21 Things To Do In Winter In West Cornwall (2019)
Winter down here is Cornwall is a stunning time of the year. Yes, we get rain, yes, it is cold. But we also get some beautiful blue sky days with crystal clear air. And some BIG storms and waves.
Winter is one of my favourite times of the year down here in Cornwall. It is much quieter (apart from Christmas and New Year, which gets ridiculously busy), there is so much more space, and there is still plenty of things to do.
1. GO TO THE BEACH
If you wrap up warm and stick on your welly boots, going to the beach in Winter is brilliant. You often get them all to yourself, except for the occasional dog walker.
If you are very lucky, on a sunny, calm day you might even find a warm spot on the harbour beach in St Ives to sit and have a cup of tea!
2. GO TO THE BEACH WITH THE DOG!
Yippee, in Winter, the dog ban is lifted and dogs can again run free on the beach. I don’t have a dog (my cat would not like that at all) but my friends do. They love to take their dogs running across the beach at Gwithian near Hayle (free parking in Winter too!) and down on Porthmeor Beach in St Ives.
3. GO WAVE WATCHING
A word of caution, you do need to be really sensible about this. When the storms hit, the waves get HUGE down here and you need to be in a place where you won’t be in any danger. Don’t be that person being rescued in a viral video on Facebook. And don’t be that person who makes the news for being washed out to sea!
If you do it safely, watching the waves is a stunning thing to do. We get huge ones around The Island in St Ives and crashing over Lambeth Walk. However, for some truly massive ones, head down to Sennen or Porthleven. They get BIG waves!
Places to go wave watching in West Cornwall:
- The Island, St Ives
- Man’s Head, St Ives
- Penzance Prom
- Godrevy Lighthouse
- Sennen Cove
- Cape Cornwall
4. GO FOR A HIKE
There are some stunning places around West Cornwall to properly go for a hike. One of my favourites is the walk from St Ives to Zennor. Do take care though, it can get slippy and boggy on the cliffs. If you think the cliffs are too dangerous, head inland over the St Michael’s Way from Steeple Woods to Marazion. You can always get the bus back!
Another of our favourite Winter walks is Bedruthan Steps. Park up at the National Trust car park and walk down the steep cliffs to the most stunning beach. After an energetic walk back, stop off for coffee and cake in the lovely cafe at the top overlooking the sea.
5. GO CYCLING
West Cornwall isn’t the best place for cycling, especially in the Summer. However, in the Winter the roads during the week are much clearer and easier to cycle on. A lovely ride is from St Ives to Sennen on the coast road. Stunning at every turn!
Cycle Paths To Try In West Cornwall
- The Great Flat Lode around Camborne & Redruth.
- Coast to Coast Trail from Portreath to Devoran.
- St Michael’s Way between Lelant and Marazion.
- Tin Coast Trail Around St Just & Pendeen.
Places to hire bikes in West Cornwall
- Lands End Cycle Hire In Penzance
- Cape Cornwall Cycle Hire
6. GO IN THE SEA
Yes, really! If you do this safely and with the right equipment, going into the sea in Winter is wonderful.
Some say it is too cold to swim, plenty of others disagree. There is usually a wild swimmer or two out there on a calm day. Battery Rocks in Penzance is a good place to go. If you don’t fancy it by yourself, you could wait until Christmas and join in one of the annual Christmas swims!
If you don’t fancy getting IN the water, how about getting ON the water. Sailing, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking are still popular in Winter.
7. GO BIRD WATCHING
Bird Watching in Winter in Cornwall is a super activity to do. We get lots of migrating birds coming through and our estuaries and marshes are full of delightful birds. You will need a good pair of binoculars, a bird book and lots of patience! Plus a raincoat and a flask of tea can help make it more pleasant!
Good places to go bird watching in West Cornwall
- Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve
- Marazion Marshes RSPB reserve
8. TAKE THE KIDS ROCKPOOLING
We go rockpooling with our children at all times of the year. Winter is just as good as Summer. We wear wellies and waterproofs and take our buckets and underwater camera. It is really interesting to see the effect that storms have on the rockpools. Some storms make them plentiful, others wipe everything out completely!
9. GO FOR A HOT CHOCOLATE
This is a mandatory Winter weekend activity in our household. It often acts as a lure to get the children to go for a walk with us. If they know there is a lovely cafe that does excellent hot chocolate at the end, they will be much more up for it!
Our best places for hot chocolate are:
- Porthgwidden Beach Cafe in St Ives
- Sunset Surf cafe at Gwithian, Hayle
- Rockpool cafe in Mousehole
- Archie Browns in Truro
- Birdies Bistro at Lelant Saltings, Hayle
- Trenance Chocolate Factory
- Kernow Chocolate Factory
10. VISIT A PUB WITH A REAL FIRE
Ah, there is nothing quite so wonderful as walking into a pub from the cold where they have a gorgeous, real fire. Here are some pubs that have a lovely atmosphere and a roaring fire in Winter!
Some lovely pubs with a real fire are:
- The Lifeboat Inn, St Ives.
