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On the road: the best drive in Cornwall

Updated: May 22, 2023

Chris and I recently returned from a week's motoring tour through Devon, Somerset and the Cotswolds. It was our first road trip in our classic Jaguar XK 150 and we were determined to do it properly by driving on some of Britain's most celebrated roads. We cut through the dramatic scenery of Cheddar Gorge on the B3135 and managed to avoid any spooky experiences on Dartmoor's B3212, reputedly the most haunted road in the country. It was a wonderful trip on some truly great roads but as much as we enjoyed it, we were glad to be back in the far west.

A Cornish road viewed through a car windscreen
The B3306 offers some of the best driving in Britain

Cornwall offers some great driving, whether it’s the picturesque country lanes of the Roseland Peninsula or the grandly-named Atlantic Highway that runs up the north coast into Devon. My own personal favourite, and a route closer to home, is the B3306. It may not have its own fancy title but it offers some of the most spectacular driving in the county, if not in the UK.

The B3306 skirts the stretch of the north coast between St Ives and St Just. The Penwith Moors rise up on one side, their barren landscape peppered with rocky outcrops and ancient monunments. On the other side there are spectacular views of the wild and rugged Atlantic coast.

It’s beautiful drive at any time of the year, in glorious sunshine or with thick fog rolling in from the Atlantic. It's particularly stunning on a crisp autumn day when the bracken is turning a rich brown and the sunlight is sparkling on the water.

This isn't a road for speed. There are tight bends, cattle grids and a few narrow spots where you may find yourself reversing to let other cars pass or waiting for a herd of cows to cross the road. One of the great pleasures of the drive is its unpredictability: one minute you're changing down for a sharp bed, the next you're cresting a hill with a breathtaking view opening up in front of you. Depending on traffic, it takes around 45 minutes and there’s plenty to see along the way if you want to make a day of it.

The route starts in St Ives. With its glorious beaches and quaint little lanes this former fishing village is now a cosmopolitan tourist favourite. There's far too much to include here but we love the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden and The Leach Pottery.

Ice cream sign in a field next to a road
The route is full of surprises

Next up is picturesque Zennor, which is the starting point for one of our favourite walks (click here for more details). Pop into the church of St Senara to see the carving of the fabled Mermaid of Zennor. You can grab at bite to eat at either The Tinner’s Arms or the Gurnard’s Head and during the summer months Moomaid of Zennor serves ice cream in a field by the side of the road - a slightly surreal but delicious experience.

From here, the road leads past the ruins of Carn Galver Mine and onto The Tin Coast. Part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site, the area includes the mines at Geevor, Levant and Botallack. It's fascinating to explore all of them but if you had time to visit only one, we'd recommend Botallack. The iconic Crown Engine houses are perched precariously on the cliff and the mine shaft extends almost half a mile out to sea. Poldark fans will probably recognise them as Wheal Leisure.

St Just is a thriving little town. At its centre is the Plain-an-Gwarry - an open air medieval theatre which is still used today. Leading artist, Kurt Jackson, who perhaps captures the landscape and spirit of Cornwall better than anyone else, has his gallery in St Just.

From here you can take a detour to Cape Cornwall where Victorian mining ruins sit side-by-side with traditional fishing boats at Priest’s Cove. Alternatively, eke out the last few miles of the B3306 before it joins the A30 and takes you Sennen or Land's End.

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