Cornwall has acquired a reputation for being one of the UK’s favourite summer holiday destinations, courtesy of its captivating coastlines and clear blue waters.
Many folks flock to this seaside county for their summer holiday vacations each year– and it’s pretty evident why.
Despite being a popular destination during the summer, Cornwall is still worth visiting during the colder months and offers an experience that’s nothing short of extraordinary.
If you’re wondering about things to do in Cornwall in the Winter, look no further than this guide!
Here, we’ll go into detail about the many great things you can do, where to go, and the must-see attractions during your stay.
Let’s beat the crowds and enjoy the serenity of a Cornish winter!
What Is Cornwall Like in the Winter?
Because Cornwall is known to be a summer destination, many tourists are normally gone between the end of November and March and the streets are much less crowded.
With fewer tourists, visiting Cornwall costs less. Booking during the winter can end up being a fraction of the price compared to booking in the summer!
You’ll also be happy to hear that Cornwall isn’t usually as cold and rainy as the rest of the UK during winter.
It’s not exactly tropical weather, but it can be very mild and sunny for the most part (you can still expect a wee westerly wind or storm, of course).
In the winter, Cornwall presents itself as a tranquil oasis and a time for peace and solitude (with a slightly airy and moody feel to it). Those looking for a slower pace will find Cornwall to be the perfect destination!
Top Winter Attractions in Cornwall
Christmas Lights in Mousehole
A list of Cornwall winter attractions isn’t complete without Mousehole’s Christmas lights.
From the middle of December to early January, the harbourside of this small village lights up. People travel far and wide just to witness these captivating light installations.
As far as Cornwall Christmas lights go, it doesn’t get much better than this!
However, it’s best to plan in advance as parking can be scarce and the lights can attract large crowds. Opt to go early or late (essentially outside of peak time), and consider parking farther away from the town and walking instead.
It’s also important to note that on the 19th of December, the lights are turned off between 8:00 and 9:00PM in commemoration of the Solomon Browne crew who lost their lives in 1981.
As this event is purely run by volunteers, you might like to show your support by donating so that the celebration can keep running for many years to come!
Explore the Empty Beaches
With summer wrapped up, fewer people are working on their tans at the beach— giving you more space to explore in peace!
Cornwall’s beaches are full of character and charm, so it’s definitely worth checking out at least one beach while you’re there. It’d be silly not to because Cornwall county is home to some of the most magnificent beaches in the world!
Winter in Cornwall also brings the gnarliest waves. So if you’re up for a cheeky surf, be sure to hit a top surfing destination such as Fistral Beach. You can also rent any surfing gear necessary nearby, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own.
And if you’re feeling brave, the Christmas Day Swim has become a tradition in Cornwall. It’s slightly chillier than a summer swim, but all the more fun and exhilarating!
You can even head to one of the nearby cafes after to warm your bones with hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Some of the top Cornish beaches to explore in winter are Constantine Bay, Watergate Bay, Perranporth Beach, Gwithian Towans, and Sandymouth Bay.
If you want to be both blown away and majorly inspired, then the Eden Project is a must-see!
Explore the world’s ecosystem within the largest greenhouse ever created. There’s so much to explore and learn about nature, and there are also many special winter events to attend.
The Eden Project is one of Britain’s best-known and loved attractions– and for good reason.
Not only is it a stunning oasis of plants to be discovered, but there are also plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop.
If that’s not enough, there are also various visitor attractions for all ages, including one of England’s longest zip wires (if you’re feeling brave)!
For even more reasons to visit in the winter, the Eden Project transforms into a winter wonderland each year.
From late October to early February, you can put on your skates and hit the ice rink. If you are more of the “Bambi on ice” type, you can even book ice-skating lessons for yourself beforehand.
Big Christmas Market in Truro
If you happen to end up in Cornwall during the first few weeks of December, it may be worth getting into the festive spirit by attending the Big Christmas Market in Truro before it wraps up on Christmas Eve.
The market hosts over 100 small, independent vendors with a revolving selection of local food, drinks, crafts, and arts. It’s the perfect time to head over and support local businesses!
Do some potential pre-Christmas shopping and enjoy all the Christmas delicacies you can imagine, including some delicious Cornish wine.
There is also a stacked agenda of entertainment, live music, and light installations all around.
As Cornwall’s only city, Truro is worth a visit any time of the year because of its great selection of shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and bars. Hey, you might even find yourself wanting to stay in the city for a bit longer.
Blue Reef Aquarium
Situated in the heart of Newquay, the Blue Reef Aquarium is an aquatic wonderland with more than 40 innovative sea life displays to be explored. These displays take you on a tour through the British coastline and far beyond.
Come face to face with seahorses, fierce piranhas, giant octopuses, sharks and so much more!
The aquarium’s main highlight is its incredible ocean tunnel that houses coral reefs and exotic species such as rescued loggerhead turtles and reef sharks.
