Truro may be our only city, but it is thus merely by having a cathedral. The county town is Bodmin and other large conurbations like St Austell and Falmouth are as large. In fact, as we motor through the place on the A390, it seems as though there isn’t much to see at all. The towering cathedral to one side, a car park and river on the other – where is the city?
The answer is in the very compact nature of the Georgian centre surrounded and interspersed by attractive wooded areas and parkland. There is a pronounced absence of high multi-storey buildings – the ever-present cathedral is by far the tallest at 250′ (76m) – but despite this Truro’s inhabitants are well catered for. Truro is the retail centre of Cornwall and has an enviable diversity of independent shops as well as the usual chains. Truro is also home to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, the only major hospital and major A&E in Cornwall.
The name Truro is thought by some to come from the Cornish Tri-veru, meaning three rivers, after the Kenwyn, the Allen and the Tinney. These rivers merge to form the Truro River, which flows south to Carrick Roads and the vast natural harbour of Falmouth. Some toponymologists disagree – it could have been Tre-uro which would mean a town on the river Uro. Anyway, there has been a settlement there since Norman times, but the remaining architecture is much more modern – mostly Georgian.
Originally an important port more inland and sheltered than Penryn/Falmouth, Truro became prosperous from its fishing industry and the tin and copper mines. It was a stannary town, the place where the valuable metal would be weighed and assayed.
Following a huge recession in the Middle Ages (after nearly everyone suffered from the plague) Truro prospered again, particularly from the mining industry of the 18th and 19th centuries, and this was when it became the “London of Cornwall” with elegant Georgian and Victorian houses that we can still see today.
Truro enjoys the exceptional climate of Cornwall, with warm summers and mild winters. For our detailed page on Cornish weather, click here…
Truro is easily reached on the main trunk roads that run all the way down to Penzance, and also lies on the London-Penzance railway line. The nearest airport is Newquay International, only thirty minutes away.
Truro Cathedral was the first to be placed on a new site since Salisbury Cathedral in 1220! It does look quite ancient but is actually a Gothic revival building, built between 1880 and 1910. It’s history, however, is as interesting and ancient as its appearance. The parish church of St Mary’s stood here since 1259. When the site was chosen for the cathedral, it was assumed that it would replace the old structure, but the architect included the south aisle of the original church into the new design, which is quite a beautiful thing to see. For more on the historic buildings of Truro check out our Historic Towns page, here…
There are too many eateries to mention in the streets of Cornwall’s only city, but here are some of the best reputed at the time of writing:
Gravy Boesti is a traditional looking but very stylish and contemporary cuisine that customers absolutely rave about. It’s just a stone’s throw from the shopping area.
Falmouth Bay Seafood Café is billed as Truro’s top seafood restaurant, but even that accolade doesn’t do it justice. What it is, is a champagne, oyster and seafood bar, elegantly established in its grade II listed building with lovely south facing gardens.
Trennick Mill is a super little restaurant in Boscawen Park, serving food from the full English to fine seafood, fantastic wine, and particularly good coffee.
The William IV is a lively pub with great food. Famous for burgers, equally at home with ciabatta or just chips. St Austell beers and a good wine list complete the picture.
Every town must have a decent Indian restaurant and the Kathmandu Palace is just the ticket! Indin and Nepalese cuisine of exceptional quality with lots of parking outside. Takeaway available, of course!
As well as some of the pubs we’ve already name-checked, check out The Wine Barrel. It’s not far from the curry house (handy) and as per its monicker it’s a wine bar, but also hosts live jazz and blues music and has a great selection of snacks, cakes and coffee.
The Old Ale House, too, does pretty much what the sign promises. Describing itself as a proper Cornish pub (as opposed to an improper one, perhaps?) it serves the best of locally brewed beers and ciders as well as all the usual pub stuff, with live music every week.
Vertigo is in the shadow of the cathedral, with cocktails, beer, wine and spirits, and a garden. And a gold bar upstairs. That’s what they say. Vanilla is yet another elegant two storey bar with a late lounge upstairs for funky grooves.
Truro Gin Festival
Truro Gin Festival celebrates everything that is good about gin. Cornwall currently produces at least five different brands of premium gin.
Inspired by the diversity of artists in and around the city, the annual cultural festival features music and art of all genres. Exhibitions, theatre, dance, comedy, literature, film and photography all vie for the visitors’ attention. There was a particular abundance of art at the 2016 festival. Held in spring time.
Great Cornish Food Festival
Normally held in September, and the largest festival anywhere completely dedicated to Cornish food and drink.
Special Things to Do and Visit
As well as the cathedral, the city has a fair few unusual attractions that make it a really special place to visit:
Hall for Cornwall
The largest theatre in Cornwall, the Hall presents performances from plays to gigs and children’s shows to musicals.
Royal Cornwall Museum
The Royal Cornwall Museum is the oldest and biggest museum in the county, with exhibitions of Cornish history and culture. There is a wide range of collections including archaeology, art and geology. One of the premier exhibits of the museum is the so-called Arthur’s inscribed stone which dates from the 6th century.
Truro is unusual as major Cornish conurbations go, in that it’s an eclectic and interesting mix of folksy independent shops and mainstream chains all concentrated in one small area of the city. These are interspersed with lots of pubs, cafés and other eateries. As such it’s an appealing place for those who like to shop for shopping’s sake.
