Cornwall, England’s most southerly county, is considered one of the prettiest parts of the UK. Its jagged coastline sprawls out to Land’s End at the tip, with golden sandy beaches at every turn. As a result, it’s also one of the most popular holiday destinations. Cornwall welcomes millions of day trippers and holidaymakers each year, who pass through to enjoy the mild climate and the seaside vibe. Caravan and campsites are everywhere, making campervan hire in Cornwall an affordable way to stay in the country. The county is a narrow one, so even parking up inland means you will not be very far from the beach.
Cornwall comes complete with well-maintained major roads. There’s fun to be had driving your campervan along narrow, winding lanes with passing places too. Be sure you and your passengers wear a seatbelt at all times.
You do not have to own a campervan to enjoy the benefits of a touring holiday in Cornwall. There are lots of companies providing campervan hire and motorhome rentals in Cornwall. The vehicles will range in size and quality of fittings, so the prices will vary accordingly. Of course, the cost will also depend on how long you want to hire the vehicle for, plus the insurance package.
If you have never driven this type of van before, it’s best to go on a practice run after picking up your campervan hire. Do this before setting off on any lengthy adventures. Stick to quieter roads at first. Cornwall is full of A roads, so the driving is not too challenging. Mostly, you need to watch out for other drivers who probably don’t know the roads either. Rural hazards like slow-moving tractors are common too.
Whether you hire an iconic Volkswagen campervan or a larger RV American-style motorhome, campsites have excellent facilities in Cornwall. At some you will find swimming pools and kids’ clubs. Others boast bars and even takeaways serving up fast food. Top reasons to consider travelling in this way include:
- Planning your own itinerary. You can go where you want, at your own pace.
- Covering multiple destinations in one holiday.
- Enjoying accommodation and transport in one. Just think – no more packing and unpacking in multiple hotels or B&Bs.
- It’s a very economical way to get around on a road trip.
- Self-catering is always cheaper than eating out every night. Most campervans come with cooking equipment, so you can make a full family meal.
Cornwall has many attractions, but its real pull lies in its seaside position. Beaches range from spectacularly rugged coves, like Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula, to great swathes of golden sands like those at Perranporth and Praa Sands. There are world-renowned surfing beaches including Newquay and Bude. Family days out where toddlers can paddle and dig, while their parents soak in the rays, can be found at Gyllyngvase at Falmouth and Gwithian near Hayle. Beachcombers are not left out either. Try Talland Bay in Looe or the rockpool-festooned Towan Beach close to Portscatho. As of 2018, there are eight Blue Flag beaches in Cornwall including Polzeath, Widemouth Bay and Porthmeor in St. Ives.
But, Cornwall isn’t just about the beaches. It’s a rural county with few large towns and only one city. Explore the countryside on foot, taking in wild open spaces like Bodmin Moor. Loads of coastal paths and trails traverse the land here too, including the whole Cornish stretch of the South West Coast Path. It runs for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset.
If you prefer driving in your campervan to walking, there are lots of coastal routes where you can admire the views. One of the most beautiful is the trip from St. Ives to Land’s End – the most westerly point on England’s mainland. The countryside has also become the setting for tourist attractions that offer zip-lining and adrenaline-inducing activities. Of course, one of the biggest features in Cornwall is the Eden Project, home to the world’s largest indoor rain-forest.
Cornwall is also a storied county and particularly associated with the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Anyone interested in this very English history must visit Tintagel with its mysterious, ruined castle. This site is said to be the spot where King Arthur was born. Next, take a trip to another fascinating castle, St. Michael’s Mount, where the king is thought to have battled a giant on the water’s edge.
Maritime history lovers will surely feel drawn to Falmouth, with its huge Pendennis Castle and lovely harbour. The Royal Regatta on the River Fowey is another highlight for anyone touring the county during August.
