Even if you don’t have a car, but you dream of exploring Cornwall with your dog, with a bit of planning (which we did for you in this post) you can! At the end of the Summer, my husband, Argo and I took a 4-day break from the city, heading to West Cornwall, making the most of trains and buses. This was our experience, with a tested plan you can use for your own trip. If you prefer travelling on four wheels, you will be able to see even more with a few more tips included in this post.
4-day dog-friendly trip to Cornwall
Every year we try and discover some new place in the UK. After visiting Edinburgh last year, last September we ticked Cornwall off our list of places to see. Also this year we decided not to hire a car and, in order to make the most out of our 4 days in Cornwall, we picked Penzance as base for our four-day stay, as it is served by a number of buses and trains. Due to the limitations that public transport brings, we set the scope of our exploration to cover the Penwith Peninsula, the very Western part of Cornwall.
In this post you will find our itinerary and plan, a review of our travel and lots of tips for your own getway.
Our experience and dog adventures in West Cornwall
DAY 1: London Paddington to Penzance by train with your dog and first day
DAY 1 SCHEDULE (SATURDAY)
- 9:03 am train from London Paddington
- 2:27 pm arrival at Penzance station
- 4:00 pm visit of Penzance | Afternoon (better) alternatives: visit Maraizon and St Michael’s Mount | head to Trewidden Garden or Trengwainton Garden
- Dinner (ours was with our Aibnb host) alternative: dog-friendly pub in Penzance (e.g. The Turks Head)
We took the 9.03 am train from London Paddington on a very sunny Saturday morning, arriving at 2:27pm in Penzance. The train was on time and during the trip we could admire some lovely landscapes from the windows, including Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge. However, after Plymouth the weather suddenly changed and became so foggy and damp that from the railway we could not even see the sea a few meters away.
Our host kindly picked us up at the station with her car and in a few minutes we got to the Airbnb (more about this at the bottom of this post), were she showed us our room and we met lovely Cocker Spaniel Bertie, a seven year old lad with an obsession for food. Our ensuite room was cosy and comfortable, and the house had a beautiful fully enclosed garden too, where Argo and Bertie had a run. For the first night, instead of eating out, we opted for having dinner at our Airbnb host’s (for an extra fee), and she gave us plenty of tips for exploring Penzance and surroundings for the following days.
We had planned to go to St Michael’ Mount, after having left our bags at the Airbnb, but due to the very bad weather, we figured that these weren’t the ideal conditions to visit that particular attraction and reviewed our plans.
We decided to have a walk in Penzance instead. We started strolling and stopped a local to ask for some recommendations; he was very welcoming, but advised us not to be “too excited” and said that there was not much to see or do in Penzance. We had a walk along the main streets, including Chapel Street and the promenade and discover that shops close very early, and had a drink at The Turks Head historical pub, which is dog-friendly (and where we discovered that beer is really cheap there). In Penzance there is also art deco Jubilee Pool, which in October hosts an annual dog swim, which we visited the following days.
We later discovered that the area is one of the poorest in the country, which explains decadent shops and buildings. Nonetheless, Penzance is a good base camp for exploring West Cornwall if you don’t have a car, given than it is bigger than other villages and is served by trains and buses which allow you to reach almost any place in the Western part of Cornwall.
If you travel by car and arrive by lunch time and the weather allows it, I would recommend you use the afternoon to visit one of the National Trust’s beautiful gardens in the area. In particular, you can get to Trewidden Garden, which is dog-friendly. (Visitor information: Open daily from Sunday 24th February to 22nd September 2019, 10:30am to 5:30pm, last admission 4:30pm; Buryas Bridge, Penzance, Sat Nav. TR19 6AU; Tickets: £7 adults, under 16 years and dogs go free).
DAY 2: A dog day out to the West Coast and Porthcurno
DAY 2 SCHEDULE (SUNDAY)
- 8:25 am A1 bus from Poltair Hospital, Penzance, to Botallack
- 8:40 am walking on the Tin Coast
- 10:20 am arrival at Geevor Tin Mine
- 12:30 am end of visit to Geevor Tin Mine and bus to St Just short after
- 1:00 pm lunch at the Kings Head pub in St Just
- 2 and somethig pm A3 bus from St Just to Land’s End – change (same bus changing number) and departure for Porthcurno
- 3:50 pm circa arrival in Porthcurno
- 3:55-4:30 pm visit of the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno
- 5:10 pm walk along the paths and attempt to visit the beach
- 5:40 pm circa catch bus to Penzance
- 6:40pm walk in Penzance
- 7:00pm dinner in Penzance
The second day was the most glorious of the holiday. With the blessing of a sunny and warm weather, we were able to enjoy even more every minute of our planned schedule. Normally, we quite like to go and explore places without looking at the watch too much, but this time we had to craft a meticulous plan in order to fit as much sightseeing we could, as there are only few buses running during the day and we could not afford to miss them (below you will find the exact schedule and at the bottom of this post all useful information about buses).
