Cornwall, the ultimate destination for a magical festive getaway! Explore enchanting festive days out, embark on blustery coastal walks, indulge in scrumptious roasts at cosy pubs, or immerse yourself in the thrill of storm watching. Whether you prefer lazy days with cheesy movies or the exhilaration of a coastal adventure, Christmas in Cornwall offers an array of activities to make your festive break truly memorable. With Halloween behind us, it’s time to fully embrace the festive spirit. In our latest journal, we’ve curated a guide to some of the best things to do during the Christmas build-up in Cornwall.
As far as Christmas lights are concerned you won’t get much better than the Mousehole Harbour Lights. Every December since 1963 the harbour village of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) becomes an illuminated spectacle with lights everywhere – in the harbour, on the cottages, harbour walls, hillside and a Celtic cross on St Clement’s Isle in the bay. The operation is mammoth and all run by volunteers, work to activate the 60+ displays, 90km of cables and approximately 7,000 bulbs starts each September. This year, the switch on will be on Monday 11th December, between 5 – 6pm; the lights are then illuminated every evening from 5pm to 10pm until Saturday 6th January. The exception to this is Tuesday 19th December when the lights are extinguished at 8pm, as a mark of respect to the lives lost in the Solomon Browne Lifeboat Disaster.
If you are anywhere in West Cornwall on 23rd December make sure you head to Mousehole for Tom Bawcock’s Eve, an annual event to celebrate Tom Bawcock a legendary character from the village of Mousehole, Cornwall. He appears to have been a local fisherman in the 16th century. According to the legend, one winter had been particularly stormy, meaning that none of the fishing boats had been able to leave the harbour. As Christmas approached, the villagers, who relied on fish as their primary source of food, were facing starvation. The legend passed down states that Tom Bawcock decided to brave the storms and went out in his fishing boat. Despite the stormy weather and the difficult seas, he managed to catch enough fish to feed the entire village. The entire catch (including seven types of fish) was baked into a pie, which had the fish heads poking through to prove that there were fish inside; so “stargazey” pie was born. The story of Bawcock was popularised by Antonia Barber‘s children’s book The Mousehole Cat, which featured the stargazy pie.
A magical Christmas experience aimed at children but just as compelling for adults. Based at the beautiful Tehidy Woods, near Portreath; wander through the Winter Wood on a wintry afternoon or after dark and discover an enchanting, glittering, candlelit wonderland, drawing you into an ancient kingdom. The actors lead you through a series of scenes created amongst the branches, it’s not so much like going to the theatre as wandering into a magical world in the woods. Created by Cornwall’s award winning immersive and highly visual Rogue Otherworld, Winter Wood is an immersive adventure for families and those who seek the magic we often forget.
At the end of your journey, you arrive at the Old Man Winter’s warm marquee to sit down and watch the play, the details for 2023 have just been released and will include live music, festive stories and winter wonders; go to Rogueotherworld for more details and to book your tickets. Mulled wine, hot chocolate, mince pies and soup are available to keep you warm but please do wrap up warm! A perfect start to your Christmas stay in Cornwall.
Magical Illuminated Night Gardens
We are blessed with many stunning gardens in Cornwall, visiting in the winter is a very different experience from the colourful and abundant spring and summer visits, but many are turned into a magical winter wonderland filled with lanterns, lights and delicious food along the way, an ideal way to kick off your Christmas celebrations in Cornwall.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan – Night Garden
Become immersed in an enchanting lantern experience, set amidst the atmospheric Lost Gardens. Journey through an extended 1-mile one-way journey around the accessible Garden, let the Heligan staff direct you to discover nature in a celebration of the wildlife that make Heligan their home all year round. Explore at your own pace, stop to admire the beautifully lit installations and laterns, take in the smells, toast marshmallows by stunning fire bowls, experience glittering oak trees, and enjoy seasonal warming take away refreshments and meals amid a truly festive backdrop for your Winter’s evening. There are lantern making workshops for children to attend to create their own handheld lantern to light their path whilst they explore night garden, workshops run from 4pm – 6pm and must be pre-booked.
Trengwainton, Madron, Penzance
A lovely National Trust property with a beautiful walled garden and orchard which is lit with stunning lanterns, all made by local schools and local artists. Stroll through the gardens lit by these creative lanterns and hundreds of fairy lights. Make a Christmas Wish by hanging a bauble on the wishing tree and gather your family and friends for a picture at the selfie station. Pop into the bookshop for some winter reading and to make a Christmas craft. The café is closed but there are outdoor food vendors selling hot drinks, cakes and savouries. The shop will be open for Christmas shopping from 4.30 till 8.30. For dates and prices please see Link.
Discover the magic of Christmas this year at the Eden Project, by stepping into an all-new after-dark immersive music and light experience on selected dates throughout December. Add in ice skating and Father Christmas visits, Eden offers you the chance to truly celebrate the festive season with your loved ones. The music and lights experience is on selected dates: 1-3, 8-10, 14-23 and 27-30 December 2023. For more information see Link.