Blue Reef is one of the UK’s leading aquariums committed to providing education about the marine environment and inspiring a deeper understanding of the importance of caring for our ocean. For more sealife choice read about the best aquariums in Cornwall.
Just be aware that the aquarium doesn’t offer parking spaces, so be sure to plan in advance. The closest car parks in Newquay town centre are St. Georges Road Car Park and Manor Road Car Park.
This magnificent nineteenth-century Victorian mansion is one of the best in England and undeniably the best in Cornwall.
While the house was originally built in the 1620s, a devastating fire badly damaged the landmark in 1881. Fortunately, it has since been restored and is now under the care and management of the National Trust. The Lanhydrock House is open to the public.
Lanhydrock is surrounded by almost 1,000 acres of land, making it an excellent location for family picnics, walks, and cycling. There are also plenty of things to see and do here, such as observing wildlife and meeting Victorian characters.
However, the house does close or partially close some areas during the winter season, so be sure to check the opening hours on the official website before you arrive.
Unlock Cornwall’s dark and horrifying history with this immersive prison tour.
Bodmin Jail was originally built during the reign of King George III in 1779 to house prisoners. Throughout centuries of operation, it has experienced many changes to its building and systems.
There are many dark stories to be told within the walls of Bodmin, which is why it’s now one of Cornwall’s leading visitor attractions with multiple awards.
For example, you can learn more about the 55 executions held within the jail for heinous crimes, on top of many more tales that are sure to give you goosebumps.
If that wasn’t spooky enough, a hotel has actually been built within the walls of the Bodmin Jail!
If you want the full experience, why not book a room and stay for a night or two? Just be sure not to let any paranormal sounds scare you away!
Storm Watching at Porthleven
If you’re going to visit Cornwall in winter, you might as well embrace the weather! While Cornwall has milder weather than the rest of the UK, it’s still home to some wild and wonderful storms.
Storm watching is a regular event in Cornwall, with many enthusiasts visiting great spots such as Porthcurno, Lizard Point, and Sennen Cove. However, Porthleven offers the most spectacular viewing experience.
Watch in awe as the Atlantic vigorously crashes over the beach, harbour wall, and the historic clock tower. Enjoy the thrill of a chaotic but wonderful display of nature!
If you do decide to pay a visit, come prepared and exercise caution. Warm clothes are a must, and make sure that you’re at a safe distance from the ocean at all times. You don’t want to end up getting swept away to sea!
Visit a Historic Castle
There is no shortage of incredible castles to be seen in Cornwall.
Take an enchanting trip through some of the most captivating Cornish castles and have your mind blown by the beauty and rich history. Winter is the best time to visit these castles because you can avoid the crowds that typically visit during summer.
Here are some of the top castles to visit in Cornwall in the wintertime!
St Catherine’s Castle, Fowey
This castle, situated on the cliffs just south of Readymoney Cove, was built in 1536 to defend against a potential French invasion. Be sure to plan your visit to include a scenic walk along the southwest coastal path nearby— it won’t disappoint.
This castle is a must-visit location for its captivating panoramic views. Apart from this, Chun Castle also holds a lot of archaeological value because of how many people settled in it throughout history.
Caerhays Castle and Gardens
One of the most impressive-looking castles in Cornwall, Caerhays Castle and Gardens offers stunning woodland gardens and endless views of the gorgeous Porthluney Beach. Looking for more? Read our guide to the Best Gardens in Cornwall!
Tintagel Castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Cornwall thanks to its rich history and notable links to King Arthur. It’s also located along Tintagel Beach, and you can even head to the coast in search of Merlin’s Cave.
Because of its reputation, many have visited Tintagel Castle in search of inspiration.
Who knows— maybe the sight of the gorgeous castle will spark something inside you as well!
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is an architectural masterpiece built on a tidal island.
During low tide, the water recedes to reveal a cobbled causeway that leads to the castle. Be sure to get your camera ready for the breathtaking views you can find here!
This castle is known to have defended the county of Cornwall from attack and invasion during both World Wars. Following the war, the structure has been improved and expanded for your viewing pleasure.
Carefully observe the surroundings and you might even find guns and cannons dotting Pendennis and the cliffs!
Located on a natural mound, Launceston Castle is witness to a long history after it once served as Cornwall’s headquarters during the thirteenth century. Today, you can enjoy countryside picnics and learn more about the castle’s impressive roots.
Although a top summer destination for many, there still are many things to do in Cornwall in winter. For many, the airy, moody wintertime is actually preferable because of its slower pace and the fact that there are fewer visitors around.
You’ll never run out of things to do! There are many great winter attractions all over Cornwall, giving you plenty of options to visit. What are you waiting for? Pack your winter woollies and embark on a wonderful adventure through this incredibly historic county!
Introducing Eliot, the Editor here and Cornwall local with a wanderlust spirit and an insatiable appetite for adventure. With a passion for the great outdoors, he can often be found catching waves on his surfboard, scaling peaks on a hiking trail, or discovering hidden gems in his exploration of Cornwall.