Trekking on the West coastal path
We took the A1 First Kernow double decker at 8.25 am from Poltair Hospital’s bus stop, close to our Airbnb, purchasing a three-day ticket pass on board. The ride to Botallack (where we arrived just after 8.50 am) was lovely, as from the upper floor of the bus we could see fields and farm animals, woods and paths, discovering a bit more of the territory.
We got off near Botallack and we started our trekking from there. The bus driver confirmed where to get the path and we immediately knew we were on the right track thanks to the National Trust’s milestone indicating we were in Botallack.
The first landmark we reached was the Wheal Owles Mine, which was theatre of a mining disaster in 1893, as a sign remembers. From there we enjoyed walking along the coastal path, which runs along the cliffs, and could admire the breathtaking landscape and the sea underneath. Our next stop was at the Levant Mine.
The Levant Mine, with the Beam Engine, is today a dog-friendly landmark, which also has a small mine shop and run guided tours. Dogs are welcome on lead (although I believe they are allowed underground, but double check, since this is somethig we were told but didn’t confirm), but it was still closed when we arrived, so we could only have a look from outside. In case you are travelling by car, there is a carpark just above it.
We then continued our walk on the path and past Geevor Tin Mine, up the Boscaswell Cliff to have a enjoy a good view from above, which is stunning. Argo enjoyed the walk too! What left us a bit concerned, though, was seeing a moth caterpillar on Boscaswell Cliff. We don’t know whether they are endemic in the area, but be careful with your dogs if you visit, because they are toxic for dogs (I don’t know whether the species in the UK is as dangerous as the Italian one, but last Summer while on holidays in Pulia we met a dog who had lost her tongue after licking a moth caterpillar).
We would have loved to keep walking and reach Pendeen Watch Lighthouse, but due to time constrains we walked back down Boscaswell Cliff to reach the Geevor Tin Mine for a visit. One curiosity: Pendeen Watch Lighthouse was converted in two holiday cottages and today one of them, the beautiful Argus Cottage, is dog-friendly, allowing up to 2 well-behaved dogs for a small extra charge per dog (minimum 2 nights). So if you are planning a romantic stay, this may be a good option.
Geevor Tin Mine visit
On the Tin Coast there is plenty of mines. We picked Geevor Tin Mine (the website doesn’t really give it justice) as the one to visit as it seemed the biggest and welcomes dogs on leads.
Dogs are allowed everywhere apart from in the underground Wheal Mexico Mine, which, to be fair is very reasonable: they even give you a long gown to wear to avoid getting stains on your clothes and if they allowed dogs in, they would probably come out of a different colour. In addition, dogs are not allowed in the Mine Shop nor in the Count House Cafe, but there are picnic tables outside, so if it is a nice day you will be able to bring your own food and enjoy a meal outdoor.
Dogs are allowed in all other areas, which include what is called the Mill, where ore was processed, the drill shop, the Dry (where workers got changed), the Hard Rock Museum, the Compressor House, and the Sample House. It is very interesting to visit the mine, as all the ore process is explained clearly and you get to see all the machines too.
The mine was open until relatively recently (it started its decline around the 70s but closed only in 1990), and in the Dry there are still the miners’ original clothes, and so many other paraphernalia.
Geevor Tin Mine visitor information:
- Tickets: £14.60 per adult (while dogs go free), £8.50 children, free children under 4 years.
- Opening times: Sunday to Friday 9am to 5pm with last entrance one hour before closing (November to March 10am to 4pm)
St Just for lunch
We concluded our visit to Geevor Tin Mine around 12.30am and we took the A17 bus in direction of St Just. The bus stops outside the Mine Shop and ticket office, and it is just a less than 20-minute ride to St Just. This time, the double decker’s top floor was open, so we could admire the landscape from the back rows with a nice breeze.
In St Just we had a stroll and stopped at the Kings Arms, a traditional Cornish Inn, for a Sunday roast. The Kings Arms is probably the most dog-friendly pub we have visited in England so far: as we arrived they brought Argo a small espresso cup full of treats and a bowl of water, and, as we finished eating our meal, they brought him a bowl full of meat! You can imagine how enthusiastic Argo was about it. After lunch we had a short walk to the church nearby and graveyard and took the headed to the bus stop for the rest of our trip.
