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Ocean O'Clock

The rise and fall of the tides may be regular and predictable, but the worlds they open up is anything but. Indeed, when it comes to coastal activities – from shoreline yoga to rock pooling, snorkelling and coasteering – the lows are just as compelling as the highs…

You take a stroll down to the beach and the tide’s out. A vast golden expanse stretches towards the horizon, the sky reflecting in a silver skin of water on the sand. White waves break far in the distance, beyond the silhouettes of rocks scattered in the shallows. Your first thought? That’s an awful long way to carry a paddle board, perhaps. But it won’t take long for that to change. Thanks to the celestial clockwork that drives the tides, that beach will be completely transformed within six hours, the sprawling sand little more than a sliver as the tidal region becomes a playground for fish and swimmers.

You’re probably aware that it’s the moon that shapes the tides, as its gravity literally pulls the water of the ocean away from the planet. You may not know that there’ll be two high tides happening at the same time, on opposite sides of the Earth.

“Take Whitsand Bay, which at low tide opens up to offer over three miles of stunning sand, from Rame Head to Portwrinkle.”

Few of us that visit the beach will be thinking about the impact of the moon, nor how our low tide is being mirrored at that moment by people in New Zealand. But the tides do serve as a metronome – not just to the Earth’s lunar dance, but to the minutiae of coastal life. By tuning into its rhythms, we gain access to a world of wonder.

Tidal Cornwall

The beaches of Cornwall are as wonderful as any. Take Whitsand Bay, which at low tide opens up to offer over three miles of stunning sand, from Rame Head to Portwrinkle. That epic scale is the perfect spot for a refreshing run or bout of yoga on the shore.

Being in the outdoors isn’t just about such simple beauty. It’s good for the nervous system, and offers a deeper sense of relaxation and escape, as you connect with nature, breathe the sea air and dose yourself with vitamin D.

“Focusing your mind on the minutiae of a rock pool is like shrinking and diving into a world of discovery.”

Vast beaches like this can be found all around Cornwall at low tide. Families may seek to spread out with a family game of cricket, or take the opportunity to walk round to hidden coves, revealed by the receding sea for just a few hours each day.

Magical minutiae

Low tide is also the perfect time to go rockpooling, and Cornwall’s beaches offer endless opportunities. On the North coast, great examples include Porth Beach and Pentireglaze Haven, a cove towards the north of Polzeath, joined to the main beach at low tide. On the South coast, there’s few places better than Falmouth’s Castle Beach, with an intricate network of pools spreading across the breadth of the narrow beach.

“And every now and then we get something really out of ordinary: octopuses and spider crabs, cuttle fish and conga eels. You never know what you’ll get.”

Focusing your mind on the minutiae of a rock pool is like shrinking yourself and diving into a world of discovery. Keen eyes can hope to find a magical variety of crabs, star fish and anemones, as well as elusive blennies darting among the weeds. And that’s just the start.

“People may just walk past rock pools and not even notice them,” says Dr Ben Holt, marine ecologist and CEO of the Falmouth-based Rock Pool Project, which runs guided rockpooling expeditions and research work. “But there could be loads of fascinating stuff living in there. Take the Cornish sucker fish, which has a pelvic fin that’s developed into a sucker, so it can stick upside down to the underside of rocks. And every now and then we get something really out of ordinary: octopuses and spider crabs, cuttle fish and conga eels. You never know what you’ll get.”

Go rockpooling with a guide, or even a guide book, and you’ll soon find that even the most common sights can be mind-blowing. Take limpets. At high tide they set off from their base on the rocks to forage for algae, returning as the tide ebbs. According to How to Read Water, a fascinating book by ‘natural navigator’ Tristan Gooley, limpets’ teeth are so strong that a piece of spaghetti made from the same material would be able to lift a Volkswagen Golf.

“A low spring tide reveals rock pools that usually remain underwater, exposing species you’d otherwise not see.”

The most important consideration when rockpooling is the tides. Spring tides are the best – that’s when the alignment of the sun, moon and earth means the sun’s gravity is adding to the pull of the moon, creating higher high tides and lower lows. A low spring tide reveals rock pools that usually remain underwater, exposing species you’d otherwise not see.

The other critical factor is footwear. “It can be tricky clambering over rocks and seaweed, so flip-flops and bare feet are an absolute no-no,” says Dr Holt. “Wearing old running shoes with decent soles gives you safety, confidence and freedom: you can explore the whole environment without worrying where you can and can’t go.”

