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Sea spotting

It’s spring and the coastline, from the clifftop fields to the low-tide rock pools, is waking up to the new season. We took a closer look at seaside sights, from the door of one Beach Retreat right down to the shore, and found out more about what spring has in store for coastal adventurers, rock poolers and seasonal menus…

Spring is a rapidly unfolding season by the sea, with nature’s delights unfurling: seasonal flavours ready to savour at dinner and clear blue seas inviting explorers in. While seaweed is starting its fresh new growth, farm produce is welcoming in the sun’s growing energy ready for harvest come May.

To begin, we follow the coast path from Port Isaac to Port Gaverne to find out what spring holds for coastal adventurers Cornish Rock Tors

Image credit: Mia Rumble

Early emergence

Ben Spicer, Cornish Rock Tors owner, says the team are “a bit like coastal wildflowers, starting to emerge and grow as spring picks up pace”. Winter excursions happen occasionally but March is when everything is checked, in readiness to fully open on the beach-front at the start of the school Easter holidays.

Image credit: Mia Rumble

Based in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a stretch of Heritage Coast, it’s a wild and unspoiled environment with extraordinary sights in store. “If there is a prolonged period of high pressure and calm weather then the sea in spring can be extraordinarily clear, marking a stark contrast to the winter,” he explains.

“The rocky coast is a playground of jumps, wave features and caves, and because the tidal range here is so large the route can change drastically over the two hours between setting out and getting back.”

By April, wildflowers begin to carpet the edges of cliffs, with thrift, also known as sea pinks, standing out, soundtracked by the sounds of razorbills and guillemots nesting along the coast.

Coastal playground

Coasteering with Cornish Rock Tors is to journey through an intertidal world, revealing “multicoloured seaweeds, predatory starfish, beautifully patterned anemones, crabs and common blennys – small fish that can survive out of water and slither between rockpools,” says Ben.

Once out in this rocky world, there’s little sign of human activity, aside from distant movement atop the cliff and the occasional passing fishing boat. Instead, the shifting sea reveals a truly picturesque playground:

Image credit: Mat Arney, Cornish Rock Tors

“The rocky coast is a playground of jumps, wave features and caves, and because the tidal range here is so large the route can change drastically over the two hours between setting out and getting back – what was a one meter ‘introductory’ jump at the start of the session can be much bigger a few hours later if the tide is dropping,” he says.

Kayak to clarity

“If we get a period of prolonged high pressure, as has happened a few times in the last few years, the clarity of the water is incredible and you can look over the side of your kayak and see many meters down, all the way to the seabed below,” says Ben.

Image credit: Mat Arney, Cornish Rock Tors

A short paddle from the shore reveals respectfully distant views of seabird nesting sites, and kayak trips often take in the unique view of the harbour at Port Isaac from sea.

“Beyond that, there is a beach that is only exposed at low tide and that it is impossible to get to any other way than by sea kayak or boat. In spring we often take groups there to enjoy their own little private beach before paddling back to Port Gaverne,” he adds.

The dynamic weather along the coast any time of year means booking in advance for any activity is best, advises Ben; if the weather or sea conditions change for the booking time, a different weather window can be found to head on out.

“Every two weeks, all year round, we have spring tides…It’s so much better than other times because these rock pools are home to species that wouldn’t be able to live further up the beach”.

Lying low

While the tidal flux along Port Gaverne’s rocky surrounds creates an ocean playground, each day all along the Cornish coast – north to south – the tides are revealing hidden habitats to discover, with spring quite possibly the best time of year to go on safari there, says Dr Ben Holt of The Rock Pool Project:

“Rock-pooling is all about the tides; it’s the only reason rock pools exist. So it has a really big impact on what you can find.

Image credit: Mia Rumble

“Every two weeks, all year round, we have spring tides when there’s either a full moon or a new moon. It’s when the tide goes out the furthest. It’s so much better than other times because these rock pools are home to species that wouldn’t be able to live further up the beach as they wouldn’t survive with being out of the water for too long.”

Hide and seek

This abundant marine environment, hidden for much of the day, is bright and bustling as spring shoots into life. The 350 different seaweed species in the UK waters are more vivid than ever, growing fresh fronds and leaves, while, mirroring the terrestrial life cycle, it’s a time for laying eggs and carrying young.

Image credit: Mia Rumble

“Pipe fish are in the same family as seahorses, and the male pipe fish carries the eggs,” says Ben.

“Female crabs carry their eggs on the underside of their body. They can be carrying six or seven thousand tiny eggs until they’re ready to be released. Some rock pool creatures reproduce at other times of year but spring is when there’s a higher rate of this behaviour.”

Spring tides – which fall to their lowest in the middle of the day in Cornwall – get their name because spring is when these tides are at the greatest range, their lowest and highest; although, autumn is the other season of very high and low spring tides.

