Cornwall in Winter: what to do and where to stay!

A misty sunset at Boscastle harbour entrance in Cornwall, South West England

Are you planning on visiting Cornwall in winter? If you want to get away from the summer crowds, don’t mind the weather being cooler, and are keen to see this area while travelling on a budget, going on a trip to Cornwall in the winter may be for you!

In this blog post, we will go into why and how you should visit Cornwall in the winter! 

Reasons for visiting Cornwall in winter

So, you might be wondering, why would I want to visit Cornwall in the winter months? Why go to a destination that’s famous for its beautiful beaches when you can’t enjoy them properly? Well, we’ve got a few reasons why going to Cornwall in the winter is a great idea! 

You’ll get away from the summer crowds

Cornwall in the summer is heaving. If you visit from November to March, you’ll find that it’s much, much quieter. This means that you will be able to choose whatever restaurant you want to eat at, you won’t have to queue for tourist attractions, and you’ll generally feel like you have a lot more space. Fewer tourists also mean more opportunities to engage in local culture. 

The weather can still be sunny and pleasant! 

Don’t think that going to Cornwall in the winter means that the weather will automatically be awful. Cornwall can still be mild and sunny during the winter – it actually rarely gets harsh cold like the rest of the country. 

That doesn’t mean it’s always a dream here – the Duchy is victim to westerly winds and winter storms throughout the whole season. However, you are also likely to get some beautiful crisp winter’s days – perfect for strolling along the coast or hiking Bodmin Moor.

Twilight and soft evening light over moored fishing boats in the inner harbour of Porthleven, Cornwall, United Kingdom

There are plenty of under cover attractions to enjoy 

By under cover, I mean sheltered, not attractions for spies! There are plenty of things to do in Cornwall in the rain – from museums to castles to tin mines, you’ve got it all here! Most of these are open year-round (although potentially with reduced hours)

Everywhere will be cheaper

Cornwall is a popular destination in the summer, which means one thing – it’s expensive. However, if you’re booking a winter break, you’ll find that the prices are a fraction of what you’d pay in the warmer months! 

What is the weather like in Cornwall in the winter? 

Eerie Bodmin Moor, near Bodmin, Cornwall

Like the rest of the UK, Cornwall is cold during the winter. However, it very rarely snows – it doesn’t see ‘a big freeze’ like other parts of the country. 

In fact, it can be mild during November and not too chilly from December to February as well. The temperature highs and lows of the season are as follows: 

  • November: high of 12 degrees, low of 8 degrees
  • December: high of 10 degrees, low of 5 degrees
  • January: high of 9 degrees, low of 4 degrees
  • February: high of 9 degrees, low of 4 degrees
  • March: high of 10 degrees, low of 6 degrees

Average days of rain range from 12-16. 

However, don’t let that fool you that the weather is always rosy in Cornwall in the winter! While there can be mild, sunny days, there are also huge storms and very dramatic weather. However, some people travel to Cornwall just for this weather – it can certainly be a spectacle!

Weather in the Isles of Scilly in winter

The Isles of Scilly have their own interesting microclimate, which is much milder than Cornwall’s. The average low temperatures in the winter are around 7-8 degrees, whereas the highs are 11-12 degrees. Therefore, you’ll find the Isles of Scilly are much warmer than other UK destinations. 

Things to do in Cornwall in winter

Enjoy the Cornish coast!

Perran Sands near Perranporth, North Cornwall

Even though it’s certainly not sunbathing weather in Cornwall in winter, you’ll be graced with deserted beaches on your trip – even if the weather is pleasant! You could walk a bit of the South West Coast Path, but be aware of sunset times during winter as the days can be much shorter. 

Fistral Beach

This long sandy beach is located close to Newquay and is one of Cornwall’s most popular surf destinations. It’s packed in the summer, but in the winter, you can stroll along the dunes which make up part of the coast path and enjoy the beautiful views. 

Beautiful beach near Newquay in Cornwall

Watergate Bay

Located close to Newquay, Watergate Bay is a chilled surf town with a beach and lots of shops and restaurants. 