Yet it’s not as if the high tide puts an end to the rock pool adventures. Anyone armed with a snorkel, mask and set of fins can explore those same magical eco-systems themselves – diving down into them from above.

Unique perspective

Other activities can be pursued at either low or high tide, with each offering a radically different experience. Take coasteering (coastal orienteering), in which a trained instructor leads a group in exploring the coast, picking a route through the water, among the rocks, to explore caves, coves and hidden channels. It’s a chance to see the grey seals and nesting sea birds from a unique perspective – and to rediscover a sense of freedom. “It’s about tapping into a childlike sense of adventure,” says Jack Day, activity instructor at the Newquay Activity Centre, which runs coasteering trips out of Newquay, including the nearby Gazzle and Towan Headland. “Albeit in a controlled and managed way, with carefully-planned routes and safety kit.”

“High-tide coasteering is more of a pure adrenaline fix, with spring tides allowing greater freedom in rock jumps of up to 25 feet, and swimming through caves.”

Day’s company partners with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to run low-tide coasteering trips, which mix adventure – scrambling to explore the over craggy intertidal zone and riding ‘rapids’ as water is rushed between rocks – with added education. “The low tide reveals this whole other world,” says Day. “All the stuff under water is suddenly exposed. And that’s when nerds like me take people out to talk rocky shore life – all the barnacles, muscles, limpets and crabs, and how the sea birds interact with them. It’s all so alive.”

High-tide coasteering is more of a pure adrenaline fix, with spring tides allowing greater freedom in rock jumps of up to 25 feet, and swimming through caves. Day’s advice, whatever the tide: to go with a trusted guides, at your own pace, and don’t let any fears deter you from a new experience.

The lure of the moon

If you head to the beach at night and look at the moon, you may be able to predict the tides yourself. A full moon signals spring tides, as does proximity to a new moon. When the sun and moon aren’t reinforcing each other’s pull, we get tides with the lowest tidal range: neap tides. These are sign-posted by a half-moon, with either side bright.

Armed with that knowledge, you’ll already be more attuned than some of our brightest and most adventurous forebears. According to Scientific American magazine, the soldiers of Alexander the Great, for example, had grown up with the tide-free shores of the Mediterranean, so when they first encountered the extreme tidal range of the Indian Ocean, they believed it was the work of local gods, unhappy at their invasion.

“A perigean spring tide is an extreme tide, when a spring tide coincides with moon being at its closest point to earth.”

Johannes Kepler, the 17 th-century German astronomer, thought tides were caused by the breathing of the earth. René Descartes took a step in the right direction – asserting that the moon acted on the waters of the ocean, by pressure – but it was Newton who showed it was, in fact, down to lunar attraction.

There are other less regular lunar forces. A perigean spring tide is an extreme tide, when a spring tide coincides with moon being at its closest point to earth. Then there are super tides– a tidal extreme sparked by an 18.6-year cycle of the moon’s position. The last year of super tides was 2015. The next one to look out for: 2033.

The tide is like clockwork. Pick up a local tide guide, or install the My Tide Times app, and you can soon build a  regular habit of checking what it’s doing. And with a bit of attention and planning, whether making use of the extra sand, or exploring our natural wonders on land or underwater, you can enjoy the impact of that celestial dance any time – come low or high water.

Private Chefs in Cornwall | Hire for Your Holiday

With the summer season well and truly underway, Cornwall’s restaurants are busier than ever. During your visit, why not escape the crowds and enjoy the delights of the county’s seasonal produce from the comfort of your own holiday retreat?  We have compiled a list of the best private chef experiences in Cornwall, with options ranging from canapes to BBQs, romantic meals for two to large family feasts, inviting you to enjoy a fine dining experience like no other.

Looking for a romantic getaway? Check out our romantic cottages. Alternatively, seeking a holiday retreat with a pool? Dive into our curated collection of holiday cottages in Cornwall with pools for the ultimate relaxation and enjoyment.

Duchy Chef

Renowned throughout Cornwall, Duchy Chef is celebrated for their innovative, top-tier private dining experiences. Indulge in a starter featuring scallops, artichoke, chorizo, and compressed sea purslane, followed by a main course of Cornish Sea trout, Bok choy, Thai Cornish crab broth, and rice fishcakes—each bite infused with the essence of the sea. With options ranging from three to seven-course menus, an evening with Duchy Chef promises a restaurant-quality dining affair.

