From Penzance to Pentire: Cornwall's 12 Areas of Outstanding Natural BeautyPosted by Perfect Stays on Updated on
Clifftop views, hidden coves and dramatic coastlines
Comprising 12 geographical areas, Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are dotted throughout the county. Containing some of Britain’s finest coastal scenery, these areas are home to many important geological and historic sites.
From the Atlantic-lashed cliffs of the north coast to the altogether softer landscape of the south, get outside and explore Cornwall’s beautifully rugged landscape. Come with us as we discover the 12 iconic areas in more detail.
© Baz Richardson via Flickr
Spanning from Morwenstow to Kilkhampton right on the border with Devon, this AONB has wonderful coastal scenery, heathland and granite cliffs. Find hidden hamlets such as Stowe Barton, while Morwenstow brings a beautiful Gothic church and Hawker’s Hut – the refuge of poet Reverend Robert Hawker.
Look to Sandymouth Beach for early morning surfs, or for something a little more remote, Duckpool Beach is edged by wildflowers and rugged rockpools.
2. Pentire Point to Widemouth
© Tristan Martin via Flickr
Enjoying an unspoilt coastline, this stretch of Cornwall encompasses the highest cliffs in Cornwall. Steeped in history, you’ll find the medieval remains of Tintagel Castle and the Iron Age hillfort on The Rumps. For beautiful views, take a breather at Pentire Point’s peak and gaze across the Camel Estuary.
There are also some lovely beaches in the area – from Crackington Haven’s majestic cliffs to Tregardock’s soft sands.
3. The Camel Estuary
A north coast AONB, the Camel Estuary is a broad tidal river valley, reaching over half a mile in width at Padstow. Benefitting from far-reaching views and pretty moorlands that flank either side, it’s a tranquil place to walk, run or cycle. Connecting Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow, the Camel Trail makes for a wonderful day out for the whole family.
Whether you’re hopping the waves at Rock, perfecting your surfing technique at Polzeath or enjoying long sandy dog walks at Daymer Bay, all nearby beaches bring something special.
4. Carnewas to Stepper Point
Characterised by varied coastal scenery, this area contains the high headlands of Trevose Head and Stepper Point, whilst also being home to the rocky stacks of Bedruthan Steps. With spectacular clifftop views, this part of Cornwall is famous for its distinct and dramatic coastline.
Such a prime north coast position lends itself well to a collection of stunning beaches. The iconic Seven Bays include Trevone, Harlyn, Mother Ivey’s, Booby’s, Constantine, Treyarnon and Porthcothan, making it perfect for a seven bays in seven days adventure.
5. St Agnes
Another north coast AONB, St Agnes covers the rocky coast from Porthtowan to Cligga Head. On days with crystal clear skies, meander to the top of St Agnes Beacon. Nearly 200m in height, breathtaking views await from every angle.
At low tide, Penhale Sands joins with Perranporth Beach to create a combined three-mile stretch of golden sands, while Porthtowan is renowned for its surf-ready waves.
6. Godrevy to Portreath
High cliffs, rugged shores and hidden coves form this beautiful coastline. Looking over seal colonies and Godrevy Lighthouse, this is an undeniably special part of Cornwall. Whether you’re met with sunshine or storms, Godrevy Island is a dramatic part of the west coast and the source of inspiration behind Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
Found at the far end of St Ives Bay, Godrevy Beach is fantastic for both exploring and surfing. As keen walkers peer down little coves such as Hell’s Mouth, wildlife watchers will relish in an hour or two of seal-spotting.
7. West Penwith
Although sparse in population, West Penwith is rich in scenery and moorland. Also known as Land’s End, this area is situated at the south-west extremity of England, surrounded by the crashing waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Home to the fishing town of St Ives and several small villages, this is a truly idyllic location, where narrow ancient lanes hedged by moorland will guide the way. While the largest nearby beach would be Sennen Cove, other secluded options include the seaweed-filled Porthgwarra and the pebble-strewn Penberth.
8. South Coast Western
Stretching from Lizard to Marazion, this area is graced by the Helford River. With miles of footpaths to discover as well as the much loved South West Coast Path, the Lizard Peninsula is home to a collection of walking routes. From coastal scenery to rare wildflowers, each route is bursting with charm.
A hidden favourite, Kynance Cove remains a focal point for both photographers and painters, largely due to its Caribbean-esque waters. Backed by sand dunes, the white beach of Praa Sands is also a lovely choice.
9. South Coast Central
As the River Fal trickles through Mylor, Feock and the Roseland Peninsula, this area also offers beautiful sights over St Anthony’s Lighthouse and both St Mawes and Pendennis Castle.
From the charming Gorran Haven and the quiet Towan to the sandy Pendower, this area is brimming with inviting beaches.
10. South Coast Eastern
From Par Sands to Looe, this coastal stretch is graced by the River Fowey and benefits from beautiful coast and country views. Days out vary from the bustling town and fishing port of Looe to its neighbouring Polperro, home to a charming harbour.
Tranquil beach days await at Readymoney, a sheltered cove to the south of Fowey, while Lantic Bay brings a relaxing setting to paddle, swim and picnic.
11. Rame Head
© Baz Richardson via Flickr
Circular in shape, the Rame Peninsula is a quiet pocket of south east Cornwall. Hunt down sandy beaches and wade through characterful countryside before following the gravel path up to the medieval Rame Head Chapel for spectacular views.
Overlooking Plymouth Sound, Cawsand Bay is a small beach made up of sand and shingle, with plenty of rockpools to discover all year round.
12. Bodmin Moor
Consisting of grassland, heather and wildlife, Bodmin Moor is a much loved expanse of land in North Cornwall. Edged with steep slopes, waterfalls and the odd bronze age cairn, this remote area is packed with history.
Attracting undivided attention, Bodmin Moor has inspired writing and poetry, while being at the heart of folklore, legend and the ever popular Poldark series.