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When you think of Cornwall, you probably think of sunny beach days where the sun is warm and the sky is blue. Sadly, as a Cornwall resident, this is not how I think of Cornwall. It rains. A lot. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to rug yourself up and refuse to go outside – there are plenty of great things to do in Cornwall in the rain. In fact, some of my favourite activities in the county are perfect ideas for a wet day.
So, don’t let grey skies get you down. There are plenty of things to do in Cornwall when it’s raining, from taking shelter in a cozy pub to checking out some interesting museums and galleries. So, whether you’re visiting Cornwall in winter or just waiting out a day or two of rain, don’t despair!
To help you out, here are my favourite things to do in Cornwall when it rains.
I love a good historic jail, and this one is definitely one of the best things to do in Cornwall when it’s raining.
The jail was built in 1779 to house criminals guilty of everything from petty theft to murder. In fact, it was also the site of a number of public executions. This includes one woman who poisoned her husband with arsenic, and another who burned down a neighbour’s cornfield. I wrote about Bodmin Jail at length during my Cornwall “spooky loop”.
In more recent years, the Bodmin Jail has been used to store treasures far away from the clutches of enemies — the famous Domesday Book (which listed all the surveyed buildings in the 13th Century) was hidden in it during World War I.
Today, the jail is open for visitors to look around. You find out more about the jail, its history and the prisoners who suffered inside it. There’s also a bar — because every attraction is better with a bar.
Visiting the Eden Project is probably the most popular activity when it’s raining in Cornwall. I mean, it essentially lets you enjoy the outdoors while very much indoors, so what’s not to love?
The Eden Project has a number of huge “biomes” which are like big plastic spheres that act as glasshouses. Inside, there are many amazing species of plants and flowers, meaning you can feel like you’re walking through a warm tropical garden, even when it’s utterly miserable outside.
The ethos behind the not-for-profit project is to teach people about living about harmony with the environment. I think this is particularly fitting, considering that so much of the Cornish landscape has been damaged by centuries of mining.
That’s why it warms my heart to see the efforts being put into restoring it! Definitely a project that I recommend you check out if you’re looking for what to do when it’s raining in Cornwall.
Healy’s Cornish Cyder Factory
Cider might be a great accompaniment for a sunny day, but a visit to a cider factory is perfect if you’re looking for something to do in Cornwall when it’s wet!
The Healy’s Cornish Cyder Factory is a well set up attraction that offers a lot for both adults and kids. For the grown-ups, there’s cider tasting – which are very generously poured – while kids are sure to love the many different animals around the farm. There are two beautiful Clydesdales who like to come inside during the wet weather.
There’s a cost involved to tour the cider factory, however you can opt just to explore the shop, cafe and barn which is all free. There’s even a yummy farm shop that was selling delicious preserves when we dropped by.
Everything is tasty, but I particularly recommend the “Rattler”. It is made from all different types of apples grown locally in Cornwall.
Tate St Ives
You don’t have to go all the way to London to check out the Tate Gallery, one of the UK’s most famous gallery/museums. There’s one in St Ives – albeit one that’s a bit smaller than the London version.
The gallery is filled with great art prints and works that mostly relate to the local area, and especially St Ives itself. What can I say, the Cornish are a proud bunch (and why wouldn’t you be?!)
Most of the art is modern, and there are numerous temporary exhibitions that are a little broader in subject matter. I’m not much of an art buff myself, but I can certainly appreciate the talent and storytelling that goes into each piece.
If you live in Cornwall, you can get a special local’s pass that gives you entry into the museum for a year for £5. That’s a pretty sweet deal. Non-Cornish residents will be up for £9.50 for an adult ticket (£10.50 with gift aid, if you’re a UK tax payer).
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
It’s no secret that I freaking loved the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the gorgeous village of Boscastle.
It’s a treasure trove of artefacts and items relating to witchcraft. I’m not talking black cats or bubbling cauldrons — I mean real items of anthropological importance. It’s really fascinating, especially when there’s also a lot of room dedicated to explaining the persecution alleged witches have faced over the years.
