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Although debatably the furthest away part of England, Cornwall is easily reached by road, rail or air.

We recommend you treat yourself to at least three days in this fascinating part of England, and if time allows, why not make it four or more.

Here are some ideas about getting around.

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Cornwall - Land of Myth and Mystery

Part 4 :  Touring To and Around Cornwall

Beautiful gently rolling countryside and farmland in Cornwall.


Part 4 of a 4 part series - click for
1.  An Introduction to Cornwall
2.  Where to Stay in Cornwall
3.  What to See  in Cornwall
4.  Touring To and Around Cornwall


How to Get to Cornwall

What the pilot sees - the beautiful approach into Newquay airport.

Click this image to open a larger size map showing the complete rail network in Cornwall.

Click this image to open a larger size map showing the major roads from Exeter to the end of Cornwall.

A 1955 (approx) British Railways poster extolling Penzance as a rail destination.

By Air

The major airport in Cornwall is in Newquay (NQY), which is also more or less centrally located within the Duchy.  The airport is well regarded and currently offers direct flights to 22 destinations in England, Scotland, Ireland and Europe.

As an alternative, you could consider flying to slightly larger Exeter Airport, which has service to/from more destinations, but is some distance to the west of Cornwall, in the middle of Devon, the next county 'over' from Cornwall.

By Rail

If you are already in the London area in particular, you would probably drive or take a train.  Due to the short distances involved, it really only makes sense to fly to Cornwall if you are starting your travels from further away than London.

Train service runs on a single main line from Exeter, southwest to Penzance, with branches off to the north and south.  The main operator is the Great Western Railway franchise, with service offered on the main line by CrossCountry, too.

Great Western trains leave from London's Paddington station.  South West Trains also provide service from Waterloo to Exeter where you'd then change to a CrossCountry or Great Western train for the rest of the journey.

Great Western also operate night sleeper trains, leaving Paddington shortly before midnight and arriving at Penzance just before 8am.  The train from Penzance to London leaves just before 10pm and arrives at 5.30am but you can stay on the train until 7am.

If you are traveling from destinations north of London, it is probably possible to avoid the tiresome process of traveling to London, changing train station in London, then traveling out again.  York and Birmingham are useful stations to change to CrossCountry trains.

By Road

If you are driving, you'll not have any motorways (freeways) to speed you on your journey.  The M5 ends in Exeter.  The main road from Exeter and almost all the way to Land's End is the A30, which for most of the way is a regular one lane in each direction highway, occasionally breaking into dual carriageway for short stretches.

As well as the A30 which goes more or less down the middle, there are other minor roads that are at times close to both the north and south coasts, and well worth making the extra effort to drive on.

Travel Times To/From Penzance

To give you a perspective of total travel time, here's a list of other places and the travel distance/time between there and Penzance, for driving in a car.  (Trains from London to Penzance take anywhere between 5 and 7 hours.)

This list ignores the time you spend sightseeing along the way and any extra distance caused by detouring off the direct route.

Penzance to Miles Time
Plymouth   78 1' 50"
Exeter 110 2' 05"
Bristol 190 3' 20"
Bath 190 3' 50"
Salisbury 205 3' 55"
Oxford 262 4' 35"
Heathrow 295 4' 55"
London 306 5' 30"

How Long to Stay in Cornwall

Looe in the evening twilight from the other side of the river.

Rumps Point, just south of Port Isaac, in the setting sun on a summer's eve.

Part of the evocative ruins at Tintagel Castle, rumored to be the home of the Round Table, King Arthur, and Merlin.

How high is up?  How long should you stay in Cornwall?  In both cases, the answer is 'it depends'.

If you're on your umpteenth visit to Britain, and are running out of other places to see and do, then of course, you might end up spending a week or more, enjoying a thorough and relaxing exploration of the region.

But if this is your first ever visit to Britain, and you only have a week in total, we'd actually suggest you don't go to Cornwall at all.  There are probably better ways to fill your first ever week in Britain.

For most people, though, we suggest you consider two nights and most of three days in Cornwall.  The third part of our article series gives you suggestions on what to see during your time in Cornwall.

The basic itinerary would have you driving from somewhere to Penzance or St Ives on Day 1, stopping at some places on the way.

On Day 2, you'd tour around the southwest tip of Cornwall, and spend a second night at the same place you were at the previous night.

On Day 3, you'd head on out of Cornwall again, stopping at some places on the way.

Naturally, you should do your driving to/from Penzance or St Ives in a loop - perhaps traveling down to there on the south coast, and back from there along the north coast, or vice versa, depending on where you were coming from and going to.

This three day suggestion assumes you have most of days 1 and 3 to spend in Cornwall.  If you will need to spend all of either or both those days traveling, then perhaps you should add another night in Cornwall, or break your journey to/from Cornwall and add another night somewhere between Cornwall and your previous/next destination.

Travelling Around Cornwall

Lizard Point and its lighthouse, the southern most tip of England.

Mousehole and the coastline north - another of Cornwall's gorgeously beautiful tiny villages and fishing ports.

If you look again at the rail map, above, you'll see that not many of the towns in Cornwall are connected to each other by rail.

If you wanted a quick easy overview experience of Cornwall, you could certainly travel by train to Penzance, and take the train one day over to St Ives, and take a day sightseeing coach tour out of Penzance to see some of the adjoining areas too.

But if you want to see more of the region, and more independently, you really need to have a car.

Many of the roads in Cornwall are good, but if you start exploring a bit off the main routes, you will encounter the occasional narrow and sometimes one-way road, sometimes with limited visibility and blind corners.  For example, if you choose to visit Mousehole, that will definitely have you using your driving skills more than you probably do back home.

In all seriousness, this is a good reason to rent the smallest car you are comfortable with.  You'll find it much easier in the narrow lanes when you go exploring off the major roads.  Drive cautiously and carefully, and you should be fine.


Part 4 of a 4 part series about Cornwall. - Please visit the other parts of this article series - click for
1.  An Introduction to Cornwall
2.  Where to Stay in Cornwall
3.  What to See in Cornwall
4.  Touring To and Around Cornwall

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Originally published 03 Jan 2018, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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An Introduction to Cornwall
Where to stay in Cornwall
What to see and do in Cornwall
Touring by car around the Cornwall area

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