Our lovely little corner of the country attracts millions of visitors every year. Coastal resorts such as St Ives become choc-a-bloc with tourist from the spring through to early autumn. Land’s End and Sennen Cove and the striking coast of West Penwith are amazing and inspiring for creatives. If it isn’t the coast, there’s the Eden Project, a massive ecopark of two biomes full of Mediterranean and tropical plants. Cornwall has something for everyone and it’s just as magical in the winter.
Visitors to the Duchy in winter have multiple benefits. It’s milder here and there are far fewer tourists so the roads aren’t as busy. It’s also quiet and calm, full of inspirational landscapes for writers and for photographers. It’s no wonder so many books are set here and why it’s the sort of so many film locations. But what can you do in the winter? Contrary to belief, Cornwall doesn’t shut up shop when the tourists go home. People live and work here and many of our tourist attractions are open all the year round. If you’re looking for something free to do, we have lots of that too!
Visit a Beach
No I am not off my trolley. Beaches are great to visit in the winter. Forget the sun lotion and beach towel though. We do generally enjoy milder weather than the rest of the country, but it’s not hot in January. On a good day, you’ll find beach cafes are open during regular hours. You also won’t have to pay parking most of the time. I took this photo in January 2018 at Maenporth Beach near Falmouth. Parking is £4 for the day in the summer, but in the winter it’s free.
Another great beach to visit on the south coast is Marazion but park in The National Trust car park nearer the town as it’s free out of season. You will need to pay to park in the council run car park. At the NT car park, you’ll be closer to get a great view of St. Michael’s Mount. It’s a lovely, wide beach with the imposing property on a rock just about 100 yards out at sea. The castle and gardens are closed in winter, but you can still cross the causeway at low tide and have a look around the small village on the rocky outcrop.
Go For a Coastal Walk
Cornwall is not short of inspiring coasts. From Marazion, it’s possible to walk all the way to Penzance. From Maenporth, you can walk along the coast heading east towards Helford River and west although it is not immediately obvious where the path to Swanpool beach is. It does, however, have spectacular views along that stretch. For a shorter and less rugged coastal walk near Falmouth, I recommend parking at the nature reserve at Swanpool. There is a paying car park near the beach which still charges to park even in winter. But if you park along the main road that runs alongside the lake, there is no charge. I’ve rarely struggled to find a space there, even in the summer. Start at Swanpool beach and follow the path to the left that goes up onto the headland. The beauty of stopping here is that you can go to Maenporth if you prefer something longer, or the route to Gylly beach (Falmouth’s main beach) is a short one with an attractive view towards Pendennis Point and the castle.
The county’s capital (and only) city is Truro. It’s a pretty yet small city with a skyline dominated by the Victorian cathedral, built to rival some of the greatest examples of a much earlier age. A mix of Victorian, Georgian and modern buildings surround the imposing beast of a place of worship. Don’t be put off by its young age, though. It’s built in a traditional medieval style with only the clean and lack of ruggedness giving away its age. The cathedral is not all there is to see in Truro, though. The Paneer Market is a little magical after dark and the winding streets of the older sections of the city, although not as grand as cities such as Chichester, Winchester and other cities, are attractive.
This is a view of Boscawen Street, the main thoroughfare through the city. An image taken ahead of City of Lights – the opening of the Christmas festivities for Truro. Incidentally, it costs nothing to watch the parade which usually takes place in late November, although I can’t promise you won’t want to buy a bratwurst and a cup of mulled wine from one of the stalls. The market, the Christmas lights and the general ambience makes for a great photography experience if you like to apply your art to the street and at night.
Go For a Drive
Obviously, fuel costs money so this is not completely free. Any time of the year, I’d recommend just driving west out of St Ives and head towards Cape Cornwall for some incredible landscapes. If the weather is decent (i.e. not gale force winds and raining) you could do a lot worse than to drive all the way to Land’s End. Keep an eye out for some ruined engine houses though, because these relics of Cornwall’s industrial past make for great photographs and prod the imagination of the writer too. Inland, you could do a lot worse than to take the A30 to Bodmin Moor and drive around some of the narrow lanes that cross the moor. Far less impressive than Dartmoor or Exmoor, there are some nice views to be had from the moor’s highest peak Brown Willy. I can also recommend the short coast road between Redruth and Hayle, which should take you past Hell’s Mouth and Tehidy Woods.