Long-term knowledge of the wave climate of a potential wave energy site is essential for project planning and design, not only for an understanding of the resource variability, but also for the prediction of design wave conditions. The southwest region of the UK is at the forefront of the country's wave energy development, with two operational test sites. However, no detailed long-term resource assessment has yet been performed. This paper presents a long-term wave hindcast for southwest England, performed using the numerical wave model SWAN, with a particular focus on two energy device test facilities: ‘Wave Hub’ on the energetic and exposed north Cornwall coast, and ‘FaB Test’ on the more sheltered south coast. A high-resolution wave model suite, aimed at establishing nearshore wave hindcasts, is described and evaluated. The suite is run for a 23-year period, starting in 1989 and continuing to 2011. The hindcast is compared with measurement data and the results are analysed for the two test sites. Special attention is given to the implications of present hindcast errors and how the hindcast errors can be minimized.