Porthmeor Beach

Porthmeor is a sandy beach near St Ives – it’s a great place to visit if you want a slice of the coast while still being in the town. 

Porthtowan Beach

Porthtowan Beach is one of Cornwall’s blue flag beaches – while you probably won’t be swimming in the winter, it’s a lovely beach near St Agnes to stroll along. 

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove is a famous beach on the Lizard Peninsula. With charming scenery, Kynance Cove is rocky and beautiful. It’s one of the busiest beaches in Cornwall in the summer, but visit on a crisp winter’s day, and you may have it all to yourself! 

Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove is close to Lands End, and it is a large, expansive beach. You’ll love hiking here – it’s an easy route to Lands End. Or, just enjoy the huge beach!

Perranporth Beach

If you want to walk along broad sands, Perranporth is your beach! This expansive beach runs for two miles, and it’s a great place to go for a dog walk or just hike yourself. You can also walk along the dunes above the beach. 

Explore the best National Trust attractions

Lanhydrock House

Lanhydrock near Bodmin, Cornwall

Lanhydrock House is located near Bodmin. It is a late Victorian house with beautiful gardens and houses that portray the period, particularly how different life was for the upper class in the mansion and their servants. 

Godolphin

Godolphin is a large stately home with Medieval gardens situated close to Helston. When visiting, you’ll be able to learn about the historic estate and the region’s mining industry. 

Trelissick

Trelissick Gardens in Cornwall, South West England

Trelissick is a beautiful house and gardens set near Truro. Over Christmas, Trelissick has a late-night Christmas attraction where the entire gardens are bathed in beautiful lights. You can also enjoy a glass of mulled wine at the pop up bar.

Cothele

Cothele is a National Trust property near Calstock, by the banks of the River Tamar on the border of Cornwall and Devon. 

East Pool Mine

This unique National Trust property is an expansive historical mine, offering guests the chance to learn about mining heritage as they explore. 

See the gardens

If the weather isn’t too rainy (or snowy!), visiting gardens are great during winter in Cornwall. There are a few that you can visit all over the region, depending on where you are located! 

Lost Gardens of Heligan 

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are situated near Mevagissey and St Austell in South East Cornwall. On the historic Tremayne estate, the gardens were hidden for a time before they were discovered after World War One. Nowadays, they are a popular tourist attraction site. 

Trebah Gardens

The Trebah Gardens are close to Falmouth and are subtropical gardens with some rare plants that you won’t find elsewhere in the UK. They are ideal to explore any time of year – including during winter! 

Winter specific activities

Ice Rink at the Eden Project

Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall, South West England

There are a few ice rinks in Cornwall, but among the most unique is the Eden Project. The ice rink is a seasonal attraction where you can enjoy lessons or just take to the ice yourself! 

Christmas lights in Mousehole

Mousehole has possibly the best Christmas lights in all of Cornwall, and tourists flock to this tiny village every December to look at them! The entire village is lit up, and the reflection against the water creates a stunning display. There are also lots of other things to do in Mousehole anytime of the year!

Pantos at Princess Pavilion 

Princess Pavilion in Falmouth is a large performing arts venue where you can enjoy a Christmas pantomime. With pantos like Aladdin and Cinderella, Princess Pavilion is a wonderful place to enjoy some festive entertainment! 

Charlestown Boxing Day Swim

Fancy getting chilly on Boxing Day? The Charlestown Boxing Day Swim is the place to do that – every year, hundreds of brave souls take to the water for a dip. If plunging into freezing waters isn’t your idea of fun, you can just go as a spectator too! 

Padstow Christmas Festival

The Padstow Christmas Festival is one of the most famous in the UK. With a huge Christmas market and other activities and events going on, this is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Cornwall in winter! 

See some of the most amazing fishing villages and seaside towns

Port Isaac

Cove and harbour of Port Isaac, Cornwall, England

Port Isaac is a picturesque fishing village in North Cornwall. Famous for being the filming location of Doc Martin, Port Isaac is a great place to mooch around and enjoy the scenery – and in the winter months, it is so much quieter than the summer! See all of the best things to do in Port Isaac here.