The list of things to see and do really goes on and on. Here are a few more ideas:
- Experience local festivals (such as ‘Obby ‘Oss in Padstow)
- Visit the Poldark Mine
- See a play at the Minack Theatre (built in the cliffs next to the sea)
- Go mackerel fishing
- Sail to the Isles of Scilly (but by ferry and not in the campervan)
- Eat freshly-caught fish with chips in Mevagissey or a traditional pasty in St. Mawes.
The towns and villages of Cornwall have their own appeal. Little places like Polperro – with its stunning harbour – and Port Isaac (where TV’s Doc Martin is filmed) are a delight to explore. St. Ives, Mousehole and Newlyn shouldn’t be missed thanks to their connection with painting, pottery and art in general. And let’s not forget Padstow, which has put Cornwall firmly on the foodie map. It boasts Michelin-star restaurants by celebrity chefs like Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth.
Exploring Cornwall In A Campervan
So much can be crammed into a week or two-week campervan tour of Cornwall. You have the option to choose between staying in one place for the duration of your trip, or selecting a few different campsites. Cornwall’s bigger towns are spread around the county, so you can easily base yourself near convenient facilities. Close to the surfing town of Newquay in the north, for example, you will find Treloy Touring Park, Hendra Holiday Park and the tranquil Riverside Holiday Park. Both of the former are great for kids, since they have outdoor heated pools in the summer months.
You might choose a central location like Truro, so you can simply head in whichever compass direction takes your fancy. Truro Caravan and Camping Park is popular.
St. Austell is another well-known town that tourists use as a base in Cornwall. From St. Austell, the Cornish coastline is on your doorstep. Campsites include the award-winning Little Winnick Touring Park and Pentewan Sands Holiday Park, which has its own private beach.
Heading further south into Cornwall leads you to Penzance. This is the ideal spot for taking in the most rugged part of the coastline, especially if you want to explore the wild beauty of the Lizard Peninsula. Consider Bone Valley Holiday Park for a smaller, quieter place to sleep. Penzance promenade is lovely for strolling in the evenings. To the north of Cornwall, the wildest and most rustic areas for nature lovers include Wadebridge or Camelford.
Another note worth pondering is whether you want to see something of Devon while you’re in the West Country. Newquay to Barnstaple is a scenic two-hour drive along the A39. Stop off at Constantine Bay. Alternatively, consider staying in Liskeard to access Dartmoor National Park, a Devonshire paradise.
Let’s turn our attention back to Cornwall’s major towns, to cover off what you can expect.
Over the past couple of decades, Newquay has developed into Cornwall’s premier resort. Having been blessed with more than 10 beaches, it’s not difficult to see why. It’s earned a reputation as the UK’s favourite surfing destination, with Fistral Beach among the busiest. Surfers have always loved campervans, so there are plenty of good campsites around too.
In recent years, Newquay has also become a popular destination for nightlife. There’s a laid-back beach scene by day and a lively pub and entertainment scene by night. It remains, however, a very family-friendly resort suitable for all age groups.
This town sits about a mile from the coast on St. Austell Bay, which is a real treat for water sports lovers. St. Austell is a market town that dates back centuries. The historic centre is a fascinating place to stroll around, also offering some good opportunities for window and souvenir shopping. Its proximity to nearby attractions makes parking up close by St. Austell an inviting option. With a campervan, you can hit the road to visit the Eden Project (just a few miles away) or learn about the local china and clay industry at Wheal Martyn Museum and Country Park. Charlestown Shipwreck Centre, Pinetum Park, Kidzworld and Cornish Market World are all a stone’s throw away too.
Truro is the only city in Cornwall. It is often referred to as a capital or a county town. The city grew as a river port and this prosperous history is evident today in its lovely townhouse-lined streets. Park up your campervan and take the guided walking tour to view the sights and learn stories of the city. As the capital, it is also the treasure house of Cornish history and culture, with the impressive Gothic cathedral taking centre stage alongside the Royal Cornwall Museum. As an urban hub Truro has all the amenities you would expect. Find a campsite just outside the city to enjoy the sights, shopping and entertainment.