On the road to Porthcurno
Our next destination was Porthcurno, further South on the coast. We got on the No. 7 bus from St Just to Land’s End, to get the coincidence with the A1 bus for Porthcurno. The open-top double decker is the perfect way to see the landscape; it also stops in Sennen Cove (a surfers’ destination), so you get to see the beach too. In Land’s End we didn’t have to change bus, as the No. 7 bus changed number to A1 and after a few minutes stop continued its trip to Porthcurno. However, in order to get the coincidence we didn’t have time to visit Land’s End, unfortunately, as the time between arrival and departure was very short (the next bus was an hour later, which would have been too late for all the things we wanted to do in Porthcurno before catching the last bus back to Penzance).
We arrived in Porthcurno after another lovely bus ride on top of the double decker and from there we walked up a little hill to reach the Minack Theatre.
The Minack Theatre (which name means “rocky place” in Cornish language) a fascinating open-air theatre planned and built by an impressive woman, Rowena Cade from the 1930s. Dogs are allowed on site, although they cannot assist to the plays (and are allowed only in a specific section of the cafe), so we could visit the exhibition centre – where we watched a documentary about Rowena Cade and building the history of the theatre -, the garden, and the theatre, with Argo the dog. The stage is an impressive work: it was built as an open-air amphitheatre overlooking the sea and the beautiful Cornish landscape.
Minack Theatre visitor information:
- Tickets: £5 for adults, £2.50 for under 15, £0.50 for under 11, free under 2, dogs go free.
- Opening: From 1st April to 30th September, the Minack Theatre opens at 9.30am, with last admission at 5.30pm (and closure at 6pm). In Winter (1st October – 31st March) hours are 10am to 3.30pm.
Our attempt to get to a dog-friendly beach
Dogs are banned from Porthcurno Beach during the Summer until 30th September from 8am to 7pm, so we could not take advantage of it. However, we found that there is an all-year round dog-friendly beach not too far, which could be reached with a walk on the coastal path up the cliffs: Pedn Vounder Beach. We were advised by some locals that the path to get to it was “very steep”, but, this didn’t put us off as we are used to walk on steep terrains, and we set off, determined to give Argo a good time playing fetch on the beach, running on the water edge and having a swim in the turquoise water.
The way down the cliff path was steep in some parts, but we didn’t find it challenging until we reached the very last stretch, just a few meters to go to reach the beach. In fact, in order to get to Pedn Vounder Beach you have had to climb down a steep almost vertical cliff drop. From the rock we could see a few people on the beach, who made it with small dogs and a couple with a larger one too, but we were very worried about how Argo could have got down and up without getting hurt and were also worried about getting injured ourselves, with our bags and camera. All these factors considered, with sadness, we decided to desist and head back to Porthcurno.
We arrived there in time to get the bus departing around 5:40pm back to Penzance (instead of the last one, departing at 6.52 pm, which we had planned to get). We sat on the upper floor of the double decker, in the open-air part, to see the landscape and wrapped up in our jackets and hoodies, to face the breeze and cold of the evening coming. If you travel on the upper deck you need to be careful and watch out for tree branches: we found out that they don’t trim them properly and you risk to be “combed” by them if you don’t pay attention!
Once in Penzance we directly headed to dog-friendly The Dolphin Tavern for dinner (but we weren’t too impressed with the service, to be honest, and the food was just ok), and later walked back to our Airbnb.
DAY 3: St Ives & St Michael’s Mount with your dog
DAY 3 SCHEDULE (MONDAY)
- 9:47-10:00 am train from Penzance to St Erth and St Ives Bay Line train (see new timetable here)
- 10:12 am arrival in St Ives and visit of the town
- 12:05 pm circa bus to Marazion and lunch at the Kings Arms Marazion
- 1:45 pm circa boat to St Michael’s Mount and visit
- 2:15 pm boat back to Marazion
- 2:30 pm walk to Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens and visit
- Bus to Penzance
Our third day was marked by a very damp and horrible weather. We had planned to take the train from Penzance to St Erth and there change with the scenic railway to St Ives (the St Ives Bay Line), which runs on the coast and promises breathtaking views; we would have later visited St Ives’ village and taken the bus to Marazion, for a stop at St Michael’s Mount. We were also looking to combine this with a visit to a dog-friendly National Trust garden: Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens.