Fair warning – I’m not sure it’s totally suitable for very young children. But, if you’re looking for something quirky to do when it’s wet in Cornwall, I highly recommend it.
I wrote a lot about the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in this blog post, if you’re interested in finding out more.
Okay, this might be a bit of a strange one – but I was totally intrigued by the Courthouse Experience. Who doesn’t want to experience what it’s like to be on a jury, with a man’s life in your hands?
I refuse to be told that that’s not how most people want to spend their summer holidays.
If this all sounds like your cup of tea, then head down to the Courthouse Experience in Bodmin. They give you a tour of the real-life historic courts of Cornwall. Then, you’ll hear the facts of a real-life case, and decide how you’d find — free to go, or off to the gallows?!
While this might not be up everyone’s alley, I honestly think it’s a great learning experience. Having worked in the legal profession, it’s certainly always fascinating to see how differently people react after hearing all the facts of the case, versus what is reported in the media. I definitely recommend checking this out. To me, it’s one of the best things to do in Cornwall when it’s raining.
Also, it’s in Bodmin, so it’s easily combined with a visit to the Bodmin Jail.
I know, I know – a museum about telegraphs doesn’t sound like it would be very enthralling. But, I promise I’m not setting you up for a family argument! I seriously loved visiting the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.
The Telegraph Museum in Porthcurno is extremely interesting. In the 1920s, it was the largest telegraph station in the world, running lines between the UK and Canada’s Newfoundland, India’s Bombay and Australia’s Adelaide (woo!). It was also extremely important during World War II, when special camouflaged shelters were carved into the rockface.
The Museum itself is so well set up, with a big emphasis on interactivity. You can try on sailing costumes, play with magnets and send out morse code messages. There are also daily demonstrations on the old equipment.
We ended up spending 2 hours there and could have stayed longer. There’s a gift shop and a cafe as well, if you want to wait for the rain to clear before heading home!
Polperro Museum of Smuggling and Fishing
For another pirate-y experience in Cornwall, head for the Polperro Museum of Smuggling and Fishing. Nestled in an old pilchard factory, this is a quirky and charming museum.
Unlike the ultra-slick Jamaica Inn, things are a little more ramshackle at this museum in the gorgeous fishing village of Polperro. There are some really interesting exhibits, including a collection of records and also some really amazing photos from the mid-1800s.
Plus, entry is just £2 so you really can’t go wrong.
Once you’ve got your fix of smuggling history, head over to the Three Pilchards pub (Polperro really likes pilchards). It’s the oldest pub in the town, and super cute.
Cozy up in a pub
There’s never a bad time to go to the pub in my books, but when it’s raining in Cornwall, the pub is a particularly great option.
There are so many beautiful pubs around the county. Whether you’re looking for a tiny hole-in-the-wall or a more expansive boozer, you’re sure to be spoiled for choice. In particular, I love the old pubs with their smuggling history, such as the Turks Head in Penzance – it’s said to date back to 1223.
I also love the Cornish pubs that overlook the coast – it’s the perfect way to take in the beauty of the outdoors without actually being, well, outdoors. Mousehole’s The Old Coastguard is a great example, and it’s just perfect for cozying up as it offers many books and board games, too.
It’s no secret I’ve become a tad obsessed with all things Cornish since a) moving here and b) discovering my ancestral connection to Cornwall (I now re-enter the county crying ‘your prodigal daughter has returned!’)
Anyway, if you’d like to find out more about Cornish life and how it differs from regular English life, then visit the Helston Museum. Since it’s another strictly indoor attraction, it’s a great option if you’re looking for something to do in Cornwall in winter (note they do close for a fortnight over Christmas).
Entry is via a donation, and you can explore a total of five display halls filled with “curiosities” related to life in Cornwall. Side note: I have recently decided a “curiosities” display cabinet is a non-negotiable in my new home.
