This study investigated the phenology, patterns of haul-out habitat use and distribution of the grey seal around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. A full census of the coast was carried out by boat over 4 days, in order to make a full count of seals hauled out and close to the coast, and to document all haul-out sites. Regular land-based surveys were made of three haul-out sites in Cornwall, to investigate the effects of spatial, temporal and environmental factors on seal haul-out behaviour. Data from 2004 to 2007 were analysed to describe long-term temporal variation in seal abundance at two haul-out sites. A total of 592 sightings were made along the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly over the four-day census period; 476 of these sightings (80.4%) were recorded at six main haul-out sites. The highest proportion of seals was observed at three haul-out areas on the Isles of Scilly. In Cornwall, seals were observed in higher numbers on the north coast, where the three largest mainland haul-out sites were documented, than on the south coast. At one key haul-out site in Cornwall, a distinct seasonal pattern was evident in data collected between 2004 and 2007, with higher numbers of seals present during the moulting and breeding seasons than over the summer months. There was considerable inter-annual variability in peak seal abundance, during the moulting season, at this site. There was no significant variation in haul-out behaviour with tidal state at this site, although haul-out counts were generally highest at mid-ebb tides. Data on seal abundance, distribution and haul-out behaviour may aid the designation of Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of grey seals in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.