It's only natural that so many people hear ‘Cornwall’ and their mind instantly conjures sunshine, beaches, blue seas and the whole warm-weather montage of somewhere lovely which looks its best in high summer. We wouldn’t want to come between anyone and their fondest memories or idealised images, but (please sit down if you’re standing, and put down any hot drinks) the fact is the sun doesn’t always shine here. There. We said it. Seasoned visitors know this, and pack accordingly. But seasoned visitors, including the many who can’t get enough and keep coming back, know that Cornwall on a cloudy / wet / cold / winter’s or just unsunny day doesn’t just offer a wealth of things to do, but – arguably – the chance to make the day easier to navigate and enjoy too.
The Camel Ski School and Wavehunters, for example, both offer safe and enjoyable ways to experience the sea, for young and old, experts and beginners, those wanting to stay dry and watch or get equipped and get stuck in. Seasoned instructors, who understand people like they understand the sea, will help you negotiate the kit and skills you need to enjoy surfing, paddle-boarding, wake-boarding, water-skiing or whatever else you fancy, as well as boat hire or guided trips out to sea.
Padstow Sealife Safaris will also help you acquaint yourself better with the sea. They run a wide range of different trips out, both to sea and up the Camel Estuary, in search of seals, puffins, sea-life more generally, for shorter or longer periods. They also hire boats out and are a great one-stop shop for all kinds of marine wisdom and know-how.
Before we leave the sea and turn inland, a quick mention for the National Lobster Hatchery too, a marine conservation, research and education charity based in Padstow who have successfully established themselves lately as a global centre of expertise and pioneers of important research. They’re well worth a visit too, and can be found on the south quay next to Padstow’s main car and coach park, right where the Camel Trail begins.
And that Camel Trail is actually an 18 mile multi-use route available for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Camel Trail Cycle Hire rent out all kinds of bikes (including electric ones), and you can book them online to make sure you don’t turn up and find none left. The trail itself is 18 miles, flat, and mostly suitable for disabled access. It follows an old railway track, the Padstow to Wadebridge line, which, from 1899, ran all the way to Waterloo. Although the Wadebridge-to-Poley’s Bridge section is one of the world’s oldest, opened in 1834.
Old as that might seem, it’s a whole lot younger than Bodmin Jail, which was built for George III in 1779. These impressive if forbidding old buildings have lately seen lots of investment, and a brand new £8.5million visitor attraction means a far more immersive experience than ever, offering visitors insights into its hidden history, with guided tours, paranormal tours and a brand new ‘Dark Walk’ experience.
These are just a sprinkling of the many ways in which it’s possible (and advisable) to lose yourself in Cornwall on days not dictated by sunshine. Of course, there are absolutely loads more, and, when you’re here, our friendly staff are more than happy to talk to you about the ones they know and love too …