As well as checking the tide times for the best rock-pooling opportunities, Ben’s tip for any intrepid explorers is to make sure you have the right footwear. Flipflops and bare feet don’t make for the best foundation on the slippery, sometimes sharp rocks out on the farthest strandline. In colder conditions, wellies are great, and a pair of old trainers work well for safely exploring in warmer temperatures.

To get searching, grab the guidebook and a camera – to snap any mystery finds for later identification.

The Rock Pool Project runs community projects around Plymouth and Falmouth. You can also book a guided rock pool safari with the team throughout the year.

Diverse delights

Looking out to St Michael’s Mount standing tall in Mounts Bay near Marazion, the team at Trenow Fields are tending to their produce, dictated by the season on land that’s managed to regenerate the habitat and boost biodiversity.

“There’s wild rock samphire, foraged at the cove, which is fantastic in curries or sautéed with eggs.”

Ready for harvest from May, flavourful salad leaves, herbs and edible flowers from Trenow can be found in restaurants all over west Cornwall, and further afield, from Argoe in Newlyn to The Crumb, Penzance, to Source Kitchen in St Ives.

Chefs also request ingredients from the wilder fringes of the farm, emerging from rocks and sand as spring gets going.

“There’s wild rock samphire, foraged at the Cove, which is fantastic in curries or sautéed with eggs. And nettles – great steamed with poached eggs on sourdough toast, or as a creamy nettle soup with lashings of double cream,” says Trenow grower Mark.

Image credit: Mia Rumble

Not on the Trenow produce list, but abundant not far from the shoreline, Mark recommends keeping a lookout for navelwort: “a cucumbery succulent leaf that will be all over the hedges”, and mallow leaves: “an excellent ‘poppadom’ when baked in the oven for a minute.”

While not open to the public, Trenow’s essential oils – produced from the lavender grown on the farm – are available online, and farm shops and veg boxes stock their seasonal sustenance.

To stay by the sea in spring is a chance to spot all that is unfolding along the shoreline from your door to the shore, whether fresh shoots served up at dinner, rare rock pool discoveries or tidal thrills in the clearest of seas.

A place to huddle up for two or a space for all your loved ones to gather and celebrate, where will you explore from #doortoshore? Find your Beach Retreat below.

Must See Places in Cornwall | Top 10 List

Beyond Cornwall’s sandy beaches you’ll find exquisite gardens, cultural attractions and a rich history. If you’re planning a trip to Cornwall for the first time and aren’t sure on the best places to visit, we’ve produced a list of the top 10 must-see places in Cornwall, ensuring you won’t miss a thing on your holiday. 

The Eden Project

A unique and innovative eco project, the Eden Project is an absolute must see on your visit to Cornwall. This stunning global garden consists of tropical biomes the size of 30 football pitches, including the rainforest biome, home to 1000 species of tropical plants, a fully running waterfall and suspended canopy walkway. Adjacent to this you’ll find the Mediterranean biome, filled to the brim with spiky cacti and ancient olive trees. The site also has an impressive stage where the Eden Sessions are held, seeing performances from world famous musicians, an ice rink in winter and a science centre featuring fascinating and educational installations. 

Image credit: Matt Jessop via Visit Cornwall

South West Coast Path

Another unmissable activity is the South West Coast Path. Stretching for 630 miles and wrapping around the Cornish coast, it is an unforgettable trail featuring some of the most spectacular coastal vistas in the country. If you’re staying by the beach, you are bound to be close to a stretch of the path, on which you can set out on a variety of walks past dramatic cliff edges, fields of sea pinks and secret coves. All of our retreats are within walking distance to the coast and in easy reach to the coast path, meaning you can hop on it and head out on an adventure in no time.

St Michael’s Mount

Set off Marazion beach is this must-see tiny island, featuring an ancient castle and a cobbled causeway that disappears under the tide twice a day. When the tide is out the causeway is exposed, meaning you can take the 10 minute walk across to the castle. If you’re planning to get back to the mainland on foot, you’ll need to check the tides– the tide floods in faster than you might imagine, so always leave yourself a healthy margin for error. When the island is cut off by the tide, small boats run between the pier at Marazion beach and the harbour on the Mount. These run throughout the day in spring and summer but less frequently at other times.

Lost Gardens of Heligan

Cornwall isn’t all just sandy beaches and sparkling oceans. Inland from the shores you’ll come across gardens rich in history and lush vegetation. The Lost Gardens of Heligan are perhaps Cornwall’s most famous gardens, and were rediscovered and reawakened following WW1.

Image credit: Toby Strong

Tintagel Castle

For breathtaking panoramas and untouched history, head to this sleepy Cornish town on the North coast which conceals a dramatic historical castle behind its village streets. You can walk up onto the cliff paths and have access to the castle, where you can uncover the tales of King Arthur.

