Top 20 Tourist Attractions in Cornwall by Visitor Numbers
Long known as a one of the UK's tourism hotspots, it is not surprising that Cornwall has a multitude of things to see and do. Based on recent* visitor numbers we have created a list of the most popular attractions in Cornwall.
Whilst there are no surprises at the top of the list it does get more interesting further down, where there may be a few less well known attractions to visit. So, if you are looking to fill up your bucket list with some tried and tested ideas, look no further.
It is worth noting that the list is based on admission numbers for paying attractions: many of Cornwall's best features are natural and free. Check out our Must See Places in Cornwall for the ultimate itinerary.
*Figures are for 2018 visitor numbers
Eden Project - 1,006,928 visitors
The multi-award-winning Eden Project is a botanical garden like no other. It is made up of a series of biome greenhouses that bubble up out of former industrial landscapes outside of St Austell. Boasting the world's largest man made rainforest, containing one thousand species and its own waterfalls, the Eden Project also brings Mediterranean and desert habitats to British shores.
Lost Gardens of Heligan - 354,969
Restored in the 1990s after nearly 70 years in the literal wilderness, the Lost Gardens of Heligan span some 200 acres. The largest garden of its kind in Europe, Heligan can be subdivided into several distinct areas. So, whether it's a picnic in the pleasure grounds or the adventure of crossing one of the UK's longest rope bridges among a jungle of ferns, you're sure to delight in their epic recovery.
St Michael's Mount - 347,773
Possibly Cornwall's most impressive family home, the castle and chapel at the summit of the conical form of St Michael's Mount has been enchanting visitors for centuries. Cut off from the mainland for at least half the day by the tides of Mount's Bay, this tiny isle has an almost otherworldly feel, and a history ripe for exploration.
Tate St Ives - 302,864
Tate St Ives exhibits work by modern British artists with links to the region from its Porthmeor Beach location. Its permanent collection includes works by the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Alfred Wallis, while exhibitions regularly bring in pieces by Picasso and other world-famous names.
Minack Theatre - 280,467
Tumbling down the cliffs, the Minack Theatre's open-air amphitheatre-style auditorium uses the seascape of Porthcurno Bay as its backdrop. Famed for its performances of Shakespeare's works, the theatre schedule includes around 20 plays each summer season, while visitors are welcome to head behind the scenes all the year round.
Lanhydrock - 261,837
The current house at Lanhydrock was designed by George Gilbert Scott, who was also responsible for London's Albert Memorial and Midland Grand Hotel. Grade I listed, the house offers insight into life above and below stairs during the late Victorian period. The surrounding gardens offer everything from off-road cycle trails to magnolia beds.
Tintagel Castle - 230,584
Clinging to the rocks of the Tintagel peninsula, the now-ruined castle was constructed by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in the thirteenth century. Stand in the remains of the Great Hall to the roar of the nearby waves and you'll soon be overtaken by the heady mix of natural beauty, history, and whispers of the once and future king… Arthur.
Trelissick - 216,642
Overlooking King Harry Ferry, Trelissick Gardens have stunning views across the Fal River estuary, in addition to no end of footpaths. They lead between coastal woodland and borders alive with colour to summer houses perfectly-positioned to make the most of the gardens' natural situation.
Cotehele - 170,576
Founded around the year 1300, Cotehele is an excellent example of a Tudor manor house, with interiors to match. Filled with furniture and historic tapestries, the house is also known for the exquisitely-carved Cotehele cupboard and the Cotehele clock, which dates back to 1493.
National Maritime Museum - 121,592
Detailing the coastal history of Cornwall, Falmouth's offshoot of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is also responsible for housing the UK's official Small Boat Collection, whose craft range from Thames steam boats to open craft that have made it to the Antarctic and back.
Trebah - 117,840
Laid out by a Quaker by the name of Charles Fox in the early nineteenth century, Trebah Gardens is a 26-acre green space with a subtropical planting theme. A fascinating place in which to enjoy Cornwall's landscapes whatever the time of year, the gardens were also the departure point for the US 29th Infantry Division D-Day landing on Omaha Beach, as a simple memorial stone details.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary - 116,053
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is the permanent home of several grey seals that would otherwise not survive. However, its main aim is to rescue and rehabilitate the 70 pups that are found to need their help each year. By visiting, you'll not only support the work of this important charity, but also discover the habits of these wide-eyed sea mammals.
Glendurgan - 84,977
Taking full advantage of Cornwall's temperate climate, Glendurgan Gardens roam across three valleys. Among them you'll find a whole host of native and exotic plants, from British wildflowers to fleshy-leaved agaves. But above all, don't miss the cherry laurel maze, which is closing in on the 200th anniversary of its creation in 1833.
Pendennis Castle - 80,958
Constructed by Henry VIII to defend the Carrick Roads waterway of the River Fal estuary, Pendennis Castle is considered one of the best-preserved coastal defences in the country. The bastions and circular keep of the original Device Fort from the 1500s is today joined by guns used in the defence of the realm during the Second World War, together spanning 500 years of British history.
Bodmin and Wenford Railway - 65,743
Operating on the standard gauge of 4 foot 8.5 inches, this line was originally constructed by the Great Western Railway, although it now only survives thanks to the hard work of a team of volunteers that run it as a heritage line. Steam trains run up and down its 6.5 miles of track from Bodmin Parkway to Boscarne Junction several times per week.
Trengwainton - 64,814
With views of both Mount's Bay and The Lizard Peninsula, the garden at Trengwainton is near to overflowing with plants brought back to Cornish shores by the empire builders of the early 1900s. A century on, their finds are going from strength to strength, and add to the intrigue of a kitchen garden said to have been created with the same dimensions as Noah's Ark.
Bodmin Jail - 62,500
Edging the famous moor, Bodmin Jail served as a prison from 1779 until 1927. The site of more than 50 public hangings, today the jail has been converted into a live action adventure bringing some of the site's darkest stories to life.
Godolphin House - 51,199
The former seat of the Earls of Godolphin, this grade I listed stately home dates to Tudor times. Its formal gardens, dating to around 1500, and slightly later Elizabethan stables of 1600 remain. So do various features from the reign of the Stuart kings. When its not open to the public, it can be rented out as one of the most unusual holiday lets in Cornwall.
Tintagel Old Post Office - 48,685
Not your average post office, this structure traces its history back to medieval times. Taking the form of a traditional Cornish longhouse, visitors are able to explore life during the Victorian era thanks to the magical touch of the National Trust.
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic – 45,560
This museum contains perhaps the world's largest collection of objects linked to folk magic, paganism and freemasonry. Covering the history of what loosely falls under the term witchcraft, it also details the horrors faced by women accused of being witches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.