Million-pound property club: the most expensive places to live in Cornwall

Rock estuary across the water from Padstow

How much would you pay for this view? Average house prices in Rock now top £1 million - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

‘Why am I so incredibly and incurably romantic about Cornwall?’ writer Virginia Woolf asked a century ago – a question we are still asking...


Living in Cornwall has become the UK's most popular dream move - so what should be on your property bucket (and spade) list? The desire to move to Cornwall from across the country has never been stronger – as lovers of the Duchy emerge from metro lockdowns looking for a better way of life, so can Cornwall deliver and how much will it cost? 

At a whopping average selling price of £1.1million and £1.09m, St Mawes and Rock are currently the most expensive places to live in Cornwall … but are they worth it? Just what is it about Cornwall’s property hotspots that’s tempting so many people to up sticks and start a new life here? And what exactly do you get for a cool million? Lots of questions - and we’ve been doing a bit of digging to find the answers. 

Countywide, Cornwall has seen average property prices reach £330,000 - that’s an increase of 26% in the space of three years.  But then, everything’s relative, because in some parts of London, the average price is, wait for it … £650,000! On that basis, you’re getting almost twice as much for your money here than you are in much of the capital.  

And that’s not all you’re getting either, because if you buy a home in Cornwall, you also buying into a fabulous lifestyle. Estate agents call it ‘The Cornwall Factor’. We’ve got the beaches, the surfing, the spectacular coastline, the gardens, the great eating-out scene, and - quite often - we even get the weather. And it’s this - the promise of a better way to live - that people are seeking now more than ever. 

Making the move during lockdown

More people want to make the move to Cornwall

Kelley Sprawson - Credit: Kelley Sprawson

Moving to Cornwall was three years in the planning for Kelley Sprawson and her husband. 'The plan was to sell our house in Worcestershire, move into rented and take it from there. The death of my mother in law probably accelerated the move - like we said, why wait? Life is too short. What was the worst that could happen? If we don’t like it, move back.' The couple moved to Portreath the day before the first lockdown.

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'There is a more balanced view of work / life,' she says of the Cornish lifestyle - and it's pretty to look at too. 'I love the landscape, the mining history, the sea, the coves and the moors. 

'We love that we have a short journey to work - although that may change for me as we slowly return to normal.  We enjoy the weather and the waves when they are good -  so live much more in the present. I think we were lucky to buy our house when we did as prices have risen so fast recently. 

'Everyone’s circumstances are entirely different,' she says. 'I would make sure you come down outside the ‘good’ weather season - a full seven-days of zero visibility can be a problem if you haven’t encountered it before!  We live in a well connected area - with buses, train station and the airport fairly easy to reach - but there are some really isolated areas; you will need to consider that in your plans. 

And her advice to others making the move? 'Join some Facebook groups - there are loads - and if you do make it down it’s an ideal way to meet people too.' 

Star power
If you are thinking of moving to Cornwall, then you’ll be in good company: famous locals is one of the things that Cornwall is, well, famous for. As well as Rick Stein in Padstow, we now have Gordon Ramsay across the water in Rock, where he has a £4.4m home.

From the world of music, Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! fame lives near Wadebridge, where he enjoys surfing, cycling and playing a round of golf; Queen drummer Roger Taylor has a home in Helford (he was brought up in Cornwall); and American singer-songwriter Tori Amos lives near Bude. 

TV couple Richard and Judy have a home near Polperro, while another TV presenter, Fern Britton, currently resides in Looe. Fern Britton finally moved back to Cornwall full time in 2020 after more than 40 years away. ‘l’ve been dreaming about being here. To be finally living here again. I sold my very first house that I bought in Cornwall in 1985 and here I am at last again full time.’  her favourite bits? 'Sennen Cove – I even called one of my characters Sennen after it.; 

Best-selling Cornwall-based author Liz Fenwick first came to Cornwall with a boyfriend who brought her to meet his parents – but she also had to pass the Cornwall Test – to fall in love with it. She did and they married. 'It is a land of myth and legend with a landscape carved out of hard work and weather, but mostly it is my home and my muse,' she says. 

Eastenders actor Steve McFadden (aka Phil Mitchell), has a home and a boat in Falmouth, while actress Jenny Agutter lives on the Lizard Peninsula, where she’s often out walking the South West Coast Path. She fell in love with Cornwall after romping in the sands of Rock with Donald Sutherland in The Eagle has Landed (the sharp-eyed can see the roof of the car park’s toilet block in the scene). ‘There is an ancient wild and rugged quality,; she told Cornwall Life about the county. ‘People love and fear it... but people are determined to enjoy its beauty – and they have a lot of fun while they battle on to make a living.’  