Image credit: Matt Jessop via Visit Cornwall

Tate St Ives

Looking to get your fix of art during your stay in Cornwall? Head to the county’s best art gallery, the Tate, for a creative experience. It’s located in St Ives, the heart of the artistic scene in Cornwall which is known for its unique light which casts a soft blue glow off the sea. Here, sculptor Barbara Hepworth made some of her most influential work, much of which is showcased in the Tate and the nearby Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Minack Theatre

Watch a play before dramatic clifftop panoramas at the Minack Theatre, an impressive open air theatre situated above Porthcurno beach. If the weather is obliging, the Minack feels like a tiny Greek amphitheatre; the sea here seems bluer than elsewhere in Cornwall, the sand of Porthcurno beach below appears whiter.  The theatre was carved from the unrelentingly hard granite of the Cornish coast by Rowena Cade; it took many years of hard physical labour through the harsh coastal winters to construct and is a monument to dogged perseverance. The story is told at the Minack’s visitor centre, which is well worth a look even if you don’t see a play.

National Trust sites

Cornwall is home to countless National Trust sites, from stretches of coast path to historical houses and gardens. Our particular favourites are Wheal Coates mine in St Agnes, the Roseland peninsula, Lanhydrock country house and Kynance cove in the Lizard. Browse their website to find your nearest National Trust site- they make for a great day out.

Surfing at Fistral beach

Fistral is the nation’s surfing capital and is known for its consistent waves, intense sunsets and lively atmosphere. When visiting Cornwall, it’s highly recommended that you try your hand at surfing – there are plenty of places in the town and on the beach where you can hire equipment and book onto lessons. Or, just sit back on a summer’s evening and watch the surfers rolling in when the swell is rising – it’s truly a must see.

Chasing waterfalls

Alongside acres of beautiful woodland, there are a handful of waterfalls dotted around Cornwall, often concealed deep into nature trails. Visit St Nectan’s Glen, near Tintagel and Boscastle, an area of woodland bursting with mystical tales of piskies and fairies. Here, you will find St Nectan’s Kieve, a spectacular sixty foot waterfall seen through a hole in the rocks. Or, visit Golitha Falls near Liskeard, a cascading waterfall set in a wooded valley.

Staff pick of the month: Sea View, Crantock

Our new series, Staff pick of the month, asks members of the team about their favourite Beach Retreats property. This month we speak to Guest Experience Manager, Victoria Allen. 

Her chosen retreat is Sea View, a beautiful and calming coastal retreat overlooking the sea in Crantock, north Cornwall.

What is it you like most about this property?

Apart from the obvious location, it has to be the huge garden for the little ones and dogs to play in.

And the décor – the pastel colours, white washed wood and painted panelling. It’s got a cottage feel, but bright and modern still.

What will be your favourite part of the day when staying at this retreat?

The evening – dinner with the whole family followed by games. That’s what the long table in the upstairs open plan room is for right?

What is it that you like about the local area?

The coastline. This retreat is so close to Polly Joke beach, a lesser-known gem in the Crantock area. You can also walk all the way round to the River Gannel, a great spot for paddleboarding.

What’s the nearest beach like and how far is the walk?

Crantock beach – When the tide is out I love going for stroll across the wide beach. The side closest to the Gannel is perfect for a family BBQ too.

Polly Joke beach – A little hideaway beach! Usually warm as it is covered from wind too. The next cove on is home to seals, sometimes if you’re lucky you can spot one bobbing around in the sea or sleeping on their beach.

It is a steep hill down to the beach but worth it! You can also follow the coastal path around the headland which then offers you views overlooking Polly Joke and Crantock beach!

Is there a particular restaurant in the area that you would choose to eat at?

Jam Jar Kitchen. Hot chocolates (I don’t drink coffee) and delicious homemade cakes in the day and amazing sourdough pizzas in the evening.

All enjoyed alfresco in the beautifully decorated courtyard. Or you can take your coffee and cake to go and enjoy on the beach instead.

The Cornishman is a great traditional pub in the heart of the village. You can tuck into pub grub or just enjoy a drink.

Can you catch a good sunset or sunrise here?

It’s all about the orange and pink sunsets. Sitting on the sea facing balcony as the sun goes down would be a dream.

What would you say is a must-see or do in this area?

The best way to see this area is to put on your walking boots.
Cubert Common or Penpol creek circular for wildlife and bird spotting. Coastal path for stunning views, hidden coves and finding seals bobbing around in the sea. Or just walk into neighbouring villages and towns – Newquay and Hollywell.

Sea View sleeps 10, see the full details here.

There’s no better way to appreciate a sea view than dining beside it, creating an enriching experience as you taste the flavours that the coastline in front of you has produced. We have hand picked 10 seafront restaurants, where you can sample seafood caught in the nearest bay and soak up views of the rolling tides. 

Porthminster Kitchen, St Ives

This acclaimed beachside restaurant combines Cornish produce and global flavours in dishes showcasing the freshest seafood, garden grown produce and foraged coastal ingredients. Recently awarded a 2 Rosette award for culinary excellence, this is a go-to destination for the finest of Cornish cuisine.

