Things to do in Cornwall this Christmas
From lantern trails and craft markets to foodie feasts, theatre productions and heritage events taking place across the county — plus a smattering of festive sea swims planned at beaches up and down the coast (fancy dress optional) — there’s masses to see and do this Christmas in Cornwall.
Markets and fairs
Cornwall Christmas Fair at The Eden Project — 23-24 November
Get your Christmas shopping all wrapped up before November’s even over at the Eden Project’s glittering festive event, celebrating local producers, artists and craftspeople, with hundreds of stalls selling food and drink, ethical clothing and skincare, as well as art, homeware, jewellery, and plenty more. In true Eden style, this is the biggest fair in the region’s seasonal calendar, all set around the magnificent biomes, which are lit up in a dazzling rainbow of colour for the occasion. Don’t forget your skates — the ice rink is open until end of February.
Fowey Christmas Market — 2-4 December
Fowey is a pretty special place at any time of the year, but over one weekend in November Christmas fever takes hold, with throngs of visitors descending on the town for the Fowey Christmas Market to browse the stalls of over 200 traders, sip mulled wine and enjoy the festive soundtrack from choirs and brass bands dotted around the town. Celebrations kick off on Friday evening with the arrival of Santa by tugboat, Fowey Town Band leads a lantern parade through the town, and there are fireworks and late-night shopping at all the town’s indies.
Lights and lanterns
Mousehole Harbour Lights
Nothing says Christmas quite like a huge neon sea serpent snaking its way through the harbour. For a few weeks in December, sleepy Mousehole is transformed by 30,000 multicoloured lights, a tradition which began in 1963 with a string of coloured bulbs along the quay and now includes dozens of illuminations, such as the 50 metre-long Santa’s sleigh and reindeers. Carols are sung, mulled wine is supped, and there’s plenty of merriment to be found around the town’s shops, eateries, and venues.
Heligan Light Garden
As darkness descends, wander through the woodlands of Cornwall’s much-loved Lost Gardens of Heligan along trails lit up by beautiful lanterns depicting wildlife and scenes from nature — from badgers and squirrels to hedgehogs, even a burst of snowdrops. Toast marshmallows and chestnuts and warm colds hands on a mug of steaming hot chocolate along the way. A treat for children and adults alike.
Tunnel of Lights
No need to trek to the Alps in search of snow this winter. Throughout December, the tunnels under the Shipwreck Treasure Museum — once used to transport China clay onto ships in Charlestown’s harbour — will be lit up by thousands of lights, transforming the network of tunnels into a magical polar Arctic wonderland, with frozen waterfalls, icebergs, ice caves – and snowstorms.
Theatre and entertainment
Dickens at the Minack Theatre
Theatres don’t get much more atmospheric than the open-air Minack Theatre, perched high on the cliffs with views of the Atlantic beyond — visit during winter for dramatic scenes of crashing waves and stormy skies. This Christmas, acclaimed Cornish actor David Mynne will be taking to the open-air stage again this Christmas with his popular one-man adaptation of Dickens’ classic. This is no ordinary play, though – be prepared for lots of added silliness thrown in.
Christmas at The Eden Project
The Eden Project will be pulling out all the stops to create a captivating festive experience like no other at the world-famous site this Christmas. The two huge biomes — the rainforest and Mediterranean greenhouses — will be lit up in a rainbow of colours, with live musicians playing seasonal orchestral favourites. The festive atmosphere continues outside in the Outdoor Gardens where there’ll be ice skating, a tunnel of lights and delicious food in the cafe.
It wouldn’t be Christmas in Cornwall without a bracing dunk in the ice-cold sea surrounded by hundreds of other hardy fancy-dressed swimmers. If you’re feeling brave, you’ll find various beaches across the county hosting swims on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. On Christmas Day, head to Gylly Beach in Falmouth, Coverack Harbour on the Lizard, St Agnes and Polzeath on the north coast, or Sennen Cove in south Cornwall. On Boxing Day, choose from Poldhu Beach on the Lizard, Porthminster Beach in St Ives, Charlestown Beach, Portreath Beach, or Portreath and Perranporth on the north coast. There are also plenty of swims on New Year’s Day, with Gorran Haven, Looe, Falmouth and Newquay all planning festive dips to herald the new year.
New to wild swimming? Discover the joys of coldwater dips in Cornwall
Food and feasts
Festive Feasts at Nancarrow Farm — 7, 8, 16 and 17 December
You’ll need to book ahead to grab a place at the table at these candle-lit communal feast nights, held in the atmospheric oak barn at Nancarrow Farm, an organic farm and rural events venue near Truro. In December, they’ll be hosting four festive feasts across the month, where you’ll dine on their own beef or lamb, alongside plenty of local, seasonal ingredients from their kitchen garden. Sign up to their newsletter to make sure you’re first in line when the tickets are released!
Padstow Christmas Food Festival — 1-4 December
Postcard-pretty Padstow makes the perfect backdrop to Cornwall’s biggest festive food festival, which returns to the county’s favourite culinary destination this December. A-list chefs Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw and Paul Ainsworth will be hosting the event this year, which will run over four days, with stallholders, street food traders and performers in and among the marquees throughout the weekend. Family-friendly festive activities will also take place across the town, such as Santa’s grotto, live music on the bandstand, carol singing and a firework display over the harbour.
A nostalgic Christmas
Yuletide celebrations at the National Trust
When it comes to creating a traditional Christmas, few places do it better than the National Trust. At Trelissick House, festivities will be centred around the stables where Father Christmas will be telling festive tales (selected dates, book ahead), the cafe will be selling mulled wine and other winter warmers, and a there’ll be choirs and a Christmas craft fair in the house, where there will also be a Twelve Days of Christmas themed hunt for around the house for children. Each year, the team at Cotehele — a Tudor house and working flour mill in north Cornwall — creates a 60-foot Christmas garland using 30,000 flowers, which hangs in the Great Hall throughout the festive season. There will be performances from choirs throughout December, grounds decked out in festive lights and hot chocolates to warm mitts along the winter trails in the garden.
Take a trip on a heritage steam train
Chug through the Cornish countryside this Christmas on the popular Bodmin and Wenford heritage railway. There’ll be mince pies and carols on the platform, before passengers join Santa’s elves on the 50-minute train ride, which departs for Bodmin Parkway five times a day on selected dates in December. Children will get the chance the pen a letter to Father Christmas and meet Santa himself in his beautiful Victorian carriage. At Lappa Valley, a nostalgic steam train ride near Newquay, children will be able to meet and have photos with Rudolph, visit Father Christmas and his elves in his grotto, where every child receives a present, write and post your letter to Father Christmas, as well as enjoying the soft play area and woodland railway.
Meet Father Christmas
The big man in red is rather fond of Cornwall and will be popping up in various locations across the county this December, including the cosy Head Gardeners Office at the Lost Gardens of Heligan and several National Trust properties, including Lanhydrock, where he’ll be welcoming children (and dogs, too!) into his very own woodland grotto in the heart of the estate’s gardens, and Trelissick House near Truro. He will also be making an appearance at Newquay Zoo between 17-24 December,