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36+ things to do on a rainy day in Cornwall

Don't let rain stop play. One option is just to get in the waves regardless but if you don't fancy that, here are 30+ activities to keep you busy on a rainy day in Cornwall.

GO BACK IN TIME – CASTLES, MUSEUMS, CORNISH HISTORY

Lanhydrock House, Nr Bodmin

This late Victorian house is set in beautiful woodlands which are great for walking and cycling, but when it’s raining you’ll want to head straight for the house where you can explore both upstairs and downstairs, dressed as it would have been in the Victorian era. My kids find the kitchens and larders/pantries fascinating, as well as the nurseries and bedrooms upstairs. The magnificent Victorian family home is now split into three routes for exploring: Kitchen, Family and Lady R’s Bazaar.

Treasure, Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, until 29 October

The latest exhibition at Truro’s Royal Cornwall Museum explores what treasure is, from the fantastical world of pirates, to buried hoards and shipwrecks, to those ordinary things we could not live without. Alongside the exhibition is a series of workshops, mostly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Pendennis Castle

This castle was created for national defense under Henry VIII, between 1539-47, as one of few artillery forts to be circular for 360 degrees defense. For 400 years it watched over the Carrick Roads, an important dock in the River Fal estuary, and defended it from enemies invading England. Today you can explore its history through displays and exhibitions and they also host events for children during most school holidays to bring the history to life.

Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen

Set in the wide open spaces of the Lands End peninsula on the dramatic Atlantic coast, the stunning Cornish coastline around Pendeen was once at the heart of the Cornish tin and copper mining industry. Geevor Tin Mine gives you the opportunity to visit a real mine and learn what life was like for a Cornish miner. Head deep underground and find out what life was really like for the men and boys who worked the mines between 1911 and 1990 during which time it produced about 50,000 tons of black tin.

Dark Walk, Bodmin Jail

Using state-of-the-art technology and the latest theatrical effects, the Dark Walk (age 10+) – a major addition to the attraction and the first of its kind in the region – sends you on an immersive, spooky and interactive discovery of Cornwall’s most haunting histories. Stories of Cornwall’s murky past are retold, and you’ll be transported to life within the walls of the 18th century prison. If that wasn’t chilling enough, Bodmin Jail is also home to the only working execution pit in the country and delves into the myth of the terrifying Bodmin Beast.Pre-booked timed entry slots essential & leave the littlies at home – this one is a bit noisy and might make you jump. Not spooky enough? Terrify yourself with late night ghost walks, scary cinema and paranormal tours. (Late night events suitable for 16-plus)

Wheal Martyn, St Austell,

Wheal Martyn explores the history of Cornwall’s china clay industry, with plenty of inside exhibitions to keep you dry, including, until the end of October, an intriguing exhibition called Art on the Menu that charts the story behind an unusual Harrods exhibition that took place in 1934, and features remarkable tableware painted by artists involved in the experiment. Participating artists included Laura Knight, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson and the diverse and striking ceramics they designed were exhibited in the store.

PK Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno

PK Porthcurno (formerly the Telegraph Museum) was once the largest Telegraph Station in the world…. This super museum near one of Cornwall’s most picturesque beaches is an interactive museum experience that showcases the science, the people and the stories that have made developments in global communications possible, and demonstrates how advances in digital communications are changing the world forever.

Carnglaze Caverns, St Neot

Beautiful underground caves that has three chambers of cathedral proportions, hand created by local slate miners. Take a self-guided tour that takes you into the hillside and 60m below ground, via a flight of 60 steps. In the lower chambers you will find the Underground Lake with its crystal clear blue/green water. Temperatures hover around 10C, so dress accordingly. The caverns also regularly host bands and music events in their underground venue.

The Shipwreck Museum, Charlestown

The Shipwreck Museum is another museum that charts the fascinating world of Cornwall’s past, this time in relation to treasure found in wrecked vessels around the coast. There is also an arctic theme, with the ongoing Shackleton photography exhibition and a new exploration of how cutting-edge technology has changed shipwreck hunting for archaeologists in polar regions.