Festive Christmas Markets
There are many things that Cornwall gets right, proper pasties and long sandy beaches to name a few, but we get Christmas right too! There are so many fabulous Christmas markets to choose from in Cornwall, why not book a short break in the build up to Christmas and shop for your presents in a much more enjoyable way this year? Almost every town will boast a great Christmas market but here are our pick of the bunch.
Truro Christmas Market
Truro Christmas Market runs at Lemon Quay every Wednesday to Sunday from 29th November right up to Christmas Eve, from 9am to 4pm, with several late-nights on Wednesdays. Wander amongst the wooden cabins, source beautiful local gifts from Truro’s top artisans and traders, as well as finding delicious locally sourced food, arts and crafts, music and entertainment.
Falmouth’s Festive Weekend
Falmouth’s festive weekend is the perfect event to bring your family and friends together with ice skating, live music, and an incredible Christmas market. Here, you’ll find rides for kids, a free Santa’s grotto, and so much more, to really get you in the festive spirit the streets are even snow covered! The date for your diary is Saturday 9th to Sunday 10th December, from 11am – 5pm. Some small charges apply for some of the activities.
Healeys Christmas Market
In its sixth year, Healey’s Christmas market is located in a rural spot in Callestick, just a short drive from Perranporth, and is guaranteed to get you in the festive mood. The farm is transferred into a fairytale wonderland, with twinkling fairy lights dotted around the courtyard, Christmas music and local crafts, the all-important mulled cyder and tasty food, Healey’s is a fantastic spot for families at any time of the year but particularly at Christmas. You can get involved in activities like cocktail-making, cydermaster tours and story times for the kids. Entrance is free, small charges for some activities may apply. Running every weekend from Saturday 11th November to Sunday 17th December, from 9am – 5pm.
Porthleven Christmas Market
Held inside the Shipyard Market and along the illuminated harbour, the Porthleven Christmas market brings in stallholders from all over the local area, with artisan wares from Cornish candles to silver jewellery inspired by the sea. The weekend starts on Friday 3rd December with mulled wine, mince pies, the Porthleven band and the light switch on at 7pm. The weekend of 4th – 5th December will be your chance to shop till you drop with live music and an appearance from Santa to really get you in the festive spirit. Stalls open 10am – 6pm all weekend.
Take the Plunge at Christmas
In order to really indulge in that sumptuous Christmas lunch, topped off with a mound of Cornish Cheeses and lots of chocolate why not take a Christmas Day plunge into the chilly December sea? There are many organised events on Christmas Day and Boxing Day run by local Cornish communities raising money for charities around Cornwall. Lots of people get dressed up in Santa and elf costumes- but the less you wear the braver you are!
11.00am – Sennen Cove
A swim steeped in tradition, the Sennen Christmas Day swim attracts hundreds of people every year – with only the odd wetsuit in sight! Meet opposite the Sennen Surf School, let the salty water invigorate you, and afterwards warm up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate.
12.30pm – Coverack Harbour
The story goes that a local doctor made a bet that he could swim across the harbour and ever since it’s been a local tradition for the village residents to swim the wintery water on Christmas Day. A fund raising event for Cancer Research.
Boxing Day – 12pm – Porthminster beach
At the St Ives Boxing Day swim you are welcome to a full on wet suit or go with the crowd in fancy (skimpy) dress! The swim is for charity and you can make your £1 donation on the day before taking the plunge with the rest of the brave bunch. To warm you up afterwards Porthminster Café will be open serving hot chocolates and bacon sarnies. It has to be the best cure to any Christmas day over-indulgence!!
Discover the Magic – Find your Festive Retreat
Be part of the Mousehole magical light switch on! Take a few days out and come for a festive short break in the beautiful harbour village of Mousehole; we have a few short breaks at discounted prices still available, drop me an email for details – or call to discuss. Mousehole Cottage is the ultimate cosy cottage to snuggle up by the fire after a full day of Cornish Christmas activities!
The perfect Festive venue! Available over the Christmas and New Year weeks, what better place to come and celebrate Christmas or see in 2024 with your family or close friends. Set just above magical Mousehole, The Summer House is close enough to walk down to all the festivities and see the stunning lights but provides a haven of peace and tranquillity if you just want to unwind after a busy year. Also available for a short pre-Christmas break, your chance to come and view the lights, sample some Cornish Christmas spirit whilst returning to relax in a super stylish and comfortable cottage. Special Offers apply, email or call to discuss.
Have a break from the crazy Christmas build up and book a short break to Porth Nanven Cottage, a perfect retreat to relax and unwind. Also available for the New Year week, come down and enjoy all the wonderful Christmas festivities that West Cornwall has to offer and then come back to a beautiful home from home for a cosy evening in, or stroll to nearby St Just for a fully festive night out in the atmospheric local pubs! Special offers apply, email or call me to discuss.
Spend New Year with the family in this ideal and spacious converted Barn, close to Porthleven which is a beautiful harbour town, festooned in Christmas lights and packed with buzzing pubs, cafes and restaurants to celebrate the start of the New Year. The Barn itself offers a peaceful retreat if relaxation is what you need, with a log burner, great kitchen and plenty of space for everyone; its an ideal choice for the New Year week. Just one week remaining, email or call me to discuss.