Festive Things to Do for Christmas in Cornwall

Written by: Eliot Prince

Cornwall, known for its stunning beaches and rugged beauty, is a popular summertime vacation destination. But did you know it’s amazing in the wintertime too? 

If you’re planning Christmas in Cornwall, there are so many amazing festivities to take part in! In this guide, we’ll cover: 

  • Our top 10 things to do in Cornwall in December
  • What each activity involves
  • How much it’ll set you back
  • Our best tips to celebrate your Cornish Christmas!

I can hear sleigh bells already! Let’s get into it! 

Eden Project Ice Skating

If you’ve been planning a trip to Cornwall, you’ve probably already heard of The Eden Project

This Cornish conservation effort takes the form of a beautiful sprawling garden, with futuristic biodomes, stunning diverse plant life, and magical art installations. 

But within the Project, there’s actually a hidden gem: an ice skating rink

Complete your visit to The Eden Project by strapping on your skates and gliding across the large enclosed rink under glittering snowflakes and twinkling lights. 

Sessions of 40 minutes are available for a small additional charge (less than £10 and includes skate hire) on top of park admission. 

You can choose from general free skate, family fun skate (which includes free skating aids for under-12s), or the parent and toddler session for non-skating ice play with loads of toys. 

If you’re still shaky on the skates, lessons are available as well!

If you’re not too keen on getting on the ice yourself (but other members of your group want to go), you can always cosy up on the sidelines with a cup of hot chocolate or even a juicy burger from the ice rink cafe! 

Christmas Lights at Mousehole

mousehole christmas lights

The small village of Mousehole, near Penzance, features a charming holiday tradition: lighting up their harbour with fairy lights!  

This charming tradition has been going on since 1963, and grows each year, with the current display featuring 60 different Christmas-themed displays!

Wrap up warm and stroll through the idyllic village streets to the waterfront and enjoy the sights of Santa and his sleigh, rows of twinkling Christmas trees, and even some more uniquely-Cornish decorations such as a whale and sea monster! 

There are over 90 kilometres (over 55 miles) of light cabling and 7,000 light bulbs used to create this marvellous masterpiece.  

While you’re in Mousehole, why not pay a visit to the Bird Hospital

This amazing charity works to help injured or abandoned birds get their feathers straightened out. 

You could even get up close to many of Cornwall’s native birds, including sea birds such as cororants and gannets, garden song birds, and crows and ravens. 

The hospital is free to visit, but you’re encouraged to donate a little to help support them. The Christmas lights are, of course, free to view as well!

Charlestown Tunnel of Lights 

Charlestown Tunnel of Lights 

Get ready for a truly magical experience when you visit the Tunnel of Lights at Charlestown’s Shipwreck Treasure Museum!

This immersive journey takes you through around 40 minutes of decorated tunnels, visiting Candyland, a world of presents, a shipwreck in the snow, and a charming German Christmas market! 

There’s even interactive giant baubles, Narnia’s winter forest, and a giant snow globe that makes an amazing photo opportunity.  

Explore, get involved in some holiday crafts, and enjoy delicious themed refreshments! 

Tickets to the Tunnel of Lights include admission to the museum, so why not have a look while you’re there? 

There are over 8,000 items on display that have been recovered from shipwrecks, and you can learn about Cornwall’s dark and stormy piracy past while enjoying the artefacts and interactive exhibitions. 

If you’re travelling with a dog, they can come to the museum with you too (although not into the tunnel of lights itself) as well as joining you at Dough Buoys, the onsite pizzeria. 

Enjoy a slice and a drink with views of the harbour after your festive adventure! 

If you’re not in the mood for pizza, Rebellion Roasthouse (also onsite) offers a range of creative locally-sourced fare.

Christmas at Cotehele

Christmas at Cotehele

Cotehele is a magnificent Tudor manor near Saltah, decorated in a mediaeval style with tapestries and armour. This historic site is a must visit any time of the year, but it transforms into something really special at christmas time.

The star of the show during Christmas at Cotehele, however, has got to be the gorgeous 60 ft. garland. 

The flowers are grown in January by the manor’s gardeners, then are dried and assembled over the course of the year to form the magnificent garland which is strung across the great hall. 

This tradition has been going on since the 1950’s and celebrates the fertility of the land and the spirit of the festive season. 

Lights also adorn the Cotehele Mill, and you can walk through the festive history of the area and learn about the families that lived there in the past. There are also a range of performances and events throughout the month of December. 

One special event occurs on December 31st: the annual wassail! 

While there are several meanings of wassailing (see this YouTube video by Tasting History with Max Miller on its culinary history!), in this context it’s an ancient English tradition that involves singing, chanting, and playing music in order to promote a good harvest for the coming year. 

Witness and participate in the wassail at Cotehele — just make sure to dress up and be ready to make some noise!

Boxing Day Swim

Boxing day swim in cornwall

This Cornish tradition is not for the faint of heart, but it’s sure to get your blood pumping if you dare to participate! 

Every year on Boxing Day, people all over the UK plunge into the sea to raise money for charity. 

Cornwall might be one of the best places to do this, with its abundance of amazing beaches, but it’s sure to be freezing in the middle of a Cornish winter so proceed with caution! 

Even if you’re just there to spectate, it’s a great scene as many of the locals dash into the surf in fancy dress and spirits are always running high! 