It’s quite an eclectic collection, with momentos from the life of Helston inventor Henry Trengrouse to artefacts salvaged off wrecked ships nearby. It is all, however, really interesting, and well worth a look if you’re in the area and it’s raining.
Tintagel Post Office
I owe the Tintagel Post Office an apology. The poor building has it a bit tough being on the way to Tintagel Castle (a la birthplace of King Arthur, allegedly).
Even though the premise doesn’t sound that interesting, it’s actually pretty cool! The building looks like it could have been made for a movie prop. However, it is, in fact, a genuine Medieval Post office dating from the 1300s.
Stepping inside (watch your head!) there’s a modest collection of post-office-related memorabilia, which is pretty interesting. There’s also a really gorgeous garden that’s meticulously cared for by the National Trust.
The Post Office is also a great option for things to do in Cornwall when it’s raining, because it has a toasty warm fire on cold days. Bliss!
St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre
As an Australian, it took me awhile to embrace the idea of a room temperature beer. However, having lived in Cornwall, I now embrace it. Afterall, it means that beer is a drink for all seasons.
So, too, is visiting a brewery. If it’s raining in Cornwall and you’re 18+, then visiting the St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre is a great choice. To be fair – you can bring kids, they just can’t drink. I say, parents, take your kids. You deserve it.
The visitor centre is really well set up, with a lot of information on how the brewery came to be and the process for making their beer. For £12, you can take a guided tour of the brewery which also includes tasting various types of beer.
You don’t have to do the tour, though, so you’re free to just wander around the visitor centre. There’s also a restaurant where you can have meals. And beer, of course.
Cornwall is synonymous with smugglers and pirates, and exploring this history is the perfect wet weather activity in Cornwall.
The Jamaica Inn is probably Cornwall’s most famous pirate-y site, although what is myth and what is fact is a little blurred. Legend has it that the Jamaica Inn’s location was perfect for surreptitious smugglers. See, it’s in the midst of the Bodmin Moors, and it’s thought the visibility allowed the watchmen to easily yell “Cops!” if they saw a bobby riding over the hill.
The main reason for the Jamaica Inn’s association with pirates, though, is that it was the setting for Daphne de Maurier’s book of the same name, and where she wrote it. Daphne almost certainly took a fair bit of literary licence.
Nonetheless, it’s still a cool place to go, and the bar in particular is charming. There’s also a small museum devoted to smuggling which is just a couple of pounds to enter. If you’re peckis, there’s also a large restaurant.
Charlestown Shipwreck Centre
I have a long-standing obsession with shipwrecks. When other kids asked for Backstreet Boys CDs back in 1998, I begged my parents for a computer program that let you “explore” the wreck of the Titanic. All backed to the sound of the music that was playing as the ship sunk.
I was a very, very weird kid. And really morbid.
Anyway, as you can imagine, I was super excited to hear about the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre. There are over 8,000 objects (!!!) from 150 shipwrecks (!!!) making it the largest shipwreck collection in all of Europe. Super, super cool.
Amongst the collection includes a 400-year-old cannon, heaps of old coins (aka pirate loot) and stories of people aboard the Titanic (7-year-old Georgie, I got you.) There’s also a cafe, and Charlestown itself is really pretty if you can brave the rain!
Go down a mine
After beaches and pirates, Cornwall is most famous for miners – and particularly, tin miners. You can’t go far in the county without seeing the evidence of this on the landscape; there’s “chimneys” everywhere.
While a lot of these mines have simply been closed off – you can still wander around them – some have been turned into bona fide attractions in their own right.
The most famous one is the Poldark Mine. Located in. Wendron near Helston, it was one of the largest and most profitable mines during the “Cornish Mining Boom” of the 1700s. For almost half a century, it has been open to visitors.
As it’s totally underground, it’s the perfect attraction to visit when it’s raining in Cornwall!
You can take a tour of the underground mine, to find out what life would have been like for the hardworking Cornish miners. Near Wendron, the town of Trevear is also particularly cute, with some shops including an old Blacksmiths.
Poldark is the largest mine you can visit, but other options include the Pool Mine, which is managed by the National Trust.
