Things to do in Cornwall

Published 21 July 2016

With the largest concentration of artists outside of London, Cornwall has inspired painters and sculptors including Alfred Munnings, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.

Theicon signifies when there is a National Art Pass offer

Royal Cornwall Museum

  • Cornwall
Free entry

Housed in the former Truro Savings Bank, built in 1845, the museum invites visitors to better understand Cornwall. As well as the internationally renowned mineral collection, which is rooted in Cornwall's mining and engineering heritage, the collection brings together archaeological objects, social history, fine and decorative art, geology, flora and fauna from the south west of England. The fine art collection is also particularly impressive; as well representing those who were born or worked in the area, it also features internationally important works by Hogarth, Constable, Van Dyck, Turner, Rossetti, Rubens and Guardi.​


National Maritime Museum Cornwall

  • Cornwall
Free entry and free exhibitions

Home to the National Small Boat collection, the museum promotes an understanding of Cornwall's maritime heritage through its boats and their place in people's lives. Among paintings and photographs, telescopes, logbooks, whale-tooth carvings and lifebelts, you'll find Old Stan's salmon fishing boat and Ellen MacArthur's Christmas tree. You can go underwater in the Tidal Zone, try steering a boat in the Nav Station, and enjoy breathtaking views of the harbour, docks and estuary from the Look Out.


Pendennis Castle

  • Cornwall
Free entry

Built by Henry VIII between 1540 and 1545 to defend Britain from France and Spain, Pendennis Castle is one of England's finest coastal fortresses. Expanded with enlarged ramparts under Elizabeth I, it was a key Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and continued to be used as an active military outpost in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, you can explore a recreated Tudor gun room and a guardhouse that has been restored to its First World War appearance. The castle is also home to a collection of cartoons by George Butterworth, a Second World War satirist whose work lampooned Hitler and Mussolini. Head to the castle tearoom, set inside the Royal Artillery Barracks, to try traditional Cornish pasties and other locally sourced produce.

Penlee House

Penlee House Gallery and Museum

  • Cornwall
Free entry

Set in semi-tropical gardens, the Italianate villa was built in 1865 for JR Branwell, a wealthy merchant related to the Brontë family. The main focus is on the painters of the Newlyn School, which included Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, Walter Langley, Harold Harvey and Laura Knight, while there is also a chance to explore works by artists who concentrated on Cornwall's picturesque Lamorna Valley. The gallery doesn't have a fixed art display, instead hosting a rotating exhibition programme featuring works from its permanent collection. Other exhibits relate to the region's archaeology, natural history and social life.


Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden

  • Cornwall
50% off entry

The museum inhabits Trewyn studios, where prominent St Ives artist Barbara Hepworth lived and worked from 1949 until her death in 1975. Its collection includes her sculptures in bronze, stone and wood, along with paintings, drawings and archive material. Scattered around the garden are many of her most magnificent works – including Four-Square Walk Through and Sphere with Inner Forms – which you can admire in the context for which they were created. After you've explored the museum, round off your trip with a stroll along Porthmeor Beach, which forms Tate St Ives 'backyard'.

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