Doc Martin’s London-born Joe Absolom, moved to Tintagel with his family after falling in love with the place during filming at nearby Port Isaac. 

Rock is one of Cornwall's most expensive addresses

The three-bedroomed Willow Cottage in Penmayne, Rock has a guide price of £800,000. crw.co.uk - Credit: crw.co.uk

Literary giants include Daphne Du Maurier in Fowey where a giant rook now dominates the harbour in celebration of her short story The Birds. Virginia Woolf partially grew up in St Ives and came back again and again as an adult. Her book To the Lighthouse on Godrevy lighthouse.

Another lighthouse made famous, is that of St Anthony’s Lighthouse in St Mawes which was the home of Fraggle Rock (you can now stay there for £900 a week). 

Wind in the Willows was inspired by the rides along the riverbanks along Fowey, while Nobel prize winner and Newquay-born William Golding based Lord of the Flies on the beaches near his Cornish home at Perranarworthal. And, of course, spy novelist John le Carre (real name David Cornwell) made St Buryan his home for many years.

Sticking with writers, Poet laureate Sir John Betjeman lived in Trebetherick and is now buried at St Enodoc church near Rock. Further afield, Cornwall also gets a mention by Harper Lee who starts her chronicle of the Finch family in To Kill a Mockingbird with Simon Finch ‘a fur-trapping apothecary from Cornwall whose piety was exceeded only by his stinginess’. 

For many, the romance of Cornwall is fed by the many films and TV shows produced here. From Port Isaac in Doc Martin to Falmouth for World War Z, The Witches at Newquay’s Headland Hotel, Camomile Lawns on the Roseland Peninsula (now a B&B) and Poldark in Charlestown, the sight of Cornwall on big or small screen feeds that incurable romance. 

So how much will this celebrity-endorsed lifestyle cost you? 
Whether it’s the north coast or south coast, or a town or village somewhere in between, it seems the property market is on fire across whole county. People are willing to pay premium prices to live in their dream location, and while the majority of buyers are from within the county, a significant number are also moving to Cornwall from other part of the UK - and beyond. Some places, in particular, are proving irresistible… 

If you’re looking to move to the exclusive waterside village of St Mawes on tip the Roseland Peninsula, then expect to pay over a million pounds for the privilege. According to the latest figures from the Land Registry, the average price for properties sold is a few quid shy of £1.1 million - up 65% since 2019.  

St Mawes is the most expensive place to living in Cornwall

St Mawes thatched property, Bay Cottage, on the market now, guide price £2m. The south-facing Grade II listed house boasts harbour and sea views, located opposite Tavern Beach on the exclusive St Mawes waterfront. There's also a garden studio. H Tiddy Estate Agents, St Mawes - Credit: H Tiddy Estate Agents, St Mawes

And if it’s a detached house you’re looking for, it’ll set you back even more, upwards of £1.5 million. Earlier this year, the Halifax reported that St Mawes had the biggest average price increase of any British seaside location during the previous 12 months. For St Mawes estate agent H Tiddy, it’s been an extraordinary year, with many properties fetching millions of pounds.  

Natalie Andrew from H Tiddy explains why it has become such a desirable place to live. ‘It’s an enchanting south facing harbour village, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,’ she says. ‘In fact, much of the surroundings are owned by the National Trust. The village is centred round a quant harbour, and it has its own beaches and a castle. It also has a good wide range of amenities which are open all year round and has access to some of the most wonderful sailing waters in the UK.’ No wonder people want to live here.  

Although St Mawes is the most expensive village on the Roseland Peninsula, it’s by no means the only one attracting buyers; the entire peninsula - dubbed the ‘Jewel in Cornwall’s Crown by locals - is the place to be. 

Best places to live in Cornwall

Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth is one of the major draws of this university town - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

Across the estuary from St Mawes, Falmouth is another south coast location where people are increasingly wanting to live - average prices here have gone up 13% since 2019 to £352,000. Multi award-winning local firm, MAP estate agents, sells homes across west Cornwall, including Falmouth. Andrew McKnight from MAP says what’s happening in Falmouth reflects the buoyant countywide picture. ‘I wouldn’t say that Falmouth or any particular area is a hotspot because it’s crazy everywhere,’ he admits.  