Cornwall’s Regimental Museum
If you’re into military history then a visit to Cornwall’s Regimental Museum in Bodmin might be the perfect way to spend your rainy day in Cornwall.
There’s over 12,000 objects that span over 3,000 years of military history, from the American War of Independence to Waterloo and World War Two and beyond. While most of the exhibitions are look-don’t-touch, there is a good selection of more interactive exhibits as well.
The Museum also runs fairly frequent events on all types of different topics. I have not attended, but I was impressed to see an autism-friendly event on the calendar, which aims to showcase the collection is a less overwhelming way for people who are on the spectrum.
As the museum is in Bodmin, it can easily be combined with visiting the Bodmin Jail and doing the Courthouse Experience.
Flicka Donkey Sanctuary
I think donkeys are right up there as my favourite animal. They are just so cute, with their long ears and round little bellies.
At least, they should have round bellies – but sadly some donkeys are terribly treated. I’ve seen firsthand the conditions that many donkeys around the world are left in, and it’s really awful. Luckily, there are kind people like those at the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary who are doing all they can to give donkeys a safe home.
There are more than 100 donkeys at the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary, and visiting them is certainly a great option if you’re looking for what to do in Cornwall when it’s raining.
It’s free to enter (although donations are appreciated), and you can learn more about all the gorgeous donkeys and their histories. I loved it so much I wrote a whole post on it, so check it out if you’d like some more information!
National Maritime Museum
Falmouth is not only my favourite Cornish student town, but also home to one of the deepest harbours in Europe. As such, it’s been extremely important in the UK’s maritime history. So, it’s a fitting place for arguably the best maritime museum outside of London.
To be honest, the National Maritime Museum won me over with its expansive Titanic exhibition. It’s so fascinating to me that even after all of these years, we remain as fascinated as ever by the world’s most famous sinking ship.
Overall, the museum’s collections are very varied. Unique exhibits like one on sailor’s tattoos keep things interesting, while kids are well taken care of with plenty of events all year round aimed at little ones. I definitely recommend this as one of the best things to do in Cornwall when it’s wet.
Tickets are £13.95 which I think is a little on the steep side, but it does give you entry all year. As a Cornish resident, I think that’s really good value, but I recognise it’s probably not as great for the many holidaymakers.
Visit a National Trust house
Cornwall has lots of great National Trust properties to visit. Inside them, you can learn about history and get out of the rain in Cornwall!
My favourite National Trust house is Trelissick, although it also has super beautiful gardens so it’s a bit of a shame to miss out on those when it’s raining.
There’s also Lanhydrock (an old Victorian property with an interesting collection of WW2 objects) and Trerice (an Edwardian property that’s seen its share of drama), which are both beautiful old homes in their own right.
For those who are unfamiliar with the National Trust, it’s basically a historical society that preserves old and significant buildings. They run frequent events which are usually very wholesome fun.
There are also cafes that do a tasty cream tea, cakes and Cornish pasties if you’re feeling peckish. If you’re from the UK, you might like to consider National Trust membership (I have one and I love it) or if you’re from abroad, there are short term passes to see multiple sites.
Go to the beach anyway!
Okay, so if you’re hoping for a sunny family day at the seaside, you may end up with screaming kids and tipped over icecream cones. But if you’re a photographer – or just not scared of the elements – the Cornish coast looks freaking awesome when the weather is stormy.
After all, Cornwall has long been about pirates, smugglers and shipwrecks rather than sunbaking and frolicking in the sea. You really get a sense of this when the weather is stormy and the water is crashing up against the jagged coast.
So, throw on a rain jacket and wrap your camera up ‘til it’s waterproof – and head out to the seaside anyway. The picture above is taking at Church Cove, one of my favourite winter spots in Cornwall – it just looks so gothic and gorgeous (in my humble opinion).
As you can see, there are plenty of options for what to do in Cornwall when it’s raining. A little (or a lot) of rain, wind or hail doesn’t need to spoil your plans with these great ideas! Which are