We walked to Penzance train station and took the the 9:47am train to St Erth, which is just a few minutes ride. When you get there, don’t do as we did: don’t stop to take pictures at the station, but instead, quickly get on board the St Erth-St Ives Bay Line train, on the other platform, because it has a limited number of carriages and seats and it becomes very packed quickly (tickets cost £4 for adults, £2 for children between 5-15, and up to 2 dogs on leads are allowed and travel for free; more about the railway and a short video here). The best seats are those near the window on the right hand-side of the car. The train departed at 10am and in 12 minutes we were in St Ives. The trains have different times depending on the day of the week and season (you can download the timetable from GWR website here).
Due to a thick fog and rain, we couldn’t really enjoy the view from the train, but if you go on a sunny day, it promises to be spectacular. As we arrived in St Ives we had a walk around the harbour and the village. Many places are dog-friendly, including shops and we stopped at an all-year round dog-friendly small sandy beach behind the harbour (which is called Bamaluz Beach), where we played fetch with Argo to tire him out and reached St Nicholas Chapel. Due to the bad weather and poor visibility, after a walk in Fore Street and surroundings (where we visited a dog-friendly market and a few shops), we decided to take the bus to Marazion from a bus stop near the station.
In Marazion the weather did not get better, and in the loomy storm we stopped for lunch at dog-friendly The Kings Arms Marazion, paces from the beach from where you can reach St Michael’s Mount. There is a seasonal dog ban from Marazion beach from 1st May to 30th September, so you can only walk to the granite causeway leading to St Michael’s Mount at low tide, or walk to the rock to get the boat. As it was high tide when we arrived, so we got on a little boat which took us you and Argo on the island for £2 each (dogs go free).
St Michael’s Mount
As we had read about, St Michael’s Mount, has unfortunately some relevant dog restrictions in place: dogs on leash can visit the village area, but they are banned from the gardens, the castle and all castle paths, in addition, while they are allowed in the Island Cafe garden, but they are not allowed indoor in the cafe. This means that it is not that much fun, as the village area is really small! If you wish to visit the castle, you will have to do it in turns so one can stay with the dog while the other goes for a tour. We skipped the castle, as waiting in the cold and damp wasn’t a really pleasant option, but we would have done it on a sunnier day.
From Marazion Beach it is a 45 minutes walk to reach Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens (which are open daily from 16th February to end October 2019 10:30am – 5.30pm; tickets £8 adults, £4.50 children 11-15 years, under 11 and dogs go free); alternatively, you can get the U4 bus to Penzance and from there change with the 16 bus towards St Ives travelling via Gulval & Ludgvan, asking the driver to drop you off at Tremenheere (according to Kernow journey planner it takes just over an hour travel from Marazion). Again, the foggy and damp weather convinced us to skip this last part of the plan and head back to Penzance by bus (Penzance can also be reached on foot with a 55 minutes walk on the South West Coast Path).
DAY 4: Back from Penzance to London
On the last day, in the best Murphy’s law style, the sun was shining as we headed to the station, after a last walk in Penzance. We had booked a morning train, so we could arrive in London around mid afternoon, although our train departure had an awful delay due to technical failures and miscommunications in the railway network.
Planning your dog getaway in Cornwall
How to find a dog-friendly accomodation in Cornwall
We will tell you more about dog-friendly holiday accomodations in a separate post. For now, just some quick tips! We planned the trip a little less than a month before going and found that, despite being the end of the Summer season, many places were fully booked, so our choice range, was narrower. Obviously, travelling with a dog and without a car cut out much choice, since we needed to find a dog-friendly place to stay which was also at walking distance from the town centre or at least public transport.
We ended up picking an Airbnb (there are of course other options if you prefer another type of accomodation – see more below in this post). We picked a double en-suite at Poltair Cottage, 2 miles North from Penzance, but reachable with a 30-minute walk (all on footpaths, up hill) or by bus (but there are so unfrequent), with Superhost Jane, for £50 per night per person.
On Airbnb, quite conveniently, you can find a dog-friendly one in a couple of simple steps:
- searching for area/town you want to stay at in they “Homes” section
- click on “more filters” on the results page
- you scroll down and you will find, under “House rules”, a checkbox names “Pets allowed”
- tick it and click on “Show homes” and you have your search refined with the relevant results.
If you prefer a whole home or cottage, there are a number of good alternatives. The National Trust has a number of stunning dog-friendly cottages in Cornwall like Nanceglos House, near Penzance (for most you will probably need a car, though). If you are looking for a luxury accomodation, Rural Retreats lists a few dog-friendly holidays homes, including some pictoresque lighthouses. Also PetsPyjamas has a dog-friendly cottages section on their website.
