Life in Cornwall
There's something special about studying in Cornwall. There's not many places where you can study in a year round holiday destination, be close to 422 miles of coastline, fabulous beaches and be in the home of the Cornish pasty. Cornwall has something for everyone, If you're a keen surfer or sailor - the water is fantastic. If you're into local and unique shops then St Ives, Penzance and Falmouth are the places to go. If you're a foodie and looking to taste some of the Cornish delights then you're coming to the right place - Cornwall is renowned for it's fresh flavours and local food.
There's more to life at University than studying in the Library (although that's certainly advised) and we know you'll love exploring Cornwall as much as you'll love studying in Penryn.
Exploring around Penryn and Falmouth
Cornwall can easily be explored by bus, train, car, foot and even – for the adventurous – by bicycle. During their time at the Penryn Campus, most students make at least a few forays across the peninsula to Newquay and St Ives, or down to Penzance and The Lizard. However, the bulk of our students find that there is plenty to do right on their doorsteps in Penryn, Falmouth, and Truro.
If history is your thing, then you’re in luck. Nearby Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII as a coastal fortress and also offers fantastic views across the River Fal. Pendennis is opposite another castle at St Mawes which is a fantastic place to visit - you can take the short ferry ride from Falmouth Harbour out to St Mawes and then walk up to the castle.
Cornwall is the land of Poldark and has a strong mining history. Across the county you'll see the old mining engine houses and chimneys dotted across the landscape. If you fancy learning a bit more about the mining history then you can visit Geevor Tin Mine or East Pool Mine in nearby Pool.
Exploring outside Penryn
There’s nowhere more beautiful than Cornwall on a sunny day, and the county offers no shortage of footpaths, parks, gardens, and beaches where you can go to enjoy the scenery. Five of the county’s beaches (Porthmeor, Polzeath, Porthminster, Porthtowan, and Falmouth’s own Gyllyngvase) have been awarded Blue Flag status. If you enjoy watersports – not just surfing but also kayaking, snorkelling, swimming, paddle-boarding and more – you can take advantage of opportunities provided by Falmouth Bay and the local rivers as well as the nearby sea.
The coast of Cornwall has more to offer than just watersports. There are over 400 beaches in Cornwall, why not set yourself a challenge to tick as many off them off the list as you can? If you're a keen climber then Sennen Cove and Zennor are well known for fantastic climbs in the climbing community.
If keeping your feet on the ground is more your style you can set out to walk the length of the South West Coast Path. Reaching from Minehead in Somerset round to Poole in Dorset there are over 630 miles of coastline to walk and plenty of these miles are around the coast of Cornwall.
For day trip with a bit of arts and culture, we'd suggest heading over to St Ives. Make your first stop The Tate St Ives where on certain days you can join a guided walk through the town and learn more about the artists who have been inspired by the town and why it has such an artistic reputation. Once you've had your arts and culture fix, grab some fish and chips and find a seat along the sea front (just watch out for seagulls).
Outside of Cornwall
Just up the A30, you'll find Cornwall's biggest rival - Devon. Devon is filled with bustling market towns and picturesque villages to explore, and two outstanding National Parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor. You’re not far from holiday destinations, including the English Riviera, and Devon’s most famous moor, Dartmoor, which are the perfect places to escape if you fancy exploring further afield than Cornwall.
On the other hand, if you’re craving the excitement of alternative city life to Exeter, cultural maritime cities Bristol and Plymouth are not far away by train, while the beautiful city of Bath is about 3 hours away. You must visit the Bath Christmas Market in November-December – it’s amazing!
If you fancy a holiday abroad, Newquay International Airport is 35 minutes by car from the centre of campus. Flybe operates direct flights from London Gatwick with a flight time of approximately 70 minutes, as well as from Glasgow and Manchester; connecting flights are available to other destinations including the USA.
Buses are very frequent in and around Penryn and Falmouth and you can take the train from Falmouth to Truro or further afield. Megabus now offer services to Penryn and Falmouth for as little as £1. Penryn Campus students are eligible to purchase a Fal Mussel Card UNI, which facilitates travel by: bus (unlimited travel on all First Bus buses in Cornwall); train (unlimited off-peak travel on the Maritime Railway Line); and ferry (unlimited travel) for 52 weeks.
