Launceston (not to be confused with the city bearing the same name in Tasmania, Australia) has been a significant part of Cornwall County.
Located in the County’s east (close to the Devon border), it was home to one of the most popular market towns in the southwest. And today, it’s the single most important gateway to Cornwall.
Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that people visiting Cornwall take some time out to visit Launceston. That’s why we thought of curating this guide with the best things to do in this county town. Dive in!
6 Things To Do In In Launceston- The Best Attractions
1. Tour The Launceston Castle
Of course, there was no way we’d have started the list without mentioning one of the top places in Launceston, aka the Launceston Castle. Also known as the Motte and Bailey Castle, this gigantic structure was founded by the Normans centuries ago. And today, its ruins provide the perfect place for satiating the architecture lover in you.
Not only that, but it can also provide perhaps the best view of the Cornish countryside, thanks to its towering elevation well above the main town. Besides, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Sea located only a few miles from the castle.
The castle is now managed by English Heritage, who have done a commendable job in looking after the ruins that are worth dwelling around. There’s a small entry fee, though (not for members), but the experience makes the amount negligible. We’d suggest keeping a full day for visiting the castle if you truly want to take in its glory!
2. Visit The Launceston Museum (Lawrence House)
If we’re talking about the heritage of Cornwall, then there’s another place that deserves the same, if not more, importance as the castle. The town’s museum ( also called the Lawrence House) has free entry for all, but be prepared to wear out your legs, as it’s spread across quite a big area.
Take your time as you go through the artefacts, documents, and the history of Launceston, in particular, which is now looked after by the National Trust. And trust us, its artistic value is no less than the art galleries in Cornwall.
3. Spend A Leisurely Afternoon At Trethorne Leisure Park
The Trethorne Leisure Park is among the perfect family destinations in the town, especially if you’re looking to spend quality time with your children. It’s just an 8-minute drive away from the town, and it’s also easily accessible by public transport.
Once here, you will have a plethora of activities for all the family members of all ages to indulge in, like riding the dodgems or trying your hands at 10-pin bowling. You can even accompany your little ones to the playground within the arena or introduce them to the wildlife housed in the animal park as they get treated to some live entertainment!
4. Visit The St Mary Magdalene Church
This Church is located just below Launceston castle, and it has earned a reputation for being an architectural masterpiece, thanks to its stained glass windows. Each one is a true piece of art, captivating you with the colours and shapes as you take a short walk around.
The scenes largely depict the daily life of then Launceston, including the market town and streets. Moreover, no window is similar to the others, making them all the more unique!
Another element in this structure is the historic stone-carved facade dating back to the Tudor times. Besides, there are many carvings on the building itself, including that of Henry VIII’s arms, St. George, the Dragon, and others. And this wonderful place of interest is free to enter for all.
5. Discover The British Countryside With Ride On The The Launceston Steam Railway
The Launceston Steam Railway is essentially a miniature railway system, operating on a 2.5- mile narrow gauge between Launceston Station and New Mills. It takes you along the Kensey Valley, offering scenic views of the surrounding area marked by woodlands and green fields.
Once at New Mills, you can visit the historic engine shed as well as the workshop where the locomotives are maintained. Besides, there’s a picnic and play area here, making the place ideal for family time.
6. Visit The Launceston Town Council Hall And Guildhall
The Launceston Town Hall and Guildhall is more of a functional space, with spacious rooms for hosting private events.
However, it’s also open for visitors for touring, and, in hindsight, immersing in ancient British architecture. How the authorities have managed to add a modern touch to the town hall without losing its traditional charm is a sight to behold!
7. Visit The Tamar Otter Park And Wildlife Centre
The Tamar Otter Park and wildlife centre in Launceston is the only place where you can see British otters, along with European and short-clawed otters. Apart from being a tourist attraction, the place is a rehabilitation centre, breeding and releasing young otters into the wild.