St Mawes is the most expensive place to live in Cornwall

St Mawes - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

‘Obviously, there has always been a demand to be by the water and near to beaches, but there are other factors why we are so busy now. We have the air links and the internet, and one thing the past 18 months has taught us is that you absolutely can work from home.  

‘I also think that a lot of people generally have been looking to move home. During lockdown, they’ve looked at their homes and decided it wasn’t to their needs. Some might also have been sitting tight, waiting to see if Brexit would affect the market, which it didn’t. And we also had the stamp duty holiday.  

St Mawes is the most expensive place to living in Cornwall

St Mawes thatched property, Bay Cottage, on the market now, guide price £2m. The south-facing Grade II listed house boasts harbour and sea views, located opposite Tavern Beach on the exclusive St Mawes waterfront. There's also a garden studio. H Tiddy Estate Agents, St Mawes - Credit: H Tiddy Estate Agents, St Mawes

‘I think national factors have all come together at the same time to create this demand. And then we have the Cornwall factor, the lifestyle. I’d say that a quarter or our sales are to people moving into the county. But that means that 75% are people living in Cornwall but have decided to move within the county. You put all of that together, and it means that demand is outstripping supply.’ 

North Coast 
It’s the same picture on the north coast, where Rock remains a desirable location for people quitting the city life for a more laidback lifestyle. Sold prices are averaging just over £1m, and it’s not only people from London who are moving here. Among the buyers are ex-pats relocating to the UK after living abroad - attracted to Rock by the beaches, sailing and golf courses.  

Rock is one of Cornwall's most expensive addresses

The three-bedroomed Willow Cottage in Penmayne, Rock has a guide price of £800,000. crw.co.uk - Credit: crw.co.uk

On the other side of the Camel estuary, the property market in bustling Padstow is also buoyant - average sold prices have risen to £545,000. But, according to local estate agent Patrick Dunne of Cole Rayment & White (CRW), the busiest place in this part of Cornwall currently is Polzeath, where average prices have risen to £905,000. 

Families in Cornwall are especially keen to buy here. ‘Interest has absolutely rocketed around Polzeath,’ says Patrick. ‘We’ve just sold a property for £1.5 million - it went within two weeks. And that’s how it’s been. If it’s got a sea view, it’s going very quickly.’ But why Polzeath? Well, it seems you can put it down to those big breakers.  

‘Surfing has caught up with skiing. People want to have surfing on their doorstep. In Polzeath, they’ve got it. People want to buy here because of the surfing lifestyle. And I think that the pandemic has encouraged people to seek the lifestyle they want now, rather than to wait.’ 

Homes for sale in Cornwall

The White House Built in 1936 in Newquay is on the market for £1.25m. lillicrapchilcott.com - Credit: https://www.lillicrapchilcott.com/

Another big mover on the north coast, up 34% since 2019, is Port Isaac, where the average selling price is £584,000. Famous on our screens as Port Wenn in Doc Martin (you can go on a tour of the village for under £20), it ticks all the boxes for those looking for an archetypal picture-postcard Cornish fishing village. It even has Nathan Outlaw - the acclaimed chef has opened two eateries in the village, adding to this area’s reputation as a paradise for foodies. 

It’s a reputation that was kick-started by celebrity chef Rick Stein in Padstow, now also home to Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth. Add the area’s fine dining scene to the views and surfing, and you really do have ‘The Cornish Factor’ in abundance in this part of the county.  

South Coast 
Back down on the south coast, meanwhile, the property scene in Fowey has been nothing short of astonishing. In the past two years, the average sold prices have gone up by a bonkers 71% to £582,000.   

Making the move to Cornwall

Fowey famed as the home of Daphne du Maurier - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

The picturesque fishing town on the mouth of the river has been reeling in people looking for a more tranquil lifestyle - so much so, that it has now become not quite so tranquil. Sitting within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Fowey has town, coast and countryside on offer. If you’re a walker, cyclist or enjoy the natural world, you’ll love it here. Fowey itself is an attractive town with a rich history.  

Comedian Dawn French lived here for 15 years before moving to a quieter village near the Cornwall-Devon border earlier this year. It’s also where the novelist Daphne du Maurier made her home for many years - her classic novel Rebecca was among the works inspired by Fowey.  

If you’re a culture vulture, then St Ives is probably the place for you. You won’t be surprised to learn that prices have gone up here, too - but not so rapidly as some other towns in the county. You can expect to pay around £450,000 for a home in St Ives.  