During term-time the U1 bus provides a bus service between the Penryn and Falmouth (Woodlane) campuses (via Penryn and Falmouth town) every 15 minutes on weekdays during undergraduate academic terms and an hourly service during holiday periods. Falmouth the 41 goes from Falmouth Moor to the University campus stopping near LIDL, and also to the centre of Penryn. The 88 runs from Falmouth to the Campus and then continues on to Truro (although it’s quicker to get to Truro on the train). The 68, 68A and 68B all go to the campus, then around Penryn, but most importantly they include ASDA in their routes. Some people walk from campus to ASDA (it’s only 15 mins) then shop till they drop and jump on one of these buses back to Falmouth/Penryn.
While it is easy to get around the UK by car, bus and train, we highly recommend that you invest in a 16-25 Railcard*, in which you get a third off the price of rail tickets – absolutely worth it! If you’re a mature student, there is an alternative option which entitles you to similar perks as a 16-25 Railcard – a Two Together Railcard. If you have a friend or a partner to share with, you also get a third off train fares and you can go on many adventures together around the South West!
*Also a tip for those of you interested in a 16-25 Railcard, it doesn’t have to expire after you turn 26. Buy a railcard just before your 26th birthday and you’ll have it for a whole extra year.
Truro may be considered the shopping centre of Cornwall, but Falmouth and Penryn boast a charming collection of quirky independent retailers alongside well known high street businesses such as New Look, Peacocks, Joules, Animal and Fat Face. Our favourites include the surf shops Ann’s Cottage and Freeriders; boutiques Just Like This and Dizzy; and the gift stores Spice and Sifar. Even if you aren’t in need of anything in particular, it’s always worth a trip to the renowned Trago Mills, a South West speciality where you can find pretty much anything.
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack en route to the beach, or an elegant sit-down meal to celebrate a special occasion, Cornwall is guaranteed to have something that suits your tastes. Falmouth is particularly well known for its succulent oysters – hence the annual Falmouth Oyster Festival, but you can also sample locally caught fish, scallops and crabs at the many Falmouth establishments specialising in seafood. If you want a scenic dinner, stop by Harbour Lights or Rick Stein’s for a takeaway meal of fish and chips to eat on the pier while watching the sun set over the harbour.
In Penryn, Muddy Beach Cafe is a lovely cafe on the harbour front and if you like your cocktails then Number 20 does a cocktail night (2 for 1) on a Tuesday.
In Falmouth, Good vibes cafe is a great place to stop by for amazing sandwiches and a great breakfast. If it's coffee you're after then head to Espressini. If you're heading down to Gylly Beach for a winter sea swim, then Gylly Beach Cafe is the place to warm up afterwards with their fantastic hot chocolate (or ice cream in the summer). When you parents are visiting or if you're treating someone to a special meal then nothing can beat The Cove at Maenporth or The Flying Fish restaurant at St Michael's hotel and spa.
For food shopping, just outside Penryn you can find a large branch of ASDA where most students will do their food shopping. ASDA is within walking distance from the campus or there is a bus which goes from campus to the supermarket. If you want great savings, head to Lidl, on the road to Penryn, a ten-minute bus ride from campus. Falmouth has a Tesco Metro and Tesco Express, on either side of the Moor and there is a Sainsbury's on the road between campus and Falmouth.
Falmouth is one of the UK’s most historic harbours, so if you’re interested in sailing, watersports, tall ships, sea shanties and oyster festivals, you couldn’t come to a better place. Plus if surfing’s what you’re after, a string of top-class beaches lie less than half an hour’s drive away - it’s also not unheard of to get surf in Falmouth! Here’s a small selection of what’s on offer. For other FXU (our Students' Union) clubs and societies, visit the FXU website.
Sitting on a strip of land between two river estuaries, Falmouth is renowned for offering some of the best sailing in the UK. Learn to sail in the sheltered creeks of the Fal and Helford estuaries, or head out to the open sea for some salty exhilaration. Falmouth School of Sailing and FXU’s own Sailing Club both offer excellent tuition – start in a dinghy and work your way up.
