Step into Cornwall and you’re stepping into territory bursting with history and heritage. Trace the region’s mining roots across World Heritage Sites that stretch from coast to coast, delve into a seafaring past coloured with smugglers and shipwrecks, and discover a landscape littered with standing stones and ancient burial sites. The rich history and heritage of Cornwall is evident in and around St Ives, where fishermen’s net lofts were turned into artists’ studios, and the dramatic coastline yawning towards Land’s End is home to towering engine houses harking back to the area’s mining heritage.
From your holiday cottage in St Ives, both the small St Ives Museum and Truro’s more extensive Royal Cornwall Museum are good places to start any rummage into the history and heritage in Cornwall. However, a walk along the coastline or up into the wild scrubland brings the area’s heritage to life before your eyes.
Burrow into the mining past on an underground tour at Geevor Tin Mine and clap eyes on the famous Levant engine house teetering on the cliffs at the edge of the Atlantic. Home to such staggering scenery and history, it’s little wonder that much of the area has been designated a World Heritage Site. Take a walk through the remains of the engine houses, peer out to granite cliffs seamed with tin and copper, and make a pit-stop at the old mining villages where clusters of granite cottages hug the wild terrain.
As well as bearing testimony to its mining history, the scenery of West Cornwall is smattered with the highest concentration of standing stones and ancient sites found anywhere in Western Europe. Tramp across wild moorland to find Mên an Tol, Lanyon Quoit and the Merry Maidens, and visit the atmospheric ruins of the Iron Age village of Chysauster.
More recently Cornwall’s maritime heritage has shaped its landscape and culture, but the county’s seafaring past hasn’t been one of plain sailing. Precious bounty has been spilt on smugglers’ coves and many ships have foundered on the rugged coastline. Take a walk from Sennen Cove to Lands End and you can peer down to the most recent shipwreck of 2003, the RMS Mulheim, and see artefacts from more than 150 wrecks at the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre.
It’s not only in the scenery that history has made its mark. Step through the gates of Cornwall’s historic houses and grand estates and you can peer into the past of some of the county’s most wealthy families. The National Trust now own and run many of these estates including Godolphin House and St Michael’s Mount, with their acres of sub-tropical gardens, regal interiors and impressive facilities that were designed to prove the owners’ wealth, power and status.