Surfing, seafood, and the appeal of a more leisurely lifestyle have led many a holidaymaker to fantasise about upping sticks to Cornwall.
The south coast, known as the Cornish Riviera, is home to impossibly pretty harbour villages such as Fowey and Falmouth while the north coast, which includes Bude, Padstow, Port Issac and Polzeath, is the stuff of Famous Five adventures, all smugglers’ coves and wild waves.
But there’s more to this ancient region than potted shrimp and Poldark. Step away from those breathtaking beaches and you’ll find arty enclaves, Michelin-starred restaurants, and enough festivals and cultural events to keep you entertained all year round.
The desire for more space and a better quality of life post-lockdown has sent interest in Cornish properties sky-rocketing. 'The market is utterly bonkers at the moment,' says Clare Coode, of Stacks Property Search. 'People have been putting in offers for houses they haven’t even seen.'
Cornwall’s golden beaches and rugged headland have long made it a popular choice for second-homers looking to spend their weekends sailing, surfing or walking. But recently she has seen a marked increase in families looking to move to the county, attracted by the outdoorsy lifestyle and the chance to get more bang for their buck.
And as more offices make the transition to remote working, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge. Add in nearly 40 schools that Ofsted deems outstanding – chief among them Truro’s Roseland Academy and Penryn College near Falmouth – and it’s no wonder we’re all clamouring for a piece of the pasty.
We've identified 10 prime locations in this southernmost county.
Cornwall’s super-fast broadband network may make Zoom meetings a breeze, but if you are concerned about living in a remote location, Newquay may be the best Cornish option for you.
Cornwall Airport is just minutes away, with flights to 29 UK destinations, so you'll never feel too isolated.
Famous for its surfing, Newquay has some fantastic beaches to choose from. The prime property hotspot is Pentire Head, overlooking Crantock beach and Fistral Bay.
But if you're hoping to pay less that a million, both Mount Wise and Towan Beach offer good value. Or head further out to the seaside villages of Crantock and Porth.
Property prices vary wildly in Cornwall. But look beyond the prime real estate of the coast towards inland areas such as Liskeard, in the south east, and it’s possible to find four-bed barn conversions that cost less than a flat in Peckham.
Liskeard is a proper little market town, with some very handsome period properties, particularly on its outskirts. The vast majority of housing stock is under £300,000, so there are some real bargains to be had.
It may be famous for its beast, but Bodmin is something of a hidden beauty. It's made up of some impossibly picturesque villages – such as Blisland, where we found a charming double-fronted Victorian home for under £300K.
Sitting north east of the Lizard peninsula, the pretty riverside village of Helford runs parallel with Portleven and Gweek (see below). Right now, there is an exciting investment opportunity to be had – the village's traditional 18th Century pub, The Shipwrights Arms, is up for sale.
Situated on the banks of the river, the five-bedroom pub is on the market for £1.4million freehold. So if lockdown has made you crave a new start, it could be the perfect option.
Porthleven has a growing reputation for its fabulous foodie scene. So if you are looking for the 'next Padstow', it could be the location for you. Michael Caines has just bought a restaurant here – ironically, one that was previously owned by Rick Stein.
Inevitably, property prices are creeping up, but you can still find a three-bedroom homes with a sea view for a tad under £500,000.
If you think the Cornish food scene revolves around Rick Stein and his Padstow seafood restaurants, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Ben Tunnicliffe – who won Newlyn pub The Tolcarne Inn a Bib Gourmand – is now working his magic on The Packet in the quiet West Cornish hamlet of Rosudgeon.
This has – unsurprisingly – made fresh demands on the local property market, though there are a few new-build properties on the market at present. Expect to pay around £500K for a four/five-bed home.
Just south of Penzance, this pretty working fishing port offers easy access to the larger town's boutique shops, including the famous Fishboy. Their screenprinted T-shirts that pay homage to Cornish life are cult classics.
Newlyn itself is a bustling town with a great community spirit and a wide choice of period homes and cottages. Many offer view across the harbour and across to St Michael's Mount. A three-bedroom stone house in the heart of the action will set you back around £450,000.
Like Liskeard in the south east, the south west Cornish village of Gweek offers amazing value due to its inland location. There is little on the market right now, but we did find a stunning 'chocolate box' terraced cottage for under £300,000.
West of Porthlevan, the village sits just above the famous Lizard Heritage Coast and is also home to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary.
Situated on the mouth of the Hayle River, this small town is less than 15 minutes by car or bus to St Ives – and offers amazing value for money by comparison when it comes to property.
