Museums in Cornwall offer a window into the region's rich history and culture. With over 70 museums to explore, visitors can delve into the area's fascinating past through a diverse range of exhibits and displays. From mining to art and beyond, each museum provides a unique perspective on Cornwall's heritage and legacy.
Museums and galleries are also a perfect destination on rainy days, providing a fun and educational indoor activity for visitors to escape bad weather (unfortunately we do get a lot of rain in Cornwall). You might also like 67+ indoor activities in Cornwall on rainy days!
Top Museums in Cornwall
Museum of Cornish Life, Helston
One of the most popular museums in Cornwall is the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston (formally known as Helston Folk Museum and Helston Museum), a fascinating destination that displays Cornwall's rich cultural heritage. The museum's collection comprises historical artefacts, local paintings, and photographs that shed light on the social history of the region.
The museum houses one of the largest social history collections in the whole of the South West, with items on display ranging from Greenstone axeheads used by early settlers, to irons in the Victorian kitchen, to fishing baskets, to Shallowpool Dolls in the Toy Shop.
📍Museum of Cornish Life, Market Place, Helston, Cornwall TR13 8TH
Opening Times: Monday - Saturday 10 am - 4 pm
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
The Royal Cornwall Museum houses one of the finest collections of art, natural history, and social history artefacts in Cornwall.
Established by the Royal Institution of Cornwall in 1818, the museum aims to promote excellence in science, art, and culture, as well as celebrate Cornish innovation and heritage. The museum's exhibits feature a wide range of artefacts, including historic paintings, ceramics, and archaeological finds.
📍Royal Cornwall Museum, River Street, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 2SJ
Opening Times: Tuesday - Saturday 10 am - 4 pm
Admission: Adult £7:50 (includes an annual pass), U18's Free
Bodmin Keep, Bodmin
Another must-visit museum is Bodmin Keep (the Cornwall Regimental Museum) located in Bodmin. This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and its predecessor regiments. With an extensive collection of war memorabilia and artefacts, it offers a unique insight into Cornwall's military history.
📍Bodmin Keep: Cornwall’s Army Museum, The Keep, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL31 1EG
Opening Times: Monday - Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £9 (includes annual pass), 6-18 £5, 5 & under Free
National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
Discover Cornwall's maritime history at this fascinating museum located on Discovery Quay.
The National Maritime Museum aims to enrich people's understanding of the sea and Cornwall through its exhibitions (The Tidal Zone exhibit even features an underwater window providing a glimpse into the local marine life). The museum's exhibitions programme brings new and diverse perspectives to maritime issues, highlighting their relevance to the present day. It's collection includes over 50 vessels, including boats, yachts, and canoes, as well as a range of maritime art, maps, and charts.
The museum also offers a range of events and activities throughout the year, including talks, workshops, and family-friendly activities. With its fascinating exhibitions (currently Pirates - Explore Beneath the Surface) and stunning collections, it's a must-visit destination for anyone interested in maritime history and culture.
📍NMMC, Discovery Quay, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 3QY
Opening Times: 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adults £15.50, U18 £7.75, U5 Free
Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Penzance is an excellent choice for art lovers. It houses an impressive collection of paintings by renowned members of the Newlyn School, in addition to archaeological finds that date back to prehistoric times.
📍Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Morrab Road, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4HE
Opening Times: Monday - Saturday 10 am - 4:30 pm
Admission: Adult £6, Young People 18-26 £3, Children Free
The Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (known as PK, Porthcurno) is dedicated to the history of submarine telegraphy and its impact on global communications. It's situated on the site of the former Porthcurno Telegraph Station, which played a significant role in international telecommunications during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The original Porthcurno Cable Hut, which dates back to 1870, is preserved as part of the museum. This hut was the point where undersea telegraph cables came ashore, connecting Britain to various parts of the world.
Porthcurno Telegraph Station was considered a high-value target for enemy attacks, so a series of underground tunnels were constructed to protect the staff and equipment. The museum offers guided tours of these well-preserved tunnels, providing a unique insight into the site's history during the war.
📍PK Porthcurno, Eastern House, Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 6JX
Opening Times: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £10, U18 £6, U5's Free
Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, Boscastle
The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, located in the picturesque village of Boscastle in North Cornwall, is a unique and intriguing attraction dedicated to the history, folklore, and practices of witchcraft, magic, and the occult. Established in 1960 by Cecil Williamson, the museum houses one of the world's largest collections of witchcraft-related artefacts and curiosities, making it a fascinating destination for visitors interested in the subject.
📍Museum of Witchcraft, The Harbour, Boscastle, Cornwall, PL35 0HD
Opening Times: April - October Daily 10 am - 5:30 pm
Admission: Adults £7, U18's £5, U5's Free
History and Heritage Museums
Cornwall has a rich history and heritage that is proudly displayed in various museums across the region. These museums explore diverse topics such as mining, maritime history, and local customs.
Bodmin Town Museum, Bodmin
One of the top history museums in Cornwall is the family-friendly Bodmin Town Museum, which showcases artefacts, photographs, and displays highlighting life in the area. The museum provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the town's vibrant history and its connections to the wider Cornish culture.