The Colonial, Tolcarne beach

A slow paced, lavishly designed restaurant and bar positioned right on the sand of Tolcarne beach in Newquay, The Colonial is the perfect dinner spot for those looking to unwind and indulge. Their menu is inspired by the colourful flavours of the Caribbean, but you can expect seafood and traditional hearty dinners throughout the year. Wave watch on the terrace with an invigorating cocktail or settle by the open fire for a full three courses and wine.

Lewinnick Lodge, Fistral

Lewinnick is the ultimate coastal restaurant. Situated on Pentire headland, you can soak up sweeping vistas as you eat, the perfect viewing spot for striking sunsets. With a bar area, pool tables, fireplace, plush carpets and sofas, you can wind down with a glass of something bubbly before heading to the sleek and sophisticated restaurant room for a classically Cornish supper.

The Mariners, Rock

A chef’s take on pub grub, washed down with the finest of Cornish beer. This loved-by-locals pub overlooks the Camel Estuary and serves up the likes of crispy pollock hot dogs, Porthilly oysters and market fish of the day from Cornish waters.

The Fish House, Fistral

If you’re a seafood lover, this beachfront restaurant is your go to. Situated on Fistral beach, the Fish House is in a prime position for sunsets and dramatic surf. Sample the flavourful menu of Sri Lankan prawn curry and spiced monkfish before walking across the beach back to your retreat.

Gylly Beach Café, Falmouth

Gylly Beach Café sits right on the sand, where you can gaze out at the ships and sailboats dotted along the water. It serves hot food and drinks all day and evening long, so taste the chilli kick of panko breaded squid or the zest of fresh lemongrass seabass with the buzz of the beach in the background.

Ugly Butterfly, Carbis Bay

There’s no such thing as an ugly butterfly, in the same way as there is no such thing as food waste. This is the motto of Carbis Bay’s new sustainable restaurant, showcasing beautifully presented dishes crafted with locally sourced ingredients. Offering an all-day dining experience, the Ugly Butterfly bar uses trims and offcuts from the ingredients used in the restaurant to create delicious drinks and bar snacks.

Outlaws New Road, Port Isaac

Nathan Outlaw is to Port Isaac as Rick Stein is to Padstow. For the ultimate fine dining experience, sample cured mackerel and spider crab at this harbourside eatery, before wandering the streets of Port Isaac under the moonlight.

The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay

One of Cornwall’s best beach-side hangouts, The Beach Hut welcomes surfers, families and even the dog. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, food is unfussy and tasty, the atmosphere laid-back, and all with a view of Watergate Bay’s two-mile stretch of beach out front. Perfect for sunset watching and sundowners.

The Sardine Factory, Looe

Dine overlooking harbour water and you’re guaranteed fish as fresh as they come. The Sardine Factory is a go-to restaurant for seafood lovers, and its sustainable fish dishes won the prestigious accolade of a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2020.

Charlie Walters, head chef of The Sardine Factory, is currently representing Cornwall competing on this year’s Masterchef: The Professionals.

Stay in a retreat near the best Cornish restaurants and enjoy a foodie trip to the coast.

What's klys to you?

Sauna-side chats, a growing community, warming cuisine in a warm environment and feelings of home. Here’s what klys means to Cornish experience creators, community farmers and chefs…

As the curtains close on our exploration of klys, we visit local growers at the Loveland community farm, the new home of Situ café, Olla Hiki’s seaside sauna and the team at Canteen to find out what the ancient word means in our coastal community. While the specifics vary, at its essence, klys often encapsulates a glowing gratitude for being together and with nature. Opportunities in abundance here in Cornwall. 

Find a klys retreat by the sea.

“The winter months are a more restful, recovery period for both the land and growers so there’s more time to chat over tea and biscuits”

Shared rest and recovery

The community field and vegetable garden in south Cornwall, Loveland, is alive with klys all year round. Gathered in waterproofs and wellies, locals plant trees and vegetables as wind whistles through trees and the earthy soil slides away to an ocean horizon. 

Finn, Loveland’s coordinator, says: “Klys is that feeling of sharing seasonal food with friends and feeling the warmth of community. I’m always amazed by how many volunteers turn up even when the weather is awful, there’s something special about the fresh air and collectivity. 

         

Image credit: George Brynmor

“We’ve even hosted some group events, including a traditional Cornish Apple Wassail ceremony to bless our community orchard. The winter months are a more restful, recovery period for both the land and growers so there’s more time to chat over tea and biscuits or around a fire. 

“We have some winter vegetables growing, like broad beans and garlic, but it’s about nourishing the land to prepare for the growing season.”

“In terms of cosiness and flavours, Situ has warmth running through it. Our masala chai and golden turmeric milk are both naturally very warming drinks, with the spices brought over from India.”

A warm environment

After years on the move, the Ugandan-Asian inspired café Situ has opened up a permanent site that oozes sophisticated comfort from the moment you step inside. The brainchild of life partners, Sham and Alexa, there’s a tender attention-to-detail everywhere you look, from the hooks to hang up your coat, to the vases of dry flowers and the community notice board. 

