Cornwall is a land defined by its spectacular coastline which tapers out into the Atlantic Ocean. The dramatic granite cliffs of Land's End, picture postcard harbours, the wide sandy beaches of the north coast have all made Cornwall a holiday favourite for generations. But Cornwall also has a rich cultural heritage and this has left an indelible mark on the landscape. From ancient stones to the ghosts of the mining industry, there are constant reminders that you may not be in England anymore.
You can't get further west than the ancient Celtic kingdom of Cornwall (or Kernow, as it's known to Cornish-speakers). Blessed with the southwest's wildest coastline and most breathtakingly beautiful beaches, this proudly independent peninsula has always marched to its own tune. While the staple industries of old – mining, fishing and farming – have all but disappeared, Cornwall has since reinvented itself as one of the nation's creative corners.
Whether it's exploring the space-age domes of the Eden Project, sampling the culinary creations of a celebrity chef or basking on a deserted beach, you're guaranteed to feel the itch of inspiration. Time to let a little Kernow into your soul. Since 2006, Cornwall's historic mining areas have formed part of the UK's newest Unesco World Heritage site, the Cornwall & West Devon Mining Landscape
Cornwall is the traditional homeland of the Cornish people and is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, retaining a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history. Some people question the present constitutional status of Cornwall, and a nationalist movement seeks greater autonomy within the United Kingdom in the form of a devolved legislative assembly. On 24 April 2014 it was announced that Cornish people will be granted minority status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
Located in the far west of Great Britain on a peninsula tumbling into the vast Atlantic ocean, almost completely surrounded by the sea, a magnificent coastline wraps around Cornwall for almost 300 miles. Cornwall is also the location of mainland Great Britain's most southerly promontory, The Lizard, and one of the UK’s most westerly points, Land's End.
There are lots of things Cornwall is loved for; the dramatic coastline with its captivating fishing harbours; the spectacular beaches and the pounding surf that provide a natural playground for a variety of watersports; and of course the Cornish pasty and cream teas. But there are also lots of things about Cornwall that may surprise you. For instance, the wilderness of captivating Bodmin Moor with its panorama of big skies, fascinating prehistoric remains, great walking trails and more than its fair share of local legends.
There's also the dynamic art scene found in mainly in West Cornwall, inspired by the naturally stunning landscape. More recently Cornwall has become known for a food scene to rival London and beyond; Cornwall now has a multitude of award-winning local food producers and stellar chefs putting the region well and truly on the gourmet map.
Cornwall also has a tremendous history based on its Celtic roots; its Celtic Cornish culture; the warmth and friendliness of the people; and the Cornish language that can be seen in the village names. Take a trip around Cornwall and you’ll discover a hugely diverse landscape. In the far west where the sea turns turquoise in the sun, the sand is white and the natural light is sometimes blindingly bright, the land is adorned with a legacy of Bronze age standing stones, huge granite burial chambers, Celtic crosses and holy wells.
In the old industrial heartland, the landscape, recently awarded World Heritage Site status, is dotted with the fascinating remnants of a triumphant mining past illustrating Cornwall's enormous contribution to the Industrial Revolution with engine houses, museums and miles of recreational trails.
Around the coastline Cornwall’s maritime legacy is never far away where local fishermen land their daily catch of fresh seafood and tall ships, luggers and ketches unfurl their sails in the Cornish breeze. The natural environment, recognised nationally across the twelve sections of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is accessed by the spectacular South West Coast Path providing walkers with miles of gentle strolls and challenging hikes.
To the north, a sweep of enormous golden sand bays stretches along the coastline often pummelled by giant Atlantic rollers. Long famed for its perfect surfing conditions, the coastline here is a hub for all kinds of extreme sports from coasteering to zapcat racing and scuba diving to rock climbing. And in the wonderful south of Cornwall, fed by rivers from the high moorlands, leafy estuaries, fishing villages, beaches, harbours and beautiful gardens that flourish in Cornwall’s mild climate.
