Think Cornwall is only a summer destination? Think again! Winter in Cornwall involves scenery that is just as stunning, with an atmosphere that is laid back and welcoming … plus, the beaches and restaurants are uncrowded.
The weather is still mild when compared to counties further north and whilst this means that winter breaks in Cornwall are rarely white, it does mean that you can get into the water or go on a bracing walk along the coast or in the country without losing feeling in your toes.
Cornwall is the nation’s favourite staycation destination, so whittling the reasons to visit down to only five was tough, but scroll on to read our selection. Or tap the button to start searching for a Cornish cottage for winter today.
Winter walks in Cornwall
There’s nowhere quite like Cornwall for breathtaking scenery. In winter, the dramatic cliffs steal the show with awesome waves pounding the rocks revealing the raw power of nature. With few visitors during these months, you are free to explore the paths and trails of the county, immersing yourself in the rugged beauty. From bracing, windswept bays and magnificent moors to the gentler, picturesque countryside strolls, you’ll have your choice of the best walks in Cornwall. Another thing Cornwall excels at is great pubs and eateries – the perfect place to warm up after your adventures!
It's possible that the places to visit in Cornwall in winter are even more impressive than they are in summer, so if you’re looking to recharge in the Cornish air, there are a number of excellent walks available right across the county. Cardinham Woods often offers touches of pearly frost which is a rare sight in Cornwall. The shelter offered protects you from the elements when the wind gets up and there’s even a cafe to top up on tea. The Kynance Cove to Lizard Village Loop is a jaw-dropping coastal walk. This 3-mile circular takes in an outstanding inlet as well as a beautiful village where you can grab a top Cornish pasty.
Winter surfing in Cornwall
Whilst admittedly not for everyone, the winter months are an extremely popular time for this Cornish favourite. The advances in wetsuit technology mean that catching a few waves in winter can be a thrilling rather than chilling experience. With only a few other surfers about and some impressive waves, you can enjoy an exhilarating and invigorating ride in the most spectacular surroundings.
You may not be aware but surfing in Cornwall in winter is very different to surfing in Cornwall in summer. Large westerly swells and strong winds turn spots that are usually non-existent into veritable epics. Indeed, some of the best surfing spots in Cornwall year-round still maintain an attraction during winter (including Fistral which has RNLI lifeguards all year, and Porthmeor), but other destinations like Porthleven come alive during this season. Many surfers in Cornwall dedicate their winters to surfing, now you can too.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan (and other magnificent gardens)
We hold our hands up completely to our Heligan bias! It’s one of the best things to do in Cornwall in winter and it never fails to delight. The acres of winding paths, beautifully kept gardens and the magnificent array of plant species make it the gem in Cornwall’s garden crown. With an ever-popular cafe too, it’s the perfect Cornwall winter day out. Cornwall’s many other gardens are also worth a visit at this time of year. Trebah, Lanhydrock, Caerhays and Trelissick are some of over 40 gardens in Cornwall, all with their own appeal.
Trebah is rated as one of the top 80 gardens in the world and has a mix of sub-tropical and exotic plants. Lanhydrock has a grandiose Victorian country house, formal gardens and nearly 1,000 acres of parkland. Caerhays Castle and Gardens is found on the Roseland Peninsula, near Mevagissey, and has exotic species including magnolias, camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons. Set on an estate with beautiful maritime views and interesting woodland walks, Trelissick has formal lawns, an orchard and a second-hand bookshop.
Rick Stein’s winter charity lunches
For a few weeks at the end of January and the beginning of February, The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow offers charity lunches for an incredible price. For 2023, Head Chef, Pete Murt, has created a sublime 3-course lunch menu for just £27, plus a £2.50 donation that goes straight to charity. This year, the charity is the Newquay Foodbank, which provides food and other essentials to those in need in the area.
There are two other Rick Stein spots to visit whilst you’re in Padstow: dog-friendly St Petroc’s Bistro, serving classic French cuisine, and Rick Stein’s Cafe. However, with a hat-trick of reasons to give it a go (amazing food, amazing price and a great cause), The Seafood Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Cornwall and is certainly not to be missed! So, come together with friends and family to give back and support a charity close to Rick and Jill’s hearts.
Cornwall has always been known for its history, heritage and arts scene. Myth and history intermingle at Tintagel Castle with its eventful past and tales of the legendary King Arthur. Photos taken here during winter tend to be more moody and dramatic, in keeping with its legendary bygone days. With the ocean raging and the tumultuous wind causing a riot, partaking in a bit of storytelling for the sake of the kids (and grown-ups) really wouldn’t be the same in the summer.
There are several forts and castles to explore in the county and the brooding weather at this time of year can make a visit to one of these Cornish attractions even more magical. Cornwall is also an incredible source of inspiration for artists, with an abundance of studios, galleries and craft shops found up and down the county. St Ives is a real hot spot with the Tate St Ives gallery and innumerable local artists showcasing their work around the town.
Self-catering winter cottages in Cornwall
After eating a delicious seafood meal, enjoying a bracing woodland walk or getting out of the water following a blockbuster surf, a cosy cottage for winter is just what you need. From cottages with open fires and wood burners to holiday homes with hot tubs, and from properties with coastal views to dog-friendly retreats, we have it all. Search now for your ultimate Cornwall winter cottage.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.