“Situ means environment so everything we do is conscious about space, the environment and how it makes our guests feel. We’ve incorporated pockets of autumnal greens and oranges to bring in the nature that our guests love,” Sham says. 

“In terms of cosiness and flavours, Situ has warmth running through it. Our masala chai and golden turmeric milk are both naturally very warming drinks, with the spices brought over from India. 

Image credit: Kasia Murfet

“Our menu is what we call heritage food, influenced by my own Indian-Ugandan roots. Last week, our featured dish was a hearty dahl and this week it’s a chickpea potato tamarind, which is a soupy curry. We combine traditional recipes and cooking techniques with locally-sourced ingredients to keep reinventing and moving modern cuisine forward. 

“Situ brings together all the things that were comforting to me growing up. From the warming flavours and speciality coffee to the welcoming café culture. Hopefully, we can be a comfort to our guests, that’s our dream. That’s what klys means to us.”

“For me, klys is the feeling of opening up the sauna, lighting the fire with a crackle and looking out to the sea. It’s hearing people begin to chatter and laugh in this shared, safe space.”

Leave refreshed

From beaches to clifftops, the mobile Olla Hiki Sauna embraces the extremes of the soothing inside and the wild outdoors. Olla Hiki, which means to have a sweat in Finnish, is an immersive experience with an expansive sea view. From the revitalising warmth of the sauna, you can step out directly into nature and, for brave souls, venture into the salty water.  

“I really missed sauna culture when I moved from Germany to the UK ten years ago. Especially during the winter months, they warm up your bones and feel extra cosy,” founder Sarah says. 

Image credit: Evie Johnstone

“My whole idea is to connect people with their bodies, nature and each other. I want people to step out of the sauna and feel grass or sand under their feet, becoming completely present in the moment surrounded by the dramatic Cornish landscape.

“For me, klys is the feeling of opening up the sauna, lighting the fire with a crackle and looking out to the sea. It’s hearing people begin to chatter and laugh in this shared, safe space. It’s seeing people who arrive tense and leave refreshed. It feels such a beautiful thing to be able to provide.”

“I think we create a feeling of home at Canteen and you can’t get more klys than that.”

Feel at home

Nestled in the rugged landscape of Cornwall’s north coast, Canteen at the Eco Park has the ambiance of a snug living room that welcomes you home at the end of a long day. Its colourful, heart-warming menu experiments with vegetables grown just minutes away on the encircling land. 

Chloe, the Canteen’s chef, says: “The space itself is quite like a cottage or ski chalet with its wooden-finish and natural materials. I think we create a feeling of home at Canteen and you can’t get more klys than that. 

Image credit: Chloe Knight

“Our menus depend on what’s been grown so we have to be creative. It reminds me of my grandma opening the fridge and whipping something together with the ingredients we have. We always try to be inspired by the upcoming weather so, during the winter months, our meals are especially warming, filling and nourishing. 

“Today, we cooked beetroots on the fire, skinned them and made a puree for our beet borani, mixed with cardamom and cumin. We also had spicy rice, flatbread with sweet potato butter, crispy chickpeas, tahini, pickles and our famous mayo potatoes.

“At the heart of Canteen, we say it’s good people, good food. From the first-time customers who become regulars to the close-knit staff community, we’re one big family.”

Find your place by the sea for a klys break

Out in the wild

There’s a world of wildlife out there in the untamed coastal waters of Cornwall. Finding it requires patience, luck and respect. We struck out by boat in search of this natural wonder…

Still, transparent water, jagged, rocky cliffs, open, stretching skies: our view from Coast Boat Trips’ lively rib certainly delivers. But would the wildlife?

Embarking from Penzance we zip out to sea and towards Land’s End in search of marine animals in their natural habitat.

Fast and fun, the boat bounces west to pass the harbour town of Mousehole and the dramatic cove at Pedn Vounder, before capturing a majestic view of the granite rocks where the Minack Theatre lives.

“The captain slows the engine and we wait. Our patience is rewarded.”

As we swing around the peninsula at Land’s End, we spot a single dolphin emerging from the water about 30 metres away. The captain slows the engine and we wait. Our patience is rewarded. A pod of common dolphins gathers around the boat, jumping from the water. One dolphin comes up close to the left of the boat where we can see it swimming in the clear water.

All around the coastline we encounter different wildlife: seals stretched out on rocky outcrops, sea birds swooping and circling, shy porpoises swimming deep and emerging occasionally for air.

As we take in the sights, we get expert commentary on the local history, the marine conditions and wildlife, discovering that dolphins keep swimming even when asleep, slowly bobbing in and out of the water on autopilot.

Seasonal spotting

Our experience on the water around West Cornwall was magical and exciting, but how common is it to encounter marine wildlife around the coast?

