Category: Slow travel

Natural signs – In the sky

Coastal conditions can be unpredictable: sunny one minute, stormy the next. We show you how to forecast what’s coming by immersing yourself in the environment around you…

In the days and weeks leading up to a holiday, how many times do you hit the refresh button on your favourite weather app in the hope of a bright, sunny forecast for your trip? What to pack, days out and activities are almost always planned around what the weather is expected to be like.

But should you plan your break purely on a meteorologist’s weather forecast? As we’ve all had the pleasure of, weather is often a localised and transient thing. Like the sand beneath our feet, it’s always moving, always changing.

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“We always notice when bad weather hits us but if we can watch the progression of clouds in the few hours before, we can predict when the bad weather is coming.”

Rather than stake all your holiday plans on the weather forecast, created by analysing streams of data, why not step outside. Stop, listen and observe your surroundings. It could tell you a whole lot more about what’s about to happen than a regional weather forecast.

Direction of travel

An easy way to tell if there’s going to be a change in the weather is to check the wind, as Tristan Gooley, natural navigator and author of The Secret World of Weather explains:

“The best thing you can do is to take note of where the wind is coming from. It’s one of those things that doesn’t take much time – you could do it after breakfast, lunch and dinner – just check where the wind direction is coming from and if it has changed quite a lot, by more than 90 degrees, you can be pretty sure that a weather change is on its way.”

To gauge the wind direction, find a visual anchor, like a flag, if it’s blowing south east, the wind is coming from the north west, and so on. You could also try feeling the wind direction, Tristan writes in his weather guide. In open ground, close your eyes and turn your face until you feel the wind on both cheeks. Then, raise your hand to chop the air slowly, moving it until you feel the wind cooling each side equally. When you open your eyes, you’ll have a sense of where the wind is blowing from.

Next, take a look up at the clouds. Seeing how they move and change on any given day is also a good indicator of what weather lies ahead.

“We always notice when bad weather hits us but if we can watch the progression of clouds in the few hours before, we can predict when the bad weather is coming,” says Tristan. “If we look at the very highest clouds, the cirrus – the wispy, feathery, candyfloss style of clouds –they’ll start to build in number ahead of bad weather.”

Keep a mid-afternoon eye on what the cumulus clouds are doing, too. These are the fluffy, marshmallow style clouds with flat bottoms.

“Tall cumulus clouds usually indicate that the cloud is just dumping it’s rain on you and then the shower will end, whereas a thick stratus blanket of unbroken cloud across the sky indicates blanket rain.”

“If they’re getting smaller, it’s a sign that the weather will continue to be quite fair for probably the next 24 hours,” he says. “But if they’re getting taller it’s a sign of moisture and instability and things are going to get worse.

“The rough rule with cumulus clouds is if they’re taller than they are wide and they keep getting taller, then you’ve probably got some rain showers on the way.”

Showers pass

Hear the pitter patter of rain on the window on the first day of your holiday? Don’t feel disheartened; it could just be a passing shower. Again, you can tell if the rain is passing through by looking at the shape of the clouds.

Tall cumulus clouds usually indicate that the cloud is just dumping it’s rain on you and then the shower will end, whereas a thick stratus blanket of unbroken cloud across the sky indicates blanket rain. This will be slow moving and could last several hours – meaning you might need to put the day’s beach trip on hold.

Not that a bit of rain need be a barrier to having fun in the sea, particularly if you’re out for a surf. The main weather that will impact the surfing conditions is the wind, but even that you can work around, if you know what you’re looking for.

Weather moves

“As a surfer you can generally find a nook to work with the weather,” says Rachel Murphy, founder of Women and Waves, a surfing society based in Newquay. “It’s not all about where you are, but asking yourself where the weather is going to be good for surfing. You move around with the weather.

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Credit: Women and Waves, @catgram810

The ideal conditions for surfing are light offshore winds, where the wind blows from the land out to the sea. This creates clean, glassy waves. Onshore winds often create broken, messy waves that are more difficult to surf.

Most surfers rely on websites like Magicseaweed and Windguru for surf forecasts but Rachel reckons the best way to determine the forecast is to get outdoors. She says: “When I walk outside, I can generally feel what the wind direction is just from the temperature.

“If there’s a cluster of birds sitting on the beach, check out the direction they’re facing too. If they’re facing one way that’s a pretty strong sign that’s where the wind is coming from.”

“If it’s northerly and bitter then you know the wind is onshore, which isn’t great for surfing on the west coast of Cornwall. Whereas if it’s a warm wind, under 10mph, you know the surf will be clean and nice. You can feel that just on your face.”

Credit: Women and Waves, @catgram810

Animal instincts

Tuning into the sound of the sea can also help you determine what the surf might be like. “You can sometimes hear a big groundswell when you’re near the coast,” says Rachel. “I can hear it first thing in the morning when I’m walking my dog. She doesn’t like it. She must feel the rumbling or vibrations that we can’t. So I can tell if there’s a big groundswell if she’s a bit apprehensive.”

It’s not just dogs that can alert us to incoming weather. If you’re on the beach, watch what the birds are up to.

“So if you see cirrus clouds during the day and then a halo around the moon later that evening, that’s a very strong sign rain is coming.”

“The vast majority of birds are land based,” says Tristan. “They range further from home when the weather is set fair and come closer to home when there’s bad weather on the way.

“If there’s a cluster of birds sitting on the beach, check out the direction they’re facing too. If they’re facing one way that’s a pretty strong sign that’s where the wind is coming from. If they change direction that means the wind direction has changed and it’ll probably be raining by sunset.”

