Cornwall has some seriously picturesque villages and towns up its sleeve. The UK region is a place where dramatic walkways weave past cliffs and ancient castles set in stone, all backed by inland hills filled with old quarries and rustic farmland.

    Pristine beaches paired with a balmy microclimate in Cornwall create a haven for those who love the coast. From the labyrinth of little streets in the appropriately named Mousehole to the happening harbourside of Padstow and beyond, plan a road trip through Cornwall with our extensive list of idyllic towns and villages.



    Taste seafood in a classic Cornish harbour town

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    Padstow was as an important fishing and trading post with links to both Ireland and Brittany. These days, the town has become synonymous with Cornwall's modern holiday boom. You'll find it tucked into the mouth of the River Camel, fringed by pretty beaches and rocky headlands.

    The old harbour is where all the action happens. It's a gastronomic hotspot, known for its TV-chef kitchens and chic seafood joints. Around that span little lanes and market squares where pasty shops and fishmongers and chippies dot the corners. Close by, the SW Coast Path heads to the heritage coast, which is a ticket to some seriously gorgeous coves.



    A sleepy village crowned by a legendary castle

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    Tintagel is famed all over the UK for its ancient castle. You can find it clinging like a limpet to a series of salt-splashed bluffs on the Cornish Atlantic, about a 15-minute drive off the A39. Many often come just to see the fortification, a site wrapped up with mystical Arthurian legends and tales of the wizard Merlin.

    However, the adjoining town of Tintagel is also a looker. It's laced with quaint whitewashed cottages and hearty pubs where the beer gardens are scented with real ale and freshly caught fish. Between those come sights like the Old Post Office, which is walled in regional Cornish stone and dates back to the 14th century.


    Sennen Cove

    Venture to the far western edge of England

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    Plot a course to the far southwestern tip of Cornwall to find cute Sennen Cove huddled beneath hills of wildflower and rock. Situated at the terminus of the A30, it's right on the doorstep of Land's End – the most westerly point in England.

    This deep into the county, the villages are smaller, and the climate has a subtropical air to it. Don't be surprised to see clusters of cabbage palms leaning over the roadsides as you zigzag down to the wide bay where Sennen Cove makes its home. A few ocean-view taverns lean over the water there, but the piece de resistance is the beach. It's a surf mecca and has Caribbean-like sand with turquoise water.


    St Ives

    Galleries and gorgeous landscapes

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    The painted cottages of pretty St Ives are wedged between a mussel-speckled harbour wall and a forested headland across from award-winning Carbis Bay. It's a bustling little port town that's garnered a reputation for being Cornwall's artsy hub – there's even an outlet of the prestigious Tate here.

    You also get that hit of winding, wiggling lanes and postcard-worthy seaside architecture, all spanning out from what many consider to be the very best beach in the county. Up above is the so-called Island, where you can go to spot shearwaters and terns by the side of a haunting seafarer's chapel.



    Shiver your timbers in this swashbuckling south coast port

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    You'll hear the creek of the rigging and the splash of the sea in Charlestown. Straddling a small harbour on the south coast of Cornwall, this one might just be the closest you get to a bona fide pirate hideaway in the modern UK.

    It's a place where pint-sized taverns line the main walkways along the marina and Georgian mansions loom overhead, all with paint-peeling fishing skiffs and stooping boltholes for good measure. It's hardly a wonder this small town has been a Hollywood regular for years, starring in hits like Hornblower and Poldark. If you want to see more sights, St Austell is a little under 2 miles from Charlestown.



    Family outings to the beaches and the coast path

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    The roofs cascade down both sides of the East Looe River to meet at a buzzing port and beach town in Looe itself. One of the most popular summer getaway spots on the south coast of Cornwall, this pretty conglomeration of ice-cream parlours and pubs is sat at the far eastern end of the gorgeous Polperro Heritage Coastline.

    There's walking galore in the surrounding area. Coves like Talland Bay and tropical-looking Lantivet are both within reach, connected by car and the iconic SW Coast Path. However, you could just kick back in the heart of Looe. There's a family-friendly beachfront that's sheltered by a breakwater, not to mention plenty of wonderful spots to eat.


    St Mawes

    One of the jewels of the Roseland

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    St Mawes clings to the edge of the area known as the Roseland. That places it opposite the harbour town of Falmouth – from where there's a regular ferry link – and within easy reach of some of the UK's most celebrated beaches, including pretty Portscatho and wide and blustery Carne. However, the sands and location are just a part of the attraction.

    St Mawes is also an award-winning seaside resort that's brimming with kitschy cob cottages and slate-roofed abodes. Its streets are a maze-like web of thatched B&Bs and cafés, which are forever watched over by the mighty St. Mawes Castle that dates to the age of Henry VIII.



    A harbour town you really shouldn't miss

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    With a name like Mousehole, you'd expect it to be a shoo-in on this list. Sure enough, this quaint favourite has long been fodder for postcards the county over. Dylan Thomas even called it "the loveliest village in England."

    Wedged between a series of low hills peppered with fig trees and cabbage palms, the village spills down to a stone-built marina. The promenades there are fringed by cottages clad in hardy Cornish rock and slate. There's a small beach on either side of the dock, along with seafood kitchens and old sailor's taverns to enjoy. Mousehole also looks gorgeous in winter, when lights are strewn around the jetties and the fishing boats.



    A stunning seaside spot with plenty of history

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    Marazion faces the beautiful Mount's Bay, a few miles past Penzance going east along the Cornish south coast. It's got pretty much all the ingredients you could want from a charming coastal town, from the grand 19th-century clifftop mansions to shimmering beaches and sky-blue seas.

    However, the main draw of Marazion is the castle-topped tidal island of St Michael's Mount. It's linked to the mainland by a granite causeway that's often completely submerged underwater. On top is a complex of castle keeps and centuries-old monastic buildings that date back to the 11th century.



    Get lost between the alleys and the quays

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    Mevagissey lies on the eastern end of the famous Roseland Heritage Coast, around 6 miles directly south of St Austell. Get ready to delve into the get-lost-in-me web of alleys, salty quaysides and hidden streets that make up the quaint village.

    Just walking around is a joy – the centre is a jumble of old homes, with stern slate roofs and walls painted in pastel colours of blue and pink and yellow. In the middle of it all is an old heart-shaped harbour that hosts a traditional Cornish fish market, a few squat taverns and some boat charter outfitters – a great option for exploring the surrounding shoreline, perhaps?

    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

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