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Things to do in Cornwall when it rains: The best indoor activities to try

Most of the Eden Project’s sights are indoors (Eden Project/Facebook)
Most of the Eden Project’s sights are indoors (Eden Project/Facebook)

You might have escaped on holiday to Cornwall, but that's no guarantee you've escaped the rain.

The region is resplendent in the sunshine. From the shores of St Ives to the cathedral at Truro, places such as Kernow are close to perfection; in bad weather it’s best to remind yourself that this is what’s keeping things green and beautiful. But whether it’s pelting down, windy or just a mild case of mizzle (the Cornish name for mist and drizzle), there are options.

While some will still happily surf, swim and explore in the rain, the bad weather has the potential to make your day miserable. We’ve brought together a list of some of the best options to ensure you can still enjoy your day even when the clouds darken.

From child-friendly learning activities to a relaxed afternoon tea with a view, here are some of the best activities to fall back on when the sun simply refuses to come out in England’s southernmost county.

Go underground

Close to Penzance, Geevor is a tin mine that has remained largely untouched since closing in 1990. The site includes a museum and mine tour that are suitable for children and adults.

Up in the north on Bodmin Moor, there’s Carnglaze Caverns, a former slate mine which offers self-guided underground tours of its three huge caverns (quarries) and a turquoise subterranean lake.

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Walk in a biome

There’s a walk down from the car park to navigate first, but most of the action at the Eden Project takes place in the giant biomes, so you can remind yourself that you’re on holiday as you step into the Mediterranean area and the tropical rainforest. The education centre is also indoors.

Take in some art

The Tate St Ives sits above Porthmeor Beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Tate St Ives sits above Porthmeor Beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Tate St Ives is the Tate, on a beach, so there’s little that can go wrong. What’s more, it’s very child friendly, with activities for the kids and hints on getting them into art – meaning you might find the rain inspires the next Tracey Emin. While you’re in St Ives, don’t miss the Barbara Hepworth Museum, either – there’s an indoor collection as well as the sculpture garden outside.

Go to a vintage cinema

The Regal in Wadebridge has been going for 87 years, while Truro’s The Plaza opened in 1936. Don’t worry, they’ve both been upgraded – and show a good range of films, from blockbusters to live feeds from London theatres. Hall for Cornwall has a good programme of live entertainment, too.

Smell the coffee

Cornwall has a solid coffee scene, with local roasters Origin leading the pack (it has an outlet in Shoreditch – surely the ultimate accolade). Electric Bakery in Bude has caused a buzz since opening in 2019, while 108 in Truro is also fantastic.

Newquay's Blue Reef Aquarium is a good place to shelter from the rain (Blue Reef Aquarium)
Newquay's Blue Reef Aquarium is a good place to shelter from the rain (Blue Reef Aquarium)

See wildlife

Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium has everything from things you’ll find in Cornish waters to more exotic animals like giant loggerhead turtles, reef sharks and pufferfish. Its beachside location means that if the sun makes a sudden showing, you can pop straight out.

While Newquay Zoo is another popular wildlife attraction, not all of it is indoors. If you do want your wildlife fix though, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is situated near the village of Gweek and gives you the chance to see rescued seals up close.

Go to a museum

Even if you’re not museum types, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth is actually worth a visit. Located on the world’s third-largest deepwater harbour, it starts with a local focus before broadening out into the UK’s seafaring history. For something a little darker, try Bodmin Jail, which closed in 1927 and is now a somewhat spooky museum. Do you like stories of hangings and walking past dark cells? If so, this is definitely one for you.

For unreconstructed geeks, there’s the Telegraph Museum in Porthcurno, located at the site of the first undersea cable which was laid in 1870. There are Second World War tunnels to explore, too. If you’re after something a little different, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, in Boscastle, has exhibits dedicated to folk magic, Freemasonry and European witchcraft.

Hit the waves

Because although you may not be able to soak up the sun in the rain, a dose of mizzle can make surfing rather more atmospheric. It’s probably not the ideal way for beginners to learn, however – and always check that the conditions are safe (a plain red flag means do not enter the water). Otherwise, Cornwall’s only Flowrider wave simulator is outside at Retallack Resort near St Columb.

Go to the pub

Cornwall does a fine line in atmospheric pubs. Try the Turk’s Head and Admiral Benbow in Penzance, the Blue Anchor in Helston, the Tinner’s Arms in Zennor, and The Old Inn in St Breward on Bodmin Moor (whose Sunday carvery is the best escape from the rain). The Watering Hole in Perranporth is actually on the beach – so if you can make the walk over there, you can get sea views despite the weather.

Have a cream tea with a view

A view of Boscastle Harbour (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A view of Boscastle Harbour (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are few better excuses for cake than bad weather, but if you combine cake with a view, you get the best of both (sugary, vacationy) worlds. Top of the list is Boscastle Farm Shop, perched on the headland north of Boscastle, with peerless views of the coastline from its floor-to-ceiling windows. Overlooking the cliffs around Mawgan Porth are two hotels that serve good cream teas – The Scarlet, for adults only, and Bedruthan Hotel & Spa, which is almost exclusively for families – while the Carlyon Bay Hotel near St Austell has fantastic views from its tea room, although it attracts an older clientele. In St Mawes, Tresanton serves cream teas in the bar and restaurant overlooking the water.

Near Wadebridge, Strong Adolfos’ cake game is indeed strong and the views of surrounding fields are pretty if not iconic. The same goes for Trevathan Farm Shop near Port Isaac.

Try the area’s best restaurants

A view of Padstow Harbour (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A view of Padstow Harbour (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Celebrity chef Rick Stein has several restaurants in Cornwall, the flagship being The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow (along with four other restaurants in the town). Padstow also boasts one restaurant with a Michelin star (named No. 6 and fronted by Paul Ainsworth), while Port Isaac has both Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen and Outlaw’s New Road.

Taste the best of Cornish wine

Cornwall is home to several excellent vineyards and wineries. If you’re on a couples trip or the kids are otherwise occupied, why not sample some of the region’s wines? Two of the best tours – with much time spent indoors – include Knightor (near St Austell) and Trevibban Mill (near Padstow).

Treat the kids

If the kids are along, Cornwall also possesses a variety of options for activity-filled days indoors. Truro’s Player Ready Virtual Reality Arcade will be a popular choice for video game fans, and the Paradise Park Jungle Sanctuary contains a large indoor play area for younger children. Flambards theme park contains several indoor attractions (including an aviation experience and a remodelled Victorian village), while Country Skittles is one of several bowling alleys in the area.

Read more of our reviews of the best Cornwall hotels