📍Bodmin Town Museum, Mount Folly, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL31 2DB
Opening Times: May - September
Geevor Tin Mine Museum, nr Penzance
Cornwall's mining heritage is well-represented at the Geevor Tin Mine Museum. Here, visitors can explore the site of a former working tin mine and discover the importance of mining in the region's past. The museum offers guided underground tours, exhibitions, and interactive activities that engage visitors in the fascinating world of tin mining.
📍Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 7EW
Opening Times: Sunday - Friday (closed Saturdays) 9 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £17.70 (museum only £14.25)
Wheal Martyn, St Austell
One of the top family-friendly museums in Cornwall is Wheal Martyn Clay Works, where you can explore the history and heritage of the china clay industry. With hands-on exhibits and outdoor trails, it's a perfect destination for families seeking a blend of indoor and outdoor experiences.
Explore the historic buildings, learn about the process, and marvel at the massive waterwheel that once powered the clay pits.
📍Wheal Martyn, St. Austell, Cornwall, PL26 8XG
Opening Times: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £14, Child £6.50, U5's Free
Charlestown Shipwreck & Heritage Centre, Charlestown
Maritime history enthusiasts will be delighted by the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in Charlestown. This museum features a diverse collection of shipwreck artefacts, nautical treasures, and displays highlighting Cornwall's longstanding relationship with the sea. The centre also showcases the history of the beautiful port of Charlestown and its significance in the maritime trade.
📍Shipwreck Treasure Museum, Quay Road, Charlestown, St. Austell, Cornwall, PL25 3NJ
Opening Times: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £12.50, Child 5-17 £8.50, U5's Free
Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing, Polperro
Dive into the intriguing world of smuggling in the 18th century at the Smuggling Museum. This small yet captivating museum is located harbourside in the picturesque fishing village of Polperro.
📍Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing, 4 The Warren, Polperro, Looe PL13 2RB
Opening Times: Daily Easter - October 10:30 am - 4:30 pm
Admission: Adults £3, Children U16 Free
Smugglers Museum, Jamaica Inn
Visit the Jamaica Inn at Bolventor on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall's most famous smugglers' haunt and the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier's classic novel. With a fascinating museum, ghost tours, and a cosy pub serving great food (I can recommend the gammon, egg, and chips), this historic inn is a great place to escape bad weather.
📍Jamiaca Inn, Bolventor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, PL15 7TS
Opening Times: 8 am - 9 pm
Davidstow Airfield & Cornwall at War Museum, Davidstow
The Cornwall at War Museum is situated on the site of the former RAF Davidstow Moor, a World War II airfield. This unique museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of Cornwall's wartime history and the role it played during the Second World War. The museum features an extensive collection of military vehicles, aircraft, uniforms, weapons, and personal items belonging to the servicemen and women who were stationed at the base.
You can also visit the Davidstow Moor RAF Memorial Museum, which is located next door!
📍Cornwall at War Museum, Nottles Park, Davidstow, Camelford PL32 9YF
Opening Times: Refer to website but generally 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £7, Child £4, U5's Free
Pendennis Castle, Falmouth
Pendennis Castle is a historic fortress located on a rocky headland in the town of Falmouth. It was built by King Henry VIII in the 1540s as part of his Device programme to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire.
The castle played a vital role in defending the Carrick Roads waterway at the mouth of the River Fal, and has been used for military purposes throughout the centuries, including during the English Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars. Today, Pendennis Castle is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public as a popular tourist attraction.
📍Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4LP
Opening Times: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
Admission: Adult £12.70, Child 5-15 £7.70, U5's Free
The National Trust's Lanhydrock House, Bodmin
Lanhydrok House is a stunning historic house, set amidst beautiful gardens, and showcases the grandeur of Victorian life. The National Trust manages the property, preserving its unique history for future generations.
📍Lanhydrok, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL30 4AB
Opening Times: House 11 - 5:30 pm but check the website as times can change.
Admission: Adult £18, Child £9 (Free with National Trust membership)
Art and Culture Museums
Cornwall is home to a variety of art and culture museums, showcasing the region's rich history and creative spirit.
Tate St Ives
One of the most prominent galleries in the area is the Tate St Ives, which overlooks the picturesque Porthmeor Beach. The gallery houses a diverse collection of modern and contemporary art, highlighting the works of prominent artists from the region and beyond. The admission fee also includes entry to the nearby Barbara Hepworth Museum.
📍Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1TG
Opening Times: Daily 10 am - 5:20 pm
Admission: Adult £10.50, U18's Free
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, provides a fascinating look into the life and work of the famous sculptor.
📍Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1AD
Opening Times: 10 am - 5:20 pm
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, nr Penzance
Another notable destination for art lovers is the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, offering a beautiful combination of contemporary sculptures, exotic plants, and stunning views. The gardens blend art and nature, providing a unique and immersive experience for visitors.
📍Nr Gulval, Penzance TR20 8YL
Opening Times: Gardens Daily 10:30 am - 5:30 pm, Gallery Tuesday - Saturday 11 am - 4pm
Admission: Adult £11, Child £5, U5's Free
Transportation and Industrial Museums
Cornwall holds a rich history in transportation and industrial heritage, with several museums displaying artefacts and information related to these sectors.
