Colourful flowers on a Cornwall cliff top overlooking the sea and ruins of a historic mine

Recommendations in Cornwall for history lovers

Cornwall is as rich in history as it is delicious pasties. Any history buff visiting the South West will have a long list of places and landmarks to visit, but which ones are a must? We’ve spoken to Malcolm Bell, Chair of Visit Cornwall for an insight into Cornwall’s heritage and the places you must go to learn all about it.

A glimpse inside Cornwall’s rich history

Cornwall’s history spans thousands of years and for those with an interest in heritage, ancient monuments or historic buildings there’s plenty to explore. Going way back to the Stone Age, Cornwall has evidence of human life as far as Neolithic times, as well as Roman, Medieval and Norman.

The ruins of a historic tin mine in Cornwall overlooking the sea

Cornwall is also recognised as one of the Celtic nations, Malcolm, explains, “It is one of the smaller less known Celtic areas, so people are used to Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, well Cornwall is in that same lineage of Celts.”

As a trading epicentre in the Iron and Bronze Age, Cornwall played a huge role in the production of tin and copper. Malcolm highlights the sheer volume of trade in the region during this time, “For 100 or 200 years [Cornwall] was a bigger trading port and a more important trading port than the city of London.”

So, we know that Cornwall is entrenched in an abundance of history. But, where should visitors go to see these archaeological sites for themselves?

Must-visit monuments and heritage sites in Cornwall

Tintagel Castle in North Cornwall is a medieval fortification closely associated with the legend of King Arthur. The connection is largely due to the medieval writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, who claimed that Tintagel was the place of Arthur's conception.

Cornwall is rich with Royal history and connections, Malcolm told us, “There was Richard who's one of the richest men in Europe who built King Arthur's Castle, it was built after King Arthur would have been around, but that's why the son of the King or Queen is always the Duke [or Duchess] of Cornwall.” The castle ruins are truly a sight to behold, visitors can explore the remains and rugged landscapes. You can find admission prices and opening times on the English Heritage website.

For those with King Arthur’s Castle on their Cornwall bucket list, the famous historical site is just a 30-minute drive from our St Minver Holiday Park.

Cornwall is also home to a vast number of landmarks, Malcolm told us, “People don't realise we've got about 20% of the country's ancient monuments, so it's a very ancient culture built around the prehistoric mining industry. If you go down towards the west past Penzance you got the Nine Maidens which is a stone circle.” This ancient monument is a linear arrangement of standing stones. In an open moorland, the myth is that the stones represent nine maidens who were turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday.

Nine Maidens Stone Row is also just a 15-minute drive from St Minver Holiday Park.

Illustrations of an ancient settlement in Cornwall

Malcolm recommends other must-visit monuments in Cornwall like Chysauster Ancient Village, a well-preserved Iron Age settlement. Open to the public, visitors can walk through the ancient passageways and gain a sense of what life might have been like in this period, and it’s just a 45-minute drive from Lizard Point Holiday Park.

Cornwall is also home to one of the best preserved Neolithic quoits, Malcolm adds, “You've got lots of what we call quoits which are Stone tombs where the erosion has happened so got places like Chûn Quoit in the west of the county.” This megalithic tomb is over 4,000 years old and is subsequently associated with many local legends and folklore.

“There are some very strong prehistoric monuments if you go on a drive from St Ives towards Land's End, the Hedge rows there are older than 2,000 years and the trees that grow out of those Hedges are older than the pyramids. Most people drive past and do not even realise.”

It’s clear to see that Cornwall has a wealth of historical and cultural significance. So, when holidaying in Cornwall you can have the perfect balance of relaxation and education - why not spend the day exploring Tintagel Castle and the night relaxing in one of our luxury lodges?

Malcom Bell MBE, chair of Visit Cornwall

Local insider

Malcolm Bell MBE

Malcolm has lived in Cornwall his entire life, growing up in Truro. He has worked on the Cornish Tourist Boards for the last 25 years (14 years on VisitCornwall).

Malcolm’s main objective and role is to inspire people to come to Cornwall for the first time or keep returning. He wants to work with the industry to future-proof Cornwall for tourism and be an advocate for Cornish tourism.