Besides otters, there are other animals, like peacocks, deer, Snowy and barn owls, as well as a nature trail and woodland walks. You can also visit the place for a family picnic or outing amidst the green.
Things To Do Around Launceston
While in Launceston, you surely wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of touring the nearby places. And the best part is that most of them are located close to the town itself, so you don’t have to worry about long travelling hours.
On that note, some of the places near Launceston worth visiting are:
1. Jamaica Inn
The Jamaica Inn was established as a coaching centre for people visiting Bodmin Moor, and it continues to be the high point of the area. It also served as a resting centre, where people could stop to grab a quick bite, though there’s controversy regarding the smuggling of liquor and tea from here.
Even today, there’s a smuggling museum where you can book rooms as well as grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
2. Wesley Cottage
Located in the hamlet of Trewint, the Wesley Cottage is the historical place where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached. Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the cottage was named after him, and even today, there are annual Wesley Day celebrations with free entry for all.
This Tudor-inspired mediaeval mansion is located to the east of Cornwall, very close to Launceston. It’s a large granite and slate-stone structure placed right at the bank of the Tamar river, and despite being constructed a little more than 5 centuries ago, it still seems to uphold the principal features.
The different phases of the Cotehele mansion were constructed in different years, with the main one completed somewhere around the 1300s, with the entire structure completed around 200 years later. Moreover, you can walk around on the great outdoors of the estate to reach the Tamar sailing barge of the Victorian times.
To date, it remains one of the least modified ancient constructions in England (and not just Launceston), so make sure you include it in your itinerary!
4. Tamar Valley
Are you a nature lover and would like to spend a few hours amidst the greenery near Launceston? Then Tamar Valley should be on your must-visit places list. Stretching over 75 miles, the Tamar Valley has different landscape features, including a hiking path, a walking trail, and even some evidence of mines from before.
Talking about its Geography, the area extends from Gunnislake to Plymouth, meaning you can hike along the entire region for an experience worthy of leg pains and back aches!
5. Dartmoor National Park
The Dartmoor National Park is located in Devon, and it’s known for the rough moorland, and villages spread across the area. Even if you don’t feel like tiring yourself out visiting the expansive national park, you can simply enjoy the scenic beauty of the region.
Keep in mind, though, that public transport may not be the best way to explore Dartmoor, so you can consider hiring a car. However, you can reach specific villages here by local transport such as buses.
6. Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor is home to Brown Willy, the highest peak of Cornwall County, standing tall at 420 metres above sea level. But even for people who may not be looking for an adventure per se, the rugged landscape of the region is quite a sight to behold. However, you must visit the Golitha Falls waterfall.
Where To Eat & Drink In Launceston?
With so much to do in and around Launceston, it only makes sense for you to get hungry or spend a few hours relaxing with your favourite cocktail in hand! And thankfully, there are many good restaurants and cafes to eat in Launceston, like:
1. Liberty Coffee
In the mood for some fruit-flavoured coffee? Then Liberty Coffee is the place to be at. It uses 100% organic and roasted coffee beans sourced from London, along with dairy milk sourced from a famous dairy close to St.Ives.
Aside from that, you can try their different flavoured teas and freshly baked sweet and savoury food items.
2. Bell Inn
The oldest pub in Launceston, Bell Inn is owned by a friendly host who offers a warm welcome to all his guests, along with features like open fires and a spacious lounge. You must try the ciders, wines, and real ales available on taps to unwind after a long day of touring.
3. The Little Bakehouse
The Little Bakehouse is famous for its in-house bakery, whipping up sweet and savoury dishes from locally sourced fresh ingredients. At the same time, the place has an expert barista, with hot drinks like teas, hot chocolates, and of course, coffee, on its menu.
Whether you’re an art lover, an admirer of Mother Nature or looking to have a great fun day with your loved ones, Launceston has something for people of all interests!
The only thing you need to take care of is the weather forecast, as heavy rain and breeze can be commonplace. However, you will likely find plenty of sunshine on most days, so make sure you wear your sunscreen!
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