Top 10 Things to Do in Devon and Cornwall on a First Visit, UK inner banner

Top 10 Things to Do in Devon and Cornwall on a First Visit, UK

Quaint stone villages, tiny fishing inlets, rolling green hills, and mysterious moors define the United Kingdom's south-western counties. Tick off these ten top things to do across Devon and Cornwall.
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall: St Ives

As historic as it is beautiful, princes, poets, and pirates have long been drawn to the western extremity of England.

Rich in rugged topography, scenic beauty, bucolic charm, and intriguing folklore, the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall have a special magic, and it would take weeks to explore their every corner. But if you’re visiting for a good time; not a long time, let’s not waste another second!

Here are ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall on a first visit.


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1. Stand on the edge of the world at Land’s End (Cornwall)

Perch yourself on the jagged cliffs of Land’s End at the most southwesterly point of Britain and whisper secrets to the salty wind as it carries them out to the Isles of Scilly. Awash with myths, legends, and torrid tales of King Arthur’s realm, there are at least 130 wrecks of ships lying at the bottom of the ocean around this storied granite peninsular.

Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall: Land’s End

2. Cosy up in Mousehole (Cornwall)

While most visitors make a beeline for the quintessential Cornish coastal village of Port Isaac (of Doc Martin fame), Mousehole (‘Mouzel’ to the locals) is even more enchanting — but without the tourist crowds. Situated just a few kilometres from Penzance, you can best soak up the ambience of this pint-size fishing village over a pint and some local mussels at the cosy Ship Inn. Sinking your chops into a genuine homemade Cornish pasty at Mousehole Deli and Kitchen is also not to be missed.

Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall: Mousehole

3. Visit St Michael’s Mount (Cornwall)

Walk on water (well, almost) across the ancient causeway linking St Michael’s Mount to the mainland at Marazion. You can walk the short distance across to the Mount at low tide, spend a few hours exploring the former medieval monastery and lovely seaward gardens, then time your return just right to join the race back to the mainland as the path disappears beneath the ocean.

4. Get to a gallery in St Ives (Cornwall)

The muse of countless artists and writers over centuries, St Ives is a collage of charming cobbled streets, heritage architecture, and gorgeous oceanfront. The town’s eclectic jumble of tea rooms, boutiques, and art galleries is endlessly charming, and you could lose yourself here for days. Don’t miss seeing the Tate St Ives and wonderful sub-tropical Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden.

Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall: Surf’s up in Newquay.

5. Catch a wave in Newquay (Cornwall)

Get your toes on the nose of the North Atlantic rollers in Newquay — one of the UK’s most popular beaches and a mecca for surfers from all over the world. The expansive blonde sand beaches, dramatic cliff caves, and pastel blue waters of Newquay capture the spirit of Cornwall in one delightful snapshot. Not a surfer? Today’s the day to give it a try!


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6. Admire Exeter Cathedral (Devon)

While visiting Devon’s historic regional capital Exeter, you must attend a choral recital at the magnificent Exeter Cathedral. If you think, ‘seen one church; seen ’em all’, step inside one of the world’s most impressive examples of Gothic architecture and you’ll definitely think again. The intricate woodwork, stone vaulting, and lavish, jaw-dropping interiors are astounding enough, but experiencing the delicate acoustic power of the Cathedral Choir in full voice is absolutely spine-tingling.

Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall: Exeter Cathedral

7. Explore the Broomhill Sculpture Gardens (Devon)

Art and nature collide throughout the ten-acre Broomhill Estate Sculpture Gardens north of the town of Barnstaple. Quirky, cultural and thought-provoking, this magical woodland is home to the largest collection of contemporary sculpture in the UK.

8. Trek through Exmoor National Park (Devon)

Hike along the South West Coast Path and explore the diversity of Exmoor National Park. A unique blend of wild and windy moors, lush farmlands, and ragged coastal cliffs, the inspirational scenery, cosy villages, and wonderful flora and fauna of Exmoor make for a moveable feast of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.

Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall: Exmoor pony, Exmoor National Park

9. Take tea at Orestone Manor (Devon)

While every second tearoom in the county lays claim to being ‘the best in Devon’, you’ll experience the true decadent pleasure of an authentic Devonshire tea at Orestone Manor in Maidencombe. Savouring the light as air scones with generous dollops of farm fresh clotted cream and homemade jam (cream first if you please!) overlooking panoramic views of Lyme Bay is as sublime a gastronomic experience as you’ll ever find.

Ten top things to do in Devon and Cornwall
Image: Orestone Manor

10. See a Torquay sunset (Devon)

Stroll the promenades of Torquay at sunset and soak up the cultured Victorian ambience of the ‘English Riviera’. Famous as the seaside resort setting of the iconic Fawlty Towers, Torquay is like a little slice of the Mediterranean picked up and placed delicately on the UK coast.

For more travel inspiration, visit www.visitdevon.co.uk and www.visitcornwall.com.

Browse our range of United Kingdom tours and experiences here.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of top things to do in Devon and Cornwall on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Depositphotos, Bigstock, and Envato

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy, and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind, and an open-ended ticket. Her first two novels — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman and Sincerely, Me — are now available in bookstores.

 

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