Lemon Street Market is a unique indoor market with lots of independent shops and traders. The Pannier Market is on back Quay near the Hall For Cornwall. The Farmers’ Market takes place on Lemon Quay, Wednesday and Saturday 9 am to 4 pm. It’s at the grass roots of Cornwall’s culinary magic, with a range of fresh locally grown product.
Go on a tour of this well-known Cornish brewery, with ales, lager and cider well known up and down the UK, or stock up on tipple in the on-site shop.
Other Attractions In The Area
No visit to Cornwall is complete without a day out at the Eden Project. Its giant biodomes and indoor jungles as well as outdoor exhibits and large-scale art installations lie only half an hour’s drive from Truro, or can be reached in a similar time by train (with a short bus ride).
The large town and port of Falmouth are about twenty-five minutes drive, and equally accessible by train, bus or boat, a must-do for anyone wanting something more maritime than Truro has to offer.
The historic island of St Michael’s Mount is about twenty-six miles (42km) away, equally accessible by road or rail.
Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm is of interest to anyone who has heard of the famous Rattler ciders. Visitors can take a farm tour and/or sample all the products they make. Everything except the Apple Brandy, Apple Whiskey and Eau de Vie is available to try completely free. The farm shop also stocks jams, preserves, country wines and fresh pressed fruit juices as well as other Cornish produce!
Parks & Gardens
Truro is also lucky to have some unusually attractive parks and open spaces for a city. These include Victoria Gardens, Boscawen Park and Daubuz Moors, which rival the parks and commons of London for their scale and beauty.
Furniss Island is named after a Cornish biscuit company which once had a factory in Truro, a secluded spot on the bank of the River Allen just before it joins the Kenwyn, and just a short walk from New Bridge Street and Lemon Quay.
Millpool is Truro’s secret spot, where the River Allen tinkles past the millpond, just behind the cathedral. During the 1880s, when the circus would come to Truro, the millpond was used as a bath for the troupe’s elephants!
Beneath Truro’s towering viaduct is Hendra Park, a play area for families with plenty of colourful equipment. Next to it is a high-quality skate park.
Victoria Gardens was created to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It’s situated along The Leats and Edward Street, behind the Crown Courts and beneath the viaduct. With a bandstand and lovely fountain, live music and concerts serenade this peaceful corner in the summer. Or wander through Waterfall Gardens, a beautiful, shady walk along the Kenwyn towards the Leats.
Bosvigo Gardens are a mile from the city centre. They have some rare and unusual plants and a small specialist nursery. The gardens are open from May to September, Thursday through Saturday.
Poppy Cottage Garden is about ten miles (16km) from Truro on the way to the Roseland Peninsula. It’s a small garden of only about one acre, but full of colour and lovely at any time of year. Further afield, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pencarrow, and Lanhydrock are places most horticulturalists won’t want to miss.
Boats are part and parcel of holidays by the sea. Truro still has a small working port which lies downstream from the city at Lighterage Quay. Ferries and pleasure boats run regular trips up and down the estuary to Falmouth.
Truro is indeed fortunate in its location above the Cornish Riviera, a stretch of coast so named in honour of the lush vegetation and sheltered, almost tropical coves. It runs from here nearly to Fowey and includes the beautiful Roseland Peninsula and many beaches. Carlyon Bay and Par Sands feature miles of sand. Readymoney Cove, Polkerris and Portloe are stand out examples.
On the other side of the Fal Estuary, Feock’s Loe Beach is the closest beach to Truro, a sand and shingle affair known for its watersports. The beach is suitable for children but unlike most of the beaches further away, there are no lifeguards at Feock.
Landlocked Truro may not seem like a surfing destination, but if you’re serious about the waves, you’ll want to be well placed to make the best of the prevailing conditions on the day, wherever that may be. With this in mind, Truro is slap-bang in the middle of some of the best surf in England. The north coast breaks, like Porthtowan, Perranporth and Newquay, are just 20-30 minutes away, and the quasi-mythical Porthleven is not much further on the south.
Of the twenty-eight beaches on the Cornish Riviera between St Mawes and Gribbin Head near Fowey, eighteen allow dogs all the year round. Four, Crinnis Beach, Charlestown Beach, Duporth Beach and Pentewan Beach, have a total dog ban. The remaining six, and nearby Loe Beach south-west of Truro have the standard seasonal ban from Easter until the 1st of October.
Truro Golf Course is a mature course set in a superb landscape of easy walking countryside. It’s an 18 hole, par 67 parkland course of over five thousand yards, with a putting green, ample parking, practice area and pro lessons available. Truro Golf Club was founded in 1937. In gently undulating countryside with mature trees, the course is both a test for low handicap players and enjoyable golf for all. Attractive fairways and greens with surprising slopes and borrows are sure to entertain members and visitors alike. The modern clubhouse with a comfortable bar and good catering ensure that this course ticks all the boxes.
Boscawen Park has eight outdoor tennis courts (as well as three football pitches and a cricket pitch).
With a range of jumps, pipes and steps, Truro’s Hendra Skate Park attracts amateur and pro skaters from all over the country.
We have a number of self-catering holiday cottages in the Truro area:
Self-catering in Cornwall has never been so good! Check out our Cornwall Guide to discover more about what’s on, places to eat, places to visit and things to do.