Think of Cornwall and many conjure up scenes of sun-drenched beach days, fair weather coastal walking and balmy alfresco dinners. But there’s much more to Cornwall than the summer holidays and the county is a stellar spot to cosy up for a very merry Christmas.
Christmas in Cornwall can be as relaxed or as fun-filled as you want. From full on festive days out to wintry walks and laidback roasts on the coast, there are endless ways to spend the jolliest season here. And if you’re looking for a festive bolthole, you need look no further. Whether you’re into stormy sea views or snuggling up next to a roaring fire, there are plenty of Cornish cottages to choose for your next festive stay.
Read on to discover some of the best ways to spend the festive period in Cornwall…
A sure-fire way to get into the Christmas spirit is with a trip to a traditional Christmas market. With the twinkling lights, chatter mingled with Christmas music and aromas of roasting chestnuts, even the Grinch himself couldn’t help getting swept up by the magic of it all. Plus, if you haven't got your presents yet, it's the perfect opportunity to tick that off the to do list.
Cornwall takes its Christmas markets very seriously and there’s a huge variety of stalls selling all manner of festive delights, from handmade jewellery and original art, to artisan chocolate and vintage wares. Suffice to say, you're sure to find something for just about everyone on your Nice List.
Once you’re stocked up, why not treat yourself to a mulled wine or indulgent hot chocolate? At many markets you’ll also find plenty of tasty treats to tuck into, along with live performances to really get you feeling that Yuletide mood.
Truro Christmas Market in Lemon Quay is one of the biggest, and often coincides with the city's late-night-shopping Wednesdays throughout December, perfect for last minute gift buying. On the south coast, Fowey Christmas Market boasts a lantern parade and a visit from Father Christmas himself, making it a solid choice for families with young children. On the north coast the Christmas Craft Fayre at Bedruthan Hotel is a great spot for picking up handmade, unique gifts made by some of the county's brightest creative sparks.
Ready to stock up on stocking fillers and fill up on stollen? Check out some more of our favourite Christmas markets in Cornwall.
There’s no better way to fully embrace the season than with a festive event or big Christmassy day out. Whether you've got a young family, like getting crafty or enjoy swotting up on history, there is festive fun to be had for you in Cornwall.
One of the county's biggest attractions, The Eden Project, has a spectacular festive calendar of events but top of the list has to be the magnificent glittery ice rink where you can take ice skating lessons or enjoy a laidback family session. Afterwards, why not warm up in the world's largest indoor rainforest? Alternatively, go and meet Santa!
Those who could give Kirstie Allsopp a run for her money might enjoy a trip down west to Polurrian on the Lizard, where a range of different Christmas craft sessions are taking place this December. You could make your own glass decorations, whip up a batch of festive cards, sew your own stocking or even fashion your own wreath.
If you've a flair for the dramatics and the great outdoors, head to Tehidy Woods where Rogue Theatre is putting on a theatrical festival of wonder. The immersive walk, featuring live music and festive tales, has scooped awards left right and centre, including What’s On Cornwall Award for Best Theatre Show.
Fans of the past would enjoy a trip to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Charlestown, at any time of the year, but come Christmas it's something else entirely. The Tunnel of Lights transforms more than 100 metres of tunnels below the attraction into a winter wonderland with shipwrecks frozen in time, an arctic soundscape and thousands of lights.
For more ideas of Christmas days out in Cornwall, check out our guide on the best things to do in Cornwall in winter.
Christmas lights switch on
When it comes to Christmas lights, Cornwall has plenty to choose from. One of the most famous is the Mousehole Christmas light display, which originated in 1963. The eccentric, charming display takes place down in the village harbour, with lights dotted up the valley beyond. While there is no official switch on day this year, it's anticipated that all displays will be completed and lit by mid-December.
For a narrative driven display, head to Angarrack where the Christmas lights include twelve separate displays each one telling the story of one of the twelve days of Christmas. It's an impressive sight; the eleven pipers are almost 10m tall and the twelve drummers drumming have to be seen to be believed. The lights are switched on the first Saturday in December and are illuminated thereafter from 5pm - 10.30pm.