“Summer and autumn are some of the busiest times for marine wildlife,” says Matt Slater, Marine Conservation Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

“Common dolphins are becoming an increasingly common sight around our coast; there’s a very high chance you’ll see them. They’re quite small and enjoy swimming in the wake of the bow wave created by a boat.” 

Image credit: Matt Slater

“Summer and autumn is also when ocean dwellers that like warmer water venture into Cornish waters. In the last six years we’ve also started seeing Atlantic blue fin tuna.”

As we found, porpoises, a smaller cetacean, are harder to spot. Matt says, like dolphins, porpoises are also likely to be seen in summer and autumn; although, sightings are also reported in spring.

Image credit: Niki Clear, Manx Wildlife Trust

And there’s a lot more possible encounters out there during this time of year, says Matt.

“Summer and autumn is also when ocean dwellers that like warmer water venture into Cornish waters.

“In the last six years we’ve also started seeing Atlantic blue fin tuna. They can reach two metres in length and can be seen when they’re coming to the surface to catch their prey,” Matt continues.

Another oceanic visitor is the leatherback turtle. “It’s the largest turtle species in the world. It has a soft shell and feeds on jellyfish. In a summer when we have a lot of jellyfish visiting, you have the most chance of seeing them,” explains Matt.

Matt says that seals are also thriving in Cornish waters, and during this time of year pregnant females, feeding on large amounts of fish, will stretch out in the sun to warm up.

“This helps them digest all the food they’re taking on for their pups. By late summer and early autumn they find secluded, peaceful coves to give birth.”

Image credit: Caz Waddell

Into winter and spring, while warm water visitors are absent, it might be the time to spot something bigger.

“We can also be visited by whales; the commonest is the minke whale, but we’ve also had records of much larger whales. If you’re out spotting wildlife in winter you could be extremely lucky and see a humpback or fin whale,” says Matt.

Wild encounters

With so much wildlife hunting, nesting and travelling through and around the Cornish coast it’s vital we keep them safe and help them to thrive.

Taking a guided tour to find wildlife helps ensure you’re respecting the animals you see and causing little disturbance. Often that’s about keeping your distance and using binoculars rather than trying to get too close. You can find out more about what to do via the Cornwall Marine and Costal Code.

If you’re visiting with your dog, it’s best to use a lead when walking near sea birds, advises Matt. Birds can be frightened and cliffs can be perilous for pets. During spring, dogs should avoid disturbing the ground-nesting skylarks that have their home in cliff-top habitats. 

“If you do come across a seal on a beach or rocks, it’s important to keep dogs far enough away and on a lead to avoid disturbance or risk of injury,” says Matt.

While some beaches have restrictions on access for dogs during the summer, other beaches do not and there’s times at the beginning and end of the day when dogs are allowed on most beaches.

“Well behaved dogs are fine to be off the lead on the beach,” says Matt, “but you need to have good recall if you do spot wildlife so a dog can quickly be put on their lead.”

As we experienced, there’s an abundance of natural wonders out there to be found, with a little patience and luck on your side. And knowing what to do when you are lucky enough to encounter marine life helps make for a thriving coastal habitat.

Seeking wildlife at sea

All around the coast you can find wildlife spotting tours with good practices for limited marine disturbance.

Find out more about Coast Boat Trips and Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s marine conservation work. You can also visit the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code website for more on caring for the marine life when out and about along the coast.

Browse our West Cornwall retreats, where you’ll be close to this thriving area of sea and wildlife. 

Lia Leendertz Q&A: on seasonal energy, hibernation and klys

We spoke to The Almanac author Lia Leendertz about tuning into the season, how she makes home more klys in the winter and the magic waiting to be discovered above us and below our feet in coming months…

Photography by Kirstie Young

One of your intentions behind writing The Almanac is to “provide a set of keys to unlock various aspects of the seasons and help us all appreciate the moment we are in, rather than stumbling, blinkered, through the year.” Why do you think it’s important to avoid such stumbling?

We can live like that and a lot of us do. I probably do too. I’m not coming at it from the point of view that I am living fully in the moment all of the time.

But it is about mindfulness, about living in the moment, and experiencing things more fully than you might otherwise. That always has benefits mentally. I think there is so much to be appreciated about our seasons. On this island, we have relatively extreme seasons, we have a full range and it actually changes very frequently. And each month is actually pretty distinct. By February, the light is starting to come in and that there’s a hopeful, seed-sowing feeling and by March we’re fully into the anticipation of spring.

There are lots of marvels to be found right there in front of you that are a really lovely thing to appreciate once you tune into it.

How does The Almanac help us experience more when we’re outside?

One of things I try to do with looking at the stars is to show that this big cosmic universe is literally right there. Take the bright planets, they can be spotted from the most rubbish of skies; you could be in a city centre and look up and see Mars.

“You’ll be able to look up at the night sky with a basic pair of binoculars and glimpse Saturn in all its glory.”

