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Day Trips from Newquay - The Lost Gardens of Heligan

7 Intriguing Secrets & Hidden Gems in Cornwall

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The UK is full of incredible bucket list activities and things to do, but our beautiful home country also has so much unique history and intriguing hidden gems to discover.

And listed below are the amazing Cornwall hidden gems and hidden places in Cornwall that we’ve discovered so far…

What hidden secrets of Cornwall have YOU discovered?

7 Intriguing Secrets & Hidden Gems in Cornwall

1. The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Flowers in the Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are probably one of our favourite hidden gems in Cornwall as they’re beautiful, tranquil, unique and have an intriguing history.

The gardens date back to 1766 but became neglected and overgrown during WWI. 

They then lay, lost and forgotten among the overgrowth, until as late as 1990 when the gardens were discovered again.

And thus began a full-scale renovation project, which spanned an entire decade, to restore the gardens back to their former glory.

Today, the gardens might be lovingly restored but they still have an air of mystery about them.

This might be because parts of the garden have been given interesting names and descriptions like ‘The Jungle’, which is every bit as tangled and interesting as you might think.

But there are also unique statues to discover too; one of a woman lying on her side and the other of a rather mischievous looking boy peeping his head out from the ground. 

Statues in the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Just think! 

For decades, these statues lay lost and forgotten beneath bushes, trees and shrubs with only the birds and the bees for company. 

Oh to have been a fly on the wall when someone found them. We can imagine the initial discovery of a pair of large eyes giving such a fright!

2. The Secret Love Message At Crantock Beach

There are lots of hidden beaches and coves in Cornwall – but some are even more intriguing than others.

Take Crantock Beach in Newquay for example. 

There is a hidden cave on the beach, which is home to a secret love message that can only be seen at low tide.

The carvings inside the cave are of a woman, a horse and a poem, which reads:

“Mar not my face but let me be, 
secure in this lone cavern by the sea. 
Let the wild waves around me roar, 
kissing my lips forevermore.”

This romantic poem is said to be dedicated to a woman who sadly drowned at sea while riding her horse along the beach in the early 20th century.

The woman is believed to be Lillie Jenkin who married Joseph Prater in 1913; the latter is said to be the poet behind the carvings.

3. King Henry VIII & ‘The Forgotten Corner of Cornwall’

Mount Edgcumbe Flowers

The beautiful and historic Mount Edgcumbe Country Park can be found on the Rame Peninsula in South East Cornwall, which is often nicknamed as ‘The Forgotten Corner of Cornwall’.

There are over 865 acres of Grade I listed parklands to explore, as well as formal gardens, private beaches, a deer park and Mount Edgcumbe House itself.

But not only is Mount Edgcumbe a beautiful hidden gem in Cornwall – it also has an interesting history.

The house is a grand Tudor mansion built between 1547 and 1553 and was once the home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe.

And back in 1515, King Henry VIII issued a license to empark Mount Edgcumbe, which means to enclose the land within a wall, so he could have exclusive hunting rights on the herd of deer that lived within the park.

Perhaps even more interestingly, over 500 years later, there are descendents from the original herds of fallow deer still roaming the park today!

4. Bodmin Jail & The Domesday Book’s Safe Haven

The UK is rife with tales of royalty and kingdoms but is also rife with stories of treason, murder, corruption and execution as well. 

Safe to say, England and the surrounding countries were not a safe place to live back in the day.

Which leads us nicely onto our next Cornwall hidden gem: Bodmin Jail (previously Bodmin Gaol).

Found in an unassuming little town in central Cornwall, Bodmin Jail is home to the only working execution pit in the whole of the UK. 

Known as the ‘Long Drop’, the execution pit here was used to hang criminals in the late 1700s through to the early 1900s. 

There have been a total of 55 executions at the jail; a good number of which for crimes we would deem petty offences nowadays.

The last execution took place here in 1909, which was also the last execution to have taken place in all of Cornwall. Up until the 1940s, Cornish death sentences were then carried out in Exeter, Winchester and Bristol.

Today, you can join a guided tour through the jail’s six levels to see the dark cells and hear the tales of murder and execution. Haunting but interesting…

What’s also interesting is that Bodmin Jail also housed state papers and the Domesday Book to keep them safe during WWI. 

That probably gives you an idea of how much of a hidden gem in Cornwall this jail really is!

5. Porthcurno’s Spectacular Cliffside Theatre

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

Although the Minack Theatre is a popular spot for those in the know, it’s still largely undiscovered by tourists.

But oh it is such a gorgeous little find in Cornwall!

Overlooking Porthcurno Beach and the ocean, the Minack Theatre is an open air theatre set right into the cliffs. In fact, the word ‘minack’ (‘meynek’ in Cornish) actually means ‘a rocky place’.

It looks like it could be an ancient Greek amphitheatre but it’s actually less than a hundred years old. It was built in the 1930s by a woman with a vision: Rowena Cade.

Although the performances here are fantastic, its backdrop and unique vibe are what sets this theatre apart from any other you’ll find in Cornwall, in the UK and possibly even in the world.

Come here with a few snacks and drinks (and some pillows and blankets!) and have fun getting lost in a play or musical under the stars. 

Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to see a full moon too? Either way, a trip to the Minack Theatre is sure to be an unforgettable evening!

6. King Arthur’s Birthplace & Merlin’s Cave

Tintagel Castle

One of the things we love most about the UK are all the interesting histories and legends that are carved into the very stone we’ve built our cities upon.

And there is a hidden gem in Cornwall with the most intriguing legend attached to it – that of King Arthur himself.

Tintagel Castle in North Cornwall was first linked to King Arthur in the 12th century when the historian Geoffrey Monmouth claimed it to be the place where Arthur was conceived by King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igerna.

And then within the 15th century, Tintagel was also named as Arthur’s birthplace and referred to as ‘King Arthur’s Castle’.

King Arthur statue at Tintagel Castle

Whether you believe in the Knights of the Roundtable or not, Tintagel is such an incredible castle to explore and is well worth putting on your UK bucket list.

There’s even a small beach near to the castle, which leads to Merlin’s Cave at low tide. As you might have guessed, legend says this is where the infamous wizard lived during the days of King Arthur.

7. Secret Cornwall Beaches

As a popular destination for UK holidaymakers, Cornwall is known for its beautiful golden beaches (and occasionally matching weather). 

But there are also a number of lesser known and secret beaches in Cornwall that are well worth discovering.

Here are a couple of our favourites:

Pentire Steps Beach

Pentire Steps Beach is found near to the famous Bedruthan Steps and offers a small sandy cove overlooking bright blue water. Because of the steep path down to the beach, few make it down here. Thus, solitude, sand and sun (hopefully!) await…

Portheras Cove

The popular town of St Ives along the North Coast of Cornwall is known for its beautiful sandy beaches. It’s got so many of them!

But they’re not all as popular as each other.

Portheras Cove is a small sandy cove and is tricky to find because it’s hidden behind a valley and so is rarely used.

Even more interesting though, is that there’s a wreck of an old cargo ship nearby – and you’ll often find fragments from the ship hidden in the sand!

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about these Cornwall hidden gems! 

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Which ones do you think you might visit first? And what have we missed out? Let us know in the comments below so we can all discover more of this beautiful English county…

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7 Intriguing Secrets & Hidden Gems in Cornwall

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