Cornwall LivingIssue #67
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.
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.
“What makes Christmas eve the most exciting day of the year for me is following Falmouth Docks Choir singing through the streets of Falmouth in the morning while doing last minute shopping and having a couple of pints at the Seven Stars”. – Kim Conchie, Resident and Chief Executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce.
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 fl owers, 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 visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
“For the first time in a few years we’ll be hosting Christmas in Cornwall. I hope to spend most of my time cooking or snoozing by the fire, but we always love a blast of fresh air on the beach. The coastline from Porthleven to Mullion is the family favourite and I’ve no doubt that we’ll end up at the Polurrian Hotel for a cheeky festive tipple! Christmas at Trebah is special too and there’s always lots on for the children.” – Matt James, Garden and landscape designer, Author of RHS How to Plant a Garden
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 bySteam’ experience. 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
“The magic scenery and easy pace of life make Cornwall a favourite Christmas destination for our family. Wrapping up and beachcombing with the children and Jake the dog whilst waves dash up the beach, then warming up with hot chocolate in welcoming cafés; heading to beautiful Mousehole to catch the Christmas lights shining over the harbour. For me, Christmas is all about good company enjoyed in a cosy cottage with a log fire, chatting and cooking together, playing board games and celebrating with a glass of bubbly. – Jackie Dawes, Holidaymaker of Helpful Holidays.
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 theScandinavian 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 yourScandinavian Christmas style visit www.coastalscandi.com
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 showCinderella 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. Back by popular demand.
“We’re fortunate to have friends in Cornwall – Christmas and New Year are always a special time to visit. We’ve enjoyed Rogue Theatre’s Winter Wood and would recommend to anyone visiting to make time for this magical (and sometimes muddy!) experience. Old Man Winter’s storytelling is incredible. As long as you are prepared for the weather a Cornish Christmas is hard to beat!” – Jemma Burridge – Regular visitor to Cornwall
A chance to celebrate the true signifi cance 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.
“We plan an epic walk on Boxing Day – ideally somewhere we haven’t been, or a new way to get somewhere. To the top of Brown Willy, or along unused footpaths to Gwithian. Family and friends can share in the sense of adventure and the memories are unique and unforgettable.” – Phil Gendall, Forever Cornwall
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 fi re in pub afterwards with a celebratory toast.
“Boxing Day, no matter the weather it’s on with the wellingtons and it has to be a walk on our local beach at Porthluney, a dog-friendly beach – at its best when the tide is out. We fi nd sticks and write messages in the sand to photograph and send to friends and family or even post on Facebook now! It’s a fun way to wish someone happy new year from Cornwall – decorate your message with seashells you’ve picked up from your walk across the beach.” – Jeanette Eustace, Julian Foye, the Furnishers
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, 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.
“My vision for a perfect Christmas – stormy seas rolling in with crashing waves, quiet sandy beaches to walk the dogs and the Christmas lights around the harbours, wonderful photographic opportunities for me, walking the coastline and capturing the light, warm log fires in cosy pubs and plenty of hot chocolate to warm up – perfect after a day out with the camera! I cannot think of anywhere else I’d rather be but to have Christmas in Cornwall.” – Carla Regler, award-winning Porthleven photographer
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?
“My christmas tipple would have to be sloe gin port or Cornish dream cream liquor. We have a full Cornish breakfast on Christmas Day followed by a delicious Christmas dinner and a walk down the beach with the dogs.” – Melissa Reid, Great Britain Paratriathlete
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 fl avoursome 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!”
“Gravlax is traditionally served in our house at Christmas. Rick loves curing his own fish for a couple of days – it’s beautiful and tastes great. The cure is very simple: four parts salt to three parts sugar, with some white peppercorns. Mix it all together, chop some fresh dill, then lay it out on the flesh of the salmon. Wrap it tightly in cling film, and weight it down in the fridge. Turn it every 12 hours for two days and you’ll notice a lot of juice comes out. Make sure you clear this all off, so it’s not sitting in its own juice. Then after two days, take it out, unwrap it, and slice it down nice and thin on a 45° angle. It’s served very simply, with some fresh horseradish grated into cream, whipped slightly; knock that back with a bit of lemon juice and salt, and serve it with some toast and a bit of lemon wedge – job’s a good’un!” – Jack Stein, The Seafood Restaurant
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 fi llet of fi sh. 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.
“Christmas wouldn’t be the same in my family without a box of Quality Street kicking around and lots of practical jokes. For Christmas dinner we normally have some roasted whole fish with all the normal roast trimmings – this year it’s turbot. Boxing Day lunch has to be cold meat cuts, pickles and a buttery mashed potato. My daughter Jessie is a mean baker (only 13!), so one of her famous ‘Messy Jessie sticky toffee puddings’ normally tops the evening off! – Nathan Outlaw, Michelin starred restaurateur
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!
“One of my favourite alternative Christmas Days was when we decided to forsake the Christmas turkey for something that required less prep and far less washing up! I pre-ordered some frozen Cornish pasties which I baked in the oven on Christmas morning. We packed up our trusty VW camper and drove over to Gwithian beach to eat our steaming hot pasties overlooking the ocean. A stroll along the beach followed before we returned to the van for warming mugs of hot chocolate, mulled wine and a big slice of Christmas cake – heaven! -Hannah Tapping, Editor of Cornwall Living
"What makes Christmas eve the most exciting day of the year for me is following Falmouth Docks Choir singing through the streets of Falmouth in the morning while doing last minute shopping and having a couple of pints at the Seven Stars". - Kim Conchie, Resident and Chief Executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce.