Regardless of the time of year, Cornwall is a special place to visit. Spectacular cliffs, rugged coastlines, rolling countryside, bustling fishing towns – not to mention the iconic Cornish Pasty and tasty drop of cider – it’s an area of England worthy of a visit any time.
That being said, parts of Cornwall can get extremely busy during the summer months, especially since the pandemic when Brits have flocked to their own beaches rather than board a plane for their holidays.
On the contrary, Cornwall in the winter is superbly quiet. Quiet but not without character, somehow possessing a moody charm, befitting of its past steeped in pirates and smugglers, shipwrecks and storms.
And, by the way, it’s cheaper.
So if you’ve chosen the Winter to visit England’s most southerly county (or duchy, a technicality pointed out by Bill Bryson in his book “The Road to Little Dribbling”), here’s our guide to visiting Cornwall in winter.
What’s the Weather like in Cornwall in Winter?
The winter months can bring some wild weather to Cornwall. But for all the wind and the rain, it’s actually relatively warm, especially compared to the rest of the UK. There’s rarely a frost although you’ll have to get used to “mizzle” (a mixture of mist and drizzle).
If you’re lucky – or unlucky – depending on your personal preference, you’ll get to witness one of Cornwall’s epic storms; a sight to behold if you happen to be near the sea at the time.
They’re usually short and ferocious but can also be dangerous, so be sure to keep yourself safe from falling, displaced rocks, or suddenly vast waves.
You’ll probably get some bright sunny days during your stay too. These are a delight, especially when the temperature is crisp. There’s nothing light the low winter light to highlight the craggy shorelines and sweeping countryside.
The main takeaway is that the weather in Cornwall can change at the drop of a hat, and you can experience almost every weather condition over the course of one day. With that in mind, it would be useful to install a good weather app on your phone and pack for every eventuality (we’ll come on to this later).
Is Visiting Cornwall Worth it in the Winter Months?
The short answer to this is ABSOLUTELY!
Cornwall can get frustratingly busy during the summer months. The crowds can turn even the most quaint and pretty seaside town into a battleground as you’re forced to push your way past people to reach for the ice cream shack.
By contrast, the winter months transform Cornwall into a peaceful haven. Roads are quieter, the crowds clear, and, great news, the prices go down! Accommodation is cheaper, as are flights to the UK.
Cornwall is beautiful all year round, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s something intrinsically moody and rugged about a Cornish winter. It’s easier to enjoy a good ramble or a bike ride when the weather is cooler, and the reward of a pint at the pub at the end of a long day in the elements is an irreplicable joy.
What is There to Do in Cornwall in Winter?
Cornwall gives you the pick of the lot when it comes to winter walking: there are moorland, coastal, woodland, and river walks all within a small space.
If you’re into two-wheeled tourism, road, mountain biking, or even E-biking, Cornwall has it all. Check out our popular cycling tours for more details.
3. Cold water Swimming
Honestly, you try it once, and you’ll never look back. Carbis Bay at St Ives and Lantic Bay near Fowey are absolute stunners for cold water swimming. Dawn and dusk are prime times to swim during the winter and, strangely enough, the earlier in winter you swim, the warmer the water.
For more tips on cold-water swimming in Cornwall, including what to wear check out our guide.
4. The Towns
St Ives and Padstow are well-trodden tourist towns, but in the winter they’re nicely quiet. If you’re looking for slightly less touristy towns, Fowey is a delight, and Truro, technically a city with its dramatic neo-gothic cathedral, is well worth a visit.
5. Boat Trips
While most boat trips are closed during the winter, St Mawes Ferry across the River Fal may well be offering rides while you’re in town.
6. Eat & Drink
There’s no shortage of great places to eat and drink in Cornwall. Whether you’re after a simple fish shack or the full works at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re brave, you’ll try the rather acquired taste of Cornish mead during your stay. Or there’s the refreshing taste of Fowey Valley Cider. Best served “mulled” over the winter season!
Although several attractions close over the winter months, there is still a list of exciting places to visit during your trip. Always worth double-checking opening times online before you commit, however!
- Eden Project – Bodelva, Par PL24 2SG
- Lands’ End (although closed over Xmas and New Year) – Sennen
- Cornwall, TR19 7AA
- Tintagel Castle – Castle Rd, Tintagel PL34 0HE
- Botallack Mine – Tin Coast, near St Just, Cornwall, TR19 7QQ
- Minack Theatre – The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance TR19 6JU
- National Maritime Museum – Discovery Quay, Falmouth TR11 3QY
- Truro Cathedral – St Mary’s St, Truro TR1 2AF
- Seal Sanctuary – Gweek TR12 6UG
What Are the Cornwall Beaches like During Winter?
Whatever the weather, Cornish folk love the beach – whether that means long strides along the sand, riding the surf or swimming in the waves. That said, the beaches are far from busy during the winter months.
The water is cool, getting colder as the winter months progress, but with a wetsuit or drysuit (and a warm change of clothes waiting for you on the beach), a cold water swim is a buzz you’ll want to repeat once you’ve tried it.
One thing to note: there are no lifeguards during the winter months, so make sure you know what you’re doing or have the support of a tour guide.
What to Pack for a Stay in Cornwall in Winter?
As we’ve already discussed, Cornwall’s weather is far from predictable during the winter months. When you come to visit, make sure you pack for all sorts of weather conditions, especially if you’re looking for an active vacation. But, here’s our short list of absolute essentials:
- A good waterproof jacket
- Waterproof walking shoes and warm thick socks
- A hat, scarf and gloves
- An umbrella
- A thermos flask – there’s nothing to beat a hot chocolate on the beach during winter!
- A headtorch – winter evenings can creep up on your early.
- A wetsuit or drysuit and neoprene gloves and boots if you plan to swim.
As you can tell by now, we here at Active England are huge fans of Cornwall in the winter. Not only is it quieter, but there’s something extra special about the raw natural beauty the winter light highlights.
So, if you’d like to know more about the tours we offer during the winter months, please get in touch to talk to one of our team.