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Cornwall Road Trip Itinerary: 3 Perfect Days in Cornwall, England

Cornwall is wildly poetic. Forming the southwest tip of England, the county of Cornwall is defined by rugged sea cliffs, darling fishing villages, and secret coves. As you explore this region, you might feel like you’re stepping into a period film, or high fantasy novel. It’s that bewitching. 

The easiest way to experience Cornwall is on a road trip. Though a car is essential in getting around Cornwall, driving in Cornwall isn’t the objective. Roads are very narrow, and unlike other coastal destinations, vehicle traffic isn’t prioritized over foot traffic. That means you shouldn’t expect sweeping views of the Cornish coast from the road, like in California, Iceland, Montenegro, etc…

And herein lies the greatest asset of Cornwall. A long-distance walking trail, called the South West Coast Path, closely hugs the entire Cornish coast. So, if you want to seek out the best stretches of coastal scenery, you have to walk. And, as you walk, you’ll hear the wind, the waves, and the calls of seagulls. You won’t hear, or see cars! 

Below, we’ve outlined our 3-day Cornwall itinerary. This corner of England deserves far more than 3 days. However, if you have limited time, you can use this Cornwall route to guide your planning. This road trip is fast-paced and packs in a ton of walking.

Port Isaac, Cornwall, England

3-Day Cornwall Itinerary

  • Day 1: Tintagel – Boscastle – Port Isaac
  • Day 2: Port Isaac – The Rumps – Bedruthan Steps – St. Agnes to Perranporth – St. Ives
  • Day 3: St. Ives – Gurnard’s Head – Botallack Mine – St. Michael’s Mount – Lizard Point – Kynance Cove – Polperro

  • 1 Night in Tintagel, or Port Isaac
  • 1 Night in St. Ives
  • 1 Night in Polperro

Cornwall Road Trip Map

CORNWALL DESTINATIONS

Tintagel – Boscastle

Port Isaac

The Rumps

St. Agnes Heritage Coast

St. Ives

Gurnard’s Head

Botallack Mine

Saint Michael’s Mount

Lizard Point – Kynance

Polperro

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall, Engalnd

How to Book this 3-Day Cornwall Travel Itinerary


Accommodation

Book 1 Night in Port Isaac | Cornish Arms Inn (midrange), The Slipway (midrange), or Port Gaverne Hotel (luxury)

Book 1 Night in St. Ives | Cohort Hostel (budget), Primrose House St. Ives (midrange), or Tregenna Castle Resort (luxury)

Book 1 Night in Polperro | The House on the Props (budget), The Crumplehorn Inn & Mill (midrange), or The Claremont Hotel (midrange)

Extend this Itinerary | The best way to extend this itinerary is by staying 2 nights in St. Ives and 2 nights in Polperro. If time allows, also stay 2 nights around Newquay so you have sufficient time to enjoy Watergate Bay, Holywell Bay, Crantock Beach, and the many dramatic beaches in the north of Cornwall. Read our Cornwall beach guide for tips on which beaches to prioritize.


Car Rental

We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals in England. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Tip: If you can only drive automatic transmission cars, as opposed to manual transmission cars (stick shift), book your car rental as early as possible.

Check car rental rates here.

Europe Travel

Cornwall Travel Tips


Download Mobile Parking Apps

You have to pay for parking almost everywhere in Cornwall.

Many car parks now offer payment via a parking mobile app like PaybyPhone, or JustPark. There are clear signs indicating which app you can use at each car park.

We recommend downloading these apps and registering your car (license plate number/vehicle registration, credit card details) to save time.


Bring Coins for Parking

Some paid car parks don’t accept parking app payments. They have old-fashioned parking machines, which only accept payment in the form of pound coins (exact change).

Make sure to always have pound coins for parking fees while traveling around Cornwall.


Eat Dinner Before 8:30 pm

While traveling in Cornwall, be mindful of the time. Kitchens in restaurants and pubs typically close at 8:30 p.m. (9:00 p.m. latest). We nearly missed dinner each night, because we were out walking.