The night before the day

When the sun does set after a busy day on the beach, a final tip for forecasting the next day’s weather is to take a look up at the moon to see if there’s a halo around it.

“The halo shows there are cirrostratus clouds, which mean a warm front is on the way,” says Tristan. “So if you see cirrus clouds during the day and then a halo around the moon later that evening, that’s a very strong sign rain is coming.”

Come rain or shine, the best you can do to make the most of your time by the sea is to have an awareness of the weather but not become a slave to the elements.

“You have to take the weather forecast with a pinch of salt and go with what you’ve got,” advises Rachel. “There’s never going to be a perfect day…just enjoy whatever the day brings.”

Find out more with:

The Natural Navigator

Women & Waves

Experience a surface-level change of pace, and enjoy slowing down and savouring the simple joys of coastal living along the Cornish coast.

Space to breathe

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

As the temperature drops and the seasons shift, it can be tempting to spend your break indoors. But if you really want to feel your shoulders drop and your breathing slow, you need to venture into nature. With a surprising diversity of landscapes, including river banks, ancient woodland and rare heathlands, Cornwall offers a unique natural environment to explore.

“There’s something hugely freeing about being in open space,” psychotherapist and founder of the Nature Therapy School, Beth Collier, told The Guardian recently. “The part of the brain that is responsible for ruminative and negative thoughts – the subgenual prefrontal cortex – has been shown to quieten when we connect with nature, which gives people more space to process their problems.”

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This feeling of mental space, cultivated by time in nature, is something forager Rachel Lambert seeks out regularly. “When my mind is too busy, I step out on a walk and my worries drop away and things naturally prioritise themselves,” she says. “There’s always something to take your attention in nature, but it’s not searching for it. It’s those things you don’t need to cognitively understand: the breeze on your skin, the rain on your face. It awakens but also settles your whole system.”

Natural healing

Running wild food foraging walks across Cornwall, Rachel is well acquainted with being out in the elements. Based in Penzance, she loves the rugged romance of where the moors meet the sea. But Rachel believes nature is more than a beautiful backdrop. “Interaction with nature is really important,” she says. “It’s not a museum to stand back and admire. Foraging for me is about being able to see the landscape through a different lens. It’s a way to help us understand the environment and see that everything is interconnected.”

“Foraging for me is about being able to see the landscape through a different lens.”

Autumn is especially rich in pickings, with abundant hedgerows all around. “I’ve done some group walks recently between here and Marazion, and we’ve found sea spinach, burdock, yarrow, rock samphire, black mustard, beach roses, blackberries.”

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Rachel sees foraging as an antidote to the sadness of the fading of summer. “For lots of people, it’s a melancholic moment, so I think things like autumn berries can act as a marker and help us appreciate the new season.”

As Rachel explains, foraging is a mindful activity that uses all the senses. It’s hard to fret about work when you’re swerving the spikes of a sloe bush, or admiring the vivid orange skin of sea buckthorn berries.

Credit: Elliott White

“Our lifestyle is changing a lot quicker than our bodies,” says Rachel. “We simply haven’t been in modern houses for that long. But I think stimulating the senses outdoors is a great way of feeling alive – and feeling like a three-dimensional human being.”

Into the forest

Founder of Forest Bathing Cornwall, Paul Simmons, agrees that getting into the wild is key to wellbeing. “Stress is an understandable reaction to contemporary life, because historically we’ve spent so much time outdoors,” he says. “It’s in our DNA. It’s called biophilia – this affinity to being in nature.”

“When you go into the forest, you’re in a different time zone. It’s about slowing down, switching off and being present in that moment.”

A practitioner of the Japanese phenomenon of shinrin-yoku, Paul leads woodland walks across Cornwall, helping people to reconnect with the healing rhythms of nature.

“Forest bathing is the literal translation of ‘shinrin-yoku’, and it’s a clinically proven therapy,” says Paul. Defined as absorbing the atmosphere of the forest, forest bathing “is playful and intuitive. It’s about going back to a child-like state and using all the senses; looking at the light, listening for sounds, feeling the movement of the wind, seeing what you notice.”

“I always say it’s the forest that’s the therapist. As the practitioner, I’m the conduit.”

Paul’s assertion that forest bathing “helps with stress, it helps with sleep, it works with the cardiovascular system,” is supported by studies that show how forests can reduce cortisol, lower blood pressure, and increase parasympathetic nerve activity.

“When you go into the forest, you’re in a different time zone,” says Paul. “It’s about slowing down, switching off and being present in that moment. I always say it’s the forest that’s the therapist. As the practitioner, I’m the conduit.”

While he’s forever on the lookout for Cornish woods to work from, Paul has a few favourites. “On the northern side, Tehidy Woods is a good place to go. Then there’s Penrose Estate near Porthleven, and Coosebean Woods in Truro. We have lots of little rivers in Cornwall too, which are great for forest bathing. Being next to running water is so restorative.”

Off the beaten track

For author Sophie Pierce, whose book Wild Swimming Walks Cornwall showcases less-visited but spectacular routes for a stroll and a dip, walking in nature is a therapeutic activity.

“Walking gives you a sense of journey – you feel you’re going somewhere,” she says. “Then there’s the rhythm of the steps. The experiences you have along the way distract you, so that anxious thoughts fall away. And being out of your domestic environment – it’s liberating.”

“It’s exhilarating, watching the waves and being battered on the clifftop by the weather.”

For a walk with a unique mix of landscapes, Sophie heads to Frenchman’s Creek. “You start in the village of Helford, and pass a lovely beach called Penarven Cove. Then you walk around a bit further until you get to Frenchman’s Creek, then come up through the woods, passing a beautiful gallery with a garden called Kestle Barton.”