There’s also lots of smaller museums around the Duchy which aren’t going to take up a whole day, or even a half day, but could be worth bookmarking if they’re near you and you need an hour inside to dry off. Bodmin Town Museum is free, as is the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston. The King Edward Mine Museum in Camborne is £20 for a family pass.

SCIENCE, ECO, TECH AND GAMING

Reimagining Reality, Narisa Hall, Priory Park, Bodmin

Reimagining Reality is an innovative exhibition for Cornwall that will turn your world upside down! Explore the weird and wonderful peculiarities of science with interactive exhibits. Be prepared to be left wondering what you really know. If you think science really isn’t your thing, come for the art! Experience an immersive journey along surreal passageways leading to quirky exhibits that are an artwork in their own right. This exhibition is about as environmentally friendly as they come. Everything has been carefully crafted with waste or reclaimed materials. Follow the stories that are entwined in each exhibit; where it’s components came from and how it was transformed. Booking an hour time slot is essential for your visit.

The Eden Project, Nr St Austell

The iconic biomes of this Cornwall attraction are well known (Eden is consistently voted as one of the UK’s top tourist attractions) and a beauty to behold in themselves, framed as you walk down through the gardens. One of Cornwall’s Great Gardens of Cornwall, in the rain you’ll want to head to the two main biomes where the Mediterranean and Rainforest gardens bring the feeling of being outside whilst also not getting wet. But, Eden is also so much more than a wander round a garden – it is plants, science, sociology, ecology and exploring our relationship with the natural world. This summer the theme is CO2 and how to reduce our emissions, brought to life by Dennis and Nasher in a ‘Go Wild With Beano’ themed trail and series of activities.

House Trap Escape Rooms, Bodmin

Five escape rooms ready to give you a real life gaming experience – you know the drill by now; your group has a set time to solve the puzzles and escape the room. Booking essential.

In Truro check out Player Ready – Virtual Reality on Charles Street, just off Lemon Street, offering Escape Rooms, VR Gaming, Zombie Experiences and Sim Racing.

NATURE / ANIMALS

Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, Nr Helston

You’ll need your waterproofs for the walk down to the riverside seal tanks but there are plenty of places under shelter to watch the seals and sea lions. Dog-friendly too.

National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow

Learn all about lobsters! This delightful tiny aquarium on Padstow’s quayside is home to a lobster hatchery and fishy maternity suite where baby lobsters are nurtured until release.

Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay

Blue Reef Newquay is home to 40 naturally-themed habitats – taking you on a journey from the Cornish coasts to the exotic seas. You’ll also have the opportunity to come face-to-face with some freshwater turtles and caiman, meet our pufferfish, and much more! The underwater tunnel runs through the ocean tank at the heart of the aquarium, and offers you captivating views of the reef and all the sea life that calls it home, including the loggerhead sea turtles, reef sharks, and shoals of colourful fish.

Also worth checking out for a short trip is the aquarium at Fowey’s Town Quay which is rather low-fi but fascinating none-the-less as the tanks contain only what has been found recently in the sea off the coast of Fowey.

ADRENALINE / PLAY

Camel Creek Adventure Park, Tredinnick, Wadebridge

Most famous for the exhilarating rides, outdoor fun and water flumes Camel Creek also has a gigantic indoor play centre, and the UK’s most hi-tech 5D Super Sim Theatre. Look out on social media for their character days.

Raze the Roof, Penryn

Soft play of epic proportions (for Cornwall) where activities include not just soft play for little and slightly bigger kids but also has a Virtual Reality Arena, razeVR, Cornwall’s biggest 10 player free roam experience that will thrill and excite the whole family with games from 6 years plus, as well as Laser tag.

Flambards in Helston has outdoor rides but also has indoor attractions including Victorian Village, Britain in the Blitz, and a Chemist Shop time capsule.

