The wonderful thing about a holiday on the coast is that even during the colder months, spending time down at the beach is an absolute joy. Yes, you’ll have to swap your sun hats for beanies and swimmers for waterproofs, but there’s a real sense of adventure to it all…and of course you won’t need to fight for a skinny spot on the sand either; almost all will be entirely yours to enjoy without the crowds!

We love the idea of cold-water sea swims, suited-up surf sessions, bracing dog walks, and coasteering, but winter offers many other, less obvious delights too. From sand art on the beach (check out some of Newquay artist Tony Plant’s work on Instagram) to rockpool safaris (like the ones offered by Wembury Marine Centre in Devon), there are tons of things to do, and here are our top 5.

Track down treasure

No metal detectors required. This sort of treasure hunting requires only your eyes and fingers (and maybe a couple of toes), and you’re guaranteed to never come up empty handed.

Shell and rock fragments glisten high up on the shore and banded pebbles as smooth as silk lie at the waters edge. Depending on where you are, you may find cowrie, fan or mussel shells, and perhaps even the ‘piece de resistance’ of all beachcombing excursions – sea glass.

If you’re heading to North Devon any time soon, we highly recommend spending an hour or two on Barricane Beach and Combesgate for some of the best shell and sea glass hauls around. Expect to discover tusk shells and other exotics, as well as bits of polished down green, clear and brown glass, including possibly the prettiest of all – blue.

Coastal cottages in Devon

Storm watch over lunch

What could be a better backdrop for your crab sandwich than that of a storm thrashing its way across the bay?

Well-known for its high seas and rough weather during January and February, Start Bay in the South Hams puts on a fantastic display of fierce sea conditions during the winter months, and one of the best spots to enjoy the setting is from the landmark Britannia @ The Beach, affectionately known as ‘The Shack’.

Sitting right on the shingle of Beesands Beach and offering a menu of fantastically fresh local seafood, you can hunker down in the cosiness of an authentically rustic fisherman hut while soaking up the atmosphere.

The coast path runs right past too so if you feel the need to burn off a few calories when the wind dies down, you can walk either to Torcross in one direction or Hallsands in the other. However we like the idea of prolonging the indulgence with an ice cream and nothing more than a gentle stroll along the beach.

South Hams cottages

Visit a lighthouse

As beautiful as the Devon and Cornwall coastlines are, they were treacherous to olden day mariners; with over 3000 wrecks around the Cornish Coast and a further 1600 lying off Devon’s north and south coastlines.

It’s impossible to say how many lives have been saved by the lighthouses that now lie dotted along our coast but their importance is invaluable, and for many of us a visit to these feats of engineering make for a fascinating experience.

One of our favourite South Coast Path walks is the along Breakwater in Brixham where of course you’ll find its small yet iconic lighthouse. Built in 1916, it’s perches proudly at the end of the 1km long breakwater, and with the most incredible views over Tor Bay, it makes for a lovely winter’s day excursion.

The walk is excellent for those with dogs and pushchairs too, and you can always stop for fish and chips at the Breakwater Bistro if you fancy refuelling.

Brixham cottages

Horse ride on sand dunes

Cue romantic vision of cantering side-saddle, hair waving in the wind. Not quite (you’ll be wearing a hat). However, few activities appeal more than that of a horse ride on the beach, and what better beach than the 2-mile golden stretch at Woolacombe.

The good news is that you don’t need to be an experienced equestrian to enjoy this adventure because Woolacombe Riding Stables offers a host of accompanied outride options for visitors of all abilities, so if you’re a beginner you can enjoy a walk on horseback, and if you’re comfortable in the saddle, you can trot and canter to your heart’s content.

Their riding routes pass though the picturesque village of Woolacombe and run parallel to Woolacombe Beach, or take you through fabulous scenery and along the undulating sand dunes and bridle ways that back the beach.

North Devon cottages

Spy on seals

Out in the fresh sea air is the best place to be when you’re holidaying on the coast, and with much of Cornwall and Devon falling within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty you can except to see wildlife in all its glory from migrant and wading birds to deer, rabbits and hares.

If however you’re keen to spot sea life without having to jump aboard a boat, the best place for it is at Mutton Cove at Godrevy Point in West Cornwall where a colony of Grey Seals takes up permanent residence.

At low tide, these docile creatures can be viewed from the cliff tops as they laze below in their protected, sheltered bay. During January it’s not uncommon to see around 100 seals lying spread out on the sand and the rocky outcrops below – a wonderful reminder of how special the ocean and its creatures is.

Hayle cottages
ocean 1, newquay

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