“If you go to the North Coast, where you’ve got amazing surf, that can be mindful in a different way,” says Sophie. “It’s exhilarating, watching the waves and being battered on the clifftop by the weather.

“There’s a circular walk in our book near Tintagel which involves all sorts of environments and feelings. It starts in the village of Bossiney, before heading through the enchanting woods of St Nectan’s Glen, where there’s a little river with an incredible waterfall, which has long been a place of pilgrimage for Pagans. Then the walk goes past an old mine and through Rocky Valley, where the river flows out to sea.”

“Beautiful landscapes stay with you. They nurture the soul.”

In 2017, Sophie’s life changed forever when her 20-year old son Felix died suddenly. Her new memoir, The Green Hill, will chart her navigation of the tides of grief – and the consolation of the natural world.

“When you lose somebody, you’re desperately trying to gain some kind of understanding,” says Sophie. “And there’s something eternal about nature. It feels permanent and so much bigger than us. I believe we are all part of nature, so if I’m somewhere where I feel in harmony with nature, then I feel there’s a connection back to my son.”

For Sophie, Paul and Rachel, natural beauty is an unbeatable tonic. “Beautiful landscapes where you feel a sense of infinity – moorland where you can see for miles, or a cliff above the sea – it’s almost like a connection with time,” muses Sophie. “Those places stay with you. They nurture the soul.”

Experience tranquillity with yoga on a Cornish beach, where the serene coastal backdrop enhances your practice and rejuvenates your spirit.

Find out more about foraging courses with Rachel Lambert
Book a forest bathing session with Paul Simmons
Buy a copy of wild Swimming Walks Cornwall and learn more about Sophie Pierce.

Change of Pace: Deep

Whether you’re exploring on a single breath, or stealthily seeking your supper, taking your ocean activity beneath the surface is the ultimate in water time contradictions – giving in to the calm surrender of the deep even when your pulse is jumping…

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Breathless discoveries

Credit: Aquacity

Hold your nerve, take a breath, dive. Freediving – diving beneath the surface on a single breath – is not a sport for the faint hearted. With no scuba or air tank to rely on and only your instinct as your guide, it’s at the more demanding end of the watersports spectrum.

“Freediving has the reputation of being an extreme sport,” says Georgina Miller from freediving outfit Aquacity in Porthkerris, “but really, it’s all about relaxing and exploring your relationship to the sea. It’s actually vital that you relax while challenging yourself and pushing your body to its limit.”

“It’s quiet and you’re in such a different environment – you can lose a sense of yourself and relax into it peacefully. But this only comes with patience and practice at being calm and present.”

A competitive free diver and instructor, Georgina explains that the breathing techniques freediving uses are useful for staying calm in any situation. But if you are brave enough to venture under the waves, the sport is even more of a stress buster, says Georgina. “Being underwater, for most people, allows some peace in an otherwise hectic world,” she continues, “It’s quiet and you’re in such a different environment – you can lose a sense of yourself and relax into it peacefully. But this only comes with patience and practice at being calm and present.”

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Credit: Aquacity

There’s no doubt that competitive freediving brings more of a heightened edge to the discipline. Freedivers can regularly swim down to depths of more than 100 metres on a single breath. It’s a very specialist, highly skilled world, where technique and ability juxtapose with mindfulness and calm. Freediving is not without its risks so it’s important to never dive alone and let qualified instructors lead you safely into the deep.

But even at the leisure pursuit end of the sport, there are thrills to be found. Though more often than not, they come from the interactions that happen under the water, rather than the depths reached.

In addition to dolphins and seals, Georgina regularly sees lobsters and spider crabs hiding in the cracks, magnificent shoals of pollock, wrasse and mackerel, and majestic basking sharks drifting through the depths.

“We had a training session recently where a pod of dolphins came to check us out – they looked like they felt sorry for us not being able to swim too well!” she concludes. “When you’re being checked out by marine mammals there definitely seems to be a connection, they’re curious, even playful. It’s pretty incredible.”

Steady stealth

Credit: Chris Moakes

Add the pursuit and excitement of the hunt and catch into your deep water time and you’re taking it up a gear. Spear fishing, freediving’s faster-paced cousin, is one of the most sustainable ways to fish and requires, skill, dexterity, speed and patience, all in one.

This balance of quick action and absolute calm is something Laith Dajani from Spearfishing UK knows all too well, as he explains, of a recent dive. “On one breath I went down to 13 metres, to fish. It took roughly 17 seconds to get to the bottom. I found and speared a 9lb Pollock in seven seconds, and then came back up in another 17 seconds,” he says. The whole experience was just 41 seconds in total. But with that level of excursion and concentration, diving to and rising from the ocean floor all in the smallest window of time, staying relaxed is an epic task in itself.

“It’s all about stealth and tactics. Sometimes fish are curious…Alternatively, stalking works just as well, hiding or moving as slowly as possible through seaweed, not making a sound.”

For Laith, it’s the unique mix of control and quick thinking that gives spearfishing its appeal. “You want to remain as calm as possible. If you’re stressed, the fish will be stressed, and they won’t be comfortable around you,” he continues. “It’s all about stealth and tactics. Sometimes fish are curious, so making grunting noises can attract them, or throwing up sand can bring them in. Alternatively, stalking works just as well, hiding or moving as slowly as possible through seaweed, not making a sound.”

But when the time comes to fire the speargun, you have to think fast. “You need to be in the moment with no hesitation,” he says, “otherwise the fish will scatter and you’ll be swimming to the surface empty-handed.”

