There’s no use us pretending that the weather is always glorious here. Yes, most Cornish postcards make it look like an offshoot of the Bahamas, and we do actually get many summer days like that. It never gets really cold here; however it can get pretty wet and windy on occasions.
But, there is no need to sit in a dripping shelter on Penzance prom, gazing mournfully at the grey waves. Like all good visitor destinations, Cornwall has a wonderful mix of places to visit in all weather conditions. Here are a few of our favourite places to go when the rains starts pouring down.
Lanhydrock House is a National Trust-managed country house near Bodmin.
Most of the property dates from the late 19th century (much of the older house was destroyed by a fire in 1881), and was designed to be the perfect modern family home. With a complex range of kitchen buildings (larders, bakehouse, dairy), it had every Victorian convenience and gadget intended to make life as comfortable as possible for the Robartes family.
It’s this focus on the practicalities of life that makes Lanhydrock so fascinating. As well as the kitchens, you can visit the servants’ quarters, and also get a glimpse into the running of the large 450-acre estate in the management offices. As all Downton Abbey viewers know, the family’s rooms are incredibly different, with typical Victorian plush and comfort. Take your children to the nursery suite to begin a story on how children’s lives have changed.
With over 40 rooms on view, it’s a great place to spend a rainy day – and due to its size, it manages to soak up a fair few visitors before it feels too busy.
The Eden Project
Eden has always been keen to emphasise that it’s not just a wet weather venue. And it’s right to do so of course, as the site has a tremendous amount to enjoy outdoors as well as in. However, on a rainy day, listening to the rain patter on those famous biomes – from the inside – is a real pleasure.
Strip off those raincoats and warm up inside the Rainforest Biome. This is such a magical space that it really doesn’t matter what’s going on outside – you’ll soon forget it. Or, simply pretend you’re in Italy or Greece with a lazy sort-of-al-fresco lunch in the Med Terrace Restaurant in the Mediterranean Biome. There’s also The Core with its fascinating interactive exhibits – as well as several more places to find food and drink.
For children, this summer the Spirit of the Rainforest art project is running in the Rainforest Biome, as well as exciting dinosaur activities to feed their fascination!
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall
The NMMC is a brilliant museum in Falmouth, telling the story of Cornwall’s essential and turbulent relationship with the sea (with a few Vikings thrown in for good measure…)
The museum has a fascinating permanent collection of small boats with some great interactive exhibits. This year’s special exhibition, Viking Voyagers, combines artefacts on loan with replica boats, events and even a Nordic menu in the cafe. The Museum’s distinctive tower provides a great vantage point over the town and harbour at the top, and the chance to be under the water in the “Tide Zone” at the bottom. Falmouth itself is a lively harbour and university town with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops.
Falmouth Art Gallery is another great place to visit, combining a permanent collection with temporary exhibitions and a great programme for families.
Tate St Ives
If you like the gallery idea, it’s worth the extra drive to visit Tate St Ives.
St Ives has always attracted artists. Drawn initially by the area’s unique quality of light, and later by the new railway, the small town developed an unusual community of fishermen and painters. In the mid 20th century, the famous St Ives School, led by Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, became famous for its modern and abstract works.
Tate St Ives, which opened in 1993 overlooks Porthmeor Beach. As well as showing the Tate’s collection of St Ives art, it also has a programme of exhibitions and a brilliant “What’s On” diary for families. (And its cafe has the best view ever…)
Another great reason to visit the Tate on a rainy day is that in St Ives, the sand is always yellow and the sea blue(ish) regardless of the weather conditions. True.
The Tin Trail
This isn’t one particular attraction, but rather a collection of mining museums. The recent BBC adaptation of Poldark has led to an increased interest in the history of mining (and this interest has nothing to do with scything at all. Nothing.). Cornwall has some wonderful visitor attractions, which tell the history of mining in the area, and you can even go underground in seek some of them out…
Geevor Tin Mine in West Cornwall (in Pendeen near Penzance) closed in 1991. The workshops, offices and mess rooms have been preserved, and giving an evocative and absorbing picture of life as a 20th-century miner. You can also experience life in an earlier mine, and take an underground tour of some of Geevor’s oldest tunnels. Poldark Mine in Helston offers four underground tours a day – what better way to escape the rain than by spending time in a mine?
Heartlands in Pool, is the newest mining attraction on the block. Following its grand opening in 2012, it forms part of a community regeneration project. It has a (free) exhibition about mining, and a moving and atmospheric film. The cafe, housed in the former carpenters’ workshop, with machines and tools still in situ, does a great pasty. Nearby East Pool Mine, is managed by The National Trust, and combining these two attractions will give you a splendid insight into mining. The Trust also runs Levant Mine and Beam Engine near Penzance. This is proper Poldark cliff top stuff, so a little less rain-friendly than the other options.
These are just a few suggestions of how you can spend a rainy day in Cornwall. Far more than just places to shelter, these are wonderful days out, each of which captures an element of the spirit and history of the county.
And of course, you are always welcome to keep out of the rain here with us at The Cornwall – spa and bar, anyone?