Frost-crinkled sand, misty moors and exposed headlands thrashed by storms; while Cornwall is so often associated with balmy summer days, a wilder magic blankets over this southernmost county during winter’s firmest grip. While the crowds have scattered to their homelands, here is when the local communities come back together; inns alive with impromptu folk nights and local festivals lighting the streets with lanterns. For those heading south for the winter, here are the best things to do in Cornwall, from stargazing to solstice, beer supping to clifftop walks.


At one with nature

A bird's-eye view of the ocean with frothing waves and surfers

Be sure to pack the binoculars, for winter in Cornwall is one of the best times for spotting native wildlife. Head to Hayle Estuary, where up to 18,000 wintering waterfowl flock each winter, or journey to Marazion Marsh near St Michael’s Mount, which is a popular pitstop for starlings and warblers on their way to west Africa. Coastal locations – including Godrevy, Lizard Point, and Falmouth Bay – are excellent spots to spy seal colonies at play. 

For a real immersion into nature, cold water surfing is at the heart of Cornish life and reliable breaks can be found from Porthtowan (with the infamous Blue Bar for warming up in after) to Porthcurno. Cornwall's dark skies offer excellent opportunities for stargazing during the long winter nights. Head away from light pollution to Bodmin Moor, St Agnes Head or Kit Hill in the Tamar Valley for a chance to see the winter constellations and, if you're lucky, the Milky Way.

Where to stay: Monterey


Winter rambles

A woman stands on the beach looking out to sea on a cold day

With the fair-weather hikers cosied up inside, Cornwall’s paths are free for the taking. While often brisk and almost always blustery, the cliff paths offer the most spectacular winter views; frothing seas, huge skies and clouds cascading rain racing across the horizon. From Whitsand to Bude, The Lizard to the Roseland, over 300 miles of coast path await. Inland, it’s all moors and ancient woodlands so enchanted that it’s a wonder fairies aren’t spotted dancing between the fly agarics. Waterfalls and tors, river pools and neolithic settlements; there’s a walk for every forager, historian or explorer.

Where to stay: Nautilus


Christmas spirit

Ribbons of gingerbread hanging from a Christmas market stall

As November trips into December, the county teems with markets; think farms dotted with maker stalls and steaming cauldrons of mulled cider, village halls twinkling with tinsel and lights festooned between cabins in Cornwall’s only city, Truro.

There is nothing Cornwall loves more than a celebration, and while summer packs the streets with parades and music, midwinter also brings out the bands and Morris dancers in full force. On the shortest day of the year, Penzance’s annual Montol Festival sees the town alight with fire and steampunk dancers; a stomping street party of music and Christmas joy. Two days later, nearby Mousehole celebrates the story of Tom Bawcock with stargazey pie served from the harbourside pub.

Where to stay: The Fish Store


Local fare

A country cottage with a Victoria Sponge cake on a table in front of a window

Cornish cuisine was made for colder climes. Think buttery pasties fresh from the oven, scones laden with clotted cream and jam, and fireside cheese boards starring thick wedges of Cornish Yarg, chutney, and fig crackers. As the frost turns all to glitter outside, curl up with a cookbook and glass of local Camel Valley wine to decide what the private chef is rustling up for supper. Of course, Cornwall’s bakeries, Michelin starred restaurants, bistros and wine bars all tempt days and nights hopping from one to the other. Whether it’s St Ives for seafood or Padstow for fine dining, read our Cornwall food guide for more inspiration.

Where to stay: Villa Boden


The great indoors

An image of tropical trees covered by a glass dome roof at Eden Project in Cornwall

When the rain falls and winds howl, there’s plenty to see and do inside here, too. Discover the county’s rich history at Truro's Cornwall Museum, or St Ives for the Tate and Barbara Hepworth Museum for a cultural morning by the surf. Don’t be fooled into thinking the ever-popular Eden Project is strictly for summer; to celebrate the cooler months, Eden's Mediterranean Biome will be filled with performances, installations, wellbeing workshops, storytelling and much more. There’s also the chance for little ones to meet the man in red himself at Santa’s Grotto, as well as an undercover ice rink (complete with sounds, strobes, and smoke) for family skating sessions. 

Newquay Aquarium, Falmouth's Maritime Museum, Lappa Valley and National Trust properties by the bucketload all welcome guests of any age throughout the year too (and most come with tearooms with counters high of cake-as-big-as-your-face).

Where to stay: Alba Beach House


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With thanks to @mylittlecountrylife for images.