Beautiful coastline, picturesque towns and a great quality of life put Cornwall on the wish list for many home hunters.

The art scene is famed, the surfing’s exhilarating and the seafood unbeatably fresh. What’s not to love about Cornwall?

Living in Cornwall: what to expect

Cornwall has long been a favourite with retirees and those looking to escape the rat race – as well as (albeit controversially) buyers of second homes. And let’s not forget those former city dwellers returning to the area where they themselves grew up to raise their own families.

But, while any of these lifestyles can seem like a dream, it’s important to investigate the realities of Cornish life if you’re going to live and work in the county.

For starters, expect more rainfall than the UK average – although this is offset by the higher average temperatures. And, although Cornwall is rich in character and history, its inhabitants are among the lowest earners in the country, according to figures.

However, faster broadband speeds and flights from Newquay into London are making a two-centre working life more achievable.

While Cornwall has some exclusive and very pricey spots – such as Wadebridge, Rock and Padstow – average property values in the county sit at around £260,000 according to Zoopla data, which is actually slightly below the UK average.

Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes, Cornwall

Where to start your property search

Between the north and south coasts, Cornwall’s beaches vary. This is largely because the north coast is rugged and battered by the Atlantic, while the south is sheltered, with more estuaries. So where could suit you?

Central Cornwall: Bodmin offers a wide range of modern houses and bungalows as well as some charming cottages and Edwardian homes which tend to be clustered in the centre of the town. Larger properties, including farmhouses and stately Georgian homes can be found in the outlying villages and hamlets, such as Dunmere and Lanhydrock.

Lostwithiel, just south of Bodmin at the head of the River Fowey’s estuary, was the former capital of Cornwall has a lively centre with festivals, fairs and markets – although house prices are higher than the county average. Properties range from large ultra-modern new-builds, farms and Georgian townhouses, to flats – purpose-built and period conversions – and modest terraces.

Further east, Launceston and surrounding villages such as Lezant, Northcott and Trebullett are also popular on account of the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty being close by.

North coast: If it’s a surfing lifestyle you’re looking for, head to the north coast, where the Atlantic Ocean makes bigger waves than the quieter southern inlets.

Newquay (which has its own airport) and Wadebridge are the two major towns that also have wide beaches.

Then there’s the famous Padstow which, thanks to the influence of chef Rick Stein, is credited with creating a ‘halo effect’ around the area’s revived popularity and subsequent house price rises, average values of which are now north of £400,000.Homes in a Cornish harbour

St. Ives has been voted top town to move to by a Daily Mail survey. Cobbled streets, sandy beaches and a bay are a major draw for tourists in the summer and property buyers will pay a premium.

South coast: With miles of designated heritage coastline, quiet inlets and coves around Polperro, Roseland and the Lizard, the south coast is the Cornwall of fishing ports and smuggling legends. It’s also holiday heaven, so it’s an ideal place for second homers, investors or those wanting to set up holiday-related businesses.

Check out Truro, Cornwall's only city and one of the smallest cities in England. It's the county's retial hub and also offers a stunning Gothic-revival Cathedral, art galleries, restaurants, bars and a cinema. Although much of the architecture in the city dates from the Georgian and Victorian eras, new-build homes can also be found at developments like Pengelly Meadows and Penn an Dre.  

The towns of Falmouth, St. Austell, St. Mawes, Penzance and Fowey are also livelier locations.

Getting around and about Cornwall

Expect to get nowhere fast in this county – the slow pace of life is a prime reason for moving here. But here’s a round-up of the public transport available:

Train: Penzance to London Paddington takes between 5 and 6 hours (it’s an hour less from Bodmin). Or the overnight sleeper service leaves at 9.45pm and arrives at 5.30am. There are showers at Paddington on platform 12, but you can stay on the train until 7am.

Car: The A30 and A39 are the main trunk roads through Cornwall. The A38 and A390 link major towns. Be patient – many of the roads between towns and villages are narrow with high verges.

Air: Newquay Cornwall Airport is the main airport into the county and flies daily year-round to Manchester (70 minutes), Gatwick (60 minutes) and the Isles of Scilly.

Other seasonal services include flights to Aberdeen, Birmingham, Doncaster Sheffield, Dublin, Glasgow and Liverpool and international flights to Alicante in Spain, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt-Hahn in Germany and Verona in Italy.

Small fishing boats, moored in a Cornish harbour

Things to do in Cornwall

For garden lovers: The climate here lends itself to grand gardens. The Lost Gardens of Heligan were recently rediscovered and revived by John Willis and Sir Tim Smit (the innovator behind the Eden Project, which you'll find near St Austell.

Trebah sub-tropical garden near Falmouth is another horticultrual must. Not only are the gardens stunning (rated among the 80 finest in the world), but it has its own private beach and an amphitheatre in summer.

For foodies: There are too many good food outlets, producers and restaurants to list in Cornwall. But try Rick Stein’s Fish in Falmouth – an upmarket chippie; The Beach at Bude where you can sip a cocktail on the terrace before dinner; and the New Yard restaurant at Trelowarren.

Don’t forget to sample the delights of Cornish ice cream (try Roskillys); pilchards, once a mainstay of Cornwall’s fishing trade; Cornish Yarg cheese (the name is the originators’ surname, spelt backwards) and authentic handmade Cornish pasties.

For culture lovers: St Ives is the home of all things arty in Cornwall. The town has four beaches but much of its reputation comes from the famous artists, local and international, who were drawn to the area thanks to the quality of the natural light.

Tate St Ives was opened here in 1993. The gallery is undergoing expansion and is closed until spring 2017 although Barbara Hepworth’s home and sculpture garden remains open.

For outdoor types: The Camel Trail between Padstow and Wenford Bridge, takes in Wadebridge, Bodmin, a stretch of woodland and the Camel Estuary. It’s long been a favourite of walkers and runners, but is also open to cyclists.

Take up surfing at Holywell Bay School of Surf, based on the beautiful National Trust beach and watched over by dedicated lifeguards – all ages and skill levels are welcome.

Go rockpooling along the beaches of Polzeath, Gyllyngvase, St Agnes and Hannafore Point – all come highly recommended by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

Rugged Cornish coastline

Hidden Cornwall

Go to see a production at Miniack open-air theatre in Porthcurno which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean in a stunning setting.

5 reasons to live in Cornwall

  • Surf, sand and fabulous beaches

  • All-year-round gardens

  • Laid-back living

  • Cool art scene

  • Lower than UK average house values
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