Mousehole

Mousehole, a village near Penzance in Cornwall

Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) is a small fishing village close to Penzance. It’s a popular summer destination – 70% of the houses here are holiday lettings – but it’s also great to visit in the winter months. It’s famous for its Christmas lights (when it does get a bit busier), so try to visit then! 

Fowey

Fowey in South Cornwall

Fowey is more like a town, but it’s definitely one of the best spots to visit. Sitting on the banks of the Fowey River, it’s a historic place that was once home to Daphne Du Maurier and played a big part in D Day and the resistance in World War Two. There are plenty of things to do in Fowey, from St Catherine’s Castle to the beautiful Readymoney Cove.

St Ives

St Ives is a chilled-out beach town that is immensely popular with tourists. In the summer months, it is heaving with people, but it is much quieter and more pleasant to be in in the winter! See all of the best things to do in St Ives here – I especially recommend the TATE and Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Gardens in the colder months. Here are all of the best things to do in St Ives.

Eating and drinking

One of the best things about visiting Cornwall in the winter is that you’ll be able to book everywhere! 

If you want a foodie holiday, I recommend visiting both Padstow and Falmouth. 

  • Padstow (which has been dubbed ‘Padstein’ by some locals), is a popular place for fancy dining. It is famous for Rick Stein’s restaurants, and Paul Ainsworth also owns a couple of eateries here. However, these restaurant menus are quite rigid, offering mainly seafood and some meat dishes and not great for people with specific dietary requirements. 
  • If you are veggie or vegan or like trying different world foods, I highly recommend Falmouth – one of the best things to do there is eating! Not only does Falmouth have the only vegan fish and chips I found in Cornwall, but it’s also got authentic Asian restaurants, Caribbean restaurants, excellent falafel takeaways, and much more. You could easily book a hotel in Falmouth for a week and go to a different restaurant every night!

Also, make sure that you try some Cornwall-specific food while you’re here. 

Cream Teas

Cream teas are a Cornish speciality – they consist of scones, tea, clotted cream and jam. Just remember to put the jam on first in Cornwall (in Devon, it’s the other way around!). 

Cornish Pasties

Delicious Authentic Cornish Pasties

Another one is, of course, Cornish pasties! These parcels of pastry usually contain meat, onions and swede – although there are plenty of vegetarian options. You’ll find Cornish pasties in small restaurants and cafes all over the region, but if you want a tried and tested cafe, I recommend Rowes, Warrens or the Cornish Bakery. 

What to drink in Cornwall in the winter

Some of the orchards, wineries, distilleries and breweries are closed in winter or offer limited tours. However, it’s worth enquiring about the following. 

  • Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm is an orchard making and selling Rattler cyder and other drinks. 
  • Trevibban Mill Vineyard is near Wadebridge and Padstow and makes delicious wines. 
  • Polgoon Vineyard is near Padstow and makes wine, cider and soft drinks. 
  • St Austell Brewery brews delightful beer. 

Cornwall’s best indoor activities

I’ve written a whole blog post about Cornwall in the rain, and most of these attractions feature on there. But, if you want an idea of some of the best indoor activities, here are some of my favourites! 

The Eden Project

Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project is a fabulous year-round attraction that you can totally enjoy in Cornwall in the winter! Featuring two large biomes, one that replicates a rainforest and one that mirrors a Mediterranean climate, The Eden Project is a great place to learn about the world around you and particularly educate yourself on the dangers and impacts of climate change. 

The Royal Museum of Cornwall, Truro

The Royal Cornwall Museum tells the Duchy’s story. With information on Cornwall’s unique flora and fauna, as well as its political uniqueness that has caused it to become an almost separate entity in the UK, this is a fascinating place to visit to uncover Cornwall’s history.

The National Maritime Museum, Falmouth

If you’re interested in the sea, this museum is for you! The National Maritime Museum focuses on Cornwall’s unique relationship to the coastline – including many boat trips that have left from Falmouth, the Falmouth packet, which connected the town to the rest of the world, and some of the fascinating creatures that live underneath the water. 

