The almighty boom. The brackish smell. The exhilarating power. Spurting geysers of foam; lines of huge waves stacked up to the horizon; wind whipping your face. The humbling sense of insignificance… Nothing beats the raw elemental thrill and timeless romance of witnessing huge thundering seas crashing relentlessly onto Cornwall’s dramatic coastline.
Whether it’s hurricanes tracking north from the Gulf of Mexico or intense winter storms raging off Newfoundland, October to February sees some colossal swells build and travel unhindered for thousands of miles across the Atlantic before slamming into our cliffs, beaches and sea walls. As long as you’re wrapped up warm and perched in a safe vantage point, storm watching has to be one of Cornwall’s most enthralling winter pastimes.
TOP 5 STORM WATCHING SPOTS
Arguably the daddy of Cornish storm watching spots, this historic fishing village sits on an exposed stretch of southwest facing coastline – and takes the full force of howling southwesterly storms straight on the chin. Porthleven is the pin-up of the Cornish storm watching scene: photographs of monstrous waves breaking over the church on the pier and mountains of backwash slapping back from its cliffs frequently adorn the national newspapers and news channels when a big sou’wester rolls in. Truly has to be seen to be believed.
Just off the end of Towan headland, the Cribbar reef is a big wave surfing spot of near-mythical proportions. It rarely breaks, but when it does the waves can be over 30ft high. It’s difficult to judge the scale of these huge walls of water until you see a surfer dwarfed by their towering faces. Recent years have seen a number of hardy surfers using jet-skis to tow in to these watery beasts – and the atmosphere amongst spectators on the headland is something else.
The dramatic rock stacks at Bedruthan beach, Mawgan Porth, stand testament to the power of the waves that have carved out their impressive, jagged forms over the millennia. Standing atop Carnewas cliffs and watching foaming seas pounding these outcrops on a stormy day is sure to blast out every last cobweb.
Cross the narrow footbridge onto Porth Island, at the tip of Trevelgue Head, and if you’re lucky you’ll see one of Cornwall’s finest blowholes spouting explosively. It’s at its most impressive around mid tide, and can be spectacular when there’s a big swell (please be careful crossing the bridge, mind!). The remains of a prehistoric settlement and windswept, panoramic views give the place a forlorn allure.
Lurching out into the Atlantic just west of Padstow, this exposed promontory commands panoramic views towards Newquay to the south and the Camel estuary to the northeast. At the far tip sits a gleaming white lighthouse, perched above gigantic cliffs of grey granite that rise sheer from the sea to a height of over 150 feet. This solitary spot is a breathtaking place to witness nature’s incredible power as winter storms smash into the cliffs below.