Pack Sturdy Walking Shoes, a Bathing Suit, Towel

Swimming and walking go hand in hand in Cornwall. If you seek out Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches and coves, you’ll need sturdy shoes to get there.

Port Isaac harbor, Cornwall, England

Cornwall Itinerary Day 1: Tintagel – Boscastle – Port Isaac


Drive to Cornwall

Chances are you’re starting your trip somewhere far far away from Cornwall. We started in Brighton, and it took us 6 hours (with one quick stop) to reach Tintagel, the starting point of our Cornwall road trip.

If you’re coming from London, plan on 5 hours of driving without any breaks. It’s best if you can get an early start today so that you can enjoy the dazzling Cornish coast for sunset.


Visit Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. Brittain’s legendary figure was first linked to Tintagel in the 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Overlooking the sea, the castle ruins occupy the eroding Tintagel Island and part of the mainland (see entrance fees here).

Though it’s the Arthurian legend that continues to breathe mysticism into this medieval site and thus entices visitors to come, it’s the natural beauty of the headlands that will leave the most lasting impression.


Walk from Tintagel to Boscastle along the South West Coast Path

Grab a Cornish pasty at the Cornish Bakery on 1A Castle Road before walking down Castle Road to Tintagel Haven. During low tide, you can access Merlin’s Cave from the beach.

During high tide, the cave fills up with water. Just past the Tintagel Castle Cafe, you’ll find a trail that leads east in the direction of Boscastle.

We highly recommend walking along the South West Coast Path for a few hours, taking in the flower carpeted cliffs awash with vibrant yellows, purples, and whites. You don’t need to walk all the way to Boscastle to enjoy this path, as the views are glorious throughout. 

If you arrive early in the day, take bus 95 from the Tintagel Visitor Center to Boscastle Car Park and then walk back to Tintagel.

Trail Stats

Tintagel Country Club Car Park | Google Maps

Starting Point | Tintagel

Ending Point | Boscastle

Distance | 8 km point-to-point

Time Needed | 3 hours 

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation Gain | 334 meters

Elevation Loss | 404 meters


Visit Port Isaac

Port Isaac is a tiny fishing village on the Atlantic Coast of North Cornwall. Whitewashed cottages line the green cliffs around the Port Isaac harbor.

A few fishing boats float about the sheltered waters. And, locals and visitors follow the coastal pathway around the village, taking in the wondrous views of this perfect place.

Port Isaac manages to exhibit a harmonious relationship between nature and humankind.

New Road Long Stay Car Park | Google Maps


Stay in Tintagel

Budget | Dolphins is a centrally located hostel in Tintagel offering dormitory and private rooms. Guests have access to a shared kitchen, lounge, and garden. Stay here for the warm hospitality, location, and unbeatable price.

Midrange | Gordon House B&B features bright bedrooms, fabulous breakfasts, and a perfect location in the heart of Tintagel.

Luxury | Set in a Victorian castle, the stately Camelot Castle Hotel occupies a dreamy location overlooking the sea and the Tintagel headland. Reviews are mixed. Stay here for the views and the historic atmosphere rather than the facilities. 

Look for accommodation in Tintagel.


Or, Stay in Port Isaac

Or, you can continue your journey to Port Isaac, one of the most scenic fishing villages in Cornwall. 

Midrange | Cornish Arms Inn is set in a 16-century coaching inn in Pendoggett, 2.5 miles from the Port Isaac fishing village. Guests love the friendly atmosphere, the breakfasts, and the spotless and comfortable bedrooms. If you don’t feel like venturing far for dinner, you can always eat in the inn’s restaurant.

Midrange | The Slipway is a historic guesthouse, which served as a smuggler’s hideaway in the 16th century. Located in the very heart of the fishing village and overlooking the harbor, this quirky B&B and restaurant is a perfect base for exploring the village and coastal trails around Port Isaac.

