Cornwall Living 2017

The insiders guide to a Cornish Christmas

From harbour swims to hearty food, Cornwall promises to deliver the ultimate Christmas by the sea.

Well, here it is again – the nights have drawn in, the summer crowds have dissipated and Christmas is ready to greet us warmly like an oversized alpine jumper. The lights are already up here in Porthleven, and nothing gets us more in the mood for Christmas than watching them twinkle away in the harbour; the gentle aroma of wood smoke filling the air, as families and friends get cosy around the log burner, catching up over roasted chestnuts and their tipple of choice.

As the excitement mounts, in search of the authentic experience, we’ve asked friends and personalities across Cornwall to share their vision of the ultimate Christmas – everything from family days out to making the best gravy. We have covered all bases… the big lunch, drinks, presents, things to do, decorations and much more. So, whether you’re lucky enough to live here, or are simply visiting friends or family, rest assured that a Christmas in Cornwall promises to be a truly unique and enchanting experience.

Magic moments

The weeks leading up to the big day are all about the ambiance, especially for those with young families – embracing the magic of Christmas. There’s no shortage of festivities to immerse yourself in throughout December, from vivid light displays and traditional parades to live theatre and carol singing.

If you love the Cornish countryside and celebrating ages-old traditions, then the National Trust has Christmas all wrapped up. Cotehele is famed for decking the halls with its 60ft Christmas garland, typically containing around 30,000 dried flowers, which hangs in the Tudor Hall. As well as festive arts and crafts activities and seasonal events, Father (and Mother) Christmas will be making appearances at National Trust properties throughout Cornwall, including Cotehele, Trelissick and Lanhydrock – it’s a busy time for the couple, so make sure you book in advance. For more information www.nationaltrust.org.uk

The Eden Project also knows how to do Christmas in style. The children have the chance to meet Santa and his elves on selected dates right up until Christmas Eve (when he starts to get quite busy in the evening with other commitments). Again, we recommend buying your tickets in advance, and you’ll need a valid entry ticket to Eden. While you’re there, the whole family can have a go at ice-skating. Prepare to be dazzled at Eden’s Festival of Light and Sound, a tremendous laser show that lights up the night sky, set to stirring music. For more information visit www.edenproject.com

Santa certainly gets about across Cornwall, taking a ride on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway as part of the unique ‘Santa by Steam’ experience (see page 95). And in several towns across Cornwall, you’ll see hundreds of Santas all at once, competing in the popular annual Santa Fun Runs for Cornwall Hospice Care.

Christmas is often a time of reflection too, and sparing a thought for those who are sadly no longer with us, Cornwall Hospice Care is holding a series of special ‘Light Up a Life’ services across the Duchy from the beginning of December. For more information visit www.cornwallhospicecare.co.uk

Deck the halls

If Cotehele’s garland has inspired you, then perhaps it’s time to up your game for this year’s decorations. Julian Foye has a range of soft furnishing that will add some festive warmth to your home this Christmas. 

For a different take, why not introduce some Scandi style to your home this year? As we recently discovered from Coastal Scandi’s Isabel, the Swedes love to light up their homes with candles and advent candlesticks, along with traditional paper advent stars representing the Star of Bethlehem. Get the Scandinavian Christmas look with handmade decorations, natural woods, fir tree wreaths, pine cones, red berries, hearts, white stars and snowflakes – not forgetting the reindeer! “Don’t forget the Scandi style rule – less is more,” explains Isabel. “By sticking to a red and white theme, this is easily achieved!” Having perfected the ambiance, snuggle up with a warm, cosy blanket, a hot cup of ‘glögg’ (mulled wine), saffron buns and gingerbread cookies. To find out more about achieving your Scandinavian Christmas style visit  www.coastalscandi.com

It’s showtime

For most families, it’s just not Christmas without a trip to the theatre… oh no, it isn’t! Hall For Cornwall presents Sleepy Beauty, the final instalment of an epic panto trilogy starring Granville Saxton and our own Kernow King, putting a very Cornish twist on the classic tale. Meanwhile, Bah Humbug!, the Miracle Theatre’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol runs throughout December in residency at Falmouth’s Princess Pavilion. Last year’s show Cinderella was practically a sell-out, so you’ll have to get in quick to secure any remaining seats – with a fantastic cast, state-of-the-art effects and a sprinkling of Miracle magic, prepare to be dazzled! Finally, surely nothing could possibly be more Cornish than a stage production of The Mousehole Cat, performed in Mousehole itself. 