TRANSPORT – TRAINS / BOATS

Cornwall has some of the most scenic railways in Britain – soak up the views of glorious beaches, estuaries and wooded valleys all from the comfort of your railway carriage window, and hopefully it will have stopped by the time you reach your destination. You can either get a modern service, like the The St Ives Bay Line (from St Erth to St Ives) or the The Atlantic Coast Line, which crosses some of the finest countryside traversing the county from Par on the south coast to Newquay on the north. Or, for a more old-fashioned kinda trip – hitch a ride on the steam railways at Bodmin (above) or the Lappa Valley.

National Maritime Museum, Falmouth

Head to the harbourside in Falmouth where you’ll find the Maritime Museum at Discovery Quay, which opened in 2003. The building is the result of an architectural competition and the museum aims to promote an understanding of boats and their place in people’s lives, and of the maritime heritage of Cornwall. Explore the centuries-old myths and legends, when chance sightings and odd appearances led to tall tales of deep sea creatures. Learn how, even today, these stories continue to capture imaginations, fuelled by fake news and conspiracy theories. Don’t miss the rather fascinating tidal zone which gives a unique underwater perspective on Falmouth harbour.

ART / CREATIVE

Head to the Tate St Ives

The iconic Tate St Ives is right on Porthmeor Beach has a new one way route to ensure visitor safety and they’ve reconfigured the permanent collections with some new pieces and curation so there’s bound to be something new to look at. This summer’s exhibition is Ad Minoliti and also keep an eye out for the Tate Create series of activities for children. Throughout August there are various beach workshops which while not ideal for rain if you dress them in waterproofs might keep them occupied!

Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance

Built in 1865, as the home of the Branwell family, this fascinating museum / art gallery in Penzance gives insight into Cornwall’s other artists mecca. The Newlyn School artists were also making their way in the art world, famous for painting outdoors, ‘en Plein air’. Artists were drawn to Newlyn for the light and ease of living and became fascinated with the fishing way of life, chronicling this in their work. 

Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth

Falmouth Art Gallery is easy to find as it is located on the centre of town, on the upper floor of the Municipal buildings. The gallery has a lively exhibition and events programme, changing exhibitions regularly – rotating works from their permanent collection alongside major museum loans, work from local artists, community groups, school children and students. Their art collection is large and eclectic for a small museum and there is a ‘limelight wall’ within the entrance gallery, is open to all aspiring and professional artists. Very family-friendly, they host regular workshops and events for children as well as a popular community education programme.

Jackson Foundation Gallery, St Just

Take the road out of St Ives towards Zennor and Lands End and you’ll come to the small town of St Just-in-Penwith. A surprising location for an environmentally informed gallery space – until you realise this down-to-earth town is where leading British contemporary artist Kurt Jackson calls home. Jackson works in mixed media, drawing inspiration from the Cornish landscape around Penwith (and elsewhere in Britain) creating enormous canvases which contrast with the steel and concrete gallery – inviting inspection and reflection. Jackson is also artist in resident at Glastonbury and the Jackson Foundation Gallery won best art gallery in the Muddy Awards 2021 and 2022.

Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

This tiny museum on the harbourside at Boscastle, on the north coast, is home to the largest collection of witchcraft related artefacts held anywhere in the world. Exploring the history of witchcraft and magic in Cornwall and also Britainnew for 2022 is their Arte at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic exhibition featuring a significant collection of occult art.

THEATRE / CINEMA

Hall for Cornwall, Truro

The long awaited re-opening of the new revamped Hall for Cornwall in Truro happened finally last year and the programme really gets going this summer and autumn with an impressive selection of comedy, theatre and musicals.

Cornwall is also home to many small and independent cinemas including Rebel Cinema near Bude, The Savoy Cinema in Penzance (said to be the longest continually running cinema in the UK, open since 1912), the Newlyn Filmhouse, the Regal in Wadebridge and Redruth, and The Plaza, on Lemon Street in Truro, is a refurbished Art Deco-era cinema dating back to the 30s for a glam film watching venue. 

Or, GET WET ANYWAY

Go for a swim at the Jubilee Pool lido, or, on the basis that you’re going to fall in anyway and you’ll be wearing a wetsuit, check out our guide to adrenaline fuelled activities for teens including total wipe out style inflatables, surf lessons, giant slip and slides, or even an SUP or kayak.

Find more ideas here

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