Credit: Chris Moakes

If the speargun isn’t for you, you can hunt for lobster, brown crabs, scallops and mussels by hand. For Laith, catching a 9lb lobster off Cornwall’s south coast was an unbeatable experience. “Lobsters like to hole up and can be found as shallow as one metre. You just need to look in as many holes as possible and eventually you’ll stumble across one.”

From combing the sea floor for shellfish to plunging into the deep, underwater ocean time is all about finding the right pace for you and working with the ocean. As Georgina says about freediving, “it’s not about an application of your will over the water, you have to consider the environment and work with it.” And what a magical environment the Cornish coastline has to offer, shoreline, surface or deep. Now, who’s for a dip?

Read about adventures of every pace: on the shoreline or on the surface too…

Experience transformational moments with Beach Retreats as you explore new horizons and enrich your soul.

Escape to the sea 

People standing on a beach with a surfboards.


Think of yourself as a thalassophile? If you relish the calm of a secluded cove or crave the adrenalin rush of roaring surf, then, whether you know it or not, you are one.

Derived from the Greek thalassa, meaning sea, and philein, meaning ‘to love’, a thalassophile is someone who feels a connection with the ocean.

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As an island nation nibbled by hungry tides, our natural bond with our watery border is strong.

“Being British comes with a catalogue of sea-themed clichés,” writes Charlotte Runcie in her book, Salt on Your Tongue. “Fish and chips on the beach, or in the car while the rain pelts down, ‘Rule, Britannia!’ at the BBC Proms, the shipping forecast playing out over and over.”

The mystical pull of the sea is universal. Children lift a conch to their ear to listen out for the ghostly whooshing of waves. Adults, weathered by life’s storms, find comfort in the shock of a bracing dip.

But the therapeutic benefits of blue spaces go beyond hearsay. From higher dopamine levels to reduced anxiety, closeness to water is associated with greater wellbeing. In a study on happiness in different natural environments, coastal areas came out top.

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Focusing on the ebb and flow seems to have a mindful, meditative effect. By immersing ourselves in the elemental force of the sea, we access a restorative cognitive state.

Discover the best ways to celebrate by the sea with unforgettable coastal experiences.

Dr. Catherine Kelly, author of Blue Spaces: How and Why Water Makes Us Feel Better says in The Guardian that “the sea is synonymous with letting go. It could be lying on a beach or somebody handing you a cocktail. For somebody else, it could be a wild, empty coast. But there is this really human sense of: ‘Oh, look, there’s the sea’ – and the shoulders drop.”

Not just a balm for the senses, the sea is essential to life on earth. It’s said that every second breath we take comes from the ocean, and that the ocean is the thermostat of the global climate system. But with climate change, overfishing, deep-sea mining and plastic pollution threatening to destroy the blue planet and drive species to extinction, experts warn that we must act now to protect our future.

So, we’re diving into the wonders of the ocean with eyes wide open – revealing the hidden Cornish coves, asking how we can eat more sustainable seafood and discovering what we can do to reduce ocean pollution. Join us as we #escapetothesea…

Support calls for more ocean protection and restoration

Dawn vs Dusk

The magic hours. Which is your favourite?

“A sculptor’s landscape is one of ever-changing space and light where forms reveal themselves in new aspects as the sun rises and sets.”

– Barbara Hepworth in Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor’s Landscape, 1966,


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The sun rose just after 5 o’clock this morning; it will set just before 9.30pm. We’re in the daylight month and each day the summer sun creates stunning, relaxing and inspiring skies in those early or late hours. Staying steps from the shore means the freedom to enjoy those moments even more.

Coastal skies don’t hold claim to the most spectacular dawns and dramatic dusks but they’re undoubtedly among the best. Sharing an image by Kirstin Prisk (@kirstinprisk) of a sunset sky in St Ives this month, the Tate St Ives nodded to the unique light the sun creates there: “The town of St Ives has long been an artistic hub, attracting artists since the time of J.M.W Turner because of the beauty of the landscape and quality of natural light.”

That corner of coastal light has inspired artists since the 1930s, and around the British coast early risers and evening explorers are rewarded with colour shows to take the breath away.

Which are you, an early riser catching the first light or an out of hours dusk seeker?

We asked members of the Beach Retreats team to share one of their favourite phot0s out of hours at the beach. As you’ll see below, dusk comes out on top.

And if you’ve captured a great shot at the beach out of hours, why not share it with us on Instagram or Facebook ­­– tag us @beachretreats and add #beachoutofhours ­– to be in with a chance of winning a land&water bathtime bundle and luxury Cornish hamper.

Lingering light

Lowenna in the Beach Retreats marketing team likes to catch the fading light as it disappears over the horizon. There’s no better place to watch the day slip away over the horizon than the sweeping vistas of the north Cornish coast.

This shot was captured on the sand dunes that lead down to the breaks at Fistral beach in Newquay. “I like to wait until the sun has completely dropped, to see the lingering glow on the horizon,” says Lowenna.

Open ocean

There’s no denying the sunlight on the sea creates some of the most awe-inspiring views of all. Steve, in our portfolio management team, also prefers the dusk light on the waves.

This photo was taken from Pentire Headland with the sun hovering just above the line of the ocean. “From here, you can see the entire stretch of the horizon glowing and the wide expanse of sea looks truly amazing at this time of day,” says Steve.


Low in the website team finds the lure of the water difficult to resist when the sunset colours the sky. This image was taken on Little Fistral beach in Newquay. “My favourite time of day is dusk, especially the moments just after the sun has set where the whole sky turns shades of pink, purple and orange.