Being able to appreciate that even in our most urban environments and, then my goodness, in more rural places, like Cornwall, which are so great for seeing the stars. In all of these places you can tune into this big cosmic stuff and little, minute stuff in nature. It’s just so exciting, I think.

What are some of the smaller, unnoticed elements of the year you look at in the latest edition of your book?

Coming up, it’s those signs of spring that you can’t help but feel uplifted by, it’s quite ludicrous almost.

In December it can feel like winter is going on forever, all mud and sticks and then these little shoots come pushing through and it’s just irresistible, that feeling of hope, that the world keeps on turning is so reassuring: a little signal from the future, a pointer saying here it comes, all that good stuff, warmth, light, flowers, and buzzing bees, it’s all coming. Also the effect that the lengthening days has on us is irresistible. It takes me by surprise every year.

“We shouldn’t be fully emerging until early February, or early March. We should be tending to our energies in that way.”

And what about later in the year?

The theme for the 2023 edition is the solar system and zodiac – I’m looking at the stories behind the zodiac too.

I’ve been saving it up, because this is a particularly good year for spotting the planets. Sometimes they will line up with the sun so you can’t really spot them. But this year is going to be a really good year.

August is going to be really spectacular. Saturn is going to be at opposition; that’s basically when we are at our closest to it in the cycle, both on same side of sun, at our closest point. When we are looking at the night sky, the sun is shining on Saturn, sort of like a full moon. At the same time the rings are going to be open, be at their most visible. You’ll be able to look up at the night sky with a basic pair of binoculars and glimpse Saturn in all its glory.

There are other opportunities to see the planets just by looking up at the night sky with your own eyes, but Saturn is the big one for 2023.

“There is light coming and there are more active times coming, but this isn’t them, so let yourself have it.”

With klys, Cornish for snug and cosy, we’re looking at how the time we spend outside makes the time indoors more convivial and cosy during the winter months. Is that something you can relate to? 

Winter is when I most want to go for long walks and want to be outside, striding through the countryside, putting some distance under me, getting air into my lungs. I walk a lot more now that I’ve got dogs. Owning dogs, you don’t really get a choice, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like – the horrible wet weather or those lovely, crisp, fresh winter days.

What I have written a lot about in the 2023 edition is the idea of the cycle of the year in terms of our own energies. So in January and February allowing ourselves to be the mammals that we are, to hibernate a little, and not feel we have to thrust ourselves into the business world.

Holywell Bay

Of course, we do have to, but to try, within that, to find ways of being peaceful and calm, recognising that real need to not do the new year, new you thing. This is an entirely inappropriate time of year to be doing that!

“I make quite free with the candles these days. I try and light them every tea time and actually breakfast time as well.”

This is the hunkering down time, hibernation time. We shouldn’t be fully emerging until early February, or early March. We should be tending to our energies in that way. When you’re not out and about doing that active stuff, it’s about really allowing yourself to sink into that, in order to set ourselves up for the year ahead. There is light coming and there are more active times coming, but this isn’t them, so let yourself have it.

How do you create klys feelings inside at this time of year? 

I’m a big fan of candles perhaps even more so than fires. I feel like candles can give you a lot of that sort of atmosphere, that cosiness.

I make quite free with the candles these days. I try and light them every tea time and actually breakfast time as well. A breakfast candle is really gorgeous. It’s not about saving candles for best. Every day, and every morning, while it is still dark early in the morning; it doesn’t take any more time and just makes you settle in and feel: ‘ok, I’m allowed a little magic moment even in the most everyday of times’. Whether before you rush out to work or getting the kids to school, it’s a little, special cosy moment. So, yes, making free with the candles at all times.

We’ve looked at how connecting with the natural environment through foraging can bring something special to the table at this time of year. Do you have a foraging tip for right now?

Every week I go on woodland walk nearby and every week at the moment I’m scouring the ground looking for wild garlic shoots because they will start to come up really soon. They’re such an amazing and easy plant to forage, and so abundant when you find a patch.

It’s also very easy to identify, by smell as much as anything and has loads of uses. You can make very easy pesto and add it to bread, You can use it like chives and chuck it into all sorts of recipes. It’s a really good gateway plant into foraging generally. And a really nice sign the world is turning the way we want it to. I love the way that wild garlic just can’t resist, even if it’s so cold, if daylight is increasing it’s coming up, no matter what 

Receive seasonal updates and more from Lia on Instagram, and find a copy of The Almanac 2023 here.

Find your klys retreat and embrace the seasons by the shoreline.

Self-care treatments with The Wellness Concierge

We recently caught up with our friends at The Wellness Concierge, previously named Hauora at Home. A Cornish beauty service, The Wellness Concierge offers luxury treatments within the comfort of your home or self-catered holiday retreat.

Here’s their director, Sara, discussing their latest rebrand and what’s coming up for 2023….

“In 2021 The Wellness Concierge was born, at a time when I was looking to make meaningful change in the rural beauty and wellness industry. My dream was to create a mobile, five-star service that authentically took into consideration the holistic wellness of our clients. I felt that I could use the knowledge that I had amassed over my 20 years in the industry to create a service that was deeply authentic and engaging.