- The Engine Inn, Cripplesease St Ives
- The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor
- Tinners Arms, Zennor
- The Mexico Inn, Penzance
- Admiral Benbow, Penzance
- The Turks Head, Penzance
- The Old Success Inn, Sennen
- The Ship Inn, Mousehole
- The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
- The Ship Inn, Porthleven
- The Godolphin Arms, Marazion
- The Driftwood Spars, St Agnes
- The Pandora Inn, Falmouth
- The Logan Rock Inn, Treen Near Porthcurno
11. GO TO A FARMERS’ MARKET
Farmers’ Markets in Cornwall run all year long. There is still a lot of locally grown produce available as well as lots of cheeses, preserves and baked goods.
12. VISIT A NATIONAL TRUST PROPERTY
National Trust does Winter quite beautifully and elegantly. We have some gorgeous National Trust properties down here in Cornwall. From the stunning Trengwainton sub-tropical gardens to the stately houses of Cotehele, Godolphin, Trelissick and Trerice. And don’t forget St Michael’s Mount!
13. VISIT A MINE
Most of the mines in West Cornwall can be visited in Winter. As you are underground it doesn’t make any difference as to the time of year you visit.
Geevor Mine in West Cornwall is open all year. Their visiting times from November to March at 10am to 4pm and they still run the underground tours.
14. VISIT A MUSEUM
There are plenty of museums in Cornwall that stay open all year round. Some do close (such a the lovely St Ives museum), but here are some of the ones we like that do stay open are…
- Tate St Ives (great for the kids over Christmas with art activities)
- Barbara Hepworth Museum & Gardens (closed on a Monday during the Winter months)
- Leach Pottery, St Ives
- Penlee House, Penzance
- Porthcurno Telegraph Museum
- Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
- Helston Museum
- National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
- Pendennis Castle, Falmouth
- Poldark Museum (open Saturdays only)
We especially love the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. You pay once for the year and then get free entry after that. The exhibits are so interactive – my 2 will spend hours riding the jet ski, going in the boat and in the life raft. There is also a really lovely soft play upstairs that often do crafts too.
15. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE PARKING
Don’t get too excited, I’m not talking about free parking in St Ives! That would be shocking. I’m talking about some of the beach car parks out of the towns. My favourite one is Gwithian in front of the Sunset Surf Cafe.
Other Free Car Parks
- The Mount Car Park opposite St Michael’s Mount in Marazion (gates close at 5pm though)
- The council one by Newquay Zoo in Newquay (this makes the Zoo visit much cheaper!)
- Watergate Bay
- Mawgan Porth
- Gylly Beach
- Porth Beach, Newquay
There are also lots of free parking days in the run up to Christmas. Usually the Saturday on the first weekend in December is free in St Ives. Lots of other places do this too, so it is worth checking.
16. VISIT THE EDEN PROJECT
Winter is a great time to visit Eden. The crowds have gone, the hustle and bustle has disappeared. But the biomes and still as splendid and fascinating. And WARM. Yes, the outdoor gardens aren’t blooming, but Eden make up for this with awesome things like an Ice Rink and Christmas Markets.
17. VISIT ALL THE BEACHES THAT ARE TOO BUSY IN THE SUMMER
We rarely visit beaches out of St Ives in the Summer. We tried once to go to Crantock Beach in the Summer holidays and ended up in a queue of cars as long as a visit to Ikea! And don’t even mention that time we tried to go to Porthcurno in July. Out of season the beaches are still as beautiful. And it is easy to get to them, park up close and enjoy the space.
Some of the best beaches that we visit in Winter are:
- Porthcurno (if the weather is VERY calm, Pedn Vounder too)
- Godrevy (although to be fair we visit this one all year round. It’s a stunner in Winter though!)
- Kynance Cove
18. SEAL WATCHING
Autumn and Winter is the time when most female grey seals haul themselves onto the beach to give birth. There are some good places around West Cornwall where you can spot them (from a distance). Take care on the cliffs and bring a pair of binoculars.
The best place around St Ives to spot seals and seal pups is Mutton Cove at Godrevy National Trust.
Alternative, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek is a lovely place to visit, even in the Winter. They rescue lots of seals over the Winter and the hospital is usually much fuller than in Summer!
19. WINTER FESTIVALS
As well as the big Christmas and New Year celebrations, we also have a couple of old festivals down here in West Cornwall.
- Montol Festival on the 21st December in Penzance >>
- Tom Bawcocks Eve on the 23rd December in Mousehole
20. DO A BEACH CLEAN
If you are down here on the beach, do a mini beach clean. We always pick up 5 pieces of litter each from the beach every time we go. It is something we are trying to instill in our children as litter, especially plastic litter is a real problem in our seas and on our beaches.
There are also lots of organised beach cleans you can take part in. These are fun and sociable activities to do.
21. CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR IN CORNWALL
If you are down here in West Cornwall from the end of November to New Year, you won’t be short of things to do. There is so many things to do over Christmas down here – markets, fairs, pantos, storytelling, concerts, lights, workshops.
What are your favourite things to do in Cornwall in the Winter?