“That day, the setting sun lit up the whole beach in these colours. It looked so magical we just had to go in for a swim at 10pm!”

Explore the wonders of sea and skies with our blog on how to make the most of your holiday with stargazing.

Dawn vs dusk

We’re asking our followers on Instagram and Facebook to choose their favourite #beachoutofhours time. Which will you choose, dawn or dusk?

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Natural signs

In the quiet hours on the beach, reading the signs of the sea, the fauna and the sky can make nature your ally.

It’s early morning, you’re up, and first to the beach. When you get there, you realise, you’ve forgotten to check the tides. Is the sea coming in or going out? How can you tell? One answer is to watch the birds.

Look at the sand around the tideline. If there are gulls, dippers and oystercatchers pecking around, odds are you’re looking at a falling tide. Lugworms, molluscs and other burrowing critters come up to feed as the tide recedes, and the seabirds are taking advantage of an easy feast.

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Reading the land (and sea)

If you know what to look out for, Cornwall’s coast is full of fascinating little clues like this. With a little knowledge, it’s possible to decipher everything from sea conditions to the weather forecast.

“Everyone comes to Cornwall to enjoy the view, but often they don’t look at the story behind the scenery,” says Hetty Wildblood, a kayaking guide who runs expeditions along the Helford River and around St Agnes. “It’s a skill you have to practise. But there’s so much information if you know where to look: geology, industry, biology, natural history.

“One example I often use is the cliff colours around St Agnes; all those vivid oranges, browns and reds. They’re caused by mineral deposits, especially from heavy metals like iron and tin – a visible reminder of the mining riches that once sustained Cornwall.”

Check out more of our locations and explore our St Agnes holiday cottages.
Wheal Coates St Agnes

Dunes (or towans, as they’re known here) are a common feature of many Cornish beaches. They’re an important coastal habitat – but they’re also weather vanes.

“So if you want to be sure of keeping your feet dry, pitch your blanket higher than the second, rather than the first, strandline.”

Dunes form perpendicular to the prevailing onshore wind, and their presence indicates a strong, persistent breeze: the greater the dunes, the greater and gustier the winds. The dunes can also tell you about the direction of the prevailing wind; the slope on the windward side will be shallower and easier to walk on, while the sand on the ‘slip’ side will be steep, softer and more unstable.

Prince of tides

You’re out on a brisk morning walk and it’s time to sit down to brew a morning coffee. How do you know where to pitch your picnic blanket?

Strandlines – the line of seaweed and ocean debris left behind by tides – are your friend here. There are usually at least two strandlines on most beaches. The one nearest to the sea marks the high point reached by the most recent tide. The second one, higher up the beach, marks the point reached during the last spring tide (sometimes, there’s also a third line, even further up the beach: this indicates the extent of the last storm surge).

So if you want to be sure of keeping your feet dry, pitch your blanket higher than the second, rather than the first, strandline; that way, even if you’re visiting on a spring tide, the water won’t reach you (unless you’ve decided to picnic in the teeth of an Atlantic storm, that is).

Another useful way of determining tidal range is to look at the rocks near the sea. Lichen grows in bands of colour; black at the bottom, orange or red in the middle, grey-green at the top. Only the black lichen is happy to grow underwater, so it’s also a natural signpost that indicates the high water mark.

Moon movements

How about the phenomenon of spring and neap tides? Contrary to what many people believe, spring tides actually have nothing to do with the season of spring: they refer to the extra ‘spring’ in the sea’s tidal range, which can be more than 20% above and below the average.

“If you’re close to a new moon or a full moon, you know the tide will be both lower and higher than usual.”

Spring tides occur twice a month (throughout summer, autumn and winter too!). They are caused by the extra gravitational pull that occurs when the sun and moon both line up with the earth – a phenomenon called syzygy. This happens at new moon (when the moon moves between the sun and the earth) and full moon (when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth). Neap tides occur (approximately) seven days either side.


So if you want to know what the tide is up to, have a look at the sky at night. If you’re close to a new moon or a full moon, you know the tide will be both lower and higher than usual. Since much more of the coastline is revealed during spring tides, you’ll also know that it’s the best time for a spot of rock-pooling or a long beach walk the next day.

Whither the weather

“I think it’s so important for people to learn these skills,” says Matt Slater, a marine biologist for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. “Understanding the weather and the tides isn’t just useful, it makes your time on the beach safer, and more fun.

“One example I always give is that if you want to go snorkelling, go at low tide when the wind is blowing offshore. That way, you’ll be able to get down there and have a good look at the sea-bed. Likewise, if you want to go paddleboarding or kayaking safely, pick a beach where the wind is blowing onshore (towards the land); otherwise there’s a chance you’ll get blown out to sea. It seems obvious, but you’d be amazed by how few people understand it.”

“Mackerel sky, mackerel sky; never long wet, never long dry.”

Another useful clue about sea conditions is given by the glitter path – the line of light cast by the sun on the water. If the sea’s really calm, the glitter path will be narrow (no broader than the sun is wide). But when the sea’s rough, the high, choppy waves reflect more light, causing the glitter path to spread out and become more triangular.

If you’re deciding how to spend your beach hours for the day, the calmest conditions for swimming and paddleboarding will be the days when the dawn sun is lighting a narrow glitter path.


Signals in the sky

Seabirds also foretell what the weather has in store. If they’re flying inland in numbers, chances are there’s bad weather brewing out to sea; if they’re heading in the opposite direction, it’s a sign of more settled conditions.

But for the clearest weather forecast, turn your eyes to the sky. “Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight” chimes the old adage – and surprisingly, more often than not, it’s true.