Dine with Iris

For something slightly more laid back which still encompasses the bespoke dining experience, try Dine with Iris. Her take on ‘posh picnicking’ includes a delicious seasonal grazing board, pillows and rugs, themed flowers and more, all of which is set up and packed away for you. Just pick a location of your fancy, from your favourite scenic clifftop to a cosy beach nook, and Dine with Iris will take care of the rest. You can also add on additions such as a private yoga class before you eat or live music to accompany your picnic- its truly a Cornish fairy tale scene.

Chef Natasha

Taking inspiration from world cuisine and her experience of cooking in French Ski chalets, Chef Natasha is on hand to provide you with an effortless dining experience which will allow you to sit back and enjoy the delights of your holiday retreat as you await your food. Choose from the finest tasting menus or a more relaxed wood fired BBQ dinner- whatever you fancy, Chef Natasha is sure to cook up a storm.

Fee’s Food

This Cornish food and catering company provides top-notch local, seasonal produce through its tailored private dining service. Indulge in their classic menu featuring Cornish bouillabaisse, Thai crab salad, and Monkfish curry, or savor their distinctive summer lunch, showcasing fresh barbecued meats and seafood, complemented by salads and roast salmon. They also specialize in catering for weddings throughout Cornwall.

Room with a starry view

Is stargazing the ultimate out of hours experience at the beach? Photographer Graham Gaunt went to Dark Sky Discovery Site Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps to capture the Milky Way above the sea.

“In some ways, it’s like old photography. You see the image for the first time in the dark room. That’s the precious part of it. It’s interesting to develop something that isn’t there when you look at it.”

The jagged lines of Cornwall’s north coast and sweeping open fields on the cliff tops make for a fitting setting to the wonders of the universe.

The wild coast at Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps (home to our Karn Havos self-catering houses) is a Dark Sky Discovery Site, one of the locations around the UK where you can see the constellations and our galaxy the Milky Way.

To see the Milky Way with the naked eye, a Dark Sky Discovery Site has to have very low light pollution, preserving an inky darkness that’s all-too-rare in our modern world.

Credit: Graham Gaunt Photowork

Light pollution is an increasingly common scourge which means 90% of Britain’s population misses out on the stellar spectacle that is the night sky. But at Carwenas and Bedruthan Steps, with the Milky Way shining above, you get a magical sense of how the sky would have appeared to our ancestors.

While the best time of year to see the Milky Way in the UK runs from mid-April to mid-July, it can make more fleeting appearances throughout the UK Milky Way season from late February to late September. To catch a glimpse, all you need is a picnic blanket, a flask of something hot and a little patience.

Capturing distant light

Graham Gaunt started capturing the night sky ten years ago, with digital photography growing in capability he was able to capture shots that revealed views of the stars beyond the sights observed from gazing up into the darkness. His Dark Nights film (with night-sky footage from West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) won the directors choice award at the Cornwall Film Festival 2012.

“I started taking pictures and what I was seeing was really fantastic. In some ways, it’s like old photography. You see the image for the first time in the dark room. That’s the precious part of it. It’s interesting to develop something that isn’t totally there when you look at it.

“When you look up at the night sky to observe the Milky Way it is almost as if you see it out of the corner of your eye. When you look at what the camera captures it is something different.”

It’s not just what the camera reveals that keeps Graham returning to the dark sky sites: “Being out there on your own in these wild places deep into the night, there isn’t anybody around; that’s special in itself. It does something to your senses. As the light fades your hearing gets sharper; I start hearing all of these sounds, all around.”

Credit: Graham Gaunt Photowork

While the lighter, shorter summer nights can mean less opportunity to see stars, some features are easier to spot at this time of year. With up to 150 meteors per hour streaking across the sky, the Perseids Meteor Shower creates a dramatic light show from the 16th July to the 23rd August – peaking on 12th August with a waxing moon. And, if you look to the north in June and July (and the skies are dark enough), you could see the beautiful shimmering blue glow of noctilucent clouds. Made from ice crystals, they are only visible in the astronomical twilight.

At Carnewas and Bedruthan, Graham had five cameras set up to shoot throughout the night. Night-time photography in Cornwall has its own unique features. One of those is the dew point in the night when condensation collects on the grass and leaves; it also gathers on camera lenses.

Graham Gaunt Photowork

That’s just one factor when it comes to photographing the stars. “When you’re shooting the night sky, you are trying to capture the light from a star hundreds of light years away,” explains Graham.