If you have a car and are looking for an affordable and not fancy accomodation, there is a Travelodge near Hayle. Travelodge is currently running a January sale, so by booking by Friday 11th January 2019 at a participating Travelodge hotel, you can get 40% off selected stays taking place between 11th January to 31st March, you can use this affiliate link and the code 4oOFF (there are a bunch of additional conditions, e.g. that this applies only to certain rates, Fridays and Sundays, etc., so make sure to check out the full promotion T&Cs on Travelodge’s website).
Getting to West Cornwall by train with a dog
Having discarded the option to hire a car hire, we decided to travel to Penzance by train. To get there with a dog by train there are two options:
- Direct daytime train from London Paddington to Penzance (Great Western Railway), where your dog travels with you at no extra cost, which takes 5 hours and a half (equal or even more than the time it took us to get to Edinburgh by Virgin train last year);
- Night train from London Paddington to Penzance: the Night Riviera Sleeper train may be a more efficient alternative as you can save a day by travelling at night, however, while dogs are allowed in the seated accomodation, they are not allowed in the cabins unless they are assistance dogs, as we confirmed with the staff; according to the Man in Seat 61, in case you book a cabin, your dog can travel in the guard’s van in a suitable crate. We are currently awaiting confirmation from the GWR about this last information. Departures from Paddington are at 23:45 Monday to Friday, and 23:50 on Sundays, arriving in Penzance at 7:53am or 8:59am respectively (price is £70 for a cabin to yourself, or £45 for a shared one).
Getting around by bus with a dog in West Cornwall
If you travel to Cornwall without a car, you can get around by bus. We bought a 3-day ticket on board our first bus, on the second day, with a contactless card. The driver gave us a printed paper ticket with a code which you we scanned every time we got on a bus. The price was £18 and allowed us to get unlimited travels over the three days.
To find your way around and plan your journeys, you can download the First Bus app (available on Apple store here and on Google Play here). Alternatively, you can use the journey planner on the Kernow bus’ website.
Tips to make the most out of your dog stay
Dog-friendly beaches in Cornwall
A great thing to do with your dog in Cornwall is taking them to the beach. If you visit during the good season, though, you to work around where you can take your four-legged, as there are a number of dog bans until 30th September. The official up to date list of dog restrictions is available on Cornwall’s Government website (see link).
We got a map at the tourist office about dog-friendly beaches and places called Dogs Love Cornwall Map 2015 (link for handy online version): unfortunately it is a bit dated (2015), so you need to check any updates about further restrictions on official websites, but at least you can have a first visual representation of the beaches and work your itinerary out from there.
Dog-friendly things to do in Cornwall: National Trust Gardens
Another lovely dog-friendly attraction in Cornwall are the many beautiful National Trust you can visit with your dog. In particulr, dogs on leashes are allowed at three gardens nearby:
Other Dog-friendly things to do in West Cornwall: Lizard Peninsula and Cornish Seal Sanctuary
We had heard speaking so well about the Lizard Peninsula by some friends, but unfortunately we hadn’t time to fit it in our schedule. There are many beaches and places to visit there, and nearby there is the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, which welcomes well-behaved dogs on leads (that they are dog-friendly it even written in big letters on the cover on their leaflet you can get at the tourist office and a bunch of other places). While I am strongly against zoos and other structures that keep wild animals in captivity, this centre does something more noble, as it rescues and rehabilitates seals, with the goal of releasing them into the wild again (and looking on their website they have a track of being effective to do so), so I can live with this and include it in this post.
Corwall guides and websites to check out
If you are going to Cornwall you can find other tips about accomodation, dog-friendly beaches and places, etc., on a host of websites and blogs, as well as guides. For tips about visiting Cornwall, a few are:
- Devon & Cornwall Lonely Planet paperback guide (Amazon affiliate link): this was the guide we bought for the trip, it covers a wider area, so we will use it for future trips to other parts of Cornwall and hopefully to visit Devon too;
- Devon & Cornwall TimeOut guide: I had bought the first edition of this paperback guide edited by TimeOut in a charity shop; you can find the second edition (still quite old, as it is from 2012) on Amazon at the affiliate link provided;
- Visit Cornwall: official tourist board website, it has a dog section referred to as “dogs love Cornwall“;
- Dog-friendly Cornwall: as the name suggests, this is a website dedicated to all dog-friendly things in Cornwall;
- The Cornish Dog: a dog blog by a photographer and her keen Spaniel exploring Cornwall.
Tell us about your Cornish trips in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
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