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle near Falmouth, South West England

Pendennis Castle is possibly my favourite castle in Cornwall. Built by Henry VIII to defend the coast against European invasion, it has been a crucial place in Cornwall for 500 years. 

The huge complex consists of the castle itself and a few different rooms with information about the Tudors, the Battery Observation Post, which demonstrates how troops used it in the Second World War, a Weapons of War display, and temporary exhibitions above the shop and cafe. 

Click here to find out more about Pendennis Castle.

The Shipwreck Museum, Charlestown

This is a small museum that is absolutely packed with exhibits. Learn about treasures found onboard both famous and untold shipwrecks – there’s information about everything from the Titanic to small Cornish fishing boats here! 

Bodmin Keep, Bodmin

Bodmin Keep is Cornwall’s military museum, and here you will learn all sorts of information about Cornwall’s army throughout the decades. It’s also free to enter! 

The Smuggler’s Museum and Daphne Du Maurier Museum, near Bodmin

One entrance ticket pays for both The Smuggler’s Museum and Daphne Du Maurier Museum. The Daphne Du Maurier Museum describes the life of Daphne Du Maurier, one of the most famous novelists who wrote about Cornwall. The smuggling museum describes the illicit trade that was active in Cornwall for hundreds of years. Once you’ve looked around both museums, have a bite to eat at Jamaica Inn’s restaurant! 

St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle is a tiny English Heritage property in St Mawes, looking over the Fal estuary to Falmouth on the other side. There isn’t a whole lot to see here, but it’s still interesting, and you get epic views over the river. 

Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail cell block near Bodmin in Cornwall

Bodmin Jail is definitely one of the best things to do in Cornwall in winter. Here, you’ll learn all about the Cornish – and British – penal system, and how Bodmin Jail acted as a blueprint for other jails all over the country. You can do a self-guided tour, but I’d recommend a guided tour if possible – you’ll learn so much more about this fascinating place. 

Geevor Tin Mine

Geevor Tin Mine is one of the best mines in Cornwall. As well as the museum exhibits, you’ll be able to visit the dry, which was all but abandoned by miners in the 1980s. You’ll learn a lot about mining culture, what it did for Cornwall, and even have the chance to walk in a mine!

Visit the Isles of Scilly!

The Isles of Scilly are and aren’t part of Cornwall. They sit 28 miles from the coast of Cornwall and are a really unique place to visit. As we’ve discussed above, they have their own microclimate, which makes them the mildest place in the UK to visit during the wintertime! 

Where to stay in Cornwall in winter

Waterside Cornwall (Bodmin)

Waterside Cornwall offers cosy cabins that are perfect for the winter months. When the weather isn’t so kind, you’ll be able to cosy up in one of their lodges and cottages and enjoy some quality time with your friends or family. Waterside Cornwall is located near Bodmin, in the heart of the region, and each beautiful cabin has its own kitchen facilities.

Cornwall Countryside Lodges and Bungalows

Situated in Gunnislake, just over the River Tamar, Cornwall Countryside Lodges and Bungalows are another spot that provides cosy accommodation in the winter. If the weather is fine, you can hike up the Tamar trail on a nice countryside walk – or if it is not, these lodges are super cosy and are the perfect place to hole up in!

The Jamaica Inn

The Jamaica Inn is one of the most famous hotels in Cornwall, and I would definitely recommend staying here in winter – when the weather can be dark and miserable – because it will add much more atmosphere to the spooky place! The Jamaica Inn is one of the most haunted buildings in Cornwall, and it’s a building that has certainly seen some things – it is where smugglers used to hide contraband after travelling from the coast. You can rent out one of their rooms – click here for more information. 

Carbis Bay and Spa Hotel

This hotel is an expensive option – however, you’ll get it a lot cheaper in winter than summer! It was where some of the world leaders stayed in the G7 in 2021, and a night in winter will set you back around 350. However, as a once in a lifetime treat, it might be worth it! Of course, the hotel is the epitome of luxury, with a marvellous spa and other facilities.

What to do in Cornwall in winter!

If you want to experience a quieter, more authentic side to Cornwall, I highly recommend going in the winter. You’ll be able to see just as much, and learn tonnes about Cornish culture as well!

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