“A weak light just a few miles away can make a big different. But in some ways the brighter, near lights on earth place us; we can see in these images where we are in relation to the galaxy around our planet.”

In pursuit of stars
Graham’s search for great night-sky shots has taken him to drier, hotter locations, where condensation isn’t a concern. “I once shot on a volcano in La Palma, one of the Canary Islands in Spain, for 10 days.

“I took so much equipment to that shoot, I had to pay the same price for it to travel as I paid for myself. I went up the volcano every evening, clicking away all night then went home had some wine and went to bed!”

How does Carnewas and Bedruthan compare when it comes to being out in the wild, remoter places to capture the wonders of space?

“It was a fantastic place to be for the shoot. When I was walking back to my van at 4am the field was full of skylarks singing. From the sound I think they must have been there with fledglings. These moments, you don’t get to see and hear that if you’re not there in the quiet hours.”

See more from Graham Gaunt.

Ten tips to help you take better photos

This week we are talking to Damian Bailey, an award-winning wedding and family photographer, on how you can take better photos and make the best of your family holiday memories.

“I have been a professional photographer since 2003 and photographing kids and families it is my single favourite thing to do with my camera.

Between July 11th and 31st I shall be in North Cornwall for The Beach Sessions; family photography shoots, morning or evening, at the location of your choice. Relaxed, fun and natural and all done in an hour because you don’t want it to take over your day.

On holiday with friends? No problem – multi-family shoots are really popular.

On holiday with pets and well-behaved grandparents? Bring them too!

The tips below will help you take better photos of your kids and family this Summer. Or, why not take the stress out of it and let me capture your happy holiday memories, now that you are all finally together on holiday after a hell of a year?

Full details of The Beach Sessions can be found here:

Ten Tips to help you take better photos

Don’t zoom in – GET CLOSER!

Zooming in on a phone will reduce the quality of the photo. Instead, actually move towards or further away from the subject until you can see what you want to see in the photo. If you can’t do this then you’ll have to use the zoom but try and avoid it if you can.

What are you photographing?

Think really carefully about what is in the photograph. This is called composition or framing the photo. Sounds simple but it’s fundamental to taking good photos.

Law of Thirds

This is a good rule of thumb when taking photos. Depending on your phone/camera, you may be able to turn on a grid created by two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines.

When taking a photo try to place the subject on one of the points where the lines intersect. This will help your composition and make the photos more engaging. It’s not a hard and fast rule but it’s worth thinking about.

Don’t say “Smile!”

Asking people to smile doesn’t work. It just ends up with an awkward half-smile that looks weird. If you want happy expressions in your photos you have to try to make people laugh. You can also ask someone off-camera to help you make them laugh.

Beware! There is no dignity in this! Do whatever it takes to make people laugh whilst taking their photo.

Don’t just stand there!

Don’t just stand there! Try different angles. Shoot from above or below your subject. Lie down, stand on something. Create silhouettes, create movement and variety in your photos, even when photographing the same subject. Shoot in landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) too, to give you maximum choice.

See the light!

Light; it’s the natural resource of all photography and how you use it is the single most creative element at your disposal when taking photographs.

If you are outside, try putting the sun behind your human subject or in the shade. This is counter-intuitive to everything you’ve ever ‘learnt’ about photography, but it is the way of the professional and means that there won’t be any harsh shadow on the faces, no squinting and a lovely halo of light around their head and shoulders. You can also create amazing silhouettes! Of course, sometimes the location and required photos mean your subjects have to face the sun but try to keep it to a minimum of you can.

If it’s cloudy, anything goes!

When indoors, get your subject facing a source of natural light like a window or an open door. Avoid having a window behind your subject as this will often cause your camera to underexposure the photo.

Check out my little video on this subject.

Take LOTS of photos

Practice makes perfect and you’ll never regret taking photos. So take lots of them! I use an app called 1 Second Everyday which is a great way of getting into the habit of recording your surroundings on a daily basis. Also, when taking photos of your kids, for example, take lots at one time. Move around your subject as you are taking photos. Each will be subtly different as their expressions change etc. It’s all about playing around and practising.

Edit your photos

Go through them regularly, delete photos you don’t want to keep, edit the ones you do. Use apps like Snapseed, Blackie and even your phone’s built in editing function. Don’t overdo the filers, cropping and editing but your photos will benefit from some editing.