Alternatively, you can explore the coast’s secluded beaches and waterside pubs by kayak or canoe. Hire kayaks and Canadian canoes from Elemental UK on Swanpool beach, and head along the sheltered coast to Maenporth beach or even around to the Helford River to land up and indulge in a spot of sunbathing. You can also get hold of windsurf equipment and lessons at Elemental. Or, back in town, you can hire a rowing boat for the day from Falmouth Watersports Centre.
Of course, there’s surfing, too, and plenty of it. Falmouth Surf School is affordable and friendly, and offers transport, equipment and tuition at a number of Cornwall’s best surfing beaches. Gwithian is great for learning, while Porthtowan is a lovely beach that is suited to more experienced surfers. The FXU Surf Club offers a lift-sharing scheme and uses the Students’ Union mini-buses to get to the best surf. Don't worry if you’re just starting out, everyone from complete beginners to sponsored riders goes along.
If it’s too windy to surf, try kitesurfing. Beginners can book lessons at the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay on the north coast, or through Mobius kite school, who are based at Perranporth but offer tuition all over west Cornwall.
The area around Falmouth and the Lizard Peninsula offers some of the best diving in the UK. With clear waters, diverse marine life and many wrecks to explore, what more could you ask for? There’s also the Scylla Reef, a superb leisure diving spot off the south coast, just this side of Plymouth. Cornwall Divers in Falmouth rents diving equipment and offers big student discounts on its PADI courses.
Every Sunday, a bunch of students pitch up at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, have a bit of a swim and then talk about it in the Gylly Beach Café afterwards. There's a hardcore of year-round stalwarts, and up to 150 members overall. It’s just for fun, surprisingly enjoyable, and no one takes it too seriously.
Cornwall has a fantastic arts and culture scene. Home to a variety of theatres, performances venues, cinemas, museums and art galleries, there are a wide range of opportunities to see plays, concerts, and films around the county. In Falmouth, the Princess Pavillions hosts live music, comedians, plays and community events and has recently seen acts such as Frank Turner. The Poly in Falmouth has a programme of live events, exhibitions, lectures, films and workshops running throughout the year. Cornwall's main events venue The Hall for Cornwall is in nearby Truro and hosts a variety of events throughout the year including the Banff Film Festival.
For something different and unique to Cornwall - take a trip to the Eden Project and visit their Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes to see plants from different areas of the world, walk along their sculpture trail or eat in the Eden Kitchen restaurant. The Eden Project hosts Eden Sessions each summer, an outdoor concert which has previously featured Paolo Nutini, Elton John, Kaiser Chiefs, Ellie Goulding along with many more famous artists.
Tate St Ives is a fantastic art gallery to visit in the nearby town of St Ives. The gallery exhibits work by British artists who have links to the St Ives area. They also offer tours of the town on certain days of the week so plan your visit before you go.
Film locations in Cornwall
Cornwall has been the set location for a number of TV shows and films in recent years including Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, Alice in Wonderland and most recently the BBC's Poldark. Why not see how many movie locations you can visit whilst studying in Cornwall?
Sunsets are beautiful in Cornwall – not just because you can watch their orange glow spread across the sea, but also because they signal the start of our vibrant nightlife. If you don’t already have plans to head to The Stannary for one of the many events on campus, you can go to The Front for some Cornish dancing, pluck up your courage for an Open Mic night performance at The Jacob’s Ladder, or swing by Falmouth’s very own Club International. There are also plenty of clubbing opportunities available in nearby Truro and Newquay.
There is always plenty to do in Cornwall, but a bit of extra excitement is added by the impressive selection of special events that happen here year-round. There are six festivals in Falmouth alone. We have the Falmouth Beer Festival, which is one of the largest and best beer festivals in the South West. For a true taste of Cornish living, you won't want to miss out on the annual Falmouth Sea Shanty festival - a free music festival which takes place around the town. If you're a keen sailor or around Falmouth during August then there's Falmouth Week - a regatta which features seven days of racing in the Falmouth bay and lots of shoreside activities.