Cornwall LivingIssue #142
Seek out the sparkle
Experience the magic of Cornwall this winter as Christmas breathes life into the landscape.
The Duchy comes into its own at this time of year, transforming from a coast blanketed in delicate auburn leaves to one bordered with crashing waves, sweeping afternoon sunsets and crisp, biting breezes. In spite of this, at the heart of the colder season’s metamorphosis is warmth; crackling pub fires defrost the toes of heat seekers, flickering candles peek through the drawn curtains of houses and steaming cups of mulled wine wait patiently to be sipped. As festive anticipation builds, journey with us to discover some of the most magical ways to spend your days as we sink deeper into winter and the big day approaches on the frosted horizon.
Throw yourself in the festive deep end with a trip to Trevena Cross Nurseries (trevenacross.co.uk), famous for its magical transformation from tropical garden centre to winter wonderland. This year promises to be extra special for visitors with the re-introduction of Santa’s Grotto for the first time since 2019. Once a tradition for many before the COVID pandemic hit, the team is only now in a position to bring back this popular community attraction. Garden Centre Manager Nick Hann explains: “Building it from scratch, we are investing a lot of time, money and spirit into its creation and we just hope we can live up to, or better still, exceed visitor expectations and memories of the grotto.”
Of course, there is much more to explore than the grotto; whether you are looking for a gift for a loved one, a new decoration to adorn the tree, or the tree itself, there are endless festive essentials at Trevena Cross. Pick up a box and fill it with your favourites from traditional twinkling baubles and delicate glass ornaments to contemporary and quirky decorations, accompanied by a large variety of lights, tinsel and gifts. Once you’ve stocked up on decorations, take your time perusing the large variety of trees, including the £25 non-drop Nordmann Firs, so you can make the most of the sweet smell of pine and admire your new haul within your own home. If you’re visiting during a weekend in December, explore one of 25 local traders for the perfect stocking filler, indulge in festive photo opportunities and soak up the festive glow before heading home.
For an even larger selection of traders, we would recommend making a visit to Fowey Christmas Market (foweychristmasmarket.co.uk) due to take place on 8th, 9th and 10th December. Sponsored by Shop Cornish and supported by us at Cornwall Living, here you will find almost 100 stalls across three venues manned by local artisans, makers and bakers waiting to offer you a smörgåsbord of quality products and produce. Park in the nearby car park in Fowey or catch the minibus into the town centre to visit the market which attracts thousands of attendees each year. Take your time sampling tipples, chatting to traders and picking out the perfect present all while seasonal music drifts through the air and roasted chestnuts tempt the tastebuds. You could easily while away several hours wandering across Fowey Town Quay, Albert Quay and Web Street, delighting in the range of wares for all tastes and budgets, and there is plenty of opportunity to stop in one of Fowey’s fantastic eateries for a well-deserved refuel. Moments before the town band strikes up to begin the Christmas parade, wave hello to Father Christmas as he arrives by tugboat to lead the procession. Finally, experience the switching on of the lights amongst delighted onlookers and become immersed in a world of music and magic where festive cheer exists in abundance.
If you prefer Christmas lights without the crowds, take a driving tour of some of Cornwall’s most beautiful spots during the colder season, perhaps stopping for a stroll underneath the moonlight. Travel through Newlyn to take in the view of the arching coast with lights indistinguishable from stars, twinkling in the distance as you make your way to Mousehole (mouseholelights.org.uk), arguably one of the best locations in the Duchy for a dazzling display. Fairy lights hang from bare branches, boats bob in the distance and a mysterious sea creature inhabits the harbour while children delight in the stunning spectacle and run from lapping waves upon the shore. The reflection of illuminated house windows and glimmering paper lanterns glow on the glassy water surface as the excited hubbub and sweet smell of mulled wine from open-door pubs fill the air, pulling you in. For an equally breathtaking view, head to Angarrack where there is a captivating display at every turn. Wander through the streets to spot the twelve days of Christmas, marvel at the seven swans a-swimming on the river and take in the dedicated displays lighting up the local houses. Finally, take a trip to Mevagissey where the pretty harbour becomes alive with colourful lights and its welcoming pubs and eateries offer a cosy retreat after a walk around its perimeter. While these are just a handful of our favourites, you are bound to find breathtaking illuminations wherever you turn in Cornwall as each community creates its own unique display.
Alternatively, escape to Cotehele (nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/cornwall/cotehele), the National Trust-run Tudor house with medieval roots, glorious gardens and an expansive estate where a spectacular 60-foot garland adorns the Great Hall. A tradition since 1956, each year the gardeners at Cotehele build the garland from thousands of flowers grown on the estate. Preparations begin in January when flower seeds are sown in the Cut Flower Garden before being picked in late April and dried over the summer and autumn. After admiring the impressive display, follow the festive lights along the stream to Cotehele Mill, decorated in traditional Victorian style, and take in the sights and smells of the flour mill at Christmas. Wrap up warm to enjoy the performances of choirs and bands just outside the Hall Court before wandering across the frosty estate with a hot chocolate in hand; the Piggery in the farmyard has a selection of flavours and toppings to choose from so you can design your own to keep you toasty. On Saturday 23rd December the estate has its Wassail, an annual procession where visitors are encouraged to arrive at the estate in fancy dress with something noisy in hand and scare away the evil spirits, ensuring a bumper crop the following year. A trip to the Bull Pen Gallery offers a range of unique gifts inspired by Cotehele itself, from Christmas garlands and games to festive tree decorations and luxury Christmas biscuits. Spend the day discovering the festive history that lies within the walls of this grand estate and be part of how it continues to be celebrated today.
For something extra special, take a night-time trip to The Lost Gardens of Heligan (heligan.com) and become immersed in the enchanting lantern experience. Working with The Lantern Company, a leading outdoor arts organisation, this is the perfect event to journey through the magical garden trail, exploring woodlands beautifully lit with glowing installations. Discover breathtaking displays of fauna and flora as the often-overlooked wonders and beauty of nature on our doorstep are illuminated under a nocturnal magnifying glass. From delicate butterflies to a family of Tamworth pigs, this seasonal trail creates a treasure-filled space to discover these beautiful indigenous species. Before this, make sure to book your little ones into the lantern-making workshop for them to light their path as they venture into the garden. The extended one-mile, one-way trail is accessible and made for you to explore at your own pace; toast marshmallows by the fire bowls, enjoy seasonal takeaway refreshments and experience glittering oak trees amid a truly festive backdrop. The walk takes about an hour to complete, but if you find yourself wanting to take another trip to truly take it all in, you are more than welcome, with a delicious treat from the tasting counter in hand. The Heligan Shop will also be selling local produce and beautiful gifts to take away with you as a reminder of your night under the stars surrounded by glowing illuminations.
Whether you spend the day perusing local markets and makers or you simply surround yourself in nature, amongst the glistening lights, quaint harbours and outstretched trees, there is a pocket of warmth in every corner of the Duchy to ward off the winter blues.