Top 12 Things to do in Cornwall in Autumn

autumn break in Cornwall

Autumn is a magical time of year to visit Cornwall. It’s quieter, there’s more space to roam and milder temperatures (compared with other parts of the country) provide a perfect opportunity to get out and about and enjoy the sights, beaches and attractions. Plus it’s a spectacular season to explore the county’s woodlands and gardens while they bask in a colourful autumnal glow.

To help you make the most of this sensational season, we’ve put together a list of the top 12 things to do in Cornwall in autumn.

1. Go for a Walk in the Woods

Autumn in the woods in Cornwall

Needless to say, you can’t visit Cornwall in the autumn without witnessing the wonderful woodlands when the foliage puts on a dazzling display of red, orange, yellow and brown. The trees turn a little later here in Cornwall than the rest of the country. But there is generally an explosion of colour from early October through to mid-November. Some of the best places for an autumnal woodland walk include Cardinham Woods, the National Trust’s Lanhydrock and Trelissick estates, and the Tamar Valley.

2. Visit an Art Gallery

art gallery in Cornwall

Photo by Vincent Tantardini on Unsplash

There is so much art to discover in Cornwall. Right here in Padstow, we have several small art shops worth visiting, such as the Driftwood, Padstow and the Drang galleries, which display a mix of contemporary and local scenic art. Otherwise head to St Ives where there are several important art establishments including the Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, as well as many smaller galleries scattered along the pretty, narrow streets.

3. Take a Surfing lesson

Surfing lesson with King Surf in Cornwall

Surfing lesson with King Surf in Cornwall. Photo courtesy of King Surf

With the water still warm long into the autumn season, it can be an ideal time to take a dip in the sea. If you’re feeling active, it’s also a great time of year to try surfing as the waves are often at their best when long-range Atlantic swells arrive on our shores. There are surf schools dotted all along the north coast of Cornwall. Recommended local outfits include the Harlyn Surf School at Harlyn Beach and King Surf at Mawgan Porth.

4. Explore Cornwall’s Heritage

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall (1)

Exploring Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. Photo courtesy of Tintagel Castle

From castles and centuries-old harbours to standing stones and disused tin mines, Cornwall’s landscape is steeped in history. There are some amazing places to visit to learn more about the unique heritage of this county. Some top places to visit for a historic day out include Tintagel Castle, Restormel Castle and St Michael’s Mount. Or head down west to see some of the many neolithic stone circles and monuments, or journey back in time in the underground shafts at Geevor Tin Mine.

5. Stroll Along an Empty Beach

Rock Beach and the Camel Estuary

Rock Beach and the Camel Estuary. Photo by Andrew Bone

If you’ve visited Cornwall in the summer, you know how packed the beaches can be. But the county empties out in the autumn, leaving the beaches a lot quieter for secluded walks with no or very few other people around. For a peaceful stroll, take the ferry across to Rock and walk along the sand to Daymer Bay. Alternatively, take a low tide ramble to the ends of lengthy Watergate or Perranporth beaches.

6. Discover New Places to Eat

View from Greens of Padstow

View from Greens of Padstow. Photo by Elliot Walker

It can be hard to get a booking at popular restaurants during the busy months. So autumn is a fantastic time to discover exciting places to eat around the county. Some still require a table reservation but you will be able to rock up at many for a bite to eat. Some suggestions for an autumnal meal out include Greens of Padstow with its fine estuary views; Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen on the harbour in Port Isaac; and the Hidden Hut – famous for outdoor fayre overlooking Portscatho Beach on the south coast.

7. Fly a Kite

Fly a kite in Cornwall

Kite flying. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It can get pretty breezy during the autumn. So it’s a great time of year to fly a kite. Pick up your own from one of the many sports outlets and spend mindful time riding the gusts. Or better still, turn this activity into an adventure with a power kiting lesson, or take it one step further and try kite boarding, buggying or surfing. Head to the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay for the best local wind sports instruction.

8. Attend a Food Festival

Food demonstration at a food festival

Food demonstration at a food festival. Photo courtesy of Falmouth Oyster Festival

Cornwall is one of the nation’s top foodie destinations and each autumn there are several festivals that celebrate the best of local food and produce. Choose from the Newquay Fish Festival, Falmouth Oyster Festival and the Truro Food Festival. Some of these festivals are taking a break in 2021 due to covid but these seasonal events will return again next year.

9. Cycle Quiet Lanes

Road cycling in Cornwall

There are so many great places to go cycling in Cornwall. The country lanes are quiet at any time of year but are near deserted during the autumn, so you can pedal along to your heart’s content without encountering hardly any vehicles. Just start riding and find your own way or follow one of the waymarked cycle routes including the Piran Trail which connects Padstow to Newquay and Truro, or the brand new West Kernow Way bikepacking trail. For completely car-free coasting, ride the Camel Trail or tackle the rugged mountain bike trails at Cardinham Woods and Lanhydrock.

10. Enjoy a Rockpool Ramble

Rockpool at Treyarnon Beach in Cornwall

Rockpool at Treyarnon Beach in Cornwall. Photo by Heather Cowper

While we all hope for an Indian Summer so we can stretch out on the warm sand long into autumn, there are other ways to enjoy time at the beach during the cooler months. One way to engage with the coast is on a rockpool ramble along the shoreline of Cornwall’s beautiful beaches. One of our favourite spots is Trevone which has a large area of rockpools at low tide brimming with marine life. There is even a large tidal swimming pool here, if you can muster up the courage for a dip.

11. Tackle a Section of the Coast Path

Hiking on the coast path in Cornwall

Hiking on the coast path in Cornwall. Photo courtesy of South West Coast Path

Discover hidden coves and windswept cliffs, with a stroll along the rugged coastline. The South West Coast Path runs around the entire length of Cornwall’s shore. Drive anywhere on the coast and start walking to find breathtaking views, see some amazing wildlife and discover pretty villages on route. Stretches along the coast at Bedruthan Steps and around Trevose Head are particularly stunning.

12. Explore a Sub-Tropical (and even tropical) Garden

Lost-Gardens-of-Heligan-Rope-Bridge

The rope bridge in the “jungle” of the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. Photo by Kmtextor

Even though the weather is cooling off in the autumn, you can still encounter plants from warmer climes at some fantastic sub-tropical gardens. There are amazing displays of exotic flora at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden and Trebah Garden. Or you could cross the rope bridge above the palms and ferns in the jungle garden at the Lost Garden of Heligan. Or head indoors for a rainforest experience in the world’s largest greenhouse at the Eden Project.

Visit Cornwall this Autumn

With so much to see and do in Cornwall in the autumn, why not organise a holiday or getaway in October or November? We have a range of fantastic holiday homes and cottages around Padstow on the North Cornwall coast, which provide an excellent base for an autumnal break. Search online or contact us for availability.

See our article on cosy cottages for an autumn break in Cornwall.

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