Cornwall forms the westernmost part of the south-west peninsula of the island of Great Britain, and a large part of the Cornubian batholith is within Cornwall. This area was first inhabited in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. It continued to be occupied by Neolithic and then Bronze Age peoples, and later (in the Iron Age) by Brythons with distinctive cultural relations to neighbouring Wales and Brittany.
There is little evidence that Roman rule was effective west of Exeter and few Roman remains have been found. Cornwall was the home of a division of the Dumnonii tribe – whose tribal centre was in the modern county of Devon,, separated from the Brythons of Wales after the Battle of Deorham, often coming into conflict with the expanding English kingdom of Wessex before King Athelstan in AD 936 set the boundary between English and Cornish at the high water mark of the eastern bank of the River Tamar.
From the early Middle Ages, British language and culture was apparently shared by Brythons trading across both sides of the Channel, evidenced by the corresponding high medieval Breton kingdoms of Domnonée and Cornouaille and the Celtic Christianity common to both territories. Historically tin mining was important in the Cornish economy, becoming increasingly significant during the High Middle Ages and expanding greatly during the 19th century when rich copper mines were also in production. In the mid-19th century, however, the tin and copper mines entered a period of decline.
Subsequently china clay extraction became more important and metal mining had virtually ended by the 1990s. Traditionally fishing (particularly of pilchards), and agriculture, were the other important sectors of the economy. The railways led to the growth of tourism during the 20th century, however, Cornwall's economy struggled after the decline of the mining and fishing industries.
The area is noted for its wild moorland landscapes, its long and varied coastline, its attractive villages, its many place-names derived from the Cornish language, and its very mild climate. Extensive stretches of Cornwall's coastline, and Bodmin Moor, are protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The present human history of Cornwall begins with the reoccupation of Britain after the last Ice Age. The area now known as Cornwall was first inhabited in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. It continued to be occupied by Neolithic and then Bronze Age peoples. According to John T. Koch and others, Cornwall in the Late Bronze Age was part of a maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age, in modern-day Ireland, England, France, Spain and Portugal.
During the British Iron Age Cornwall, like all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth, was inhabited by a Celtic people known as the Britons with distinctive cultural relations to neighbouring Wales and Brittany. The Common Brittonic spoken at the time eventually developed into several distinct tongues, including Cornish.
The first account of Cornwall comes from the Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, supposedly quoting or paraphrasing the 4th-century BCE geographer Pytheas, who had sailed to Britain. The identity of these merchants is unknown. It has been theorised that they were Phoenicians, but there is no evidence for this. There is little evidence that Roman rule was effective west of Exeter in Devon and few Roman remains have been found. However after 410, Cornwall appears to have reverted to rule by Romano-Celtic chieftains of the Cornovii tribe as part of Dumnonia including one Marcus Cunomorus with at least one significant power base at Tintagel.
'King' Mark of Cornwall is a semi-historical figure known from Welsh literature, the Matter of Britain, and in particular, the later Norman-Breton medieval romance of Tristan and Yseult where he is regarded as a close kinsman of King Arthur; himself usually considered to be born of the Cornish people in folklore traditions derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. Archaeology supports ecclesiastical, literary and legendary evidence for some relative economic stability and close cultural ties between the sub-Roman Westcountry, South Wales, Brittany and Ireland through the fifth and sixth centuries.
From the early 19th to the mid-20th century Methodism was the leading form of Christianity in Cornwall but it is now in decline. The Church of England was in the majority from the reign of Queen Elizabeth until the Methodist revival of the 19th century: before the Wesleyan missions dissenters were very few in Cornwall. The county remained within the Diocese of Exeter until 1876 when the Anglican Diocese of Truro was created (the first Bishop was appointed in 1877). Roman Catholicism was virtually extinct in Cornwall after the 17th century except for a few families such as the Arundells of Lanherne.