Hayle has often been viewed as the poor relation to its famous neighbour, but a huge regeneration project is breathing fresh life into the area. Marine-side houses and apartments are planned, and residents enjoy easy access to some fabulous beaches.
The location is heaven for design mavens, as you have the artists’ colony of St Ives on your doorstep. The town is home to an array of galleries, including the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Tate St Ives. Anima Mundi is one of the hottest destinations for contemporary art, while you’ll find prints, locally-made homewares and jewellery in the shop attached to Tate St Ives.
The town of Launceston just about makes our list... as it is just in Cornwall. in fact, it's only a mile or so from the River Tamar, considered the natural boundary between Cornwall and Devon.
There are plenty of stunning rural housing options on the outskirts of the town, which has a Norman castle built by William the Conqueror's half brother and a steam railway.
What is there to do in Cornwall?
Even once you’ve ticked off major attractions such as the Eden Project or St Michael’s Mount, you’ll never be short of places to take friends when they visit.
The clifftop amphitheatre of the world-famous Minack Theatre offers an unforgettable theatrical experience, while
There are hearty hikes to be had along Lizard Point, which marks the southernmost point of the UK mainland; lost gardens to be explored in Heligan and endless castles to climb, from Henry VIII’s Falmouth fortress Pendennis to the magical Tintagel of Arthurian legend.
Cornish food and drink
Rick Stein's four eateries, which kickstarted Cornwall’s reputation as a culinary hotspot, are among more than 40 Michelin-starred restaurants and cafes led by a new guard of celebrated chefs.
These include Nathan Outlaw, whose latest restaurant Outlaw’s New Road offers a more affordable take on the fine dining of his self-titled Port Issac flagship
There’s no shortage of spots to while away an afternoon – or evening – here. When the sun is shining, make your way to Perranporth beach bar The Watering Hole, which has hosted gigs by everyone from Tom Jones to Seasick Steve.
When it’s not, settle in by the fire at a cosy old pub. The riverside location of Falmouth’s 13th century Pandora Inn means you’ll see some locals rowing home.
Shopping in Cormnwall
Independents flourish on the cobbled streets of Cornwall’s seaside towns. Head to the north Cornish village of St Agnes to kit yourself out with nubby fisherman jumpers and linen dungarees at the original outpost of uber-cool outdoors label Finisterre.
Creativity pulses through Falmouth too, whose renowned art college brings new talent to the town every year. Visit Folklore, in its Old Brewery Yard, to find beautiful ceramics, jewellery and textiles by local designers.
Is it expensive to live in Cornwall?
It depends. “You can find a bungalow in Rock selling for £1.8m and a similar-sized property 20 mins away for £345,000,” says Clare, who advises keeping an open mind when booking viewings.
Any property near the coast will command a premium - Cornwall is one of the biggest markets for £1m-plus homes - and there is huge competition for houses near Truro, home to the county's leading schools, and in the areas surrounding the transport links of Newquay and Penzance.
But there are still bargains to be had, especially in more rural locations. The average house price in Bodmin, in the east of the county, stands at under £200,000, while in the west, detached homes near the pretty villages of Helford and Porthleven go for little over £300,000.
Salaries are often significantly lower in Cornwall than in the rest of the UK – something to bear in mind if you’re planning to work locally. But that means that, away from the holidaymaker honeypots, the cost of living can be lower too and you may find your money goes a lot further.
What's living in Cornwall like?
Cornwall’s far-flung location contributes to its strong sense of identity. From the distinctive monochrome St Piran’s flag to street signs in both Cornish and English, there’s no mistaking this region for any other. Its separateness means people tend to stick together and communities are close-knit.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for incomers. While the Cornish have a reputation for being outspoken, Clare says locals will go out of their way to make new neighbours welcome.
And between the county’s numerous pubs, festivals and sports clubs, it’s not hard to find a social scene.
Do your research, however. Cornwall’s popularity as a holiday destination means places that are lively in the summer can be dead come December. Consider renting out of season before you decide to commit.
What’s the weather like in Cornwall?
The subtropical climate of Cornwall’s south west coast, which sees average temperatures of above 10C for more than seven months of the year, means you won’t often need a jumper. On summer days, it’s not unusual for temperatures to hit 21C and occasionally even 30C.
On the downside, there’s a lot of rain and Cornwall’s reputation as a surfing mecca is partly due to all the wind that buffets the peninsula. Winters are a mixed bag too. Although temperatures remain fairly mild, the big weather systems rolling in off the Atlantic often result in spectacular storms.
Make like a local and savour the drama from storm-watching lookout Sennen Cove, near Land’s End.