Things to do in Cornwall in spring
The sight of those first bulbs poking up through the soil announcing the end of winter and the promise of longer, drier days ahead is a special moment, and one that happens earlier in Cornwall than elsewhere in the country (Thanks, Gulf Stream!). By early March, spring has well and truly arrived but the crowds haven’t, making it the perfect time to enjoy the county’s gardens, beaches, woodland glades and towns, which host a calendar of events to celebrate the new season.
Spring stomps on the coast path
Everyone has their favourite time of year for walking the South West Coast Path, but we think it’s best in spring when the wind has lost its bite and the route becomes filled with the scent and colour of beautiful blooms, from white campion and orchids, to violets, primroses and sea holly. Some of our favourite sections of the path for a spring stroll include: Lizard Point to Mullion Cove, a 6.5 mile section packed with coves, caves, and fascinating rock formations; the dramatic circular walk from Zennor Head, which passes through pretty farmland and bluebell woods before emerging on to the soaring cliffs, where seabirds and wildflowers cling to the granite rocks; and Trebarwith Strand to Port Isaac, an undulating section with wonderful views over Port Isaac Bay and plenty of flora and fauna to spy along the way.
Spring’s mild weather makes this sunny season the best time to visit Cornwall’s gardens. The 100-year-old rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias in Trebah Gardens on the Helford (pictured above) are bursting into colour in early spring, whilst rare and unusual plants, shrubs and climbers at the National Trust gardens at Trerice near Newquay put on a dazzling display of colour from the beginning of April. At the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden in St Ives, visitors can admire the planting scheme and garden design that Hepworth created herself, whilst the Lost Gardens of Heligan is at its very best in the springtime, with camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias, daffodils, wallflowers, apple and peach blossom dotted around 200 acre site.
Celebrate St Piran’s Day, 5 March — Cornwall’s national day
The patron saint of tin mining is celebrated up and down the county each year, usually accompanied by pasties, singing and much cider-fuelled merriment, with towns, villages and communities everywhere putting on their own version of events: processions, parades and feasts fill the streets from dawn to dusk to mark Cornwall’s national day. Some of the biggest celebrations take place in Bodmin, Truro, Newquay and Perranporth, on whose beach St Piran reputedly washed up all those centuries ago. Don’t miss the chance to join in the mass community sing along of the Cornish anthem ‘Trelawny’, which sees people gather together across the county in pubs, clubs, streets and living rooms for what has become known as the Trelawny Shout — a highlight of the day! If you find yourself in Cornwall on the 5th March, make sure you check out the celebrations happening near you.
Whilst many of Cornwall’s 300-plus beaches are dog-friendly year-round, many of the most popular ones ban dogs from either 1st of May or 1st July, good news if you and your dog are planning to make the most of Cornwall’s quiet beaches in the spring. With the exception of Charlestown, Looe and two beaches in Polruan, all of Cornwall’s beaches welcome dogs for a bit of springtime playtime.
Spring festivals and events
In the middle of March the coming of spring is celebrated in Falmouth with the Falmouth Spring Flower Show, with guided walks and talks, a spring fair, music and local food. The maritime town will also play host to Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time over the weekend. What better place to herald in the new season than the Spring Flower Show near Lostwithial (pictured above) hosted by the Cornwall Garden Society, held in a beautiful Georgian country estate. The Helston Flora Day sees dancers, bands and thousands of visitors in the vibrant town of Helston take to the streets from dawn until dusk to mark the passing of winter and the arrival of spring. For one weekend in April, around 40,000 people descend on one of the Lizard’s most popular harbour towns for the Portheleven Food Festival, which celebrates Cornwall’s culinary heritage and the very best local food producers. Expect street food stalls, live music, cookery sessions and much more.
Nothing says spring quite like that magical, ethereal sight of a woodland carpeted in bluebells. Fortunately Cornwall has plenty of pockets of woodland that, come April, put on dazzling displays of the nation’s favourite wild springtime flower. Some of the best places to see them include: Enys Gardens, near Penryn (pictured above), a 19th-century manor house whose gardens are believed to be the oldest in Cornwall; Trelowarren on the Lizard Peninsula, a beautiful house with gardens where you can enjoy lovely bluebell walks through the 1000-acre estate (there’s also a brilliant restaurant, spa, pool and art gallery in the courtyard); and finally Cardinham Woods near Bodmin, a family-friendly place to explore with marked trails through the woods and the brilliant Woods Cafe for tea and cake.
Shake off the winter with a refreshing dip
The sea might still be a little chilly in spring (not quite the balmy 13 degrees you can expect by June!) but with warmer days and calmer seas, now’s the time to pull on the swimmers — or wetsuits — and take a little dip in the clear, calm waters. If you prefer to stay on top of the water rather than under it, grab a surfboard, a paddleboard or kayak and explore the countless secluded coves and surfing beaches around the coastline. In fact, spring is one of the best times for surfing — the beaches are quiet and the weather better (although not all beaches are lifeguarded so beginners beware!).