Whether you’re taking a holiday in Cornwall with the kids this half term, or you’re stuck at home wondering what to do with them today, we’ve got your back.
The team at Cornish Traditional Cottages has crowdsourced its favourite free activities in Cornwall. In other words, we did a quick survey around the office and this is the list we came up with.
14 cheap days out with the kids in Cornwall
Bude Canal was built to carry lime-rich sand from the coast out to inland farms for fertiliser. Nowadays, the canal is ‘in water’ from its fully functioning sea lock to the bottom of the first inclined plane. So you can’t navigate the whole original stretch of calm on the Devon-Cornwall border, but many of the bridges and wharf buildings remain for you to see. If the kids are studying the industrial revolution or the foundation of the inlands waterways, there’s plenty of takeaways here. History aside, there are beautiful towpaths to walk or ride your bikes along, in sound enough condition for the buggy too. You can hire bikes as well as canoes, kayaks and pedaloes to fill more than a day or water-based fun with the family. What a beautiful spot to have a go at coarse fishing too.
Where to stay near Bude: The Old Dairy in Marhamchurch
Mevagissey Harbour Aquarium is, perhaps most interestingly, housed in the old RNLI lifeboat house. Home to the aquarium since the 1950s, you can't miss this pale blue building perched on the harbour wall. It'll delight your ankle biters for long enough to shelter from a storm or appease the demands for more ice cream. They'll see a veritable mix of native, local sealife. There's also a 10 minute film dedicated to the pilchard fishining industry that's so valuable to the local community.
Where to stay near Mevagissey: Giddy Up in Pentewan
Siblyback Lake in Liskeard brings a whole new perspective on Cornwall holidays. Ditch images of sandcastles and ice cream. Pack your lycra, trainers and a waterproof. Be prepared to get active. Hire bikes (or segways for a more sedate, if wobbley, wander). Have a go at wakeboarding. This is a fun way for the family to see a more rural and active side to the county.
Where to stay nearby: Slades Cottage in St Neots
Cardinham Woods are protected and maintained by the Forestry Commission. That means, there are well maintained trails for cycling, running and horseriding. There are seasonal activities like the autumn activity trail to engage the whole family with their surroundings. And the perfect reward after a wander along their waymarked routes is the Wood Cafe with its neighbouring play area!
Where to stay near Bodmin: Polventon Barn in Warleggan
Kernow Chocolate Visitor Centre won't be tricky to persuade even the most objectionable of toddlers to explore. You might struggle to stop them licking the viewing window though if you refrain from the cafe for too long. Watch and learn how the expert chocolatiers produce this sought after Cornish produce. Then sample some in the cafe before buying some to take home (or eat in the car on the way back to your Wadebridge cottage).
Where to stay: Atlantic View in Mawgan Porth
Gwennap Pit is known as the natural amphitheatre. A hollow in the landscape thought to have been created by mining activities, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a moment of genius when he saw it. Appreciative of its amazing natural acoustics he preached there time and again in the late 1700s. Nowadays, this sunken stage is used for a wonderful mix of weddings, theatrical events and retains its relationship with the Methodist Church. It's just one of many Mining World Heritage Sites across Cornwall, but it is a particular spectacle
Where to stay near Redruth: Louie in Herniss
Carn Euny Ancient Village packs in history of an archealogical nature. This English Heritage site is free of charge to visit, any time during daylight hours (how's that for flexible!). Just bring your wellies - you have to climb stiles and walk across farmland to reach it. Let your imaginations flow as you discover the foundations of houses dating from between 2AD and 4AD. Make your way through the Iron Age walled underground passage known as a fogou and wonder about its purpose and why only Cornish archealogical digs have revealed these...
Where to stay near Penzance: Poldhu Cottage near Sennen
Heartlands near Redruth is one of those family day trip gems. 19 acres of exhibitions, activities, adventure and play, easily accessible and an entirely free visitor attraction. The kids are allowed to climb on the sculptures. You'll either have to drag them away from the enormous play area or have another coffee while they exhaust themselves. Even the indoor activities are all-consuming, so come rain or shine, you're day is sorted. The cafe's pretty good too.
Where to stay near Redruth: Cowslip in Gwithian
Healys Cider Farm isn't all about alcohol. It all starts with apples, doesn't it. And it's on a farm, so there are animals too. But if it's a tough day with the kids you can reward your efforts with a sip of cider in the tea room (they sell tea too). Or buy a bottle or for your evening in front of the log burner. The appropriately named Rattler cider should sort you out after a day out with the kids.
Where to stay near Callestick: Pine Croft in Perranporth
Roskillys Ice Cream provides free fun for the whole family. Ok, the ice cream will require your wallet but cow spotting and farmyard walking are as budget as they come. Come and say hi to the Roskilly cows and meet some of the other animals around the farm trail. For the culturally keen, dip in to the Bullpen Gallery for a flavour of some of Cornwall's finest artists and the perfect gift or two.
Where to stay near St Keverne: The Beach House, Porthallow
Royal Cornwall Museum is where kids go free. And during October half term catch the last week of the official bloodhound supersonic car exhibition. That might just keep them quite long enough for you to sit down... That aside, this is Cornwall's largest museum and home to an abundance of the county's history, dig finds, imagery and art and sculpture.
Where to stay near Truro: Kernewek near Feock
The Camel Trail in Cornwall is much like the Tarka Trail in Devon. Another trail perfect for walking, cycling and even horse riding that is made up mostly of a disused railyway line. The Camel Trail's mostly traffic free 18 mile stretch extends between Wenfordbridge and Padstow via Bodmin and Wadebridge. Hire bikes at any of those four points with a minimum 5.5 miles (Padstow to Wadebridge) and maximum 6.25 miles (Bodmin to Wenfordbridge) between points.
Where to stay in Wadebridge: Daffy-Down-Dilly
St Catherine's Castle is not one for babies and toddlers, but it'll certainly tire out the older children and show them a bit of Tudor history that is rarely recalled. The walk up to this artillery fort from Ready Money Beach is a challenge in itself, although you'll appreciate it once you're up there and on the descent. Built originally by Henry VIII to defend Fowey it was deemed of strategic importance again in both the Crimean War and World War Two. Let's not forget the stunning views you'll enjoy after the climb. If you think Fowey is all seaside shops and boutiques, think again!
Where to stay near Fowey: Cormorants in Polruan
Perranporth sundial is a fun, free and outdoors activity. Whether your kids can tell the time or not, teach them about how time was told in days gone by. With access to and from Perranporth beach, it makes for a fun detour from the sandy and a fabulous spot for views of the north Cornwall coast.
Where to stay near Perranporth: Croft Cottage in Goonhaven