Little ones in tow? Head to Camel Creek Adventure Park, home to the longest, continuous light tunnel in the South West. Over 100 meters will be festooned with 2km of lights, casting the park in a magical festive glow throughout the festive season. Head to the Chocolate Factory afterwards for a seasonal treat.
If Cornwall's glorious gardens are one of the county's main appeals to you, you'll love the Trebah Garden of Light which sees a lantern procession through the subtropical garden and on to firelit festivities on the beach. Take your time to see the local artist-created lantern installations and even have a go at making your own. This event runs until the 11th of December.
There are plenty of other Christmas light events running throughout the county, have a look on social media for the nearest to your holiday cottage. You'll find some on the 4th of December in Polperro complete with carols by The Polperro Fishermen's Choir, Wednesdays at Victoria Gardens in Truro and on the 4th of December at Penryn's 'Dickensian' themed event.
Christmas and Boxing Day swims
If you truly want to get into the Christmas spirit Cornwall-style, you'll need to pack your swimming costume. Maybe a wetsuit. That's right, we're talking about celebrating Christmas or Boxing Day with a frolic in the Atlantic. You won't be alone; thousands join in up and down the coast every year and there are plenty of spots to choose from.
On the north coast head to Polzeath, though this is not for the faint hearted as it’s a strict wetsuit free affair! Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes is another north coast spot, here the chilly dip is followed up with a hot mulled cider in the Driftwood Spars (instigated by a dare from the previous landlady who offered people a free pint if they went for a dip in their swim shorts). The Christmas Day swim at Bude raises funds for Bude Surf Life Saving Club and sees some 500 people take a dip, followed by hot showers and mince pies afterwards.
On the south coast you could head to Gyllyngvase Beach at Falmouth, where fancy dress is actively encouraged. If you're waiting until Boxing Day, Charlestown beach is the place to go and has been since 1991 when Charlestown Rowing Club first set up the event.
Staying on Cornwall's west coast? Check out Coverack Harbour, where a local doctor bet a friend he couldn't swim across the harbour and the tradition caught on. Alternatively, head to Sennen Cove where several hundred people take a dip every Christmas Day.
Looking for more icy recommendations? Check out our guide to Christmas and boxing day dips.
There is no denying that food makes up a big part of Christmas for many of us. From a traditional turkey roast dinner with all the trimmings to all the little festive touches like champagne at breakfast, mince pies all December long and an excuse for the most decadent cheese board of the year. But while cooking at home is all part of the fun, you can't beat a festive meal out, especially if it comes with sea views.
The Greenbank in Falmouth is an elevated sea view affair with estate venison scotch egg to start, butter roasted individual crown of turkey with all the trimmings followed by eggnog crème brûlée, brandy-soaked golden raisins and shortbread.
The Beach Hut at Watergate Bay is a beautiful option on the north coast, with floor to ceiling windows framing the wintry Atlantic perfectly. With plenty of options to choose from, we think the orange and thyme stuffing and creamed sprouts and chestnuts sound like festive standouts.
For festive pub fare, head to The Rashleigh Arms in Charlestown where you can enjoy the crackle of an open fire and award-winning beer before tucking into a traditional roast. Afterwards, take a stroll around the harbour and soak up the salty sea atmosphere.
Whether you’d like to eat your Christmas lunch out or simply enjoy a good meal with a sea view in the lead-up to the big day, you’ll find some excellent options in our guide to restaurants and pubs with sea views in Cornwall.
One of the best ways to work up an appetite for Christmas lunch (or walk it off for that matter) is with a bracing festive walk. It’s a family Christmas activity that can help little ones burn off some of that exuberant energy and of course, it’s a dog friendly way to spend some of the day too.
Whether you want a stomp through the crispy wintry countryside, a proper appetite-generating hike along the coast or a chilled-out meander along the beach, Cornwall is sure to have the perfect walk for your Christmas needs. Check out our guide to the best walks in Cornwall to find your ideal stroll for the big day.
If you think Christmas in Cornwall sounds like an idyllic way to see out 2021, check out our range of Cornish cottages that are decorated ready for your celebrations to begin.