When to go

The Best Time to Visit Cornwall

Living in Cornwall it barely occurred to me that people might need to consider when is the best time to visit Cornwall. For me the simple answer is anytime, but I realise that probably isn't very helpful. Of course what makes a perfect time to come to Cornwall is quite subjective and will depend on what you are looking for in a holiday. Those seeking a traditional seaside holiday will have very different requirements to someone in search of an outdoors adventure.

There are a few factors in play which will determine the best time to visit. Chief among these are how busy it will be (and availability), is everywhere open and, yes, the weather. Whilst the first two of these can be answered easily and concisely, the Cornish climate is a mysterious, unpredictable thing. Think typical British weather, and then keep thinking!

Winter

In the olden days (a few years ago) there was an expression down here at the start of winter. It went something along the lines of "Can the last one out turn off the lights!". The it was a matter of batten down the hatches and wait for Spring. Well, things have changed a lot recently and Cornwall has become very much a year-round destination. In fact towns like St Ives and Padstow can be positively bustling in February these days.

St Ives Harbour - Winter Sunset
St Ives Harbour - Winter Sunset

It has got to the point where I am constantly surprised during the winter months - either it is busier than I expect or suddenly empty, like the old days. Of course busy is relative and you will have no issues finding a place to stay in the Winter, bar Christmas and New Year. In addition you will find a lot of places don't shut up shop for the winter anymore. Cafes and local shops tend to stay open all year, albeit on reduced hours.

To some extent I miss the old days when I sometimes felt like I had Cornwall to myself. That said you will still have no trouble finding a little piece of Cornwall to yourself this time of year. Mid-week and a little overcast, chances are you can find a beach to yourself or get the best seat in a cosy coastal cafe.

The Cornish winter weather is quite consistent and can be described in three words that all begin with 'W'; Warm, wet and windy. Warm is relative to the rest of the UK but daytime temperatures rarely fall below 10°C (50°C) and only a few frosts occur. Snow is virtually unheard of, so no excuses for not making it back to work on Monday!

The winter weather is also when nature puts on its most spectacular shows. With its exposed position, jutting out into the Atlantic Cornwall takes the brunt of the winter storms. 70 mph winds and 50 foot waves combined with a stunning, rugged coastline make Cornwall one of the best places for storm watching anywhere.

Winter is a special time of year in Cornwall. It is undeniably romantic - bracing walks and then home to an open fire. Although, this might be a difficult one to sell to your teenage children your dog will love it, especially as nearly every beach is dog friendly in the Winter. I love the feeling of solitude and oneness with the landscape you get at this time of year. There are still no shortage of things to do in the Winter and this is a time of year when you will feel more a part of Cornwall than just one of the invading summer horde.

Spring

I should probably keep it to myself but Spring is definitely my favourite time of year in Cornwall. It has it all; the weather is warming up, the leaves are on the trees, the birds and bees are buzzing and it is still quiet. Well, except for Easter when you get a sudden reminder of what's ahead.

First buds of Spring
First buds of Spring

At this time of year it feels like Cornwall is waking up, in step with nature. Along with the explosion of green everything seems to step up a gear. There are traditionally a fair few events throughout the Spring, kicking off with the World Gig Rowing Championships on the Isles of Scilly and Obby Oss in Padstow.

Looking back through my photos, Spring is the time that I have been out and about with my camera the most. However, it is often difficult to choose between going out with my camera (work!), going out for a walk / bike ride or heading to the beach for a surf - because Spring throws up some of the best waves of the year.

Of course, before you get too excited with the idea of a perfect Cornish Spring break remember we are still subject to the British (and Cornish) weather. Whilst I would say the weather in May and June tends to be some of the best throughout the year, that might be a little rose-tinted and as always the weather is a lottery. However, statistically these two months have the lowest rainfall of the year, which you would think equates to more sunshine.

On the downside Easter tends to mark the beginning of parking restrictions as well as dog bans from many of Cornwall's beaches, although there are still plenty of dog-friendly beaches if you know where to look.

Summer

Why not come to Cornwall in the Summer? It's what everyone else does! Yes, Cornwall does get rather busy in the Summer, or more specifically during the school holidays. Actually outside those 6 weeks, which generally run from late July to early September, it is still pleasantly buzzing, but not the height of summer-madness.

Widemouth Bay - Bude
Summer solitude

Obviously there is a reason it gets so busy during the summer holidays and I realise that many of you are limited to when you can come down to Cornwall. Also I realise that plenty of people aren't as bothered by it being somewhat on the busy side. This being the case my advice is to book early as availability in all the popular spots will be almost non-existent once the summer has started. Of course you can save yourself some money if you are willing to hold out for late availability accommodation.

For those of you, like myself, who are not so fond of crowds and queues, do not despair, there are plenty of places to get away from it all even in the middle of Summer, it just requires looking a little further than the standard issue guidebook. If you steer clear of any of the main resort towns and beaches things become much quieter straight away. And if you keep heading in the opposite direction you may find a few of Cornwall's hidden gems. Whilst naming names would be rude I'll say it is always worth exploring the Lizard and Roseland peninsulas not to mention Bodmin Moor.

Besides the crowds the other main issue with the summer is the unreliability of the weather. Whilst it rarely rains 7 days in a row during the summer it can sometimes feel more like March. On the plus side, when it is sunny in the summer there isn't anywhere better to be.

Autumn

The Autumn starts as Summer and Ends as winter and has everything in between. There are many of the benefits of Spring, including fewer people around, plus the bonus of having the highest sea temperatures of the year. Not only that but you may well experience one of our near-mythical Indian Summers.

Autumn woodland
Autumn woodland

Starting around the third week of September Autumn should start off feeling almost like summer temperature-wise. In addition there are no shortage of things to do in Autumn with a seemingly disproportionate number of foodie festivals going on.

This is also a great time of year to do all the things you might have done in the Summer. If the crowds put you off then now is the time to visit the Eden Project, eat fish and chips on St Ives harbour front, have your photo taken at the Land's End signpost or go for a surf at Fistral Beach. Talking of surfing Autumn is possibly the best time of year; warmer water, bigger swells and lighter winds than winter.

As autumn turns into winter the weather can often take a turn for the more dramatic. It can get just as breezy as it does in Winter with some of the most dramatic storms occurring in October and November.