Let’s face it; this year Christmas is going to be different for everyone. But in historic St Ives, some things will always be the same.
Twinkling Christmas lights reflecting off the cobbled streets, Mulled Wine served in cosy Inns. Christmas in St Ives is really rather special, with its markets, fresh local cuisine and snug pubs. And although Santa will not be making his usual appearance via Lifeboat, there will be plenty of festive cheer to be had. Follow us as we lead you through twelve things to do for the Twelve Days of Christmas in St Ives and around this beautiful stretch of the South West Peninsula.
One – Christmas Lights
Traditionally, Christmas officially kicks off with the switch on of the town’s Christmas lights and the atmosphere is electric as the countdown begins. This year will be much lower key, with the light switch-on happening on Wednesday, 28 October. But the lights are still very pretty and worth seeing.
Two – Christmas Tipples
There are plenty of cosy Cornish pubs in St Ives. For local real ales, mulled wine and other festive drinks head to the famous Sloop Inn, The Lifeboat or the Union Inn. For Christmas Cocktails you could try the Rum & Crab Shack, or head out of the town for the famous Gurnard’s Head, situated out on the coast.
Three – Wave Watching around the Coast
One of the things we love about Cornwall in winter is the drama. This time of year some fantastic storms hit the coast providing incredible natural displays. These storms are quite something to behold. They are dramatic and exciting from any of the cafes and pubs along the harbour, but there are also excellent storm watching locations close to St Ives. Less than five miles away is Zennor, where from the safety of the coast path, you can watch huge waves crash over the rocks at Gurnard’s Head. Penzance is terrific in a storm, as the waves can crash over the promenade. It’s best to stay away from the front and watch from the warmth and safety of a local cafe. Porthleven, the most famous wave watching spot in Cornwall, is within an easy drive. For wave watching from a cosy cottage our sea view holiday homes are here.
Four – Kids R Us Christmas Bazaar
Christmas in St Ives wouldn’t be the same without the Kidz R Us Youth Theatre Company, dedicated to getting young people involved in the performing arts. The Bazaar is held at the St Ives Theatre, in the heart of St Ives. It has a real Christmas market feel about it, with Roasted Chestnuts, designer-makers presenting great gift ideas and goodies for the holiday season, art, jewellery, vintage finds, Christmas wreaths… the whole family will love it.
Five – Christmas Shopping in a Cornish Winter Wonderland
Forget the Shopping Mall or waiting in for deliveries – St Ives is the perfect fairytale setting for Christmas shopping. Under pretty Christmas illuminations, explore the town’s historic cobbled streets and narrow lanes to find unique, gifts from small, independent galleries and boutiques. Stroll down the Digey to see the distinctive glass Christmas tree window displays. Laff on Fore Street has an excellent selection of children’s clothes, while The Raar Emporium in The Drill Hall is great for retro children’s toys and puzzles.
St Ives boasts a variety of small independent bookshops and old curiosity shops selling arts and crafts. Beautiful and original homeware gifts are available at Hudson, handwoven woollen throws can be found at bespoke clothing shop Academy & Co on Lifeboat Hill. For a town famous for its art scene, there’s no shortage of galleries selling original artworks and lithograph prints of notable artists past and present. Shops will be open late every Thursday from 3 December until the big day. Free parking is provided at the Laundry car park at The Stennack.
Six – Boxing Day Swim
Every Boxing Day, it’s a tradition for people to voluntarily run into the sea half-naked or in fancy dress. These festive swimming events are organised across Cornwall and have been a tradition in some villages for over 50 years. St Ives is no exception and for a £1 donation to charity, you can go for a dip in the icy Atlantic. Porthminster Cafe serves festive hot chocolates and bacon butties to keep everyone warm. Be warned – it’s COLD. But it is an adrenaline rush and you’ll be telling the story for years!
Seven – Creative Workshops
Remember your Christmas in Cornwall by learning a new skill and making a souvenir to cherish.
Ever wanted to make your own chocolate gifts? I Should Coco have been making fresh cream truffles and other delights for over 10 years, but with their purpose-built workshop, you can put on your chocolatier hat and make your own Christmas chocolate gifts for friends and family. Create fun festive items such as chocolate shoes, Christmas trees and moulded figures. All ingredients included. Christmas art and craft workshops are traditionally held by Barnoon Workshop. Keep an eye on their website for details.
Eight – Christmas Markets
Last-minute gifts, stocking fillers and Christmas nibbles can all be found in the wonderful Christmas Markets in St Ives. With so many local producers with the award-winning fare, you definitely don’t want to miss out on our Christmas Markets, and there are two to explore.
The Saffron Christmas Market at The Guildhall on Friday, 29 November (6.00am-9.00pm), Saturday, 30 November (10.00am-5.00pm) and Sunday, 1 December (10.00am-4.00pm). Over forty different stalls selling art and crafts by local artists with live music and festive drinks on offer.
The Farmer’s Market is also held at the Guildhall on every Thursday throughout December. Here you’ll find homemade chutneys, a variety of cheeses, freshly caught fish and local meats and maybe even a homemade hot pasty to keep you going.
Nine – Get involved in the Christmas Window Competition
Over sixty shops and galleries dress their windows to compete for these annual festive awards. The theme this year is The Twelve Days of Christmas and the judges will be touring the town to decide the winner for Best Overall Window Display and awarding rosettes for the best Interpretation of the Theme, Most Humorous Window and Best Small Window.
You can get involved! The highly sought after People’s Award is where visitors and locals of St Ives vote for their favourite display. Forms are available from local shops from 3 December. You can also vote via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter via ‘St Ives in December’.
Ten – Ice Skating at Eden
Ice Skating is fun for all the family and The Eden Project is magical in winter. The only indoor ice rink in Cornwall, it was first opened fifteen years ago and is situated under the stage canopy in front of the Biomes. After buying your Eden project admission ticket, general skating sessions cost £7 for adults, £6 for children with a family of four priced at £24. Sessions start from 17 October 2020 until 21 February 2021, with limited capacity to allow safe skating.
Eleven – Walk the Coast Path – Christmas Walks in Cornwall
St Ives forms part of the spectacular landscape of West Penwith, a unique part of Cornwall with high rugged cliffs and rocky moorland, offering dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean, sandy beaches and pretty villages. You can opt for a gentle two-mile walk to Carbis Bay, taking you above St Ives to St Erth railway line, offering beautiful views over St Ives Bay. Or for a more challenging coastal hike, the fourteen-mile stretch of coast that runs west of St Ives to the mining village of Pendeen can lay proud claim to being the most startlingly beautiful in South West England, perfect for some winter wilderness and drama.
Twelve – Christmas Day Lunch in a Cosy Cottage
Wood burning stove, sea view, countryside setting or a couple’s hideaway – at Escape to St Ives we know a thing or two about holiday accommodation. We have a range of cosy cottages, apartments and houses to suit couples or families, and many are pet friendly, making us the perfect choice for your Christmas at the seaside.
And finally, let’s not forget New Year’s Eve. With all the restrictions this year there will be no firework display. If you want to visit a restaurant, have a pub meal or some drinks to celebrate New Year, we would advise booking in advance, and remember the pubs will be closing early this year. One way of enjoying St Ives with your friends and family in small groups is to book a holiday home in the St Ives area, so you can host your own memorable New Year’s party in your favourite seaside town. Check our New Year’s availability here.