how to get to cornwall

How to Get to Cornwall

The journey to get to Cornwall can be somewhat overwhelming.  It’s long and often busy, but once you get here it’s well worth it.  England’s most south-westerly county is literally at the end of the country and depending on what part of Cornwall you’re looking to get to it can be quite difficult.  However, it’s not impossible, with a little preplanning.  So here’s our guide on how to get to Cornwall and our guide on travel to Cornwall.

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How to Get to Cornwall

The only access to Cornwall by road is from the east.  Cornwall is bordered to the east by the county of Devon.  You can travel to Cornwall by Boat if you come from the Scilly Islands, or by ferry from Roscoff (France) to Plymouth, then cross the border into Cornwall.  The only ferry port in Cornwall (apart from local ferries) is Penzance, which connects to the Scilly Isles.

There are no motorways in Cornwall and only two dual carriageways – the A30 and the A38.  The county is particularly rural and only has one city, Truro, although that’s not the largest place in Cornwall.  Cornwall’s largest population centre is St Austell, with a population of around 35,000 people, it has nearly double that of Truro.

How to Get to Cornwall By Plane

While there are several airfields in Cornwall, they are primarily used for sightseeing trips.  There are only two airports that are used for regular commercial flights, these are Newquay Airport and Saint Mary’s (the Scilly Isles).  If you’re visiting Cornwall from outside the UK, then you should check to see if it’s possible to fly into Newquay Airport as it’s likely to save you considerable travel time if its possible.  There are flights to Newquay airport from Faro, Alicante and Dublin as well as some domestic services.  For airports close to Cornwall you can look at Exeter (Devon) or Bristol (Somerset).

How to Get to Cornwall By Train

There are trains to Cornwall from both London and also cities in the South West, here’s how to take the train to Cornwall.

How to get from London to Cornwall by Train

You can take the train from London Paddington to Penzance.  The full route takes just over 5 hours and depending on the train it calls at a whole host of small towns, but the major stops en route, where you can also join the train are Reading, Taunton, Exeter, and Plymouth.  The train services are run by Great Western Railways.  There’s also a Night Riviera Sleeper Service which leaves London Paddington at 23:45 and arrives in Penzance at 08:00. (Times differ slightly on Sundays).  Trains from London to Penzance stop, usually, at the following locations in Cornwall.   Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle and St Erth before terminating in Penzance. 

How to get to Cornwall from the South West by Train

You can also pick up a train in Bristol or Bath to Cornwall.  Trains run regularly, you will likely need to change trains in Taunton to connect.

How to get to Cornwall from the North by Train

If you’re travelling from the North to Cornwall (and I’m using “the North” as anywhere further north than either London or Bristol!!), then you may be better taking the train to Bristol or Bath and changing there than by going into London and having to cross London.

How to get to Cornwall by Bus

Taking the bus to Cornwall is by far the cheapest way to get to Cornwall.  There are two major coach companies that provide long-distance services to Cornwall.  These are National Express and Megabus.  

There are buses from London to Cornwall, and buses from Birmingham to Cornwall. Buses take longer than the train – with a bus to Cornwall from London taking about 8 hours, but it does tend to be cheaper than the train.

How to get to Cornwall by Car

As I mentioned earlier there are no motorways in Cornwall and only two dual carriageways.   The major roads that you will take to get to Cornwall by car are as follows.

Driving to Cornwall from the North

Take the M6 and the M5 south.  The M5 goes as far as Plymouth in Devon, but if you’re heading to West or North Cornwall then you’ll want to leave the motorway earlier.

Driving to Cornwall from the South East

Take the M3 / A303 west and then depending on where you are travelling to in Cornwall, take either the A30 or the A38.

Tips on Driving to Cornwall

If you’re driving to Cornwall in the summer, or at weekends, then it’s best to try and avoid peak hours.  The roads are usually particularly busy on school holidays.  You may find that once you leave the motorways you’ll hit a lot of congestion.  It’s best to check Google Maps for the drive time estimates, as me giving you an estimate of drive times to Cornwall is unlikely to be accurate unless you’re travelling in the middle of the night with no traffic.

Take water and snacks with you, if you get stuck in a jam you might be there for a while. 

Take games for the kids. 

Always allow more time than you think you’ll need.

I recommend trying to book holiday accommodation with designated parking to make your arrival smoother and less fraught.  Here are some options.

FAQs on how to get to Cornwall

Got questions about how to get to Cornwall? Or want to know more about transport to Cornwall and we haven’t answered your questions?  Check out our frequently asked questions about travelling to Cornwall below, or ask us yours in the comments.

How long does it take to get to Cornwall?

The time it takes to get to Cornwall depends on the method of transport you take.  A train from London can take just over 5 hours.  A bus from London to Cornwall can take 8 hours.  If you are driving it depends on where you are travelling from and what time of the day and what time of the year you are travelling.

What’s the easiest way to get to Cornwall?

The easiest way to get to Cornwall is to take a train and then hire a car once you arrive in Cornwall.  You can take a train to, say Truro from Paddington, then rent a car in Truro.  Or you can fly from Stanstead or Gatwick to Newquay and hire a car from Newquay

What airport do you fly into for Cornwall?

Newquay is the only international airport in Cornwall.  You can fly to Newquay from Dublin, Faro or Alicante as well as some domestic airports in the UK.

What’s the closest port to Cornwall?

Plymouth is the closest port to Cornwall.  You can take ferries from Roscoff in France to Plymouth, or Santander in Spain to Plymouth

Where will you visit in Cornwall?

Have you decided where you’ll go in Cornwall? Here are just some of our guides to help you figure out the best places to go in Cornwall

Travel Tips for Exploring Cornwall

Final Words on How to Get to Cornwall

The journey, they say, is part of the adventure and that’s true for getting to Cornwall. We are a beautiful part of the world and we’re popular, so plan your journey to Cornwall ahead of time, make sure you leave lots of time and consider taking the train or the bus if it’s a possibility for you.

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