A music lover's guide to Cornwall

Penned on the 24th July 2023

A music lover's guide to Cornwall

Cornwall is famed for many things, including its glorious sandy beaches and surfing culture – and it also has a buzzing music scene, making it the perfect destination for music-lovers. Throughout the year there are an impressive number of festivals and gigs held here for one county, with genres ranging from folk and rock to world music and sea shanties. There’s a wonderful selection of characterful independent vinyl shops too, where you can happily while away some time flicking through the sleeves and searching for a new (or old) gem to take home. If you’re looking for some inspiration for where to go and what to do, here are our favourite festivals, shops and live music venues in Cornwall for all kinds of musical tastes. 


Music festivals

The Great Estate Festival, Scorrier

People dancing and singing at a festival

Typically held in late May, this family-friendly festival on the beautiful Scorrier Estate describes itself as ‘The most rambunctious garden fete’. In 2023 Primal Scream headlined, with the likes of Symphonic Ibiza, The Selecter and Elvana also performing. There are quirky happenings around every corner, from circus workshops and a Victorian Sports Day to Hip Hop Karaoke and a silent disco in the woods! Whether you’re looking to chill out with some acoustic sessions or dance late into the night, The Great Estate will have something for you. 


Tropical Pressure Festival, Porthtowan

Arial view of Tropical Pressure Festival

Festivals don’t get much more vibrant than Tropical Pressure, a small-but-brilliant festival at the Eco Park in Porthtowan in mid July. There are usually only 3000 tickets on sale – but what it lacks in size it makes up for in bright colour and energy. The entertainment here is world music, with Latin American on the Friday, African on the Saturday and Caribbean on the Sunday – all of which will have you up and dancing. The food is all vegan and world-inspired too. And there’s a jam-packed workshop programme if you fancy learning a dance style or crafting something unique.  


The International Sea Shanty Festival, Falmouth

People gathered on the harbourside for the Sea Shanty Festival in Falmouth

Every June thousands of people descend on Falmouth for this hugely popular event, ‘the largest free nautical music and song festival in Europe’. It’s a fitting location too, with Falmouth’s long history of sailing and beautiful backdrop of bobbing masts and ocean. From Friday through to Sunday, the town’s bars, streets and harbour become a mass of striped shirts, beer drinkers and sing-alongs, with a hefty programme of shanty groups who’ve travelled from far and wide to get involved. It’s a little raucous but a lot of fun – and not something you get to experience very often!


Rock Oyster Festival, Rock

A stage, festival flags and people at a festival on the dunes in Cornwall

A self-proclaimed ‘voyage of culinary discovery and musical mischief’, this is one for the foodies. The Rock Oyster Festival takes place at Dinham Estate overlooking the Camel Estuary and welcomes around 3000 discerning festival-goers every year. With live music, chef demonstrations and ample food and drink stalls, it’s a feast for all of the senses. In 2023 you’ll find big names like Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the main stage and chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the food tents. There’s plenty of art and culture to discover too, with author talks, live comedy, wellbeing workshops and more.


Tunes in the Dunes, Perranporth

Large festival on the beach in Cornwall

This upbeat festival takes place in May on the golden beach at Perranporth so you can dance and sway the weekend away with the sand between your toes, right beside the sea. It delivers a lively festival atmosphere, with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, The Vaccines and James Bay performing against the scenic sand dune backdrop. There’s plenty of fun and games for family festival-goers – or if you’d like to keep the beach party going long into the night, there are usually after parties at The Watering Hole.


Cornwall Folk Festival, Wadebridge

Folk festival on the streets of Wadebridge in Cornwall

For something a little more relaxed, head to the small town of Wadebridge for The Cornwall Folk Festival. This event is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year over the August bank holiday weekend. Folk-fans will enjoy the mix of musicians from across the UK, from traditional folk to Americana to sea shanties. Gigspanner Big Band, Kinnaris Quintet and Seth Lakeman are 2023’s headliners. There’s lots of free live music and dance happening in the streets too, as well other wonderful folky events and workshops. 


Boardmasters, Newquay

Ariel view of Boardmasters Festival on the cliff overlooking the sea in Cornwall

We can’t talk about festivals in Cornwall without mentioning its biggest by far: Boardmasters in Newquay. What started off as a laidback surf and music festival has grown to be one of the largest in the UK, with 150,000 attendees in 2022 – this is definitely one for the dedicated party people! In 2023 the line up is just as impressive as previous years, with Florence and the Machine, Lorde, Liam Gallagher, Ben Howard and more gracing the main stage at Watergate Bay. If you fancy watching world-famous surfers compete, there are competitions happening at Fistral Beach all weekend too. 


More festivals in Cornwall

Colourful huts selling cider at Rattler Fest in Cornwall

Cider-fans should head to Rattler Fest in April or The Little Orchard Cider and Music Festival in September, both held at the famous Healeys Cyder Farm. If you can’t make the International Sea Shanty Festival in Falmouth, there’s one in Port Isaac too – it’s a lot smaller but still great for a sing-along. And St Ives September Festival is great for eclectic music and art lovers, with events happening across the town for two whole weeks. 


Live music venues

Eden Project, near St Austell

Colourful biomes illuminated at the Eden Project as crowd gathers for the Eden Sessions

Music venues don’t get much more spectacular than The Eden Project just outside of St Austell. In the summer Eden Sessions attracts huge names to play on stage with a backdrop of its magnificent tropical biomes – recent years have seen Elton John, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, Stereophonics, Jack Johnson and more in the line up. Your ticket will get you entry to the biomes too, so you can turn up early to explore while the band gets ready backstage.


