged. On a lighter note Nicola Bayley's The Mousehole Cat is a delightful children's tale and animated film based on the port.

NEWLYN Busy fishing port. Shark-fishing trips available.

PADSTOW Picturesque holiday town with Atlantic rollers providing good surfing. Narrow mainly unspoilt streets converge on a semi-circle of buildings round the quay.

PENZANCE A seaside town with splendid views across Mounts Bay to St Michael's Mount.

REDRUTH Famous back in the 1850s as a copper-producing town. The simple granite mine-buildings scattered through the town bear a passing resemblance to the Methodist chapels in the area. John Wesley was known to preach in these parts.

ST AUSTELL Centre of the Cornish Riviera and with a number of impressive buildings, such as the Italianate Town Hall.

ST IVES Colourful stone cottages, twisting narrow lanes, fine sandy beaches and picture-postcard prettiness attract both artists and tourists.

ST JUST-IN-PENWITH Victorian town with best concentration of abandoned mining engine-houses in Cornwall creating a strange and evocative landscape.

ST NEOT Is one of Bodmin Moor's prettiest villages with a 15-century church containing some of the most impressive stained glass windows in the country.

SALTASH Seen from Devon across the Tamar this port once resembled a medieval town with grey and white houses one above the other on the hillside; now it is more a surburb of Plymouth, but that does not detract from the impressive Royal Albert Bridge spanning the river at a height of 100 feet. This was the minimum height set down by the Admiralty to Isambard Brunel. His triumph, completed in 1859, is 2,240 feet long and has 19 arches. It is best viewed from the quay where you can compare it with the road bridge. The town is far older than Plymouth:

Saltash was a borough town when Plymouth was a furzy down

It was incorporated in the 12th century.

TINTAGEL Holiday town with Arthurian attractions including the ruins of Tintagel castle dating from c.1145 with bracing coastal views. Visit the Old Post Office.CallingtonCamborneGunnislakeHayleLooeMarazionMevagisseyPenrynPerranporthPorthlevenSt BlazeyStrattonTorpointWadebridge

Places to Visit

Anthony House and Gardens, Torpoint

Cotehele, Saltash

Trebah Garden, Mawnan Smith

Trewithen, Probus

Glendurgan Gardens, Falmouth

Godolphin, Helston


Shrove Tuesday Hurling at St Colomb Major: hurling was a traditional local sport played with a wooden ball encased in silver. The goals were two miles apart! It often resulted in bruises, broken bones and even pitched battles. Today there is a gentler reminder of the time-honoured sport.

On May Day is the annual Obby 'Oss festival in Padstow. A man dressed as a horse is led through the streets and there is dancing in the Market Square.

May: the day of the Furry Dance - the traditional floral dancing day performed through the decorated hilly streets of Helston.

Throughout the summer, a floral dance is performed every week in Boscastle.

Late May to mid September: Minack theatre Summer Festival - drama at this spectacular cliff-top open-air theatre at Porthcurno, near Penzance.

Early June: the Royal Cornwall Show is a large agricultural show at Wadebridge.

Late August: Bude Jazz Festival, more than 150 sessions and four street parades during the one-week festival.

Mid October: Lowender Peran festival of Celtic music and dance, various venues around Perranporth.

The Tate Gallery at St Ives has modern art exhibitions throughout the year (and is worth a visit anyway for its postmodern architecture, cafe and views). The 'visitors' comments' book' is worth a peek.

Early May: the Great Cornwall Balloon Festival is a free hot air balloon extravaganza leaving from St Austell and Newquay.

Celtic nations are rugby-mad and Cornwall is no exception: Camborne-Redruth sees some superb club rugby, and Cornwall can swell supporters' ranks by 50,000 when they reach the County Final at Twickenham in Middlesex!

Famous names from the region

In front of Penzance's Market House stands a statue of Sir Humphrey Davy, a Cornishman of genius who is best remembered as the inventor of the miner's safety lamp.

Sir John Betjeman, poet and television personality, was born in Cornwall and lived for many years on the north coast, in a house overlooking the golf course at Trebetherick, near Wadebridge. He is buried in the church by the beach at Trebetherick.

The late William Golding, Nobel Prize winner, was born near Newquay.

Writer D. M. Thomas still lives in Truro, the town where he was born and grew up.

Author Daphne du Maurier spent a third of her life beside the Fowey estuary, first at Bodinnick and later at nearby Menabilly, where she completed My Cousin Rachel and The King's General.

A large part of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour - a 50-minute made-for-television fantasy coach tour - took place in Bodmin, Watergate Bay, Holywell and Newquay in 1967.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson found his earthly heaven in the Scilly Isles.

The popular and famous TV series Poldark was filmed in the county.

Sir Humphry Davy, who devised the safety lamp for miners, was born in Penzance in 1778.

John Couch Adams, discoverer of the planet Neptune, went to school in Saltash.

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