Exploring the South West 660 during winter brings its own set of highlights. Beaches packed out during summer months become deserted, wild and wonderful. While views become engulfed by stormy darkness, the local pubs and cafes offer a cosy retreat like never before. And hotel rooms with a sea view offer their very own entertainment with a window into the natural world. Here we look at the very best places on route to embrace the elements and experience the thrill of mother nature doing her thing.
The Cobb, Lyme Regis – Route 2 Weymouth to Lyme Regis
It’s little wonder that Monmouth Beach, stretching a mile westwards from Lyme Regis harbour, is awash with photographers during big storms. As south-westerly winds blow in from the Atlantic Ocean, Lyme Regis has no natural protection. The harbour wall, known locally as the Cobb, takes the full-on force of the powerful waves and watching the water crash into the breakwater is mesmerising. Watch from a safe vantage point, or, if you’re feeling fancy, head to Mark Hix’s Oyster and Fish House for impressive views and even better local produce. It seems apt to also suggest a visit to the RNLI lifeboat station on the Cobb, to learn more about the charity’s life-saving work and view the inshore lifeboat.
Berry Head – Route 4 Exeter to Dartmouth
Devon’s Brixham Harbour is an exciting place to storm watch – if you’re more of a cautious bystander and don’t fancy taking the pelting rain and gale force winds face on, head to one of the many pavement cafes. If however you’re more of a thrill seeker, make your way to Berry Head. This stunning headland (which is a National Nature Reserve) is cradled by the ocean on three sides making it an exhilarating place to witness the power of nature. With views across Torbay and beyond, watch as the waves pound the rugged coastline. The Berry Head hotel makes the most wonderful retreat (and treat with its 4* status) after a day of storm watching.
Porthleven – Route 7 St Austell to Penzance
If you’ve ever seen national storm coverage on the news, the chances are you’ve seen Porthleven’s famous clock tower being pummelled by giant waves. It’s one of the county’s most iconic spots to storm watch and well worth it for the dramatic backdrop of the harbour (Britain’s most southerly port). It’s not uncommon to spot 20ft-plus waves flying up in the air, their energy derived from hitting the shallow reef just off the shore. If you feel awakened by the exhilaration of driving rain and bracing winds, then find a safe vantage point and grab a camera. Alternatively, watch the waves from the comfort of the The Harbour Inn.
Lizard Point- Route 7 St Austell to Penzance
With some of the UK’s best coastal panoramas on this section of the route, really, there are endless lookout points to watch a storm unfurl. But it’s exciting arriving at Lizard Point to witness the energy of the unforgiving seas during a storm, knowing you are at Britain’s most southerly point. This remote, unsheltered peninsula takes a real bashing during the winter months and it’s a mecca for storm watchers! Once you’ve been awakened by the elements and are ready to retreat back to the warmth, try the Wavecrest Café – a quick peek at their image gallery will show you just how cosy it is to be tucked away here during stormy season.
Sennen Cove – Route 8 Penzance to St Ives
Famed for being the most westerly point in Cornwall, and just around the corner from Land’s End, Sennen Cove is no stranger to ginormous waves. As the raging Atlantic Ocean crashes over the Cowloe Reef and against the rugged rocks, it’s a special place to watch nature pummel the coastline. There is something exhilarating about being out in the elements. As long as conditions permit, you may want to take on the 3-mile stretch of South West Coast Path from Sennen Cove to Land’s End where you’ll get views out across Whitesand Bay towards Cape Cornwall. If you prefer the idea of cosying up in a warm pub while the wind howls outside, then head to the Old Success Inn (one of the excellent St Austell Brewery pubs) and watch the storm unfold from indoors. You might even choose to hunker down over-night to really make the most of their unrivalled coastal views on a stormy evening!
Godrevy – Route 9 St Ives to Padstow
Travelling along the picturesque route out of St Ives and heading along the coast (section 9), you will get to Godrevy Point. Here you’ll find a large National Trust carpark (although after a lot of rain, this sometimes closes). Continue past the carpark to the headland and here you get prime views across to St Ives and out to sea where wave after wave roll in. But it’s the view the other way that can be spectacular during a storm. On a small island, three miles out to sea, stands Godrevy Lighthouse. If you’re lucky, you might just catch it during that perfect golden light and just as the cloud cover lifts – it’s moody and magical to watch the lighthouse appear from afar.
Storm Watching Safety
It would be remiss of us not to talk about the importance of keeping yourself safe when storm watching. Ensure you keep a close eye on local weather reports and more importantly weather warnings and heed the advice given. The power of the ocean cannot be underestimated – stay away from the water. It’s too easy to be caught off guard by rogue waves so stay safe and stay back. Check tide times and if you’re unsure, ask locally for information – don’t get caught out by rising tides. Wear appropriate clothing, take a mobile phone and don’t take any risks – no matter how exhilarating it seems at the time, you don’t want to find yourself in trouble.
Exploring the South West 660 during winter? It’s a pretty safe assumption to make that you’ll witness some of this ‘big’ weather. Become a member today and find out for yourself just how exciting Britain’s South West is!