Hailing from Redruth, I know that this inland area is perhaps less picture perfect than other parts of the county, but I think it deserves a mention as it is fantastically located in central Cornwall. I've spent many summers in the area and more recently have explored it myself (with parental and grandparental suggestions of course - I can't be expected to remember my teenage summer holidays!). Redruth itself was once the richest parts of the United Kingdom (my great great granddad drove the first car in Cornwall, there must be a link!) and the area is steeped in mining history; Carn Brea is worth a walk up to get a fantastic 360 degree view across the remains of the mines. On our last visit we took the time to learn about it by visiting Heartlands museum in Pool. It is incredibly interesting and makes you think about the way life was and the scale of the underground mining in the area (don't stamp too hard…). The area is also home to what I would say are the best pasties in Cornwall (that aren't homemade with family recipes), Etherington's in Scorrier - they pretty much offer you field to plate over a distance of metres!
Redruth is easy driving distance from the north coast; the coastline from St Ives to Padstow is rugged and beautiful and it is easy to while away the hours here without going near the busier locations. The big towns of St Ives, Padstow and Newquay are perhaps not where you might go for a relaxing time, but thankfully there is so much more to the area and a plethora of cottages away from the hustle and bustle. I love this coastline for its quiet parts and the fact that so much is protected by the National Trust means that the pathways are well looked after (and there's often a gift shop and a loo). Gwithian is, in my eyes, 'the' beach to go to in Cornwall - massive, plenty of rock pools and epic sunsets looking out past Godrevy lighthouse. It’s pretty good for surfing too, I hear. Head east from here and you have a stunning walk along the north cliffs - relatively bleak but on a windy day has great sea-scenery! If there is a storm then head to Portreath and see the waves crash over the harbour wall - they also do rather good Christmas lights for a small village.
Watergate Bay has always been an easy win for us if we have spare time - great beach, nothing like nearby Newquay and plenty of eateries to choose from for different budgets. The sun always seems to shine on this beach! The Bedruthan Steps are probably the most interesting geology I've seen in Cornwall. Don't miss them if you are in the area - massive granite rocks along the beach which are the height of the cliffs (stepping stones for a giant so folklore goes). It is a fascinating vista - the first time I saw it I was expecting some rocks on a beach, but this is way more than that. The Falcon Inn serves good grub nearby - we've eaten there a few times but never been lucky enough to see Prince William who has apparently frequented… Trevaynon beach is then another stop you should make on the way towards Padstow - great cliff walk access from the beach on a grassy headland.
Save ‘PadStein’ until the end of your visit, to make sure you see untouched Cornwall first. That said, Padstow is great to visit - I especially like it at Christmas when there is a market and even a Santa race through the streets. And if you want to start and finish your Christmas shopping then this is certainly the place to go - last time we were there with friends the husbands were left in the pub to watch rugby and we shopped… Luckily places to eat abound and Mr Stein caters for all budgets. Make sure to take a walk out along the estuary as it is a stunning inlet in both directions. Relatively near is the Camel Valley vineyard - and whilst I love everything the outdoors has to offer, this is probably one of Cornwall's best exports - their sparkling wine is quite something (ooo I've still got two bottles in the cupboard!).
From one of our cottages you can explore all of, the north coast of Cornwall. All in all it is a great area, particularly because it is always worth investigating the places that don't make the top 10 lists.