Luxury | Port Gaverne Hotel is located in the secluded cove of Port Gaverne, a 5-minute walk to Port Isaac. Dating back to the 17th century, this atmospheric inn is full of character and heart. You can expect excellent service, divine seaside views, and delicious food. The hotel restaurants serve seasonal produce, locally caught fish, and freshly baked bread.

Look for accommodation in Port Isaac.

The Rumps, Cornwall, England

Cornwall Itinerary Day 2: The Rumps and Pentire Point – Bedruthan Steps – St. Agnes to Perranporth – St. Ives


The Rumps and Pentire Point Walk

The Rumps are a twin-headland in Northern Cornwall. Extending ceremoniously into the sea, the Rumps can be experienced by walking a section of the South West Coastal Path.

The Pentire headland walk begins at the Lead Mines National Trust car park.

From the car park follow the trail to the coast. When you intersect the South West Coastal Path, make a left. The trail continues to the Rumps and ultimately to Pentire Point.

From here, you can continue following the trail to Pentireglaze Haven Beach and then ultimately across a field (look for the sign) and back to the Lead Mines car park. 

Trails Stats

Car Park / Trailhead | Lead Mines National Trust car park (Pentireglaze) | Google Maps

Distance: | 5.6 km / 3.5 miles circuit 

Time Needed | 2 – 3 hours

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation Gain/Loss | 170 meters


Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps

The Bedruthan Steps is a stretch of coastline defined by colossal granite stacks in Northern Cornwall, between Newquay and Padstow. 

The name was inspired by the legend of Bedruthan, a giant who used the rock stacks as stepping stones in order to walk across the bay at high tide.

Views of the gorgeous Bedruthan Beach, studded with pointed stacks, can be savored from the clifftop. Unfortunately, the beach is no longer accessible, because a major rock fall damaged the cliff steps leading down to the beach. 

To get the most out of your visit, we recommend ordering a cream tea at the Carnewas Tea Room, directly at the car park, and then following the coastal path to Park Head and onwards to Porthcothan Beach.

Carnewas at Bedruthan Steps National Trust Car Park | Google Maps

Payment | Pound coins, or PaybyPhone mobile app


Walk from Perranporth to Trevellas Cove, St. Agnes Heritage Coast

The walk from Perranporth to Trevellas Cove along the St. Agnes Heritage Coast is spectacular. This stretch of coast is especially vibrant because of the red and yellow sandstone cliffs.

Each bend in the trail offers moving landscapes, making it quite impossible to progress through this hike quickly.

Trail Stats

Trailhead | Wheal Leisure Car Park, Perranporth | Google Maps

Distance | 10.8 km / 6.7 miles out-and-back 

Time Needed | 3:30 – 4 hours

Difficulty | Easy


Visit St. Ives

St. Ives conjures up images of the perfect English seaside holiday. Lovely cafés, bakeries, pubs, and shops line the promenade.

Sandy beaches buttress the town, a plethora of fishing boats fill up the harbor and the occasional seal makes a well-received appearance.

Barnoon Long Stay Car Park or Porthmeor Carpark | Google Maps


Stay in St. Ives

Budget | Cohort Hostel is a highly-recommended hostel offering mixed dormitory rooms as well as family rooms.

Midrange | Primrose House St. Ives is a beachfront guesthouse featuring tastefully decorated interiors, excellent made-to-order breakfasts, and an excellent staff. This boutique B&B is close to the beach and a 10-minute walk into the center of town. Added bonus: on-site parking. 

Luxury | Tregenna Castle Resort is set amidst 72 acres of private grounds. Overlooking the Cornish coast, Tregenna Castle Resort features an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor seasonal swimming pool (late May to September), a golf course, and two on-site restaurants.

Look for accommodation in St. Ives.

Polperro, Cornwall, England

Cornwall Itinerary Day 3: Botallack Mine – St. Michael’s Mount – Lizard Point – Kyance Cove – Polperro


Gurnard’s Head

Gurnard’s head is a rocky headland located on another staggeringly beautiful stretch of coast in Northern Cornwall. If you explore around the headland in both directions, you’ll be met with mind-blowing views.