Red skies at dawn are caused by light bouncing off high cirrus clouds, often an indication of an approaching weather front. Red skies at sunset usually indicate clear skies in the west; and since the UK’s weather systems generally move in from the Atlantic, a scarlet sunset is a good bet for fine weather tomorrow.

Lastly, there’s that most Cornish of cloud systems – a mackerel sky, in which bands of clouds run across the sky like the markings on a mackerel’s back. Here, another old saying comes in handy: “Mackerel sky, mackerel sky; never long wet, never long dry.” The pattern is usually caused by cirrocumulus clouds, which appear at the edge of weather fronts – meaning change is on the way.

So if it’s sunny now, the sudden appearance of a mackerel sky might mean it’s a good time to pack up and head for shelter. But if it’s raining where you are now, and a mackerel sky materialises, then you might be in luck – that dinner on the beach you’ve been hoping for may still be on the cards.

Discover more of Cornwall with our favourite places to watch the ocean and go sea spotting.

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Six places to watch the sunrise in Cornwall

Its 6am and you’ve stepped, still bleary eyed, out of your door and down towards the empty stretch of sand. Soft amber light appears to float in the atmosphere- it is not like the harsh mid-day sun which causes you to squint, rather, this light is gentle, inviting, warm. Slowly becoming more awake and alert, you look at the ocean, glimmering in the morning haze as the large orange ball of the sun steadily rolls itself up into the sky.

The magic of the sunrise hours can’t be overstated- it is a peaceful time, before the crowds flock to the sand, where you truly feel like the shoreline belongs to you alone. With all of our properties positioned footsteps from the beach, we have compiled a list of the six best places to see the sunrise, to tempt you out of bed and towards the golden glow of first light.

Want to stay in a luxury holiday house with a view of the sea? Check out our cottages with sea views.

Carlyon Bay

With its south-facing stretch of soft sand, Carlyon Bay, near St Austell, is the place to capture a picture-perfect sunrise. The sun paints the sky with tones of pink and orange which perfectly contrast with the pale blue of the sea in the morning light. The beach will be largely empty at this time in the morning, the only company being the birds wandering around freely as you leave the day’s first footprints in the sand.

Want to stay in Carylon Bay? Check out our luxury Carylon Bay holiday properties.

Whitsand Bay

Whitsand Bay runs from Rame Head to Portwrinkle, and its sheer cliffs, long stretches of beach and panoramic scenery make for a dramatic sunrise. Head onto the clifftop to capture the purple sky as the sun bursts its first light above the sloping fields. You may even be joined by some sheep, who populate the clifftop, to watch it with you.

Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth

Falmouth’s Gylly Beach is famed as a swimming spot, stand-up paddleboarder’s dream and for its vibrant beachfront café. Yet head down at dawn and you will experience a different atmosphere. As the sun rises, the water takes on a glassy effect and mirrors the kaleidoscope of colours spread across the sky. Spot the daisies that line the beach complimenting the pink hues around them.


To catch the sun breaking into the sky admist a serene harbour setting, try Fowey. The masts and sails of harbour boats will point upwards towards the orange splash of colour that rises above the seaside town. The sunrise here is the perfect time to enjoy the sights of Fowey in peace before the lively chatter of the working harbour life takes hold throughout the day.


Cobbled streets usually packed with beachgoers and fisherman alike are empty in Mevagissey at sunrise, touched only by the soft sun rays which fill the atmosphere. Wander the harbour walls as if they belong to you alone at the calmest point in the day, experiencing this classic Cornish village in a new and ethereal light.


Situated on the Lizard Penninsula, Coverack is one of the most Southerly points in Cornwall to watch the suns first light greet the land. Its small pebbly beach is like a secret haven, kissed by the first rays of light which will soon awaken the rest of Cornwall for a lively day of beach trips and water sports. Listen to the trickle of the water as it runs down the rocks which line the shore.

Explore the captivating contrasts of dawn and dusk along the Cornish coast, each offering its own magical ambience and breathtaking views.

Slow travel in Cornwall


On the upside, this crazy year has given us all many reasons to stay closer to home and slow down a little. And being a destination that doesn’t involve hopping on a plane to get to Cornwall’s culture, landscape and remoteness makes it a place that goes hand-in-hand with the art of slow travel. So, here are some of our favourite places to ditch the car and reconnect with yourself, with each other and with nature at your own pace.

Interested in staying in our most luxurious holiday cottages? Check out our luxury coastal cottages.

Care free adventures in Cawsand


Once your feet hit the sand, these waterside villages and your pace of life will quickly re-adjust to the ebb and flow of the tides. Take a step back in time in this ‘forgotten corner’ of Cornwall, where you can wander the coast path to historic landmarks or hop aboard a ferry and witness the county’s maritime heritage from the water. Why not wake up with a sunrise sea dip, skim pebbles in the twinkling bay, then follow the cobbled lanes to The Old Bakery for a loaf of fresh sourdough that you can unpack on a picnic at Rame Head?

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Soak up eye-popping scenery in Portloe

With little to do except stroll, swim, eat and gawp at its pristine beauty, the seaside hamlet of Portloe is an idyllic location to ditch your keys and lap up life in the slow lane. Get a mighty dose of Vitamin Sea, rub shoulders with local fishermen and dine on the their catch in historic smugglers’ hangouts. Flaunting Cornish culture and eye-popping coastal scenery in bucket-loads, for its diminutive size, you’ll feel a million miles away from the maddening crowds. In spring, wafts of coconut-gorse infuse the air as you stroll along the coast path to Portholland’s duo of beaches. Or you might prefer to castaway on a paddleboard to spot seals and seabirds.

