Your Cornwall Experience

A European Experiences trip has an ideal balance of structure and flexibility, activities with the group and time on your own. Plans may be adjusted based on weather, the interests of group members, and unexpected opportunities. We’ll describe a “typical” Cornwall Experience, but every trip is somewhat unique. Your trip might be organized differently, and for various reasons, experiences may be added or not included. This sample itinerary also doesn’t include some special stops we’ll surprise you with when we’re together.

Day One

Our group will meet mid-afternoon at the train station in Penzance, the end of the train line from London. Our comfortable hotel is just a short ride by taxi, with beautiful views of Mount’s Bay.

Penzance is a busy town of 20,000+ people and the commercial center and transportation hub for Western Cornwall. This historic port town, with a terrace-lined main street, features some beautiful architecture; you can also enjoy and a variety of specialty shops and galleries, chain stores, pubs and cafes. A wide paved promenade (the Southwest Coast path) adjoins the waterfront. It’s possible to walk more than 600 miles on this national trail around the west coast of England!

You’ll have time to settle into your room and perhaps to take a peek at the town and the waterfront before we gather for welcome drinks and dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. The food in Cornwall will be one of many highlights of this trip!

Day Two

We’ll enjoy breakfast every morning in the hotel dining room, offering continental choices as well as a variety of options for a hot breakfast. You probably can’t eat the “full Cornish breakfast” (eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, broiled tomato and more) every day, but you should try it at least once!

On our first full day we’ll get to know Penzance and Mount’s Bay. In the morning we’ll explore Penzance with local guide Anna, making our way around the small streets of this historic town and learning about its fascinating history.

Next we’ll head to the hills above Penzance to visit Trewidden garden, a beautiful garden of 15 acres initially planted in the 19th century. The garden includes over 300 Magnolias and Camellias as well as champion trees, some of which are more than 100 years old. We’ll enjoy lunch at the garden’s tea room.

You can choose to explore the town of Marazion or visit the island. Depending on the tides, we’ll make our way to and from the island either on a man-made stone causeway or small boats and then climb the hill to tour the castle and chapel. The island also includes a museum, a few shops, and two cafes.

After free time in Penzance, we’ll enjoy dinner at our favorite local pub. This is probably the oldest pub in Penzance, dating back to the 16th century.

Day Three

This morning we’ll meet local archaeologist and historian Tony who will share some of his favorite places on the moors of the Penwith Peninsula. Prehistoric people lived in this area over 5000 years ago, using the plentiful stone to construct dwellings, stone circles, burial tombs, hillforts and much more… many of which are still evident today. Our morning with Tony will likely include stops at the Merry Maidens stone circle (from the late Neolithic-early Bronze Age, 2500-1500 BC) and Carn Euny, a settlement dating back over 2000 years including a “fogou” or underground passage.

For lunch we’ll share seafood platters in Newlyn, just around the bay from Penzance. Newlyn is the largest port in England, so the seafood is very local and very fresh.

Later we’ll meet up again with Anna to tour the historic village of Mousehole with its granite fishermen’s cottages and beautiful harbor.  We’ll enjoy dinner at a special restaurant in Mousehole.

Mousehole harbor - The Cornwall Experience

The harbor at Mousehole

Day Four

We’ll spend today around the town of Falmouth, located off the English Channel on the Fal River. The Falmouth harbor is the third deepest harbor in the world and the deepest in Europe. There was an American naval base here during World War II, and Falmouth was one of the training and launching places for the D-Day landings. 

In the morning we’ll take a boat trip on either the Fal River or the Helford River and Frenchman’s Creek, depending on the sea conditions. We’ll get a look at life on the river, passing by historical and natural sites. We’re sure to see some sea birds too. We’ll provide everyone with a packed lunch to eat on the boat.

Falmouth - The Cornwall Experience
Later you’ll have time on your own to explore Falmouth, one of our favorite towns in Cornwall. This could be a good day to enjoy a Cornish cream tea. You’ll enjoy browsing in the shops and admiring the architecture of this lively town. We highly recommend a visit to the excellent maritime museum, where you can learn more about the maritime history of Cornwall.  You could also take the Falmouth town shuttle around the point, stopping to visit Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII in the 1540’s.

Dinner tonight is at an excellent restaurant in Penzance, located in a former bakehouse off historic Chapel Street.

Day Five

This morning we’ll travel east for a very special day. Our first stop is the Eden Project, a vast “global garden,” including the world’s largest greenhouses. Opened in 2001, the project was developed in an abandoned industrial site used to mine clay for the china industry. Today there are two large “biomes,” which simulate natural environments, one a tropical rainforest and the other a warm temperate climate. There are also extensive outdoor gardens and unique art installations. It’s educational, inspiring, fun and totally unique!

Eden Project - The Cornwall Exxperience

We’ll provide a short orientation and then you’ll be free to discover and explore the Eden Project. Lunch is on your own in one of the biome kitchens or at the coffee shop. You’ll also want to visit their extensive shop featuring nature-inspired products.

We’ll then travel a few miles to Lanhydrock, a great country house from the late Victorian era, set in 900 acres. Fifty rooms in the house are open to the public. The self-guided tours of the house includes the “upstairs” family and entertaining areas, as well as the “downstairs” servants quarters. After visiting the house you can explore the surrounding gardens and parkland, including the adjacent 15th century church.

We’ll enjoy a casual dinner tonight at our hotel.

Day Six

We’ll spend today back on the Penwith Peninsula. After a stop at Lanyon Quoit, a unique prehistoric stone structure, we’ll travel across the moors to the Geevor Tin Mine. Tin and copper have been mined in the area since pre-Roman times and the landscape is dotted with ruined mine buildings, now included in a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many scenes from the BBC miniseries “Poldark” were filmed in this area.

