Updated September 2023.
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.
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. Due to warmer climes than the rest of the UK the trees turn a little later here than in the rest of the country, so the explosion of colour stretches from early October through to mid-November. Some of the best places for an autumnal woodland walk include Cardinham Woods, Golitha Falls (pictured above), the National Trust’s Lanhydrock and Trelissick estates, and the Tamar Valley.
There is so much art to discover in Cornwall. Right here in Padstow, we have several small art shops worth visiting, such as Driftwood Contemporary and The Drang galleries, which display a mix of contemporary and local scenic art. Otherwise head to St Ives and Penzance to glean arty inspiration from world-renowned galleries including the Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden and Newlyn Art Gallery, as well as many smaller galleries scattered along the pretty, waterside streets.
With the water still warm long into 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.
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.
Gone are the summer crowds that pack the shoreline during the summer, leaving empty sands and stunning beaches where yours might be the only footprints. For a peaceful stroll, take the ferry across to Rock and walk along the sand to Daymer Bay, or take a low tide ramble to the ends of lengthy Watergate Bay or Perranporth beach.
While Cornwall is stacked with incredible restaurants, it can be hard to get a booking at popular restaurants during the busy summer months. So autumn is a fantastic time to discover exciting places to eat around the county – some of which you’ll still need to book ahead, and others that you’ll be able to walk in and bag a table at. Some suggestions for an autumnal meal out include Greens of Padstow with its fine estuary views, The Pig in Harlyn and the Hidden Hut – famous for seasonal, alfresco fare overlooking Porthcurnick Beach on the Roseland Peninsula.
It can get pretty breezy during the autumn, so it’s a great time of year to fly a kite. Hawkers Cove, on the outskirts of Padstow, is one of our favourite places to fly a kite at low tide, and the domain of kite surfers during autumn. If you want to take it one step further with a power kiting lesson or try kite boarding, contact Atlantic Riders for the best local wind sports instruction.
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. Taste Cornwall’s sublime seafood at the inaugural Newquay Harbour Festival, tuck into a Cornish Pasty at the Redruth International Mining & Pasty Festival, and celebrate the mighty mollusc at the Falmouth Oyster Festival.
There are so many great places to go cycling in Cornwall and the country lanes are near-deserted during autumn, so you can pedal along to your heart’s content. 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.
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 while the water’s still warm from the summer rays.
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.
Even though the weather is cooling off in the autumn, Cornwall’s microclimate means 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.
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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