Biggest sellers, unsurprisingly given the layout of the town, are terraced houses, which average at £398,000. It’s a mega-honeypot for tourists, and you can see why. For a start, it has some of the best beaches in the world. If you’re lucky enough to live here, there’s plenty to do, whether it’s strolling around the art galleries - notably Tate St Ives - or making the most of the great outdoors.  

Bag a bargain 

Making the move to mousehole

Mousehole harbour - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

For more affordability, you could do worse than head to the fishing ports of Newlyn and Mousehole in west Cornwall. With a fabulous coastline and glorious beaches at hand, a home around here could be yours for under £300,000.  

In Newlyn, average sold prices are currently at £272,000. A major fishing port, the town’s focal point is the enormous harbour. Just down the road, Mousehole is also famous for its harbour - very much smaller and extremely picturesque. Average prices are running at £374,000, with most sales being terraced homes. Expect to pay in the region of £400,000 for a detached property. The pretty village is the perfect place if you want to enjoy the area’s beaches, gardens and places of heritage - and you’re not too far from some of Cornwall’s best-known landmarks.  

In 1930, the poet and writer Dylan Thomas called Mousehole ‘the loveliest village in England’ - and the charm that he saw then is still very much in evidence almost 100 years later. At Christmas the harbour is lit up to become one of the festive season’s most famous sights. 

Up and Coming 
Talking of charm … our next port of call is a town topping the up-and-coming league table when it comes to people’s ‘let’s move there’ list: Porthleven. With an average price of £305,000, you need to be quick to snap up your dream home because properties are selling fast. A stroll around Porthleven and it’s not hard to see why.  

The historic fishing port has a lovely harbour, around which are dotted small independent shops, pubs and restaurants - Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines has opened up The Harbourside Refuge in what was formerly Rick Stein’s restaurant. And then there’s the famous old chapel and clock tower at the end of the pier, as seen in many a stormy photograph.  

Porthleven is Britain’s southernmost port, and the pier does take a battering from the waves from time to time. If you’ve got your eye on this area, then why not also check out nearby Helston? Property prices here have gone up almost a quarter since 2019 but at around £250,000, average prices are still more attainable than in many places.  

The historic former stannary town is famous for holding its Furry (or Flora) Dance each May, when the streets are filled, and the pubs are packed by locals and visitors alike. A great way to meet your new neighbours!

  

Best places to live in Cornwall

Porthleven is fast becoming a contender for foodie capital of Cornwall - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

The Cornwall Factor: So why move to Cornwall? Here’s just a few reasons … 
  
Weather 
Sitting almost on Britain’s subtropical tip (you have to fly over to the Isles of Scilly 28 miles off the coast to really get there) means mild weather. The thermometer falling below zero is a rare occurrence, while frost and snow are hardly ever seen. The temperature differential is quite small – typically from about 5 to 22 degrees. Add the sun reflecting off all that water can add ten degrees. The sea temperature is bracing – the warmest month is generally September when it reaches a balmy 17 degrees. Its oceanic, so it comes with plenty of rain, but thankfully clothing stores are well-stocked for a rainy walk on the beach. One note – leave your umbrella behind. Nothing says incomer on the narrow-cobbled streets. 
  
Lifestyle 
Bored in meetings? Try (surf)board meetings instead. Cornwall has a reputation for its lifestyle with most of it conducted outside.  

There are more than 300 miles of coast path, hundreds of beaches for surfing, SUP family outings, walking the dog (and even nudist). Harbours offer the chance for sailing and even a spot of fishing and an increasing number of us working from home, there is nothing quite like a lunch break on your local beach - the geography means you are never more than a half an hour from the sea. 
  
Things to do 
While a tourism industry that has topped the league tables for many years must, by definition, cater for visitors, locals are very well cared for in Cornwall.

Most attractions offer cheap or even free annual locals passes. Places like Tate St Ives, The Eden Project and Penzance Lido offer cheap passes, while dozens of other attractions offer free ‘locals’ days. The stunning spas found in our best hotels have annual memberships that mean that luxury hot tub by the sea is open all year-round. 

Eden Project offers locals passes

The Eden Project light show - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

 
Employment 
Although much of Cornwall’s employment has moved from traditions like mining and fishing to tourism, the county also has a growing and thriving creative sector. And with many entrepreneurs finding success in food and drink, there is plenty of opportunity.

Cornwall attracts around four million visitors a year – and as well as having a place to stay, they are looking for places to visit, eat and somewhere to spend their holiday money.

For many who move, it is the chance to completely rethink life, with career aspirations matching the desire for the lifestyle. These come readymade, with everything from hotels and restaurants to surf schools and galleries up for grabs.