Bodmin & Wenford Railway
The Bodmin & Wenford Railway is a charming steam railway offering scenic rides through the countryside.
The railway runs for 13 miles between Bodmin Parkway and Boscarne Junction. The line was originally built in the 1830s to transport goods and passengers and was later used for the transportation of china clay.
After the decline of the china clay industry, the railway was restored and opened as a heritage railway in the 1980s. Today, visitors can experience the nostalgia of steam train travel and learn about the history of the railway and the local area through guided tours and special events.
📍Bodmin Railway, Bodmin, PL31 1AG
Opening Times: Check the website
Admission: See website.
Poldark Mine and Heritage Centre, nr Helston
The site is temporarily closed but will reopen when legal & financial difficulties with the Duchy of Cornwall are resolved.
Poldark Mine is a unique experience of Cornwall's mining history, with guided underground tours.
The mine was originally opened in the 18th century and was an important source of tin and copper for the local area. Today, visitors can take a guided tour of the mine and learn about the history of mining in Cornwall. The heritage centre also offers a wealth of information about the local area and the people who lived and worked there. There are interactive exhibits, displays of mining equipment, and even a reconstructed underground mine to explore. Visitors can also try their hand at panning for minerals and take part in other hands-on activities
📍Poldark Mine, Trenear, Wendron, Helston, Cornwall TR13 0ES.
Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre, Newquay
Please note Cornwall Council has recently terminated the tenancy for CAHC. Check the CAHC website for an up-to-date status on opening.
The Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre offers a thrilling glimpse into the world of vintage aircraft and aviation history. With an impressive collection of planes and exhibits, the centre is a fantastic day out for the whole family.
📍Next to R A F Saint Mawgan, Newquay TR8 4JN
When visiting Cornwall with your family, you'll find various engaging and interactive speciality museums, perfect for a fun and educational day out. These family-friendly museums offer captivating exhibits, interactive displays, and enjoyable activities for visitors of all ages.
Bude Castle Heritage Centre, Bude
Another exciting museum to explore is The Castle Bude Heritage Centre, a perfect choice for history enthusiasts. Offering a glimpse into Bude's past, this heritage centre provides imaginative exhibits on Bude Canal and the Battle of Stratton fought during the English Civil War, and most importantly makes learning fun and accessible for all ages.
📍The Castle, The Wharf, Bude, EX23 8LG
Opening Times: Daily 10 am - 4 pm (5 pm April to October)
Mevagissey Museum is a charming museum located in the picturesque fishing village of Mevagissey. The building that houses the museum is a museum piece in its own right. Dating from 1745 it was part of a boat builder's yard that at one time extended to the far corner of the cliff. It was built straight into the rock face that you can see behind the kitchen dresser.
The museum has a range of exhibits, including displays on the fishing industry, local trades and crafts, and the history of the village itself. The museum is run by volunteers and is open throughout the summer months, making it a great place to visit for a day trip to Mevagissey.
📍Mevagissey Museum, East Wharf, Inner Harbour, Mevagissey, Cornwall, PL26 6QQ
Opening Times: 11 am - 4 pm daily
Admission: £2 Adults, U16's Free
St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre
Discover the history of the iconic St Austell Brewery (one of Cornwall's oldest businesses) and learn about the brewing process through interactive exhibits and guided tours. Don't forget to sample some of the local brews in the gift shop!
📍St Austell Brewery, 63 Trevarthian Rd, Saint Austell PL25 4BY
Opening Times: Monday - Saturday 9 am - 5 pm
Lawrence House Museum, Launceston
Housed in a beautiful Georgian building, Lawrence House Museum showcases the history of Launceston, its people, and the surrounding area.
📍Merchant’s House, 13 High Street, Launceston, PL15 8ER
Opening Times: Tuesday - Saturday 10:30 am - 4 pm
Kresen Kernow, Redruth
Kresen Kernow is a state-of-the-art archive centre preserving Cornwall's local history, built in the shell of the former Redruth Brewery. It's home to the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps and photographs relating to Cornwall.
📍Kresen Kernow, Little Vauxhall, Redruth TR15 1AS
Opening Times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday 9:30 am - 4 pm
Frequently Asked Questions
There are over 70 museums in the county of Cornwall, ranging from large national museums like the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, to small speciality museums like the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle.
The most popular museums to visit in Cornwall include the Tate St Ives, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, and the Royal Cornwall Museum.
Yes, several museums in Cornwall are particularly child-friendly, such as the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, Geevor Tin Mine, and The National Maritime Museum.
Some of the most unique museums to visit in Cornwall include the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre, and the Geevor Tin Mine Museum.
Museums in Cornwall: A Recap
Cornwall is a treasure trove of museums that offer a glimpse into the region's rich history, art, and heritage. From the iconic Tate St Ives to the fascinating National Maritime Museum Cornwall, there's something for everyone to explore and learn.
Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking for a fun day out, Cornwall's museums are definitely worth a visit.
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