A chance to celebrate the true significance behind Christmas, Truro Cathedral hosts a magnificent concert on Saturday 16th December, ‘A Child is Born in Bethlehem: A Celebration of Christmas with Truro Cathedral Choir’. Hear what Sir David Willcocks has dubbed “one of the world’s finest cathedral choirs” in action.

Take a walk on the wild side

A clear theme emerged from almost everyone we’ve spoken to: beach walks! Everyone has their family favourites; a local beach that they get to enjoy all to themselves. Highlights include: a cold walk along Porthkidney beach; Porthmeor beach in St Ives and a windy stroll around ‘The Island’, followed by a pre-dinner, very dry Martini made with Curio Rock Samphire gin; the coast path at Rinsey Head down to the engine house, before admiring the fabulous views of Mount’s Bay… the list goes on. That’s the real beauty of Cornwall, one of its great assets – the opportunity to make the morning’s first tracks in the sand as the turkey is cooking.

If a gentle amble by the sea is not adventurous enough, you could take it one step further with a Christmas or Boxing Day swim, a fine Cornish tradition. Stick to one of the many organised events in harbour towns and villages across Cornwall – remember, strength in numbers and embrace the cold! You’ll soon warm up round the fire in pub afterwards with a celebratory toast.

All I  want for Christmas…

By now, you’ve probably got most of your Christmas shopping done and dusted, perhaps at one of the excellent festive markets in harbour towns like Fowey, Padstow or Penzance. But there’s always that elusive gift or two that proves difficult to track down. Fortunately, there’s still time to pick up that last minute gift across Cornwall. Penzance and St Ives are perfect for Christmas shopping, and The Poly Christmas Market in Falmouth runs until 4pm on Christmas Eve, promising a range of beautiful handmade gifts from Cornish producers. If you’re looking for a few more ideas, we have plenty over the following pages – why not try Ann’s Cottage for lifestyle clothing and surf gear, Cornwall Gold for unique and stunning jewellery with heart and heritage, and Cornwall’s wonderful independent galleries for a range of arty gifts.

Getting into the spirit

Needless to say, it’s essential that you ensure your drinks cabinet is suitably stocked over Christmas. After all, you never know who might be popping in. As we highlighted in our recent drinks cover feature, there is an impressive array of drinks produce coming out of Cornwall at the moment, fabulous award-winning artisan gins, spirits, beers, ciders and wines for every palette and budget. This Christmas, why not steer away from the usual brand, for a small batch bottle of something different, unique and Cornish? Not only will you be supporting a wonderful blossoming industry, your taste buds will thank you for making the switch too! Lovingly crafted, the bottles are often things of real beauty too, and will look great on the shelf. For more advice on the right tipple for the right meal, or finding something special for that someone special, pop in to Constantine Stores near Falmouth, which stocks a huge range of drinks, including many regional delicacies (discover more at www.drinkfinder.co.uk). Those who don’t drink are equally spoilt for choice with refreshing cordials, fruit juices and soft drinks from producers such as Polgoon.

Food, glorious food

Whatever you have planned, no doubt some hearty, warming food is on the menu, and the moment we’ve all been waiting for is the big Christmas lunch.

“Christmas Dinner is the most important meal of the year for me,” says Scott Buzza, butcher at Etherington’s, “as all of the family get together and spend quality time. As a butcher, I like to eat a bit of everything, so our Christmas tends to be a smorgasbord. The key ingredient however has to be gravy – and the tip to making the most flavoursome gravy is never to waste any of the juices that come from your meat. If you’re cooking a turkey make sure to cook your bird above the gravy on a rack. When carving, carve your meat back into your gravy and then warm for five minutes in a low oven and it’s ‘ansome!”

But you don’t need to limit yourselves to turkey. Indeed, with Cornwall known for its freshest seafood, many are switching the bird for a fresh fillet of fish. A keen angler among us recommends a Christmas morning fishing trip. “Nothing beats sea air pumping through your lungs on a wintry morning, followed by freshly caught fish. Of course, it can’t hurt to have some ready in the fridge as a back up!” Our Foodie section has lots of recipes to try.

As always, with so much going on, our Insiders’ Guide is just that – a small taste of the riches on offer across Cornwall this Christmas from some of those who’ve experienced it firsthand. But that’s the great thing about Christmas – the experience is unique to every individual. So wherever you find yourself over the season, from all of the team at Cornwall Living, we with you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

This month’s features