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Devon + Cornwall See And Do

Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden
Barnoon Hill
St. Ives , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1736 796 226
www.tate.org.uk/stives/hepworth/

Barbara Hepworth was one of a group of influential 20th-century abstract avant-garde artists who settled in and around St. Ives. Hepworth's studio has been converted into a small museum managed by the Tate. The subtropical gardens are full of her bronze, stone, and wood sculptures. If you're visiting both the Tate St. Ives and the Hepworth Museum, purchasing a joint site admission ticket will save you a few bucks.

Big Sheep
Bideford , Devon
England
Tel: 44 1237 472 366
www.thebigsheep.co.uk

Surely this is the world's only theme park dedicated to sheep. There are sheep races (they're ridden by toy lambs in racing colors), mini sheepdog trials (an oddly compelling sport), sheep-shearing demos, and, to vary the pace, duck roundups and horse whispering. Then there's Ewetopia, an indoor adventure playground useful for rained-out kids, a farmer's market, and restaurants. Such is the success of the place, they keep adding new stuff: mini self-drive tractors, adult off-road go-carts, and outdoor laser games.

Eden Project
Bodelva
St. Austell , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1726 811 911
www.edenproject.com

In 2001, this exhausted 34-acre china clay pit became a kind of geodesic dome eco-theater, a global garden illustrating the relationship between plants and people. "Biomes" demonstrate disparate climates: Mediterranean with citrus trees and olives, rain forest (housed in the world's largest greenhouse), and an outdoor garden planted with maize, lavender, tea, and hemp. It's a surprisingly fun way to get eco-educated. When the Biomes are lit up at night, the Eden Project also makes for an atmospheric venue for gigs—past performers have included Moby, Goldfrapp, and Brian Wilson.

Exeter Cathedral
1 The Cloisters
Exeter , Devon
England
Tel: 44 1392 285 983
www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk

The center of a cobbled square lined with bars, cafés, and shops is quite the cosmopolitan place for a 12th-century cathedral. Originally built of pale local stone in the Norman style, it was rebuilt beginning in 1270 in the highly decorated Gothic manner you see today (though the reconstruction kept the original square towers intact). The cathedral was badly damaged by bombing during the World War II, but repairs uncovered more of the original Norman building as well as parts of the Roman city.

Falmouth Art Gallery
Municipal Buildings
The Moor
Falmouth , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1326 313 863
www.falmouthartgallery.com

One of the Southwest's premier museums, Falmouth Art Gallery houses an impressive permanent collection, including works by the Victorian British Impressionists and Old Masters, as well as contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It also shows temporary exhibits and holds interactive family workshops.

Closed Sundays.

Gardens
Cornwall
England

The subtropical Trevarno Gardens are at the center of a 750-acre estate that dates to 1246—grounds that also encompass a lake with a Victorian boathouse, and acres of woodlands for peaceful ambles. Visit in April and May, when the valley becomes a sea of bluebells (Trevarno, Crowntown, near Helston, Cornwall; 44-1326-574-274; www.trevarno.co.uk). In a 26-acre ravine, Trebah Garden is filled with palms and banana trees, streams, and waterfalls. Views extend to a beach on the Helford River 200 feet below (Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth, Cornwall; 44-1326-250-448; www.trebahgarden.co.uk). The Lost Gardens of Heligan were considered one of the finest plantings of 19th-century England, but the grounds fell into decline during and after the two World Wars (only a few members of the 22-man garden staff survived World War I). In the 1990s, a restoration program began resuscitating the land, and today, 80 acres of restored formal gardens, entwined with paths and dotted with period features, such as the original summerhouses, are open (Pentewan, St. Austel, Cornwall; 44-1726-845-100; www.heligan.com).

Literary Devon + Cornwall
Devon + Cornwall
England

Soft light and dramatic landscapes have long drawn artists to Devon and Cornwall, but these counties have a strong literary heritage, too. A number of English Riviera locations have figured prominently in Agatha Christie's books (see www.theenglishriviera.co.uk/english-riviera/agatha-christie.asp for details). You can catch the historic Greenway Ferry (www.greenwayferry.co.uk), which has run for more than a thousand years, up the picturesque River Dart in Devon to crime writer Agatha Christie's house and gardens (Greenway Road, Galmpton; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-greenway.htm). Daphne du Maurier lived in the small town of Fowey for 60 years and used the area as the backdrop for many of her books, including Rebecca. Kenneth Grahame was similarly inspired by Fowey to write the children's classic The Wind in the Willows. The area is also associated with King Arthur. Just outside the town, archaeological excavations have revealed the remains of a village as well as Castle Dore, which is believed to have been built by the Cornish King Mark of the Arthurian legend. The Literary Center in Fowey concentrates on Daphne du Maurier but also provides information on other local authors (5 South St., Fowey; 44-1726-833-616; www.fowey.co.uk/directory/literarycentre.htm).

Minack Theatre
Porthcurno
Penzance , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1736 810 181
www.minack.com

It's unlikely you've ever experienced a theater quite like this one. Situated 200 feet above the sea, these 750 open-air seats were carved out of a cliff edge in the 1930s, in the style of a Greek amphitheater. May through September, performances might include anything from plays (Shakespeare's Twelfth Night) and operas (Carmen) to musicals (Man of La Mancha) and recitals. Even if you don't fancy catching a performance, you can explore the theater on nonperformance days (check the website) and check out the view (look for sharks basking in the beautiful Porthcurno Bay below).

National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Discovery Quay
Falmouth , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1326 313 388
www.nmmc.co.uk

Devoted to all things maritime, the NMM gives context to Cornwall's boating and fishing heritage. Don't dismiss it, even if seafaring lore isn't your thing; the purpose-built building is very cool. In the Flotilla Gallery, there are weird and wonderful watercrafts, such as Olympic gold medal–winning boats and a bathtub that one man rowed across the English Channel. There's a lot of interactive stuff for kids, such as a life raft and lifeboat they can climb aboard, and a lighthouse-inspired lookout tower.

National Parks
Devon + Cornwall
England

Devon's two national parks both have native wild ponies and granite outcrops called "tors," and are excellent places for horse riding, hiking, and cycling. Exmoor, which runs into the neighboring county of Somerset, is on a high exposed slice of land, with woods, rivers, and a tough coastal walk. Tarr Steps, a beautiful spot with a prehistoric bridge, is one of the park's highlights. Exmoor's proximity to the coast means that it gets hit with the most unpredictable weather (www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk). The larger of the two parks, Dartmoor, covers an expanse of 368 square miles of wilderness between Exeter and Plymouth. Highlights include the stunning Lydford Gorge and the remains of a medieval village at Hound Tor (www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk). Both parks have their fair share of creepy ghost stories: A spectral dog that's said to haunt Dartmoor was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Cornwall has its own extensive moor at Bodmin, covering 80 square miles. Equally dramatic, its highlights include granite tors, prehistoric stone circles, and Dozmary Pool, home to the Lady of the Lake according to Arthurian legend. At 1,377 feet, the curious sounding Brown Willy (thought to originate from the Cornish for 'high hill') is Cornwall's highest point (www.countryside.gov.uk/LAR/Landscape/CC/south_west/bodmin_moor.asp).

National Seal Sanctuary
Gweek , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1326 221 361
www.sealsanctuary.co.uk

Set on 42 acres on the picturesque Helford estuary, the Marine Animal Rescue Centre is the most important of its kind in Europe. See the injured wild animals fed and tended to in the S.O.S. seal hospital, and visit with the resident seals and sea lions, and the unwanted goats, otters, and ponies also given a home here. Kids, needless to say, love it.

South West Coast Path
Devon + Cornwall
England
www.southwestcoastpath.com

A cliff-top path with hair-raising views runs 630 miles around the sometimes wild and rugged, sometimes rolling and gentle, southwest coast of Britain from Minehead to Poole Harbor. The path is well signposted with an acorn icon. These walks can be challenging for experienced hikers, but there are easier walks for those who prefer views to strenuous activity (check the website for details).

Stately Homes + Castles
Devon + Cornwall
England

You can't turn a corner in Devon and Cornwall without bumping into an ancient castle or grand stately home. Some have huge historical significance, while others simply have attractive architecture and grounds. Lanhydrock mixes a neo-Jacobean exterior with a Victorian interior. The surrounding 450 acres of dense woods and green parkland run down to the Fowey River (Bodmin, Cornwall; 44-1208-265-950; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-lanhydrock.htm; closed Mondays). Tudor-styled Cotehele dates back to 1485 and contains the oldest known—and still functioning—domestic clock in England. The clock has occupied its position in the house since 1525 (St. Dominick, near Saltash, Cornwall; 44-1579-351-346; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-cotehele/). Prideaux Place is an Elizabethan house owned by a Cornish family, the Prideaux-Brunes, for more than 400 years. It's crammed full of portraits, period furniture, and the Prideaux porcelain collection (Padstow, Cornwall; 44-1841-532-411; www.prideauxplace.co.uk). At eerily beautiful Berry Pomeroy Castle, the same site encloses the ruins of a 15th-century Norman castle as well as a 16th-century mansion built by the Seymour family (Jane Seymour was the third of Henry VIII's many wives, and the only one to produce a male heir) (Devon; 44-1803-866-618; www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.238). Dartmouth Castle is a 15th-century castle built with one square tower and one round one so it would fit on the rocky headland at the mouth of the River Dart. It provided protection from French pirates (Castle Rd., Dartmouth, Devon; 44-1803-833-588; www.englsh-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.251). Pendennis Castle is a Tudor castle built to defend Henry VIII's England from France and Spain (Falmouth, Cornwall; 44-1326-316-594; www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.296). Across the estuary is the smaller but most complete of the king's surviving coastal forts, St. Mawes Castle (44-1326-270-526, www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.307).

Surfing
Devon + Cornwall
England

You'll catch some excellent waves on the north coast of Cornwall and (less so) Devon. Good surfing beaches run south–west from Harlyn down past Newquay and Portreath, as far as Porthmeor in Cornwall. In Devon, visit Croyde Bay and Woolacombe Bay beaches. The British Surfing Association website provides a list of approved surf schools in all of these areas (www.britsurf.co.uk).

Tate Gallery
Porthmeor Beach
St. Ives , Cornwall
England
Tel: 44 1736 796 226
www.tate.org.uk/stives/

The London contemporary arts institution opened an outpost in Cornwall in 1993. It aims to offer an introduction to modern art with creative display of the works and an emphasis on West Country and Cornish traditions.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.