The Wellness Concierge

The clamour of modern life means the demand for self-care is more prevalent and time sensitive than ever. In a world where our lists are never-ending and our schedules demand us to juggle multiple commitments, time has become our greatest currency.

At the Wellness Concierge, we give you some of that time back. We specialise in five-star treatments delivered straight to your door. By removing the commute to treatment appointments, you can reclaim these moments to spend with yourself or your family. Our concierge team will organise your various treatments, giving you the space and freedom to relax.

The shift to upmarket, at-home treatments is a conscious approach to modern wellness. The Wellness Concierge is looking to move away from the preconceptions of mobile beauty and redefine at-home self-care for the 21st century. 

Another way that we do this is to lean into our values that make up the foundations of our business. We want to put a spotlight on the entities that support us: our therapists, the landscape that surrounds us and the community we exist within. A thriving business must do good whilst doing well, and we believe we are supported by the local communities that we live within. We strive to give back to these groups that make our work possible, and at present, we work with The Women’s Centre Cornwall. We also work alongside Ecologi with a view to becoming a climate positive company.

We offer a selection of treatments from massage to manicures, personal training to yoga and all in the comfort of your home or holiday home.

We truly hope you connect with our evolving wellness service. We pride ourselves on growing with and for our clients. We want to see our service through your lens and the lens of our dedicated team. If you have any questions for us please reach out on hello@thewellnessconcierge.co.uk.”

If you’re interested in their range of at home treatments, browse their new website to find out more. 

Book a self-catering retreat and enjoy some self-care by the sea. 

Get cold, get warm

Klys is all about embracing the coast in its winter guise, with added warmth inside. Choose from our klys selection for warming-up after being outdoors: a beachside sauna, a hearty pub lunch on the creek or stretching out in thermal waters.

Wintery, wind-swept clifftops, deserted creeks, chillingly refreshing waves, these winter treats by the sea are often best enjoyed if you can step into a captivating klys moment immediately afterwards or even before. We set out to find some of the best spots to warm-up and get that klys feeling – Cornish for snug, cosy – after enjoying the fresher air.

Walk to get warm

The Pandora Inn isn’t the only Cornish pub that enjoys a fine waterside setting and long history but it’s one of the best. The wood paneling and thatched roof of this 13th century inn make for the perfect klys setting.

While some customers may arrive by boat, the Pandora has made available a small collection of walks that begin near Mylor Creek and include the inn as part of a circular route, created by south west walks writer Sue Viccars.

Walking down to the Pandora Inn

Image Credit: @bethia_naughton

Explore magical creek-side landscapes in relative tranquility. And if the rain sets in, or you’re feeling the cold, the promise of a locally-sourced lunch or just a warm drink in the ancient inn keeps things klys.

Cold water to thermal water

Getting warm after a cold water plunge can sometimes be hard work, but combining a cold water swim in the Jubilee Pool’s art deco seawater lido with a warming dip in the Geothermal Pool is sublime. Of course, if you’re cold enough just being out and about in bracing onshore winds, the Geothermal option comes standalone too.

Image credit: @jessica_hardy12

Built dramatically into the coastline at Battery Rocks in Penzance in the 1930s, the pool began its new life as a community-owned asset, with added Geothermal Pool, in 2020. The pool reopens for 2023 on 17 January 2023, with booking available now for coming weeks. Post-swim warmth is also available in the café, a bright space for food and drinks poolside.

Post or pre-surf sauna?

Dotted around some of north Cornwall’s surfing hotspots you can find the soft, klys warmth of timber-clad saunas – bringing our Cornish version of hygge a little closer to its Scandinavian relative.

Image credit: Saunas by the Sea

At Baby Bay, Polzeath and Harlyn Bay, Saunas By the Sea, brings the restorative, relaxing sauna experience to the beach promising time to still body and mind after coastal exhilaration.

Just wrapping up its North Fistral residency is the Olla Hiki Sauna. This sauna experience is described as the chance to “enjoy the cosy and immersive heat of the sauna and then take the plunge into a cold river, the sea or throw a water bucket over you to reinvigorate and to feel truly alive.”

Find your folk

After a day in the elements, why not warm the soul with an inherited melody from Cornwall’s celtic heritage and lyrics stirring-up past sailing adventures. Country pubs and town hotels host local folk clubs of varying styles across Cornwall from Bude to Penzance every week.

Take a chance on a thatched roof and a roaring fire, or make a date via Folk in Cornwall Magazine. Venues include the centuries’ old Albion Inn in the village of Crantock on the north cost and the delightfully cosy Moth and Moon in the centre of Falmouth, further south.

Make your winter break more klys out in the winter wilds, paired with a relaxing, restorative time warmed by the earth at Jubilee Pool, wood fire sauna-style or old-time fireside.

Find your place by the sea for a klys escape.