Stormwatching in Cornwall: Exceptional Beauty on the Cornish Coast

Despite Cornwall being a hub of buzzing social activity and events, in many respects it is one of the few places in the world where the excitement of city life and the captivating essence of nature and beauty balances out.


Winter is a quieter time of year to visit the Cornish coast, in terms of the number of people visiting, but one of the bolder and more exhilarating times when it comes to our unrivalled landscapes. The air is alive with a crisp energy. While lush and verdant in summer, during colder months the woodland and coastal walks take on an eerie ethereality unlike anywhere else in the world. And our sea, our beautiful sea, takes on a wild temperament which builds the kind of roaring storms that have inspired so many artists over time.


If you have the pleasure of being able to visit Cornwall over the next few months, don’t let lower temperatures keep you away from the bays. Although a little chillier for swimming and surfing in, the unrestrained abandon of the Cornish waters makes for a sight truly worth seeing.


Undoubtedly, the most dramatic spectacle produced by the winter weather here is the coastal storm. So much so, that since the dramatic series of storms that lashed our coastline in 2014, Cornwall has become a kind of Mecca for a new kind of visitor – ‘Stormchasers’.


Some stormchasers arrive to witness first-hand the spectacle of waves that can reach the height of Porthleven’s clock tower or wash over the old ruined mine works at Botallack. Others come to capture on camera the wild, unbridled power of waves that seem to challenge even the dominance of the cliffs.


The photographers come because coastal storms in Cornwall offer a chance to get the kind of photograph that is only a little less breath taking than the real thing. In recent years, those huge, jewel coloured waves, their semi-lucent colours of kingfisher greens and blues and foaming white crests framed by the darkness of the cliffs, have appeared in more and more national newspapers and magazines. Online, you will be spoiled for choice as even a cursory search will produce image after stunning image.


There is really just one place from which to watch this spectacle, however - that is from a place of safety, beyond the reach of waves which will pull even the strongest adult out to sea! But if you want to be both safe and ‘up close’ to the elements, Penzance Promenade (the only promenade in Cornwall), is famous for the huge waves washing in and over the walkway.


The Promenade, with storm waves crashing over the railings, was the subject of Norman Garstinin’s iconic, late 19th century painting ‘The Rain it Raineth Every Day’ . (It can be seen today in Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance.) After your soaking you will certainly be grateful for the many cafes and restaurants where you can dry off and warm up with something hot to drink or eat – or both. The best place from which to watch, however, is probably from the warmth of a seaside cottage or a coastal hotel, snuggled in front of the fire to watch the glorious display of nature beyond the windows.

And of course, once you’ve taken in the real thing, you can stop by St Mawes Gallery to find the perfect painting to take home with you to remember that moment, always!