Do something with your photos

Get them framed and on the wall, upload them to a digital photo frame, make albums. Anything except leaving them on your phone where you’ll never see them.

Back them up

Imagine losing your phone and all your photos with it. Nightmare, right? So, make sure you back them all up. The easiest way to do this is to back your photos up to the cloud. Google Photos is a great option for this. Dropbox also works well. Detachable hard drives are also a good idea.

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.


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.”

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.

Find out more with:

What's your best #beachoutofhours moment

Being footsteps from the beach means being able to make the most of the coast at dawn and dusk, the magic hours. Share your favourite shots of golden moments at the beach to be in with a chance to win the full reset and restore experience from land&water before delving into a luxury Cornish hamper.

We’ve loved exploring all that spending time out of hours at the beach has to offer. From the freeing experience of coastal running at sunrise to the art created from the unique light at sundown.

Post your photos from dawn or dusk at the beach on Facebook or Instagram (tagging @beachretreats and using #beachoutofhours so we don’t miss them!), along with a few words about why you chose the picture and where you were.

Sunset over Watergate Bay

We’ll choose our favourite shots to share on Facebook and Instagram, and the Beach Retreats team will vote for the overall winner.

We’ll send the competition winner a land&water Bathtime bundle. Soak, glow, breathe, moisturise…reset and restore, to light up the day’s downtime and emerge lifted – and softer all over.

The bundle includes one Bath Salts 250g, one Candle 220g, one Bath & Body Oil 100ml, and one Body Lotion 250ml.

You’ll also receive a luxury Cornish Hamper to pack-up for a long day out, or to kick-back with when you get home.

Competition deadline: midnight, Wednesday 28 July 2021. The winner will be notified by 4th August 2021. Good luck!

Full terms and conditions:

    • There’s no limit to the number of entries per person. By entering, you give Beach Retreats and land&water permission to share and reproduce your pictures on our website, and social media channels.


    • If your photograph features any person or people, they should be aware that they are being photographed and permission should be obtained from all involved.


    • You must be the sole author and owner of the copyright for all images entered. You will retain copyright of your entries at all times and always be credited alongside your picture.


    • No cash alternative for prize winner.


    • The winner will be notified on Facebook or Instagram.


    • The winning photo will be chosen by a judging panel.


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.

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.

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.

Thing to do in Cornwall this Spring

Finally, the time has come. As April has arrived and spring is blooming, we are also slowly regaining our freedoms. This means that we can once again explore and enjoy Cornwall in all its glory.

Yet despite the irresistible call of the ocean and the sunshine, this year will once again be different. We’ve put together this handy guide with some ideas on how to make the most of Cornwall this spring, whilst avoiding the crowds and embracing the new normal.


The expanse and variety of Cornwall’s beaches means that there is enough sea to go around for everyone, and what better way to enjoy the spacious outdoors than getting in amongst the waves? If you don’t feel super confident hitting the surf alone, Cornwall’s Women and Waves Society run group classes and trips to make surfing fun and accessible for all women.

women and waves


Wild Swimming

If surfing isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of ways to get a daily dose of H20 and enjoy Cornwall’s glittering oceans. Try taking a dip in a cove of your choice- there are plenty of popular spots to head to so you can ensure your swim is safe. Simply immerse yourself in the icy blue water, letting your body relax and restore as you leisurely float. Warning- it may take your breath away!


Find a secret beach

The beauty of Cornwall’s beaches means that in peak times, they can get very busy. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds this summer and carve out a more tranquil spot for yourself, why not try and hunt for a secret beach? Cornwall’s rugged coastline means that it is home to many hidden gems where you can soak up the sun in peace. Finding the perfect spot may take a bit of adventuring, but it is possible- start with the lesser-known treasures of Porth Joke beach in Crantock and Housel Bay in the Lizard.


Walk the Coast Path

Where in Cornwall could you find more open space and picture-book scenery than along the many coastal paths that line the county? With fresh air a key to reducing the spread of Covid, fill your lungs and walk along miles of uninterrupted clifftops. Check out the South West Coast Path website for directions on how to access the UK’s longest and best-loved National Trail. This 630-mile-long path is walking distance from all our properties, so leave the car behind and stretch your legs across a section of this magnificent walk.



