Cornish Storm Watching & Coastal Safety

How to make the most of the dramatic coastline when the weather blows in.

There’s a saying in Cornwall that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. With our maritime climate we’re well used to changeable conditions, but with winter fast approaching we’re preparing for the worst the weather can throw at us.

Winter storms can be very dramatic, particularly on the coast where the seas are thrown into turmoil by the gale force winds driving in from the Atlantic. One of our most popular prints this month depicts storm watching at Porthleven in West Cornwall, famous for taking the brunt of the bad weather as the sea crashes over the harbourside clock tower.

Stormy seas Porthleven, Cornwall

Porthleven, Cornwall

Some of our favourite spots for a bit of storm watching (preferably from inside a Cornish pub where you can stay warm, dry and safe) include:

Lizard Point – best viewed from inside Polpeor Cafe: it’s perched right on the edge with fab views and even better cream teas.

Mullion – both the Mullion Cove Hotel and the Polurrian Bay Hotel are perfectly situated on the clifftops for a panoramic view with a bit of luxury.

Towan Head, Newquay – a great spot where the Cribbar reef just offshore helps create fantastic waves of up to 30 feet. Hide in the little shelter up on the headland itself, or keep out of the wind in one of the bars on Fistral beach.

Sennen Cove, West Penwith – virtually as far west as you can get in Cornwall and one of the first ports of call for the Atlantic waves, which can crash right up over the cliffs.

Hell Bay, Bryher – technically not in Cornwall but the name says it all: the Isles of Scilly lie 28 miles west of Land’s End and can really take a battering but luckily the Hell Bay Hotel is open to non-residents for a coffee or something stronger if you’re stuck out there in a storm.

stormy Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove, West Penwith

However spectacular the scenes, the importance of respecting the coast and bearing in mind the dangers of severe weather cannot be underestimated. Devon & Cornwall Police have teamed up with a number of partners including to initiate #CoastSafe, an awareness campaign helping to reduce harm on our coastlines. Remember it’s not only your own life, but the lives of those who may end up coming to your rescue!

Know what to do if you’re in trouble, or if you see someone else who needs help on the coast – call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard

Storm on sea front Kingsand Cornwall with coast guard

Coastguard on the seafront at Kingsand, Cornwall

  • Whatever the weather, when you’re out and about on the coast let someone know where you are going and what time you are likely to be back
  • Know your location, learn how to read a map to find your OS grid reference and accurately report your position
  • In severe conditions stay clear of coast paths and promenades – heavy seas can throw up unpredictable waves that can reach higher and wash further in than you may think
  • Take your mobile but don’t rely on it – signal can be unreliable on the coastline
  • Always be aware of tide times and the dangers of being cut off – in severe weather tidal surges and stronger winds can advance the tide higher and faster than normal
  • Flash flooding can happen quickly and unexpectedly – remember even a few inches of flood water can sweep you off your feet
  • Cliffs can become unstable, not just in poor weather conditions but over longer periods of severe or wet weather – keep at a safe distance when walking beneath the cliffs as well as on the cliff tops as rockfalls and slope collapse can often occur after the bad weather appears to be over
  • Beware of debris that can be carried and flung up by large waves and fast flowing water
  • However spectacular the waves, no photo is worth a life – near water is considered to be the most dangerous place to take a selfie with over 70 selfie deaths in 6 years according to this study
  • Dress appropriately – sturdy footwear or wellies, a warm and waterproof coat are a must; jeans should be avoided as wet denim takes so long to dry; bright colours or reflective outerwear are advisable too as visibility is greatly reduced in poor weather conditions so if you do get into trouble, you’ll be much easier to spot
Longships Lighthouse in storm

Longships Lighthouse off Land’s End

You can find out more about the #CoastSafe campaign over on their website and by following #CoastSafe on twitter.

The #CoastSafe partnership is made up of

  • Cornwall Air Ambulance
  • RNLI
  • HM Coastguard
  • Cornwall Fire & Rescue
  • Environment Agency
  • The Samaritans
  • SurfLifesaving GB
  • South Western Ambulance
  • South West Emergency Services Collaboration
  • Royal Lifesaving Society
  • Devon and Cornwall Police


Heading out in the elements? Our collection of waterproof and breathable outerwear is tried and tested on Cornish clifftops and perfect for weatherproofing your walks wherever you are.


storm watching Towan Head Newquay

view from Towan Head, Newquay