Best things to do in Rugged North Cornwall


Bude. Padstow. Newquay. Perranporth. Port Isaac. Tintagel. Wadebridge. Launceston. Bodmin. These towns and villages – and many more – make up Cornwall’s Rugged North. But what are the best things to do in North Cornwall, this beautifully dramatic area of the county? Well, we at Proper Cornwall consider ourselves the ‘Kings of the North’, so step right this way, ladies and gentlemen, and discover the greatest attractions (and beaches too!) in North Cornwall that we reckon you’re just going to love in 2022 and beyond…

Bodmin Jail

Type: Historic and spooky attraction
Suitable for: History and paranormal lovers
Location: Berrycoombe Road, Bodmin

The most dramatic thing to do in the Rugged North Cornwall is peer out across its craggy coastline from so many incredible vantage points. Probably the second most dramatic thing to do, though, is head to Bodmin Jail to take part in its new ‘Dark Walk’ that combines theatrical effects with moving lighting to create a spooky-yet-thrilling experience for anyone over the age of eight. This was once a working prison for Cornwall’s ruffians and it’s an exciting, interesting and haunting place to visit in Cornwall’s dramatic Rugged North.

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Carnewas at Bedruthan

Type: Coastal beauty, geology and legend attraction
Suitable for: Geology fans, walkers and those who love a great view
Location: Bedruthan, between Padstow and Newquay

Nothing says ‘Rugged North coastline’ quite like the Carnewas at Bedruthan. These enigmatic wave-swept rocky stacks across the shore at Bedruthan, near Padstow, make for an incredible sight when viewed from either high above on the clifftops or from below on the beach. In legend, they were steps used by a burly Cornish giant. They are obviously free to explore and lie next to great walks, a National Trust car-park, a shop and a café.

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Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre

Type: Aviation history attraction with a flight simulator
Suitable for: Families and aircraft enthusiasts
Location: Aerohub 2, next to RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay

One of the best ways to see Cornwall’s ‘Rugged North’ is by air. On a simulator. In one of the best aircraft museums in the land. Be a fighter pilot in a special simulator at the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre near Newquay and fly a Hawker Hunter that takes off from nearby Newquay Airport and nosedives around the stunning northern Cornish skies as you look down at the rugged landscapes far below. Once you’re done with the simulator, check out the wealth of historic jet fighters and bombers on show at the centre outside.

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Launceston Castle

Type: Historical castle
Suitable for: History buffs and those who love a great view
Location: Castle Lodge, off St Thomas Road, Launceston

Cornwall’s ‘Rugged North’ isn’t just about the coastline. It’s also about the countryside behind it, including the equally rugged Bodmin Moor. And what better vantage point to take in the moor, the surrounding lands and the ancient town of Launceston than Launceston Castle? It’s at the heart of the town and is run by English Heritage, so it can be toured from the start of April every year. There’s a fab visitor’s centre here before you visit an important Cornish relic to take in all that history and those unrivalled views.

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National Lobster Hatchery

Type: Marine animal attraction
Suitable for: All the family
LocationSouth Quay, Padstow

Swim off the shores of Cornwall’s ‘Rugged North’ coastline and search for the lobsters in the seas. Or – and we definitely recommend this instead – check out the awesome National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow. This marine conservation, research and education charity teaches visitors so much about the incredible sea creature and also gives them the chance to meet plenty of baby lobsters, as well as others that are in different stages of their life. It’s not a massive place but we firmly recommend pinching a few hours here.

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Port Isaac’s ‘Doc Martin’ filming locations

Type: A village with loads of ‘Doc Martin’ filming locations around it
Suitable for: Fans of the TV show starring Martin Clunes
Location: All around Port Isaac! Go see the filming locations

Port Isaac is worth visiting at any time of the year simply so you can wander around this idyllic village on the north coast of Cornwall. But the fact that ultra-popular TV show ‘Doc Martin’, starring Martin Clunes (above), is filmed in and around the gorgeous little place gives an extra reason to wander its cute narrow streets, especially in 2022 as new scenes are shot. There are loads of locations that have been used in the show dotted around the village and further beyond. For a full flavour, take a look here.

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St Nectan’s Glen

Type: Nature attraction
Suitable for: All the family
Location: Trethevy, Tintagel

St Nectan’s Glen, near Tintagel, is an oasis of natural beauty with an amazing 60ft waterfall at its heart that’s so far from the madding crowds you begin to forget that there are such things as towns and cities. All that ‘rugged’ associated with the nearby coast disappears here as it’s all tranquil and quiet within this ancient woodland. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rare plants around the attraction and there’s also lots of woodland art to discover like the stag above, as well as stories of fairies, spirits and pixies dancing in the glen.

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The Castle Heritage Centre

Type: Historical attraction
Suitable for: History buffs
Location: The Wharf, Bude

Bude, on Cornwall’s north coast, has all sorts going on, from its impressive beaches to its annual roster of events like the Bude Jazz Festival. We recommend, however, its Grade II listed Victorian period building that’s simply steeped in history. The Castle Heritage Centre is not really a castle, only being called thus when it was built in 1830, but it is a heritage centre that is divided into themed zones that cover local history, culture and personalities. There’s also three art galleries here and a recommended café, Limelight. Well worth a visit.

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Tintagel Castle

Type: Historical and legendary attraction
Suitable for: All the family
Location: Castle Road, Tintagel

We don’t really need to introduce Tintagel Castle in Tintagel on the northern coast of Cornwall because it’s so famous. So we will just throw words at you instead that are all associated with this legendary place. Here goes: King Arthur, Excalibur, legend, castle, ruins, a spectacular new bridge, bronze statues, beach walks, a King Arthur exhibition, Guinevere, Merlin’s Cave, Sir Lancelot, breathtaking vistas of the rugged northern coastline, the nearby Great Halls, magical, mythical, mesmerising. Ah, for something more useful, read here.

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Wheal Coates

Type: Historical mining site
Suitable for: Walkers and history buffs
Location: Beacon Drive, St Agnes, near Perranporth and Portreath

The tin mine at Wheal Coates opened in 1802. It worked until 1889 and has been an iconic Cornish sight ever since, with its Grade II listed remains strewn across the clifftops still today. People come from far and wide to this stunning area near Perranporth that just personifies the ‘rugged’ in Cornwall’s ‘rugged north’ coastline. Imagine what it was like to be a miner here when you peer into a shaft that stretches down to the water far below. Enjoy stunning sunset vistas and incredible stargazing too once the day is over. Wheal Coates is simply magical.

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And here are four ‘Rugged North Cornwall’ beaches you just have to experience…

Chapel Porth Beach

Suitable for: Families, sunbathers and walkers
Location: End of Goonvrea Road, St Agnes, near Portreath and Perranporth
Parking: Decent car park with an £8 charge for staying all day
Dog friendly?: Yes, apart from between 1 July and 31 August

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Fistral Beach

Suitable for: Surfers, from beginner to pro
Location: Newquay, five-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the town centre
Price: Space for 200 cars, with a fee
Dog friendly?: Yes

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Polzeath Beach

Suitable for: Kids who love building sandcastles and lovers of the surf
Location: Polzeath, near Wadebridge and Padstow
Parking: Plenty of parking but arrive early for the best spot
Dog friendly?: Yes, apart from between 15 May and 30 September

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Summerleaze Beach

Suitable for: Families and watersports enthusiasts
Location: Bude seafront
Parking: A large pay-and-display car park is next to the beach
Dog friendly?: Yes but keep them on a lead in the summer

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