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Crabbing and coastal rambles in Mousehole


Hang a crabbing line from the harbour wall and watch the watery world go by in a place dubbed ‘the loveliest village in England’ by Dylan Thomas. Tuck into potted Cornish crab accompanied by locally brewed ales in the The Ship Inn – a place frequented by Thomas – before rambling onto Lamorna Cove, where he also stayed with his girlfriend Caitlin. As you pass the iconic Tater Du lighthouse, tunnel through the enchanting Kemyel Crease woodland and emerge at Lamorna’s quayside. It’s easy to see why Dylan Thomas fell so deeply in love with the landscape – and indeed his girlfriend, who he subsequently married. Whether you walk the coast path, or take a cruise aboard where the skipper regales tales of smugglers, shipwrecks and pirates, you’ll no doubt fall head over heels for this place, too.

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Shell-hunting and sandboarding in Holywell Bay


Get lost in miles of dunes and glide down their sandy peaks, onto a crushed-shell beach perfect for hunting sea glass. At low tide explore the sea caves in search of the ‘holy well’ that gave the beach its name, and when westerlies bring white horses scudding across the Atlantic, seek shelter in the towering dunes. As soon as you clap eyes on the twin peaks of Gull rock, you’ll recognise the bay for its part in BBC’s Poldark hit. And whether your toes are in the sand or you stomp the coast path to Kelsey head, it’s easy to imagine Ross Poldark galloping along the shoreline, and Demelza wistfully picking sea pinks on the cliff tops.

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Cycle coast to coast from Portreath


Exploring Cornwall under pedal power is a great way to get under the skin of the landscape and culture at your own pace, while cunningly avoiding the holiday traffic. There’s a web of mineral tramways criss-crossing some of the county’s richest mining heritage in West Cornwall, our favourite of which is the Coast-to-Coast trail. Freewheel along 11 miles of off-road trails from Portreath harbour on the north coast, ticking off sea views, woodland, engine houses and quarries, on the way to the sublime estuary-edge Devoran on the south coast.

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Rockpooling on Downderry beach

Kick off your shoes, grab a fishing net and bucket, and pad along Downderry’s sand and shingle shoreline on the ebbing tide. Here, in the shadow of the sea cliffs, you can squander hours searching the rock pools for the likes of starfish, anemones, crabs and blennies. Don’t lose track of time if you want to pad barefoot all the way to Seaton, as you don’t want to get cut off by the incoming tide. At the very eastern end of the beach you’ll find more than nature baring all, as it’s a popular naturist hangout.

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Chase waterfalls at Rocky Valley

BoscastleFeel the embrace of nature as you turn inland from the rugged North Cornish coast and follow a magical glen all the way to a thundering waterfall. Explore ancient woodland alongside the River Trevillet to reach the 60ft St Nectan’s Glen, serenaded by birdsong, the whisper of the water, and the mythical fairies and piskies believed to inhabit one of Cornwall’s most spiritual sites.

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Check out our other locations and other retreats across North Cornwall.

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Want to learn more about how to make the most of your travel? Read our blog on how to do slow travel.

10 Reasons for a Cornwall Workation

Workation? Beachworking? The Anyplace Workplace? Whatever it’s called, we’re all daydreaming about spending more time with our toes in the sand. With remote working fast becoming the norm, and overseas travel still so unpredictable, it’s the ideal time to do business by the beach and take a long stay in Cornwall. Here are 10 reasons why Cornwall is perfect for a workcation.

Thinking of visiting Cornwall for a workcation? Have a look at our holiday lets perfect for extended stays and working.


Waking up to the echo of the ocean and breathing lungs full of fresh sea air does wonders for your well-being and motivation. Sip your coffee on the balcony, pad along the shoreline or stretch out with some yoga on the beach before you hit the computer and get down to business. By the time you start work, you’ll be bursting with energy and inspiration.


In this age of remote working, your boss doesn’t care where you flip open your laptop as long as you’re doing your job well. So, where better to work than at a desk with a sea view? Many of our properties boast high spec living and working spaces that directly gaze over the ocean, so you can watch the ebb and flow while you work, or take beach breaks between calls.

Want to stay in Fistral? Have a look at our luxury holiday cottages in Fistral.


Now more than ever, pressure of work can leave us all feeling overwhelmed and stressed out at times. But it’s been proved that work is less stressful when you live by the sea. How? Blue mind theories suggest that being beside the water reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone), so a break by the ocean will leave you feeling calmer, more creative and ready to tackle your workload.


A workation gives you plenty of time to get to grips with surfing. A sport that takes dogged determination and depends on the ever-changing winds and tides, a longer stay will buy you time to work on your wave-riding skills. From dawnies (surfer talk for taking to the waves at sunrise), to lunchtime power surfs and post-work sunset slides, you’ll get plenty of practise; plus the breaks are less crowded out of peak holiday season.


Connect to your natural surroundings, not just your phone or computer. While technology enables us to connect virtually and work from anywhere, it has also made us more reliant on our devices. Working by the beach gives you chance to switch your focus from your screen to the seascapes, and take time out to reconnect with nature, your environment, your emotions and your loved ones.


Ditch the commute and you’ve got plenty of time on your hands to make the most of your seaside location before and after work. So, instead of rush hour traffic or cramming onto the metro, how about stretching into the day with yoga on the beach, a morning surf or a stroll in the shallows? Or, if you prefer a lazy start, sip your coffee and catch up on the news with the ocean and sea gulls as your soundtrack.