Dine With Iris

With dining in busy spots less of an option this year, bring the leisurely experience of dining out to an outdoor space with Dine with Iris’s personal pop-up picnics. She will supply you with a delicious seasonal grazing board, pillows and rugs, themed flowers, a Bluetooth speaker and much more. You don’t need to worry about setting up or packing it up, this is all taken care of. So, bring a few loved ones along and enjoy a Cornish picnic in style.

dine with irisOutdoor Yoga

To fully embrace the more peaceful spring we will be having, away from large crowds, why not channel this energy into an activity devoted to tranquillity? Here in Cornwall, you will find many outdoor yoga groups, some offering beach sessions which will allow you to sync your breathing with the calming crash of the ocean waves. Check out Alicia Ray Wellbeing for private classes, or even just bring a mat and a calm mind and give it a go in a quiet corner of the beach.

Alicia Ray Credit: Alicia Ray

Visit a garden

Not only does it offer miles of untouched coastline, Cornwall is also home to some of the nation’s most exotic gardens, bursting with the colours and scents of summer. Many of these can be visited this spring abiding with social distancing regulations. Delve into the tropical terrain of Trebah gardens, where you will find acres of sweeping flowers, jungle-like trees and secret ponds, all leading towards a secluded and sunny beach at the bottom of the valley. Stray from the crowds and into the embrace of nature.

Watch the sunrise

The best way to avoid the crowds is to get up before them. All of our properties are walking distance from the beach so you can easily stroll down first thing in the morning, where you can enjoy the quieter hours. Early in the morning, you will see the first golden rays of sunlight which shine beautifully onto the untouched sand- you will truly feel as though the beach belongs to just you. If you are more of a night owl than an early bird, head out at sunset time to soak up the more peaceful atmosphere of later in the day.

BBQ on the beach

To enjoy a meal in your own space, why not head down to a secluded spot of the beach for a BBQ dinner? Many of Cornwall’s beaches allow private BBQ’s, so long as you leave no trace once you’re done. So, sit back and relax, with a sizzling burger and a bottle of something cold, as you dine al fresco. You can visit a nearby butcher or food store to source some fresh and organic ingredients to cook with. Just remember to bring a blanket to stay warm in the open air as the spring sun dips lower in the sky.

Travel by bike

Cornwall is home to many great cycle trails, and these can be a fun way to stray from the beaten path and explore away from the crowds and the holiday traffic. The Camel Trail, which ranges from Padstow to Bodmin, offers an 18 mile stretch of scenery and fresh Cornish air. Whilst cycling along the historic disused railway line, you can stop off at some quieter spots along the way where you may catch a glimpse at some fascinating Cornish wildlife. For more experienced cyclists, why not stray from the path and explore the many little villages and country lanes which lead off from the trail?


Walk through Porthcothan

Meander down flower-lined paths, across white sand and above tropic-like lagoons on this short scenic stroll.

Lowenna from our marketing team takes us on a walk through from Porthcothan Bay to the mesmerising Trescoe Islands.

It’s the morning of April 13th, and the spring sunshine feels surprisingly warm on my face as I head through the gate into the National Trust fields overlooking Porthcothan, where this walk begins. The fields gently slope towards the strip of sea in the distance, and acres of yellow of gorse beyond contrast with the bright blue of the sky. This view would make for a perfect painting, with its pops of primary colours. I can smell the sea breeze from here, its salty whisper inviting me towards the sand. When you depart on this route, be sure to stop and indulge in this moment- the feeling of promise at the beginning of a walk, when you can see the ocean that awaits.

Crossing green grass, you will be led down a winding coastal path, the gap between you and the sand below marked with a row of white hawthorn blossom. You will then cross a small bridge onto the bay, or if you fancy it, bare your feet and paddle through the gentle river. I reach the main stretch of beach and delight in the serenity of it- the skies are clear and it’s a popular time of year for holiday makers, yet the bay remains almost empty except for the occasional dog walker in the distance.

The walk across the bay is the perfect time to delight in the little things- the ebbs and patterns that the tide has formed in the sand, the geometrical structure of the rocky cliffs that line the cove, the odd gull soaring high in the sky. Head towards the left-hand side of the beach, where you can follow the cliffs around the corner and find the hidden coves which lie tucked away.

Out to sea, you can see Porthcothan’s iconic rocks and islands, striking in their stand-alone structure. This part of the beach starts to feel more like a Greek island, with its rich turquoise water and rocky sea stacks. It’s crucial to do this walk at low tide, when the water grants you entry to the secret lagoon behind Trescore Islands. At high tide, the vast swathes of sand disappear but the headlands protect the sea from the ocean swell, meaning the water is generally calm.

