Cornish attractions close to Polmanter
15th March 2023
One of the many wonderful things about West Cornwall is the amount of quality attractions packed into a small area. When we started to gather suggestions for this guide, we found it really tricky to pin it down to a few places!
However, we don’t want to swamp you with our enthusiasm for West Cornwall; so here are just a few of our favourite places to visit. We’ve chosen ones which you can comfortably drive to within an hour of Polmanter (we look at attractions further afield in another blog).
If you have any other recommendations, please let us know!
Art in St Ives
The unique clear light of St Ives has attracted artists for generations, as well as visitors wanting to discover and admire Cornwall’s art heritage.
Tate St Ives, the iconic gallery overlooking Porthmeor Beach, is on most people’s Must Visit list. It has a permanent exhibition about St Ives and a programme of temporary displays (and the café is a must).
The Tate’s sister gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is a hidden wonder in the middle of town. The renowned sculptor moved to St Ives with her family when World War II broke out, and she transformed the gardens around Trewyn Studios into this beautiful backdrop for her sculptures. The museum advises you to buy pre-booked tickets online.
If you’d like a painting or a print as a memento of your holiday, St Ives’ winding streets have a plethora of small private galleries covering all styles and media.
Gorgeous Gardens in West Cornwall
There are so many lovely gardens in Cornwall to choose from. The Gulf Stream is kind to us, giving us a generally warm climate all year; and we’re able to grow all sorts of exciting sub-tropical plants. St Ives itself has a lot of lovely little hidden gardens scattered around: enjoy a quiet pasty or ten minutes with a book in Trewyn Gardens.
Penzance is just a short drive from Polmanter, and it’s home to two of West Cornwall’s best gardens. Head for Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, just east of Penzance. The 22-acre gardens are in a sheltered valley which creates an ideal environment for spectacular sub-tropical planting. The dramatic flora forms a stunning backdrop for contemporary art installations. It’s a great place to explore with kids and dogs, with the added bonus of an excellent café, as well as a nursery shop selling plants by Surreal Succulents. Please check Tremenheere’s website for the latest opening details.
National Trust-managed Trengwainton Garden is on the other side on Penzance. Follow the winding paths, scamper in the orchards or on the large grassed area (but beware of the ha-ha…), admire the incredible views across Mounts Bay, or wander around the immaculate walled kitchen gardens.
Way out west in Porthcurno, the gardens of the famous Minack Theatre are open for visitors this summer. The legendary open-air theatre is worth the drive from St Ives, for its remarkable architecture, sub-tropical planting and breath-taking views out across the sea. If you want to see a show there, you’ll need to book in advance.
On the Tin Trail in West Cornwall
Cornwall was once the world centre for tin and copper. Centuries of mining have transformed our landscape, and West Cornwall is dotted with lone chimney stacks and ruined engine houses. The recent BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s Cornish Poldark novels has raised a lot of interest in mining (and scything), and there are several great mining centres near Polmanter.
The excellent Geevor Tin Mine is in Pendeen, a few miles west down the pretty coast road. The largest preserved mine in Britain, this large and absorbing centre takes you from an 18th century mine (where you can go underground) right up to modern mining (Geevor closed only a few years ago in 1990). There’s a lot to see and do, and it’s very good at interpreting mining for younger visitors.
For the real Poldark windswept clifftop experience, visit the National Trust-managed Botallack, where scenes from the series were filmed. The National Trust Levant Mine is nearby, with its old mine buildings perching dramatically above the ocean, and you can see a working beam engine there.
Don’t put your National Trust card away yet, as East Pool Mine is just up the A30. Pool, Camborne and Redruth is another mining area worth exploring. It’s also always worth visiting Heartlands while you’re in Pool, as there’s a free mining exhibition and a large adventure playground. Call into the Red River Café, housed in a former workshop, where the tables are fitted around the old carpenters’ machinery!
You’ll get a real feel for the Wild West if you walk the South West Coast Path from St Ives to Zennor, stopping in Zennor for a Moomaid ice cream or a pub lunch before heading back to St Ives across the fields. This rugged landscape is dotted with the scars of Cornwall’s mining past, and is absolutely beautiful.
St Michael’s Mount: West Cornwall’s Most Iconic Site
St Michael’s Mount gets a category to itself: there’s no way to neatly box this beautiful tidal island! Its steep slopes are crowned by a medieval castle and clothed in lush, near-vertical sub-tropical gardens, tended by abseiling gardeners. The island is home to a small community made up of families who work for the estate.
It’s a short drive to Marazion, which has a few car parks. During the main season, the castle is open Sunday-Friday every week, and check the website for off-season island opening times. You’ll need to book in advance for the castle and gardens, even if you’re a National Trust member. Tickets are available to purchase online 8 weeks in advance.
Walk to the island at low tide, or catch one of the passenger ferry boats when the causeway’s covered. Ideally, time it so you walk one way and boat the other. It’s possible to explore the island’s shops and cafes without making the climb to the top and the castle; however if you can, it’s definitely worth it (reward yourself with a cool drink or hearty meal at The Godolphin Arms, back on the mainland).
There are so many gorgeous places to visit near Polmanter, and these are simply a few of the highlights. If you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line at Polmanter.