Cornwall in spring can be the most bewitchingly romantic time to visit the county.
Our famous spring gardens unfurl and shine in their fullest glory.
Our seaside villages are still shaking off the quiet of winter and have an air of space and calm.
You can even swan up to a restaurant and walk right in without the merest hint of ‘did you book?’
It’s the time, before the arrival of summer crowds, when our county feels like a whispered secret. And there’s no better place to base yourself for a day trip or a week-long visit than Penzance, the portside town that’s the gateway to Cornwall’s spring glories.
Here’s a guide to what to do in Cornwall in spring in the far west of the county (also known by discerning folk as ‘the best bit’).
Visit a vibrant spring garden
Spring comes to Cornwall earlier than anywhere else in the UK. While the rest of the country is still fending off the last of winter with an icy fork, our camelias, azaleas and rhododendrons burst forth in coral pinks and lipstick reds. Penzance is the epicentre of Cornwall spring gardens. The famous subtropical Morrab Gardens sits in the town centre. Meanwhile, two world-class spring gardens are a mere two miles away. Visit Trengwainton for exotic trees and shrubs, and a beautiful walled garden. Or Trewidden for spring’s glories in a semi-wild setting and a jungly stroll through tree ferns.
Have world-famous beaches to yourself
It’s a law of nature. When the best beaches in Cornwall are hidden dreamscapes of golden sand and turquoise waters, the Instagram crowd will hunt them down. Which is fine, but a tad busy in summer for some. However, west Cornwall beaches that regularly break the internet are sparsely visited – sometimes even empty – in March, April and May. Come to Cornwall in spring for the famous Porthcurno, Pedn Vounder, Porthgwarra, Gwenver and many other coastal glories that are a short cycle, ebike or drive from Penzance.
Get the best table in the restaurant
No sharp elbows. No waving that twenty at the bar person. None of that ‘fussing and fighting, my friend’. Cornwall in spring is a time when you can order at the bar without your game face on. Similarly, world-class restaurants in Penzance will welcome you to your favourite table by the window for that dreamed-about fish supper. It’s like being a celebrity without the paparazzi.
Walk truly remote Cornish paths
You know when you’re out cliff-walking and gazing in a reverie at the towering cliffs and sweeping ocean? And you’re feeling connected to a landscape thousands of years old? And then a family of eight tramps past you with tinkling smartphones and swishing cagoules… and the spell is broken?
Yes, even the wildest walks in west Cornwall get… well, not busy, but popular in the summer. But earlier in the year? Visit Cornwall in spring and you can have great hearty chunks of the South West Coast Path all to yourself. Or try a Celtic hill near Penzance in west Cornwall for a remote and magical experience.
Gear up for cycling season
Springtime is true cycling season in Cornwall, before the roads get busy and the air warms up too much.
Cornwall is crisscrossed with fabulous cycle trails, including the Camel Trail near Padstow and the Bissoe Trail near Portreath. Two of the loveliest short rides featuring some of Cornwall’s most iconic landmarks both start and end in Penzance.
Penzance to Marazion (five miles there and back) is an absolute beaut for families. Start at the bus station and bike along a dead-flat shared cycle path and walkway hugging the sea’s edge. You’ll get great views of St Michael’s Mount all the way to Marazion. Zero traffic. Just great views.
Penzance to Mousehole (6.6 miles there and back) is a mixture of on and off road, with a bit (but not a lot of) hill thrown in. You’ll pass through the bustling fishing village of Newlyn on the way, too.
Finally, Penzance Promenade is great for some freewheelin’ fun with young ones learning to ride.
Celebrate spring at a Celtic festival
Is that the faint sound of a fiddle in the air? If so, you can be sure there’ll be a rabble of Cornish folk dancing nearby. As a Celtic people, we’re famous for our eccentric and mesmerising festivals.
Loads of them happen in Cornwall in spring. Helston Flora Day is world-famous for its music and dancing processions to drive out the darkness and welcome in spring. Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss is another legendary knees up, with dancers, masked revellers and musicians.
But our favourite is Penzance May Horns, in the first Sunday of May. Closely associated with the Celtic festival of Beltane, which welcomes in the sun’s heat, during this lovely little festival Penzance folk promenade with a giant crow called Ned (it’s complicated) and blow horns to chase the devil of winter away.
LovePenzance is the unashamedly Penzance-promoting website celebrating the best portside town in Cornwall. Visit www.lovepenzance.co.uk to find out more about our history, food, shops, places to stay, pubs, nearby gardens, walks, cycle rides and much, much more.
Also, dig deeper into the town’s iconic celebrations with this interview feature on Penzance’s Celtic festivals.