Boxing day swims are organised all around Cornwall, so no matter where you end up by the 31st you should be able to join in. 

Many events offer hot beverages after the swim, including hot chocolate, tea, and mulled wine, to help warm back up. 

Make sure to check the details about the event before you attend. For instance, if you’re not an experienced sea-swimmer, you’ll want to make sure there are lifeguards on site as not all of the beaches are manned. 

There are also age restrictions, and sometimes even a ban on wetsuits (looking at you, Perranporth) – so it’s important to check before you make the plunge! 

Christmas at Trelissick

Christmas at Trelissick

Trelissick Estate is the perfect place for a day out in December! 

The house dates back to the 1750’s and features an iconic columned facade. During the festive season the house is beautifully decorated to bring cheer to all of its guests. 

Explore and learn about the history of the stunning property, or relax with refreshments in the lounge overlooking the river Fal.  

There’s also a clever theme going on at the house: the 12 days of Christmas! 

Each team working on the grounds creates a different display for each day — why not add some extra fun to your trip by trying to spot them all?

Trelissick is also known for its beautiful and extensive grounds. Stroll through the Cornish gardens, the wandering oak-lined trails, and the charming park with amazing ocean views. 

Crofters Café is onsite, offering a scrumptious seasonal menu of local delicacies as well as baked goods and a classic cream tea. 

There’s a little gift shop as well a second-hand book store, so it’s the perfect spot for some last-minute present shopping as well. 

Dogs are welcome on the grounds (excluding the flower garden), and there’s an indoor space for them with bowls and treats should the weather turn. So, feel free to bring Fido along!

Santa by Steam — Bodmin Railway

Santa by Steam

At Bodmin railways, you can make going to meet Santa even more special than usual: by adding in a train ride

Running through December, during the Santa by Steam event you’ll be greeted by cheery elves at the railway station offering festive pies and drinks (along with carolers). 

Then you get to enjoy an hour-long journey through the picturesque Cornish countryside aboard a traditional steam train. Kids can use this time to write a letter to Santa when they’re not too busy being fixated on the views! 

Santa himself has even been known to make an appearance on the train, ringing his bell up and down the carriages!

But don’t worry if you miss him on the train; after the trip, there are a range of fun Christmas activities and crafts to do, followed by a visit to Saint Nick! 

Children get to meet Santa aboard his Victorian coach, including getting a special gift and plenty of photo opportunities. 

Travelling to Bodwin without kids in tow? Why not treat yourself to a magical Christmas stay at a luxury cottage on Bodmin moor! 

Enjoy a soak in the hot tub and a glass of mulled wine after a romantic walk featuring views of snowy mountains and rugged coastlines, and refuel with delicious festive meals from your own private chef.

Christmas Markets 

truro christmas market in Cornwall

During Christmas time, loads of charming markets spring up all across Cornwall, offering locally-made products, plus delicious food and drink. 

Traditional things on offer include hot cider and mulled wine, pastries, and other baked goods, as well as live music from local artists. 

You can also find cookery demonstrations, crafts, and other kids’ activities, in addition to festive entertainers and plays. 

There’s sure to be a Christmas market near you wherever you travel, so why not hit up a few to get your shop on and see how they compare? 

If you’re wanting to double up on the Christmas spirit, why not visit Bude during your travels?

The Beach Hut Christmas market is one of Cornwall’s finest, in which Bude’s charming multi-coloured beach huts transform into a cheerful, bustling marketplace offering crafts, art, jewellery, and all kinds of warming refreshments – complete with a stunning ocean view. 

Then, pop over to Bude’s tunnel for a dazzling Christmas light walk-through! 

The supermarket tunnel gets a makeover every December when it’s strung with sparkling multi-coloured lights, creating an immersive experience right in the heart of Bude.  

Midnight Mass at Truro Cathedral

Midnight Mass at Truro Cathedral

If you’re in Truro, this towering cathedral will be difficult to miss! 

Dating back all the way to 1259 (although it has been rebuilt and restored since) the cathedral is a gorgeous piece of Gothic architecture and a monument to Cornwall’s rich history. 

If you’re lucky enough to be in the area on Christmas, why not attend the midnight mass

This service is offered from 11pm–12am on the 24th and celebrates Jesus’ birth, hope, and the year to come. 

Ring in Christmas surrounded by stunning arches, stained glass windows, and beautiful choral music.

Pantomime at Hall for Cornwall

For a more secular Truro Christmas experience, just across the road from the cathedral, visit the Hall for Cornwall

This stunning performing arts centre hosts an annual Christmas pantomime that is sure to delight kids and adults alike! 

Don’t worry if you’re not in Truro though! Pantomime shows are on across the region during the festive season. 

Another prime spot is the Princess Pavilion theatre in Falmouth. 

This open-air theatre is located in the Gyllyngdune Gardens, a charming area featuring Eduardian decor, exotic and local plant life, glasshouses, and children’s play areas. 

There’s also a little café on the ground if you get peckish during your Christmas matinée, as well as a bar that opens for later performances.

The Bottom Line

Christmas in Cornwall is a magical experience. 

From ice skating at The Eden Project and jumping into the sea on Boxing Day, to meeting Santa in Bodmin and more, you’re sure to find something to entertain yourself and the whole family during December!

Just remember to wrap up warm and bring the camera!