It may not be the first month that comes to mind when you think of visiting, but we love Cornwall in December and firmly think our county is far from just a summer destination. During the last month of the year it is both abuzz with festivities and comfortingly peaceful, so whatever kind of things you like to do on your winter break, there’s bound to be plenty of choice on ways to spend your time.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite ideas for anyone needing inspiration for what to do in Cornwall in December.
The Eden Project is one of Cornwall’s most renowned attraction in its own right, and there’s even more to experience there in winter with the addition of their gleaming ice rink. You can choose from 40 minute general skating sessions or family fun skate sessions (for parents with children aged 12 and under) as well as sessions specifically for parents and toddlers.
It’s worth noting that as well as an ice skating ticket, you’ll need a valid form of Eden admission, with a pre-booked timed entry slot which should be at least 30 minutes before the start of your skate session.
As well as their ice rink, The Eden Project are also hosting a Father Christmas experience and a music and lights show in their biomes on selected dates in December 2023.
A stroll around the National Trust properties and gardens on offer throughout Cornwall makes a great day out any time of year, but there’s something special about visiting in December, when many of the locations tend to be decorated for Christmas.
A visit to Cotehele, a Tudor house near Saltash with fabulous gardens, is particularly wonderful in winter. A glorious 60-foot garland (created with flowers grown on the estate) is proudly displayed in its Great Hall, and Cotehele Mill is decked out in the style of a traditional Victorian Christmas.
In a similar vein, Godolphin, a historic house and medieval garden, welcomes guests for a Christmas House Experience throughout December. Closer to home for us in North Cornwall, the Elizabethan manor house of Trerice puts on several seasonal events; for 2023 this includes a Father Christmas storytelling session and choir performances.
With the summer crowds long gone but the Cornish coast just as beautiful as ever, don’t discount time outside in the form of a wintery walk on one of the county’s beaches from your December plans. Winter in Cornwall may be chilly (this is Britain, after all), but wrap up warm and you’ll soon discover that there is a lot to like about feeling the air on your face and experiencing an atmospheric beach or dramatic coastline.
Depending on your preferences, Cornwall boasts a great variety of beaches, from atmospheric Kynance Cove to the long, sweeping stretches of sand at Fistral Beach or Perranporth Beach – lovely on a summer seaside holiday, and just as enchanting, albeit in a different way, in winter.
If the winter chill feels too much to be outdoors in, an evening centering on the arts makes a great alternative. Many towns will have their own theatre or performance venues; a major one is in the city of Truro, where you can watch a performance at Hall for Cornwall, a venue that was previously the city hall. For 2023 they are showing Peter Panthroughout the month of December.
Outside of the county town, Newquay’s Lane Theatre has several Christmas shows lined up for December and The Acorn in Penzance has a varied programme of plays, music and dancing.
Cornwall’s Christmas events are sure to bring out all the festive cheer you could possibly wish for. From meeting Santa to choir concerts ,and from Christmas festivals to card-making workshops, we think there’s something for everyone in amongst the Christmas events in Cornwall for 2023.
For families, we love the Santa by Steam experience with Bodmin and Wenford Railway, perfect for those who are looking for something that isn’t a Santa’s Grotto. For couples and friends, a Christmas festival (like the ones in Padstow or Falmouth) or market is sure to offer a good mix of socialising, entertainment and festivities.
In our home town, the Padstow Christmas Festival from 7th-10th December is a brilliant event bringing together food, shopping and performance with the spirit of the season.
Cornwall is full of charming villages, and one of the best reasons to explore them outside of the summer season is that they tend to be far quieter in the winter months! If they are home to particular attractions, there’s a chance that these might be closed, but the pretty streets and undeniable character make these destinations attractions in their own right.
In December many will be lit with festive fairy lights or installations, and some will look brooding and otherworldly. Try the picturesque fishing village of Polperro, the Georgian port of Charlestown, the popular seaside destination St Ives, or North Cornwall’s Port Isaac, to name just a few.
December is famously the peak of the retail year, but if high street or online shopping doesn’t cut it for you, visiting a Christmas market is a great way to combine an enjoyable experience with ticking some gifts off your list. They’re also a convenient way to shop from small, independent makers during the festive season and buy something that your recipient hasn’t tried before – making any gifts you buy meaningful in more ways than one.
There are plentiful Christmas markets to try around Cornwall, from Healeys (a Cornish Cyder Farm) transformed for Christmas to Jubilee Wharf in Penryn, which is particularly popular with local creatives and makers. Heartlands Christmas Market in Redruth is also a popular choice, with lots going on throughout the weekend it is open.
There is an excellent Christmas market at Padstow Christmas Festival, with many food, drink and arts and crafts producers. The festival runs from 7th – 10th December 2023 and is a great place to do some Christmas shopping as well as enjoy a day out!
For 2023 Newquay is hosting its Shop Small Christmas Market in a marquee on the Killacourt. It runs from Friday 1st December, to tie in with the town’s Christmas light switch on and lantern parade, until 3rd December.
The end of the year seems like the right time for a celebratory tipple, which is why we think that visiting a local brewery or distillery for a tour or tasting session in December is perfectly timed.
Tarquin’s Gin Distillery, home of Tarquin’s Cornish Gin, offers a full behind the scenes experience with botanical masterclass, distillery tour and tutored tasting session that makes a wonderful afternoon or evening out for fans of the spirit. If beer is more your thing, Sharp’s Brewery in Rock offers tasting sessions where you can sample a varied selection of their beers.
It wouldn’t be December without Christmas lights. While the Christmas light switch on happens in November for many of Cornwall’s towns, the lights are still worth going to see – there’s something very joyous about seeing an inky winter afternoon lit up with illuminations.
For Christmas lights in some of Cornwall’s charming villages, the harbour lights in Mousehole are particularly popular, and the Angarrack Christmas light display is also well worth a visit.
Alternatively, you could visit an illuminations event for an immersive light experience sure to bring out all the festive feels. Heligan Night Garden, held at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, is a great option features fire bowls, food vendors and other fabulous things to enjoy as well as its magnificent light display.
For thrill seekers or those looking to appreciate the more dramatic elements of Cornwall’s landscape, storm watching makes for an exhilirating experience. December can bring with it winter storms, and if this is the case when you visit, we would recommend taking your chance to see the crashing waves, hear the hiss of sea spray and feel the county at its most wild.
Some of the best places to go storm watching along the coast of Cornwall include Sennen Cove, Trevose Head, and Crackington Haven. Make sure to combine your day with regular stops to break from the elements, wrap up warm and keep safety front of mind!
It’s not just the possibility of cold or rainy weather that makes staying in one of our essential suggestions for things to do. At the end of the year, sometimes all you need is to decompress. That’s why we’ll always be big believers in the joy of staying in – and why it might be worth making some time for it in your December in Cornwall itinerary.
Plus, with so many wonderful holiday properties across the county, spending time relaxing in your chosen house, cottage or lodge is a great way to enjoy your surroundings.
Looking to visit Cornwall in December? Hopefully you have plenty of ideas for things to do in the Cornish winter, but if you need to find holiday homes in Cornwall to make your end of year stay wonderful, we’re sure we can help.