The Old Bakery Studios, Truro

Inside of music venue with a bar and dance floor in Cornwall

The Old Bakery is a buzzing venue right beside the river in the heart of Truro, showcasing an exciting range of live comedy and music. The Box Office events will almost always offer something you’ll love whatever your musical taste, from acoustic and tribute acts to DJ sets and drum and bass. There are also over 50 creative studios and workplaces housed here too, with a mix of small businesses, entrepreneurs and artists – giving the whole place a vibrant, creative community feel.


The Cornish Bank, Falmouth

Colourful interiors of quirky music venue in Falmouth, Cornwall

Since opening its doors in 2021, The Cornish Bank has fast become one of Cornwall’s most popular live music venues. This not-for-profit arts and community space hosts gigs almost every night of the week with a truly eclectic mix of music – everything from hip hop to world music to psychedelic folk, with a mix of clientele to match. They’re the hosts and organisers of the wonderful WanderFal Festival in April too, where up to 40 bands play in various locations across the town. 


The Dead Famous, Newquay

Black exterior of bar in Newquay with names illuminated in lights

This self-proclaimed ‘Late Night Liquor Lounge’ in Newquay is definitely one for the party people. Their programme of events features DJs, rock bands, rappers, burlesque dancers and more, as well as open mic nights every week if you fancy taking the stage yourself. For drinks, there’s an extensive music-themed cocktail menu that’s just as varied – we like the sound of the Pretty Fly for a Mai Tai! Newquay has plenty more lively bars and nightlife to enjoy if you fancy dancing the whole night away.


The Watering Hole, Perranporth

Ariel view of the UK's only bar on the beach, turquoise blue sea and golden white sand.

Situated right on the large beach at Perranporth amongst stunning sand dunes, The Watering Hole is well-loved by locals and visitors alike. There’s nothing quite like dancing barefoot on the sand to live music, a cold cider in your hand, with a backdrop of the pink sunset and golden reflections on the sea – and that’s exactly what this beach bar venue has to offer! There’s a big variety of gigs here all year round, from local artists to international bands and DJs. 


The Poly, Falmouth

White exterior and colourful bunting outside The Poly in Falmouth

Founded all the way back in 1833, The Poly is a long-established institution for arts and the creative community in Falmouth. There’s always lots going on here, from photography and art exhibitions to pottery workshops to cinema screenings. Their 180 capacity theatre is a wonderful venue to see live music too, with all sorts of performances from arty expressionist shows to jazz to musicals. Make sure you allow time to go to the on-site café and bar Solskinn for a glass of wine (or coffee!) before you take your seat.


Bar Silo, Fowey

Converted silo bar, a quirky cocktail bar in Cornwall

Dubbed ‘the coolest venue in the county’ this new venue in Fowey is fast-becoming the place to go for a unique Friday night out. This quirky, laid-back venue is set on a family farm, with the bar and toilets in disused grain silos and fire pits and sail covers in the courtyard – so the night can go on whatever the weather! Every Friday they showcase an incredible roster of musicians for their intimate ‘Silo Sessions’, including foodie events like ‘Beats & Burgers’.


Record shops

Jam Records, Falmouth 

An array of records on display in a record store in Falmouth

Jam Records is a part vinyl store and part-coffee shop, packed with a huge range of genres, from new indie to soul and jazz classics. It’s right in the middle of Falmouth’s characterful old high street, nestled amongst independent boutiques, cafés, barbers and more – so it’s a lovely place for an afternoon of shopping. Don’t miss Stones Bakery, where you can pick up a freshly baked pastry or cake after you’ve had your retail fix.


Music Nostalgia, Truro

An array of records on display at Music Nostalgia in Truro

In Cornwall’s capital you’ll find Music Nostalgia, an Aladdin’s cave for all kinds of music-lovers. As well as vinyl, there are shelves laden with CDs, cassettes and merchandise – there’s a definite old school music shop-feel that makes this place live up to its name. Be prepared to get lost in music for a while… and once you’re done why not check out the Royal Cornwall Museum to learn more about the county’s history, language, culture and Cornish spirit!


Sounds Ok, Falmouth

Blue exterior displaying an array of records through the shop window on record store in Falmouth

Another gem in Falmouth, Sounds Ok is one of the longest established music dealers in the whole of the south west. They buy and sell all sorts of records and CDs – which is evident by the floor-to-ceiling packed shelves. Even the shop window is filled with vinyl and CD covers that are bound to draw you in. Sounds Ok is right opposite The Stable so you can enjoy a sourdough pizza and a local pint by the harbourside once you’re all shopped out.


Room 33, Bodmin

Looking through a shop window at records by The Beatles and David Bowie

Room 33 is situated in the town of Bodmin, on the cusp of Bodmin Moor. What makes this one stand out is its specialism in heavy metal and rock…this one’s for those of you who like your music loud! Although, if you’re browsing with friends or family who don’t appreciate your taste, there are plenty of other genres to discover too. If you’re a fan of hiking as well as head-banging, the nearby moorland has ample walking trails to explore. 


Staying in Cornwall

Exterior of bespoke tiny house in Cornwall

There’s so much to see, do and experience in Cornwall, you’re sure to want to stay for a while. Fortunately we have a wonderful collection of unique luxury glamping sites to choose from across the county, from shepherd’s huts in magical woodlands, to countryside cabins with hot tubs, to family-sized safari tents with spectacular sea views. Whatever your hideaway of choice, all are set in the most beautiful natural settings, so you can wake to the sound of the birds, slowly make a cup of coffee and listen to your favourite morning as you get ready for your day exploring. 


Take a look at all our Cornwall hideaways for more inspiration. 


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