While Cornwall has earned itself a reputation for offering some of the best beaches, breathtaking coastlines and rock-pooling spots for a summer holiday, we’re just going to put it out there and say if you’ve not yet visited Cornwall in the winter, you are most definitely missing a trick.
One of the best reasons to visit Cornwall out of peak season is that you can explore this beautiful destination at a much slower pace and without the larger crowds, competitive parking and long queues for a pasty. Visiting in the winter means you get to enjoy this culturally rich spot at your leisure and really get under the skin of what makes Cornwall so special, living through the eyes of the locals: storms and all!
There is an abundance of free things to do in Cornwall in the rain. With more than 300 beaches to explore, there's nothing to stop you from putting on the waterproofs and venturing out to experience the epic coastlines and seeing the beaches on a wintery day. If you ask us, there's nothing quite like a blustery walk on a beach to blow away the cobwebs before tucking into a hearty lunch and pint of local ale at one of the many pubs and restaurants on offer in Cornwall.
Of course, the winter in Cornwall can see some fairly dramatic weather and you would be forgiven for forgoing the waterproofs in favour of something with a little more shelter and comfort. Thankfully, Cornwall has an array of visitor attractions that are open all year round and provide a great opportunity to have a fun-filled day with the family. Whether it's booking tickets for one of the many events at the world-famous Eden Project (and we highly recommend that you do), or learning about the fascinating history and heritage of Cornwall at a National Trust property, there is plenty on offer to keep you entertained right up until that mid-afternoon tea-and-cake moment we know you're already plotting.
For a wild, wintry Cornish experience in the great outdoors, here are a couple of ideas for the holiday-planning melting pot:
Outdoor activities in Cornwall
Hit the beach
With more than 300 beaches to explore, you will be truly spoilt for choice picking out somewhere to go for a blustery stomp on a wintery day. Beaches in the winter have a certain magic about them and there’s nothing quite like throwing on the waterproofs and bracing the Cornish elements with the family. Explore the breathtaking South West Coast Path and take in the spectacular views and dramatic waves bashing along the shore. Take a walk along some of Cornwall’s vast expanses of sand, such as Perranporth beach or Fistral beach on the north coast or head down to St Ives and explore one of its many famous beaches before refuelling at a local cafe. Porthmeor Beach Cafe is a particular favourite, serving up a varied menu of tapas treats and contemporary dishes and offering one of the best views in Cornwall.
Cornwall also offers an especially impressive selection of Sunday roast venue options, such as The Boathouse in Falmouth and The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor, so be sure to factor in a Yorkshire-pudding date at the end of your wintery walk.
Go storm watching
On a budget? There are plenty of free things to do in Cornwall in the rain and, if you ask us, going in search of an epic storm is one of our favourite pastimes. Cornwall is lucky enough to experience some pretty spectacular weather conditions, particularly in the winter, and you simply can’t come to Cornwall and not factor in a day spent storm watching. Take the car to one of the coastal vantage points and watch the weather come in and the waves bash up against the cliffs. Feeling adventurous? Get togged up and head out on foot to get an even better view, such as Pentire headland in Newquay or the iconic Cape Cornwall. If you do decide to brave the elements and go storm watching, it is vitally important that you take good care and don’t go too close to the sea. It’s easy to get caught out, particularly in larger swells, so we would always recommend you fully assess the conditions before heading out. It’s also worth remembering that choosing the right clothing and any necessary equipment is always wise, otherwise you might find that your storm-watching experience will be cut short.
Once you’ve had your fill of storm-watching fun, head over to one of the many pubs and cafes in Cornwall with a sea view and experience the wild weather over a hearty meal with the family. Alternatively, to keep the costs down, pack up a picnic and take shelter in your car while enjoying a delicious sandwich and flask of coffee.
Offering spectacular views over the Fal estuary, Trelissick House is one of the National Trust’s finest and is open to the public all year round. Providing the perfect spot for a woodland walk or a meander through the gardens with an impressive display of herbaceous borders and exotic plants, Trelissick House is a fascinating place to visit all year round. Pack the waterproofs and take the kids for a relaxing walk through the parkland, or book your tickets for one of the many child-friendly events on offer throughout the year, such as an autumn trail or a meeting with Father Christmas in the stables. Wet-weather moment? Although the house itself is closed, there is still an on-site cafe and shop for you to take shelter while you wait for the weather to pass. This must-see visitor attraction is open seven days a week and its opening hours are 10am until 4.30pm during the winter.
