Best Museums In Cornwall

James

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James

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If you live in the UK and want to visit a place that has exceptional potential for tourism, then you need to take a trip to Cornwall.

Believe us – this southwestern county has something for almost everyone. From glamorous beaches to idyllic countryside – you’ll find it all here! Therefore, you can rest assured that you won’t get bored on your trip.

One of the many attractions that Cornwall has to offer is museums. To be honest, it is quite natural, given its rich history and cultural heritage.

But what are some of the best museums that you can visit here? That is just what we have discussed in this guide. 

So, if you wish to dig deeper into Cornwall’s past, you’ve got to read this article first. Let’s go!

Nine Best Museums In Cornwall

1. Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro

When it comes to museums in Cornwall, this is one place that you absolutely cannot miss! The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro is possibly the largest museum in the county. It is directly supported by the British Museum in London and has a really diverse range of exhibits from different eras and time periods in history. 

You will find several displays from Ancient Rome, Greece and even some exhibits from as far as Egypt. Apart from that, there are displays on several other historical topics. On top of that, the museum has an excellent ceramics and art collection, which have been loaned from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Of course, there are a lot of exhibits that showcase the county’s rich heritage as well. After all, what’s the point of a Cornish museum if it doesn’t tell you about Cornish history?

That’s why you’ll find a diverse mineral collection from the different mines of Cornwall, for mining has always been an integral part of this county. There’s an extensive Cornish art collection on display at the museum too. Similarly, the Courtney Library, which lies adjacent to the museum, boasts an extensive collection of Cornish books and manuscripts that you can check out.

2. Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno

Another interesting place that you can visit in Cornwall is the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. Alternatively known as PK Porthcurno, this museum is dedicated to highlighting the history and development of telegraph communications throughout the years.

Yeah, we understand that the whole concept of it may feel a bit uninteresting to some people at first. Radio and telegraph communications are highly technical domains, so what can the layman understand about these things, right? Well, after you visit the museum, all these misconceptions will be broken – trust us.

Not only is the museum engaging for everyone (including children), but it will also provide a lot of interesting tidbits about these things. After all, the Porthcurno Telegraph station – which is where the museum has been set up – was the largest underwater telegraph station in the world at one point. Besides, it has played a pivotal role in global communications for more than 100 years.

Large undersea cables from different parts of the world were brought ashore and terminated at this station even as early as 1870. On that note, the telegraph station played a crucial role in both world wars. 

Aside from that, there is a complex network of hidden tunnels below it that you can check out. These were built to defend the station in case of an enemy invasion. In short, you and your family will have a great time at this museum.

3. Museum Of Witchcraft And Magic, Boscastle

If you wish to visit a truly unique museum, then this is the place that you need to be! As the name suggests, this museum, which is located in the village of Boscastle, is dedicated to the history of witchcraft and magic through the ages.

This witchcraft museum will be quite fascinating to those who are into the occult or are interested to know more about the macabre customs practised in ancient times. As a matter of fact, this seemingly normal-looking establishment is one of the most renowned museums worldwide. That is because it houses the world’s largest collection of magic and witchcraft-related artefacts. 

Furthermore, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic has a collection of over 5,000 books on occult practices of the mediaeval ages. You’ll find tomes on topics like satanic rituals, persecution of witches, folk magic in Britain and a variety of other subjects. All of these aspects provide a really eerie but intriguing ambience to this 50-year-old museum, making it a must-visit on a trip to Cornwall.

4. National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth

The sea and ships have always played an important part in Cornish culture. This is mainly due to its geography and an economy that was heavily dependent on the sea at one point. That is why the National Maritime Museum was set up, as it aims to showcase the rich maritime history of this county to visitors.

This museum is situated in the town of Falmouth, which is known for its large natural harbour. Interestingly enough, Falmouth Harbour is actually the third largest natural harbour in the world and the deepest one in Europe. Likewise, the maritime museum is located close to the docks. So, you can take a stroll down the piers of the harbour when visiting the museum.

As for the museum itself, you’ll find it to be pretty amazing. It consists of a collection of more than 50 seafaring vessels from different time periods. Additionally, there are around 15 exhibit galleries spread out across five floors, which means that you will get a comprehensive history lesson on Cornwall’s maritime culture.

Apart from that, the museum offers a number of activities that visitors can take part in. These activities include maritime and shipbuilding workshops, talk shows, conferences and many more. Put simply – you will find a lot of things to keep yourself and your family engaged for the whole day.