Imagine swapping your daily grind for a designer beachside pad with every mod con at your fingertips. After an unsettled year, a change of scenery can change the tide on your perspective, make you feel more positive and allow you to explore your freedom, instead of feeling hemmed in by the restrictions inflicted by the pandemic.


Keep your mind and body in peak condition with regular, bracing sea swims. Proven to boost your immune system, mental health and general wellbeing, a coldwater ocean dip is just what you need to start your day feeling charged and ready to take on whatever tasks your job throws at you.


Cornwall is a food Mecca renowned for its smorgasbord of fresh ingredients plucked from the coast and countryside. Which means that while you’re on workation you can feast to your heart’s content on seasonal delights from nature’s larder. Fill up in farm shops, pick up a catch fresh from the trawler and get creative in your coastal kitchen. Or, bag a table at one of Cornwall’s culinary gems and let the talented chefs do the work.


Sometimes work bites and the only solution is to head back to the office or to meet a client face-to-face. Being well connected by road, rail and air links, Cornwall is easy to access from all corners of the UK, so no work crisis is ever too far away to resolve.

We’re head over heels for where we live and feel lucky to have the coast on our doorsteps. Living by the sea lifts your spirits in the toughest of times. It changes your perspective, gives you pause, makes every moment mean more. So book an extended stay, make a beachside retreat your office and find that feeling for yourself in 2021. Your nine to five will thank you for it.

Want to learn more about how to make the most of your travel? Read our blog on how to do slow travel.

Search your chosen dates or contact us for help choose your office by the beach with your specific requirements.

Cornwall in Autumn

Things to see and do in Cornwall this Autumn…

The ocean’s still warm, the surf’s pumping, the beaches are crowd-free and the gardens are aglow with golden hues. We love autumn in Cornwall. From coast path rambles and blackberry picking, to action sports and ales by crackling log fires, here are some of our favourite activities for autumn breaks by the beach.

Fancy staying in a holiday retreat with a log burner? Check out our cottages with a log burner for a cosy getaway.

Go blackberry picking on the coast

Breathe in the fresh sea air, soak up the stunning coastal scenery and forage for the juicy fruits of autumn. Whether you take punnets full back to your Beach Retreat and conjure up a crumble, or snack on them as you stroll, you’ll find hedgerows everywhere packed with wild blackberries throughout September and October. Some of our favourite places to fill our buckets with nature’s bounty include the dramatic, calf-busting terrain between Bude and Morwenstow, the coastal trail stretching from Cawsand to Rame Head, and the lush flanks of the Roseland Peninsula.

Find out more about foraging in Cornwall.

Suit up and take the plunge

It’s taken the whole summer for the ocean to warm up – and it’ll take a good few months for it to cool down again. So autumn is a great time to hit the waves – whether you go surfing, swimming or make a splash on a coasteering adventure. Tap up one of the experts in Cornwall, we love the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay and Kingsurf in Mawgan Porth. There you’ll get kitted out with super-warm wetsuits, snuggly surfing booties and high-tech boards, so there’ll be no stopping you riding the waves whatever the weather.

If you fancy a close-up, adrenalin-fuelled view of the coastline, book a session with King Coasteer and swim, climb and cliff-jump your way around the coast in the safe hands of a coasteering guide.

Discover coastal bliss in Cawsand, South Cornwall, where tranquility meets adventure

Sip on local ales beside a crackling log fire

When you’ve had a blast outdoors in the autumn breeze, there’s nothing better than hunkering down by a log fire in a cosy local pub. One of our favourite autumn walks is from St Ives to Zennor – an eye-popping six-mile stomp ending at the cosy Tinners Arms, where you can sip a well-deserved ale under low beams beside the roaring fire. Not many pubs in Cornwall can match the 700-year history of this traditional inn, which was built in 1271 and much loved by author DH Lawrence. However, a couple of other places we love to warm our cockles by the fire include the Driftwood Spars brew pub tucked beside Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes, and the 13th century Pandora Inn, with its port holes looking out to Restronguet Creek.

Visiting Cornwall in the Autumn? It’s the perfect time to visit our favourite Sunday Roast locations.

Get lost in Autumn gardens

Crunch through the golden leaves, swing through the trees and follow tunnels of autumn hues that tumble to the water’s edge. Just in the National Trust stable you can explore the magical woodland of Lanhydrock, the sub-tropical landscape of Glendurgan and Trelissick’s stunning 500-acre estate on the banks of the River Fal – and that’s just for starters. Another favourite with families – and dogs, too – is Trebah Garden, where you can follow colourful foliage to a sandy cove. Or tunnel through bamboo, banana palms and gigantic rhubarb plants, to ancient woodlands and water meadows at the historic Lost Gardens of Heligan. Out of all the county’s garden wonderlands, the Eden Project is still the mega-star, where you can wander through a rainforest, bask in the Med and visit a Western Australian garden in the iconic, sky-scraping biomes.

Explore the English Heritage

From the twin castles of Pendennis and St Mawes, to mysterious stone circles such as Chysauster, there are plenty of English Heritage sites to discover across Cornwall. One of the attractions topping our radar this year is Tintagel Castle, where you can step across the new bridge from the mainland, to reach the castle ruins perched on a rugged island. Indulge your imagination in tales of King Arthur’s magical conception here, listen to your echo in the eerie Merlin’s Cave, and discover the history of a place that has posed as a major trading port, a prosperous Dark Age settlement and a magnificent fortress. Regardless of its enthralling past steeped in myths and legends, it’s also a gob-smacking location to roll out a picnic rug on the headland, spot seals and seabirds, and explore sea caves and rock pools.

Find out more about English Heritage sites in Cornwall.

Find your perfect Beach Retreat this Autumn.