Perched high on the rugged cliffs of south-west Cornwall, you’ll discover the incredible open air Minack Theatre. Not only is this hand crafted amphitheatre remarkably impressive, but so are the breathtaking vistas that come part and parcel with the Cornish coastline.
Up here you are treated to incredible aerial views over the bright turquoise sea and white sandy bay of Porthcurno beach (which is quite possibly the nicest beach I’ve ever been to in the UK). Let’s jump in and see why you should add these two Cornish gems onto your UK bucket list.
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Where is the Minack Theatre?
The Minack is situated just to the west of Porthcurno beach. Roughly 4 miles away from Land’s End, or around a 25 minute drive from Penzance.
To get here, pop this address into your google maps, Porthcurno, Penzance TR19 6JU.
Be aware that it’s typical narrow Cornish roads to get here.
What does ‘Minack’ mean
‘Minack’ comes from the Cornish word ‘meynek‘ which means stony or rocky place. As this place is literally carved into the craggy cliff side, I’d say the name suits it perfectly.
How old is the Minack Theatre
Even though it looks thousands of years old, this Greek-inspired amphitheatre is only around 100 years old.
History of the Minack
This amazing theatre was built by a lady named Rowena Cade, who was born sometime in 1893. Sadly after the first world war and passing of her father, she moved away from Cheltenham and began a new life down in Cornwall. Where in the early 1920’s she bought this rugged clifftop patch of land for a grand total of £100.
After getting involved with an open-air production, she decided to let the company use her cliff top garden as the stage for the play. It was in 1929 when Rowena began to build the Minack Theatre, and it took the rest of her life to complete. Even in her 80’s she was still working hard bringing her incredible amphitheatre vision to life.
Amazingly, the Minack theatre was built without using any big machinery or diggers. Instead, it was made using hand tools, some extra helping hands and a few sticks of dynamite. The concrete structures were all made with sand that was collected from Porthcurno beach below. Rowena then carved intricate designs into the wet concrete using an old screwdriver!
In 1983, shortly before her ninetieth birthday, Rowena sadly passed away. Thankfully, her memory, and all of her hard-work lives on for people to enjoy to this day.
The Minack is a working theatre with open-air shows taking place every summer. With modern expansions now making some levels accessible for wheelchair users too.
The Minack gardens
Along with the epic views and impressive architecture of this place, the Minack theatre has a beautiful yet rare subtropical garden for you to explore too. The colourful garden now covers 1.5 acres of sloping land and rocky outcrops full of bright flowers, bushes and succulents. With pretty winding pathways weaving you through the garden, down towards the amphitheatre.
Some of the unusual Minack plants are for sale in the gift shop. Enabling you to add a touch of the Minack garden to your very own home.
Ticket prices for visiting the Minack Theatre
Advance booking is essential for visiting the Minack Theatre, so make sure you plan ahead. Tickets sell out super fast, especially if you’re planning to visit during the school holidays.
Adult tickets are £10 each, under 16’s are £5 each (when accompanied by an adult) and children under 2 years old are free. Tickets can be booked online on the Minack website and all orders will be subject to a £1.50 booking fee.
These prices are just for visiting the Minack, and don’t include any tours or performances. If you want to see a show, the tickets prices vary depending on the performance, and where you sit.
Top Tip: Higher tiers have grassy seats, whereas the lower ones are all concrete. Either way, you’ll probably want to bring a blanket or a cushion to sit on.
Opening times vary during the year, so it’s best to check directly on their website.
Parking for the Minack Theatre
Near to the entrance of the Minack theatre, you’ll find a tarmac carpark which is free for the duration of your visit.
Day visitors are allowed to park up 30 minutes before their entry time, and show-goers are allowed to park 90 minutes before.
The road to reach the carpark is very narrow and can get easily congested when its busy. Therefor they don’t recommend driving camper vans or other large vehicles up here. Instead, they suggest parking down in Porthcurno valley.
How to reach Porthcurno beach
Porthcurno beach deserves a gold medal for its stunning near white sand and bright turquoise sea. It’s so beautiful, that it feels like you should be somewhere far more tropical than good old Blighty!
If you’re visiting the Minack Theatre, then I highly recommend you venture down to explore this absolute gem. It would be such a shame to miss out on this outstanding beach, as it has to be one of the best raw beaches in south-west Cornwall.
From the top of the Minack theatre there is a path that leads you directly down to Porthcurno beach. It’s a very steep route down the side of the cliff though, so you will need to be exceptionally careful. This route is the quickest option but if you’d rather take a less intense route, you can walk along the main road instead. It’s a little longer but far less scary, and much safer if you have children with you.
Once you’ve made it down you’ll be rewarded with crystal clear water and soft white sand. It is absolutely beautiful.
There is a seasonal dog ban on Porthcurno beach. No dogs on are allowed from 1st July to 31st August.
When are shows on?
The Minack is open April- October, however the open-air shows are only on during the (hopefully) warmer months of May – September. Click here to see what’s showing this year, and when!
I can’t begin to imagine how magical it would be to watch a show under the stars on a warm summers evening.
Are dogs allowed?
Dogs are allowed to visit the Minack theatre, but they must be kept on a short lead at all times. Only guide dogs are allowed into the performances though.
What should you wear?
Porthcurno beach below may look tropical, but don’t be fooled. You’re high up on a cliff in the UK after-all. The fresh sea breeze can get nippy, so if you’re watching a play you might want to bring along some warm layers and waterproofs. Our weather does like to flip between the seasons in a matter of moments sometimes!
Cafe and gift shop
At the top of the Minack theatre there’s a small gift shop, selling locally produced souvenirs and plants. They also sell items such as wooly hats and picnic blankets, to key rings and jewellery.
There’s also a sea view cafe that serves light bites and homemade cakes, along with traditional Cornish pasty’s or a quintessential cream tea! You can also grab a warming hot drink, or refreshing thirst quencher from the cafe too.
The cafe here can only be used by people who have purchased an entry ticket to the theatre. This popular cafe can get very busy during peak times, so you could be waiting quite a while for a table.
How long do you need?
You could easily spend an hour or two here. Especially if you add in a refuel at the cafe after exploring the gardens and amphitheatre. You’ll need even longer if you want to spend sometime down on the golden sand of Porthcurno beach too.
Where to stay
The Minack theatre is in Porthcurno, so if you want to stay right on its doorstep click here to see what accommodation options are available. We stayed at a lovely boutique hotel in Penzance which was called the Artist Residence. It was super laid-back and an ideal location for exploring this area of Cornwall.
Other places to visit nearby
Cornwall is full of stunning coves, golden beaches, quaint fishing towns and coastal walks.
Before you leave the Minack, you should obviously head down to Porthcurno beach and dip your toes in the refreshing sea. Then why not head over to Lands End to see the edge of England. From there you can take the scenic coastal walk over to surfing hot spot of Sennen Cove.