There is a footpath here which is only accessible at low tide and leads you towards Trescore Islands, the end destination of this walk. I clamber up, excited by what might await on the other side of the scattered cliffs. The coastal breeze which meets you as you stand atop the cliff is refreshing under the heat of the spring sun. This path joins the South West Coast path, and in just a few meters, the lagoon of Trescore islands comes into sight. The tide must be fully out to be able to access the pool at ground level and swim in the water, so clear that you can see patterns of rocks and sand on the seabed.

After taking in the tropical feel of this private corner of the beach, I begin to head back along the coast path. However, if the beauty of this scenery leaves you wanting more, the walk can be continued along the South West coast path, where you can head North to Constantine Bay or South to the iconic Bedruthan steps. Feeling hungry? Just follow the coast path inland to find Porthcothan Bay stores, where you’ll find fresh takeaway food alongside surf hire, local produce and gifts. Tuck into a hot, foamy coffee and flaky pastry to refuel and delight in the peace and quiet that Porthcothan has to offer.

Out of hours at the beach…

Where the magic happens

“The golden and unpeopled bays
The shadowy cliffs and sheep-worn ways
The white unpopulated surf…”
– Sir John Betjeman, ‘Delectable Duchy’ (1974)

When Sir John Betjeman waxed lyrical about Cornwall’s ‘golden and unpeopled bays’, he immortalised in words something that so many of us hold dear: that special feeling of being on the beach outside of ‘normal’ hours – and of having these elemental expanses all to ourselves.

Credit: Nick Pumphrey

Whether at first or last light, staying steps from the shore means freedom to explore the beauty of the coast without the crowds – taking in the sights, sounds and scents of nature undisturbed.

The gleeful liberation of a sunrise dip. The thrill of leaving the day’s first footprints in the sand. The peace of a sunset stroll in a sheltered cove. In these quiet, fleeting pockets of time at dawn and dusk, the magic of the beach feels magnified – bathed in a mellow golden glow and shimmering with promise.

But this glow isn’t just imagined, remembered through the haze of happy escapades. It’s a recognised phenomenon, and it has a name: golden hour. Prized by photographers and artists for the elusive but intense warm light it casts, golden hour refers to the window when day merges with night: the period shortly after sunrise or just before sunset, when the sun hovers at the horizon.

Out of hours Credit: Nick Pumphrey

Is there any science behind these seemingly gilded moments? When the sun is low in the sky, its rays have to travel much further through the atmosphere to reach us than they do at noon. This longer path lessens the amount of intense, direct sunlight we see, amplifying shadow-softening, scenery-illuminating, diffused light instead. Blue light becomes scattered as beams of sunlight hit molecules in the atmosphere, leaving warm, red-toned light in its place.

Depending on the season and where you are in the world, the time at which golden hour falls will vary (and it’s rarely exactly one hour long) – but its effects are universally enchanting. And while brief, the coastal golden hours we bask in leave their mark on us in memory.

Credit: Alicia Ray Wellbeing

For people who live by the sea, it’s the freedom of these peaceful, often deserted moments out of hours that really counts.

In our new OUT OF HOURS series, we meet three inspiring locals who know just how to make the most of these golden moments between night and day. From the ocean photographer capturing aquatic dawns to the beach yoga instructor teaching calm in the dunes and the artist using paint to evoke the essence of moving water, take a few quiet moments to dive into their stories with us…

• “The evening light here is especially magical,” says artist Nell Kerr, who captures the ever-changing nature of the ocean’s surface in paint. “There are fewer people around and often the wind drops and the water takes on a glassy languor that is so beautiful and ethereal.” Read Nell’s story.

• “I think what makes the sunrise and sunset special is the serenity,” says beach yoga instructor Alicia Ray. “There’s a magic when you sense that others are connecting to the same energy as you.” Read Alicia’s story.

• “The blue hour, just before sunrise, is when it all starts to wake up – you can have incredible colour, sometimes the best colour is before the sun comes up,” says photographer Nick Pumphrey, whose project ‘Dawn Days’ has captured every sunrise swimming in the sea since 1 January 2021. “A few mornings there were three different colour shows, it was incredible. I’d be floating there alone, literally just hooting out loud at these natural displays. No one else around. It was pretty special.” Read Nick’s story.

Out of hours Credit: Nick Pumphrey