Woods are great multi-weather spaces: shady on hot days and providing some shelter on wet ones. Explore Steeple Woods Nature Reserve outside St Ives, or paddle in the streams in Trevaylor Woods near Penzance. A few miles up the A30, Tehidy Woods has a free car park. There are lakeside walks, a bike trail, and some very bold squirrels and ducks. Get some pencils and paper and get the kids to draw the wildlife that they saw on the walk when you get home.
Of course, Cornwall’s main attraction is free (bar the parking and obligatory purchase of buckets). The children will be entertained for hours on St Ives’ beaches, whether they’re splashing in the sea, peering in rockpools, or simply digging in the sand. For our best beach guide, click here
While you’re on the beach, search for gleaming pieces of seaglass or tiny shells. If you’re in gardens or woodland, collect fallen petals, sticks and leaves. The Range in Penzance has a large, inexpensive craft section where you can pick up glue and papier mache boxes to create the perfect St Ives souvenir. A wonderful rainy-day activity.
If it rains, do what the locals do, and take the kids swimming. A swim at St Ives Leisure Centre costs £5.20 for adults and £4 for children (free for Better Leisure members). Further afield, Ships & Castles in Falmouth is a fun indoor water park (currently £7 for adults, £5.50 for children and discounts for Better members). If you’re feeling brave then why not head over to Penzance and try the Jubilee Pool. It’s an Art Deco Lido with a great cafe. It’s not indoors – but if you’re going to get wet anyway… (a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children is £15).
Trevaskis Farm near Hayle is a great afternoon out for younger kids. There’s a walk around the farm and orchards, taking in chickens, pigs, ponies and other farmyard favourites. Parking is free; however, you’re unlikely to escape with a full wallet as the farm shop and café are oh-so-tempting, and kids love the pick-your-own fruit.
The famous South West Coast path runs from Minehead to Poole. Cornwall’s coast takes up almost 300 miles of the 630-mile total. SWCP’s website suggests walks based on certain criteria, so you can search for family-friendly strolls. Reasonably easy walks around here include the paths around Carbis Bay and Land’s End. Also from Perranuthnoe to Praa Sands. Look on the map for the green, family-friendly routes.
Instead of setting out on foot, take the bikes up to the Camel Trail. There you can enjoy some of the most scenic and family-friendly cycling around. The 18-mile stretch follows the flat path of an old railway line and runs from Padstow to Wenford Bridge. If you don’t have a bike, West Cornwall Bike Hire will hire you one from £15 per day, child seats are available too.
Heartlands is a free visitor attraction in Pool, 15 miles from St Ives. On the site of a former tin mine, there’s an exhibition, gardens to explore, and the best adventure playground in the area (designed for a range of ages). The café, housed in the old carpenters’ workshop, provides very reasonably priced meals and snacks.
Iconic Tate St Ives sits in a stunning position above Porthmeor Beach. Children under 18 are free (adults will need to pay around £10 for their admission) and look out for the regular children’s workshops. Further east, Falmouth Art Gallery offers free admission and tells the story of art in Cornwall. It also runs family activities.
Now this ticks a lot of boxes… Healey’s Cider Farm is a family-run farm outside Newquay. Kids can meet the farm animals and explore the site for free, while mum and dad try a sample of Healey’s famous cider. It’s worth paying the extra for a tour (and a bottle or two to take home, of course).
Well, that’s ten days of the holidays taken care of… With brilliant beaches, beautiful countryside, and all sorts of places to explore, St Ives is an ideal base for an inexpensive family summer.
Pictures: Dave Cullen, Nik Read, Trevaskis Farm, Heartlands,