5. Shipwreck Treasure Museum, Charlestown

Want to feel like the infamous Blackbeard or some other fabled pirate from the legends for a day? Then you just have to travel to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum, which is located in the small seaside village of Charlestown near St. Austell.

This fascinating museum holds a treasure trove of nautical artefacts. Yes, we fully intended that pun, for we are talking about actual treasures recovered from the seabed, among other shipwrecked items and curiosities. As such, it is one of the most interesting places that you can visit with your family. Your kids will particularly enjoy being here, as it has a lot of interesting activities to participate in.

The museum does an excellent job of showing the deep cultural connection that Cornish people have with the sea. On that note, it is a short distance away from Charlestown Port, which was once a major trading hub in the region. So, if you wish to delve further into Cornwall’s seafaring history, you can visit the port after the museum.

6. Tate Art Gallery, St. Ives 

If you want our opinion, then we’d say that Tate St. Ives is one of the best art galleries in Cornwall. In fact, it is a place that every art connoisseur should visit at least once. Overlooking the majestic waters of the Atlantic, the Tate Gallery is a little distance away from the famous Porthmeor Beach in St. Ives. 

This art gallery boasts a mesmerising collection of modern and contemporary art by local artists from the region. It houses some famous art pieces from a few globally renowned artists as well. In this regard, many visitors may find the architectural design of the museum to be fascinating too.

Besides the art exhibitions, the Tate art gallery offers a lot of other activities. And if you have children, you can rest assured that they won’t feel bored here. Naturally, this makes it a great place to visit with the whole family

Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that the entry fee includes admission to the nearby Barbara Hepworth Museum. So, once you are done here, you can head straight over there, making it very convenient for visitors.

7. Barbara Hepworth Museum And Sculpture Garden, St. Ives

Situated at walking distance from the Tate, this museum is dedicated to the life and works of the famous British artist Barbara Hepworth.

For those who are not entirely familiar with her, let us give you a brief idea. Barbara Hepworth was one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th Century, who gained recognition for her striking bronze sculptures. Her art style was that of Modernism, which is prominent in almost every one of her works. 

If you are a hardcore art enthusiast, you will really love it here. This museum contains some of her most famous sculptures, which will fascinate even some of the non-artsy people that come here. Moreover, you can take a sneak peek into her personal workshop, which contains her art tools and equipment – all of which have been preserved carefully for viewing.

8. Museum Of Cornish Life, Helston

Also known as the Helston folk museum, this particular establishment is home to one of the largest social history collections in England. The museum was founded in the year 1949, and it showcases a huge variety of historical artefacts about Cornish life in general.

If you wish to learn more about the people and culture of Cornwall, then you should definitely visit this place. You will find displays and exhibits which are over a thousand years old, with some even dating back to the Neolithic times. 

Likewise, you can find trinkets from the recent past too. These include objects that are used in local industries and the everyday life of the Cornish people. All of these items are available for viewing across five large halls, which means that you can spend the entire day touring the museum.

Of course, there are many other attractions at Helston Museum besides these curiosities from the past. You can participate in different types of workshops and activities that will give you a taste of Cornish life through the years. All in all, it is a great place to spend time with your family, and the best part is that entry is absolutely free!

9. Cornwall At War Museum, Davidstow

The Cornwall At War Museum is one of the foremost establishments that highlight the wartime history of Cornwall. Located at the site of a former RAF airfield in Davidstow, this museum has numerous exhibits from the different wars, including the two World Wars. 

You will find weapons, uniforms and many personal belongings of the soldiers who served in these wars. In addition, it includes a number of military vehicles and aircraft that you can check out. If you happen to be interested in wartime history, then you must visit the museum. 

In our opinion, the Cornwall At War Museum is one of the most underrated museums in the county. That is why we have included it on our list of the top museums to visit in Cornwall. 

It will show you how wartime affected life in the county, which is quite an illuminating experience indeed. Also, you can visit the Davidstow Memorial RAF museum if you wish, which is located right next to this one.

Conclusion

There are many other big and small museums scattered throughout the county of Cornwall. For instance, you have the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre in Newquay or the Geevor Tin Mine Museum in Penzance. To be honest, if we were to list each and every museum here, the list would become incredibly long.

Naturally, it won’t be possible for you to visit all of them in a single trip. That is why we have included some of the most popular and notable museums on this list. These will give you a great idea of Cornwall’s rich heritage and culture.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of this guide. We hope that you will find this information useful when planning your next Cornwall itinerary.

Safe travels, everyone!

About The Author


James

Reviewed by

James

James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.