You might have heard that Cornwall winds down from October, but the locals will tell you it opens up. This is the season for stretching your legs on vast, uninterrupted beaches. When roaring traffic gives way to roaring fires and the darker nights create the perfect backdrop for stargazing and stories of shipwrecks and smugglers.
EXPERIENCE West Cornwall – an innovative sustainable tourism project to extend the visitor season to the local area – is inviting those with a thirst for adventure to participate in the Cornwall you don’t often see in the guidebooks. To enjoy an authentic taste of coastal life, see the beauty of St Michael’s Mount on a crisp January morning, cycle off the tourist trail to find the lost ways of Cornwall and warm your soul in the geothermal pool in Penzance. Arrive by train direct to Penzance, before jumping on the bus to explore with ease – experiences in West Cornwall are surprisingly well-connected by public transport.
It might not be Cornwall’s busiest time of year, but once you’ve heard the thunder of the waves, you’ll know it’s anything but quiet. All you need is an adventurous spirit…and a decent pair of wellies.
Top things to do in the westerly tip of Cornwall this winter:
1.Gwelen artwork near St Michael’s Mount
If you’ve ever visited Mount’s Bay, home of St Michael’s Mount, it might surprise you to learn that beneath the waves lies the remains of an ancient submerged forest. To bring this hidden landscape to life, artist Emma Smith – with the help of local residents – has created a unique series of sculptures, ‘Gwelen’. Her beautiful wooden ‘seeing sticks’ line the section of the South West Coast Path that connects Marazion and Penzance – a flat and newly refreshed path with a scenic panorama. Each of the seeing sticks have been designed to rest, lean or sit on and with an accompanying podcast whether exploring by foot, bike or horseback it’s not hard to conjure up the forest while gazing out to sea.
2.Wild foraging walks
Cornwall is wild in the winter, but there are so many reasons to get out there. Join expert forager Rachel Lambert for a Wild Food Foraging Course and discover the variety of flavours waiting for you in the hedgerows along the coast path. Her half-day winter wander is held in Perranuthnoe, where you’ll enjoy a gentle walk while filling your basket with edible plants. The course includes delicious tasters, such as wild herb dips and cakes, plus plenty of recipe ideas. Bespoke foraging experiences are also available.
3.Stargazing in West Penwith
From October onwards, the darker evenings create the perfect opportunity for stargazing. West Penwith is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has recently been designated an International Dark Sky Park (one of just seven sites in the UK). This means the area is naturally dark and has minimal light pollution.
Head out on a cloudless night to experience nature’s spectacle in the sky. Top stargazing spots include the Merry Maidens Stone Circle in Boleigh and Carn Galver Engine House in Zennor – you can find more through Go Stargazing.
With its striking art deco style, Jubilee Pool is the perfect place to enjoy the benefits of a saltwater dip without the chill. This incredible seawater lido is the largest in the UK. It also benefits from a geothermal pool, which was completed in 2020 and is heated to 30-35 degrees by water from an underground well. Book your Geothermal Pool ticket here to enjoy a 55-minute soak.
5.Immerse in the arts
Visit Penzance in the off-season and step into a story. >From live music to comedy, arthouse films to theatre, make the most of the variety of productions on offer at the Acorn Theatre or snuggle up to enjoy the latest blockbusters and arthouse films at the Newlyn Filmhouse. Open your eyes to something new, with printmaking workshops inspired by the great outdoors to classes at the Newlyn School of Art. Wander through carefully curated exhibitions at Penlee House, and discover the diverse talent of local artists at Newlyn Art Gallery.
Need to Know
You’re never far from a spectacular experience in West Cornwall. Leave the car at home, hop on the bus and let someone else navigate the narrow Cornish lanes, or hire an ebike to help with the hills, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Getting there: A dream journey
The last and first stop on the mainline trainline, Penzance is accessible from across the country. For a dream journey, wake up on holiday when you travel from London to Penzance via the First Great Western ‘Night Riviera’ sleeper train. You can book a comfortable cabin with a bunk bed, which gives you access to the First Class Lounge at London Paddington.
Where to stay
For families: Pilchards, Marazion – sleeps 4, dog-friendly
Pilchards is a two bedroomed old net keeper’s cottage with wide reaching sea views across to St Michael’s Mount in Marazion and across the bay. It’s the perfect spot to watch the lights glowing at night all the way down the coast for miles. Book a 3 or 5 night break and get an extra 2 nights free from November to Easter (excluding school holidays).
For foodies: The Godolphin, Marazion
Hotel, restaurant and bar in a spectacular beachfront location looking out over iconic St Michael’s Mount and far out to sea.
For art lovers: Artist Residence, Penzance
Tucked away in the old quarter of Penzance, Artist Residence Cornwall is a fun & friendly boutique hotel with 22 bedrooms and a cottage. Each room is individually designed, peppered with limited edition art prints and vintage & reclaimed furniture.
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