5 things I’ve learnt about Cornwall in the Winter
Truro-based blogger, Amanda Williams, has written a very festive blog for us this month about the wonders of Cornwall in the winter.
Amanda moved to Cornwall with her family in 2005 and started blogging about her move shortly afterwards. A few stops and starts later, her blog morphed into Secret Truro.
As well as blogging, Amanda freelances for a local digital marketing agency, and is a seasoned networker, winning the Cornwall Chambers 2015/16 Networker of the Year Award.
Amanda is passionate about all that Cornwall has to offer, whatever the season. And we love that, after 11 years in the county, she still gets excited when she sees the sea!
Until the age of 40, I hadn’t given much thought to Cornwall in the winter. We’d tripped down here for a few summer holidays, and perhaps I’d assumed that the beaches and coffee shops went into a sort of necessary hibernation, ready to spring into action in time for flips flops and ice cream at the sight of the first swallow. That is, until I moved here in November 2005.
My friends told me I’d never see snow again, and I mourned the fact that I’d miss the cold frosty mornings of my Bedfordshire home. However, two days after we moved in, Truro was transformed into an Alpine resort as unexpected snow fell and brought with it quiet and wonder. We soon found ourselves in our new garden, building snowmen and having snowball fights with our two young boys. We wondered what other surprises Cornwall in the winter might have in store for us.
The Eden Project always pulls out the stops
Our first trip to the Eden Project was on the day the snow fell. Eden was only a few years old, and we were transported to the magical biomes, where you’re always guaranteed a warm spot, whatever the weather. The other-worldliness of Eden has never failed to impress in the years since we moved here.
The plants have since matured and Eden cleverly reinvents itself throughout the seasons. The popular attraction always has something to offer, from the highly successful Eden Sessions which welcomes stars like Jess Gylnne or Paolo Nutini, to the ice rink which pops up in October and stays until February. I even brought my own skates recently which can be problematic – as I look as though I might know what I’m doing, but at least I flail around the ice rink with comfortable feet.
This year, Eden has gone all out and put on a spectacular light and laser show. I visited last weekend with my son and his friend, and we were treated to a superb fusion of music and light. Laser beams projected above our heads, forming neon grids, lines and spaces worthy of a Pink Floyd concert. The live music in the biome, with its close harmonies and ethereal layers of sound, added to what was an immersive experience.
The light show is on throughout December and comes highly recommended. We arrived early and tucked into a delicious roast dinner with all the trimmings.
The Beach isn’t just for summer days
We do love a good roast dinner, it has to be said and it wasn’t long before we found our way to the beach after Sunday lunch. Back in 2005, we’d yet to discover that it’s very important to check the tides before you stride out, unless of course you want your walk to be very short, and the accompanying trip to the pub or coffee shop very long.
What first struck me about the beach in the winter was not the number of people taking their constitutional with dogs of all shapes and sizes, it was the surfers. Surfers. In. The. Winter, ‘How very odd’ I thought, as wetsuited figures ran past me straight into the sea. I now know that surfing is a year round activity made possible by thick wetsuits, hats and gloves.
Keen to partake in all things Cornish, we purchased our first wetsuits on January 2nd, the fattest day of the year. We prised our home-counties bods into winter weight wetsuits and promised ourselves that we would embrace the surf culture. I’d like to tell you that, 11 years on, I care not a jot for the coldness of the December sea and that I’m now adept at changing modestly on a wind strewn winter beach. But truth be told, I’m a lightweight. In the summer, there’s nothing better than an exhilarating dip in the briney followed by a hot pasty (medium steak), but in the winter, I’m strictly long walks on the beach followed by steaming mugs of coffee or hot chocolate at a local beach cafe.
A couple of our favourites have become The Beach Hut at Watergate Bay and Gylly Cafe on Gylly Beach, Falmouth. Both serve up Origin Coffee which is roasted right here in Cornwall. If you’ve got the tide thing wrong, not to worry, watching the waves crash on the sea wall while you sip your coffee is another thing to be ticked off your Cornish Winter Bucket list.
Christmas Lights are not to be missed
The turning on of Christmas lights over the towns and villages throughout Cornwall is a much celebrated affair. One of the best events is the switching on of the Mousehole lights. Famous for the cat and Stargazy pie (more of that later), Mousehole looks eastwards over the bay towards St Michaels Mount.
Because the meandering tiny streets of this little fishing port aren’t suitable for hoards of visiting cars, a bus takes you from Penzance Harbour to your destination. We wrapped up warm for our first visit and made the most of delicious street food and mulled wine. The evocative voices of the local Male Voice Choir singing carols beckoned to the harbour side for the moment of switching on. There was a feeling of timelessness as I listened to age-old words being sung to rousing Cornish tunes, which, although unfamiliar, were instinctive and memorable.
The 7000 light bulbs which make up the lights of Mousehole take the form of boats floating in the harbour, a whale, christmas puddings, churches and, of course, Stargazy pie. They migrate up into the hills and even across to the sea to a small island. If you are back in the area on the 23 December, you can celebrate Tom Bowcock’s eve by eating Stargazy pie in one of the harbour pubs. You really don’t get a lot more Cornish than that.
Christmas shopping in Truro is a must
We moved here just in time for Christmas festivities to start in Truro; The Light Parade, which gets better every year, the visit by Santa and his Reindeer (at the time my sons, then 3 and 9 found them enchanting. Today? Not so much) and the late night shopping. It feels as if the whole town comes out to play as darkness falls and the Christmas lights start to twinkle.
For me, Cornwall in the winter isn’t complete without a really good mooch around some of the great indie shops in Truro. Try Illustrated Living in Lemon Street Market for gorgeous gifts for family and friends. Of course, something might just slip in the basket for you too (well, why ever not?). Or visit Uneeka with its quirky homewares and accessories. We’re spoilt for hipster fashion boutiques; there’s Magpie & Fox or Plum Boutique for great European brands like Scotch and Soda or Hudson Boots. If you’re looking for something a bit more formal, try Bishop Philpott for enviable Paul Smith and Armani.
Whilst you’re in town, why not find one of the independant coffee shops for a pit stop. Try brand-new Emily’s opposite the Museum, The Cornish Food Box (check out the iconic socialist slogans on the beams), MidTown near the Cathedral or, my Winter 2016 favourite; Turmeric Latte from the fabulous Kate in Brew.
A Winter Pamper Day to warm the cockles
Every now and again, hubby and I have run away for a day of relaxation and indulgence. There’s something that feels slightly naughty about dropping your child off at school, knowing that you’ve got your swimming costume and towel hidden in the boot of the car.
We are spoilt for great spas in Cornwall. Nearly all of the large Cornish hotels have superb facilities and often in the winter they are a bit less crowded, although you might find some of them close in January. The weather is milder in Cornwall than the rest of the UK, and on at least one occasion, we’ve found ourselves sitting in the winter sunshine in costumes and fluffy bathrobes.
One of our favourite places is Watergate Bay Hotel and we do enjoy a day in the Swim Club. Day membership includes a 60 minute treatment or a manicure in the ocean room, a swim in the 25m infinity pool (one of the most beautiful in Cornwall) and use of the outdoor hot tub on the cliff terraces, followed by lunch in the hotel’s Living Space café bar or at The Beach Hut nearby, overlooking the bay.
I recently had a superb lunch at The Cornwall Hotel in St Austell and spied their spa whilst I was there. Set in 43 acres of parkland, the spa here looks like the perfect getaway, with whirlpool, steam room, saunas and an aromatherapy massage included in their Spa Day Package.
Perfect for a bit of winter unwinding!
Words: Amanda Williams
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