You can spend 10 minutes here, or a few hours here. We recommend following the coastal path to Zennor Head.

To reach Gurnard’s head, continue west from St. Ives to Treen. On B3306, you’ll see the mustard-colored roadside pub called Gurnard’s Head, which is one of the best pub’s in the county. Park here, and follow the residential road and then the footpath to the coast.

It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk from the pub across the field to the South West Coast Path. Enjoy!


Botallack Mine, Tin Coast

Dramatically positioned at the foot of ocean-side cliffs, the Crowns engine houses of Botallack mine are a photographer’s dream. With its cinematic quality, it’s easy to see why sequences of the BBC historical drama Poldark were filmed here.

The remains of the mine are also a window into the Cornish mining industry, which dominated the region in the 19th century. Botallack was a submarine mine, stretching half a mile under the seabed.

The Count House, Botallack Mine Car Park | Google Maps


St. Michael’s Mount

St. Michael’s Mount is a small tidal island, crowned with a castle, in Mount’s Bay. During high tide, you can visit Michael’s Mount via boat. During low tide, you can walk to the island.

We drove past this famous attraction in Cornwall and decided to skip it due to the number of people swarming about.


Walk from Lizard Point to Kynance Cove (South West Coast Path)

Lizard Point to Kynance Cove is a popular coastal walk in Southern Cornwall. Kynance Cove is one of the most photogenic beaches in England. Research tide times in advance so you see the beach during your visit.

The trail begins at the car park at Lizard, the most southerly tip of Britain.

Car Park / Trailhead | Lizard Point Short Stay Car Park | Google Maps

Distance | 6 km / 3.7 miles out-and-back 

Time Needed | 2 hours

Elevation Gain/Loss | 186 meters

Difficulty | Easy


Polperro

We stayed one night in Polperro and immediately regretted not staying two. Polperro is a dream – one that inspires you to wake up one day, buy a fishing boat, and assume a new life path.

White-painted cottages are clustered around Polperro’s harbor. Guesthouses and pubs are seemlessly integrated into the historical village. And, seagulls make their presence known.

This well-preserved fishing village dating back to the 13th century. Its history is one of smuggling, privateering, and intrigue.

Polperro Car Park | Google Maps

Parking Pricing and Payment | Expect to pay around 20 GBP for 24 hours. Cash only!!!! There are machines to convert banknotes to pound coins at the parking lot. But, there’s no nearby ATM/cashpoint, if you don’t have cash.


Polperro to Looe Coastal Path

During our second visit to Polperro, we walked the coastal trail to Looe. It’s an easy, highly enjoyable trail with some gentle rolling ascents and descents. Along the way, there’s a welcoming beachside café called Talland Bay Beach Cafe, which is a nice place to grab a refreshment, or ice cream along the trail.

The coastal path leads to West Looe. Follow the East Looe River inland and cross the bridge to East Looe, where there a jumble of bakeries, tea rooms, eateries, and pasty shops like Sarah’s Pasty Shop.

Take a bus back to Polperro, or return along the same path.

Trail Stats

Distance | 8.8 km / 5.5 miles one-way (return by bus)

Time Needed | 2:45 hours one-way


Stay in Polperro

Important: All day and overnight visitors must park at the very large Polperro car park, just off A387. Only very few accommodations offer free private parking (e.g. The Claremont Hotel and The Crumplehorn Inn & Mill).

Budget | The House on the Props is a welcoming guesthouse situated directly at Polperro Harbour in an unbeatable location. Breakfast is included. Rooms are cozy, clean, and comfortable.

Midrange | The Crumplehorn Inn & Mill is a charming and welcoming guest house in Polperro, walking distance to the harbor (10 minutes). Guests love the historic pub, superb breakfast, and free on-site parking.

Midrange | The Claremont Hotel is an adults-only accommodation in Polperro featuring tastefully decorated and beautifully furnished rooms. Bonus: free private parking.

Look for accommodation in Polperro.



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Cornwall Road Trip Itinerary, England

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Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails,

Sabrina & Kati

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