Another National Trust treasure, Lanhydrock is a beautiful late-Victorian country house based in a wooded estate. Take a walk through the beautiful garden, or hire some bikes and follow one of the many trails through spectacular woodland. Some of the trails offer fun challenges and activities to partake in, which are perfect for keeping children engaged while they uncover hidden details throughout the garden. The house itself offers a fascinating display of interpretation boards that tell the story of this historic spot and there’s also a plant centre on site, a cafe to refuel at lunchtime and a book shop and gift shop. Although booking isn’t essential, it’s worth noting that the opening hours differ depending on which part of the estate you want to visit, so it’s worth checking out the website before you arrive to avoid disappointment. Offering the perfect spot for wintertime fun with the family and open all-year round, Lanhydrock is not to be missed.
Not a fan of experiencing wintery weather outdoors? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Literally. There are plenty of rainy-day activities in Cornwall all year round so there’s always somewhere fun and educational in which to take shelter and keep the kids entertained.
Situated in west Cornwall lies an 18th-century tin mine that offers a truly unique experience for the family. Here you can put on a hard hat, go underground and experience what life was like for Cornish miners. Cornwall and west Devon were awarded World Heritage Site status back in 2006 owing to their contribution towards tin and copper mining that changed the world we live in today. Visitors to Geevor Tin Mine can get under the skin of one of Cornwall’s most fascinating stories and learn about the spread of Cornish mining across the globe. It’s worth noting that this visitor attraction operates limited opening hours, so be sure to check out their website and book your tickets before arriving.
Offering the perfect venue for a rainy day, Bodmin Jail is one of the most haunting and historical visitor attractions in Cornwall. Suitable for children over the age of eight, Bodmin Jail was built in 1779 for King George III and the last inmates were transferred to a prison in Plymouth in 1911 before the jail itself was closed in 1916. Today, visitors can immerse themselves in the fascinating history that surrounds this visitor attraction, such as enjoying the new ‘Dark Walk’ experience or taking in the state-of-the-art technology that helps to explain the history of this working jail. In addition to the visitor attraction itself, there is also a fun calendar of events held throughout the year that are perfect for capturing the imagination of your little folk and keeping them entertained well up until home time. From spooky Halloween events through to festive Christmas celebrations, there is something for everyone. Visitors can prebook their tickets and it’s open throughout the winter, seven days a week between 9.30am and 6.30pm.
When the heavens open, a trip to a soft-play centre is an essential option on any parent’s to-do list. Offering a purpose-built play frame including an astra-glide slide, spiral tube and rope bridge, this popular play centre is the perfect way to let the children run wild and burn off some energy. There’s plenty on offer for parents, too: make good use of the free WiFi, enjoy a tasty snack from the well-stocked cafe and watch your children have a blast from the comfort of the seating area. There’s a dedicated area for babies and toddlers to play in safely and there are also ‘quiet sessions’ for children with different needs, such as cerebral palsy, ADHD and autism, that can be prebooked. Open seven days a week with three sessions Monday to Saturday and two on a Sunday, Jungle Jack’s is an absolute lifesaver for any parent with bored young children on a rainy day.
Open every day of the year from 10am until 5pm, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall is an absolute must for wet-weather fun. Visitors can enrich their understanding of the sea, observe rare underwater objects found around the world and explore the 15 galleries, before heading to the Main Hall and experiencing the hanging flotilla of small boats on display. It’s also worth venturing into the RNLI Rescue Zone and learn about sea safety and the important role of the RNLI. There are ride-on rescue vehicles on display here, along with interpretation boards highlighting the significance and outstanding work of the RNLI. Pop over to the Waterside Cafe for a slice of cake and cup of tea before visiting the gift shop and browsing the selection of maritime-themed gifts.
Cornwall is well known for its rich cultural heritage and the region is buzzing with creativity. Whether you’re looking to visit a small, independent studio curated by local artists, or interested in experiencing world-famous collections from artists around the globe, Cornwall has an impressive array of galleries open all year round to take shelter in on a wet-weather day. Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum are popular choices, as are Penlee Gallery, Leach Pottery and Penwith Gallery, plus many more besides.
There are plenty of things to do in Cornwall in winter, from exploring indoor visitor attractions through to throwing on the waterproofs and taking a stroll through the countryside before heading back to your cosy cottage to warm up in the hot tub. With its beautiful landscape, cultural heritage and plethora of visitor attractions, Cornwall in winter is pretty special. But don’t just take our word for it: book your Classic Cottage today and experience the magic of winter in Cornwall for yourself.