The Geevor Tin Mine operated between 1911 and 1990, when it produced about 50,000 tons of black tin from 85 miles of tunnels. It is now a museum and heritage center, preserving a living history of a working tin mine. Our group will have a private tour with a former miner, learning about the mining processes and the lives of the miners. The visit will include an optional underground walk inside a section of a former mine.

Geevor Tin Mine - The Cornwall Experience

After our mine visit, we’ll gather for lunch at the tin mine’s cafe. You may want to try one of the famous Cornish pasties.

In the afternoon we’ll stop in the nearby village of Zennor (population 196), known for its unique church. Our last stop will be Cape Cornwall, an unspoiled spot on the rugged coastline where the waters of the Irish Sea and the English Channel meet.

We have a special dinner tonight back in Penzance, at an award-winning winery and orchard. After a tour and tasting of their ciders and wines, a local chef will prepare a tasting meal for us featuring local seafood. He’ll cook much of the meal on a grill in front of us, helping us learn more about the local fish and its preparation. 

Day Seven

Today we’ll visit the town of St. Ives, on the northern coast of the Penwith Peninsula, less than 30 minutes from Mousehole on the southern coast. Located on a hilly point, St. Ives has been a busy fishing town since the Middle Ages, though today it’s focused mostly on tourism and the arts.

We’ll meet up again with our friend Tony, who lives in St. Ives. He’ll lead a walking tour of St. Ives, giving us a much better appreciation of the history and culture of this special town.

St. Ives - The Cornwall Experience

Our walk with Tony ends at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Barbara Hepworth (who died in 1975) lived and worked in St. Ives for over 45 years and is considered one of the greatest British sculptors of the twentieth century. The museum is located in her former home/studio and over 30 of her sculptures in bronze, stone and wood are on display here.

Lunch today is on your own in St. Ives, where you’ll find many options. You can then wander the tiny streets, walk on one of the beaches, or visit some of the many shops and artist galleries. You may also want to visit the Tate St. Ives, a branch of the famous Tate Modern in London. The Tate St. Ives exhibits modern and contemporary work by artists with connections to the area around St. Ives.

In the evening we’ll visit the village of Paul, situated above Mousehole. After dinner at the village pub, we’ll cross the road to the historic church to attend a rehearsal of the Mousehole Male Voice Choir. This choir was formed in 1909 and includes about 80 men, from ages 20 to 90. They’ll perform a few songs just for us and then we’ll watch their weekly practice as they prepare for a series of performances and concerts throughout the year.  European Experiences is proud to be a sponsor of this very special group.

Day Eight

After an early breakfast, we’ll board the ferry for the 2-3/4 hour trip to the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles off the mainland. The ferry docks at the main island of St. Mary’s, where we’ll transfer to a much-smaller ferry for the short ride to St. Martin’s, one of five inhabited islands.

Our hotel on St. Martin’s is a beautifully-landscaped, small resort right on the water, with a white sand beach and views of neighboring islands.

We’ll be welcomed by the attentive team and enjoy a light lunch before checking into our rooms, all with sea views. Later we’ll take a leisurely, easy walk across the island on the one-lane paved road. We know you’ll be enchanted by the simplicity and beauty of St. Martin’s. On the way back to our hotel, you may want to stop at the friendly island pub, just five minutes away.

St. Martin's island - The Cornwall Experience

Drinks and dinner tonight are at our hotel. Hopefully we’ll enjoy an incredible Scilly sunset!

Day Nine

We’ll leave St. Martin’s mid-morning for a private boat trip around the islands to learn some of the history and see some of the sights. We hope to spot seals, puffins, and other sea birds. The puffins are much smaller than you might expect, so bring your binoculars!

Our boat will leave us on the island of Tresco where we’ll spend the rest of the day.      

We’ll first visit the world-famous Tresco Abbey garden, a subtropical garden developed in a barren location in the 19th century by Augustus Smith and encompassing the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey founded in the 10th century. Because of the mild winter climate in the Isles of Scilly, the long hours of summer sunshine, and the high walls and hedges around the garden that protect it from wind, the 17-acre garden is now home to thousands of exotic plants from all over the world.

Tresco Abbey Garden - The Cornwall Experience

Our group will be welcomed by the head gardener, and then you can wander on your own. You’ll also enjoy the Valhalla collection of decorative figureheads and other carvings from sailing ships shipwrecked off the islands over several hundred years.

Lunch today is on your own at the garden tea room or the island pub. (Depending on the day of our visit, you may also be able to buy food at the island shop and deli.) You’ll have time to explore more of Tresco island before our afternoon boat back to St. Martin’s.

Dinner tonight is at our hotel on St. Martin’s.

Day Ten

You can relax over breakfast this morning and enjoy your last few hours on St. Martin’s before we’re ferried back to St. Mary’s. A local guide will introduce us to St. Mary’s and the town of Hugh Town, and we’ll have lunch at a pub on the harbor. Mid-afternoon we’ll travel across the island to the small airport and our 15-minute flight to Lands End on the mainland. We’ll spend our last night back at our hotel in Penzance.

Our special farewell dinner will be at a friendly restaurant in Mousehole, where we’ll enjoy views of Mounts Bay and share our favorite experiences.

Day Eleven

After breakfast at our hotel, it’s time to say goodbye. We’ll organize taxis to the nearby Penzance station, supporting trains at various times in the morning. Enjoy the spectacular views along the coast!