5 Cracking Christmas Lights Trails in Cornwall

Festivities are going to be a bit different this year, as we navigate social distancing, modified Christmas plans and virtual celebrations. Sadly, many of Cornwall’s best-loved Christmas lights displays have been cancelled, but we have compiled a list of places where you can still enjoy some heart-warming illuminations, from tunnels of lights to lantern-lit gardens, and be lost in a world of colour, imagination and fantasy. Pack a flask of something warming, wrap up and head off with the family and friends (in groups of six!) to be infused with Cornish Christmas spirit and a chance to escape reality for a few twinkly moments. Please check with the venue for the latest government guidance on social distancing and Covid safety precautions before booking your ticket or visiting.

Mousehole Christmas lights

For explorers: the Tunnel of Lights at the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in Charlestown, near St Austell

From Narnia to the North Pole, through a frozen forest and a neon wood, travel through magical realms in this spectacular illumination, where you can even feel snow falling on you as you weave your way through. 

The Shipwreck Treasure Museum’s hugely popular Tunnel of Lights Christmas event in Charlestown is returning in a socially-distanced format for 2020 from 3 December until 10 January as the network of passageways beneath the museum are transformed into a subterranean festive wonderland.

Building on the huge success of creating the UK’s longest underground tunnel of festive lights in 2019, this year promises to be even bigger, bolder and brighter.  More than five kilometres of cable and over 50,000 lights are being used by special effects whizz Lynné Raubenheimer, who has brought 15 years of working in theatre, TV and film productions in the UK, Europe and India to the experience. 

In line with government guidance, unfortunately Father Christmas will not be making an appearance in the Tunnels this year but children can write their letters to him before visiting and leave them safely in his post box when they reach his door at the North Pole – phew.

And not only are you able to frolic in a festive wonderland, you also have free admission to one of Europe’s biggest shipwreck museums, where you can search through all manner of treasure brought up from a hundred wrecks – discover barrels of coins, cannon balls and hair-raising salvaging stories from the seabed. 

For more information and to book your tickets, visit www.shipwreckcharlestown.co.uk.

For outdoorsy types: a magical world of music and light at the Eden Project, near St Austell

Head to Eden to be transported into an enchanting world full of light and music from 4th - 30th December. As darkness falls, the world-famous biomes welcome you with a warm festive glow. The dramatic landscape of the tropical rainforest biome is lit up to create a compelling world of shadows and light, while in the Mediterranean biome, thousands of dancing, twinkling lights create a beautiful backdrop to a joyful celebration of Christmas music, performed live by musicians dotted among the gardens and exhibits. Performances are on selected dates between 5pm and 8pm.

Wander through seasonal walks and trails scattered throughout the 30 acres of outdoor gardens before visiting Father Christmas and his elves in his magic-making laboratory on the top floor of the Core building. Expect plenty of surprises and a fun show full of warmth and cheer – along with Christmas treats for everyone to take home. The show runs on selected dates between 4th - 24th December.

If you still have the energy, take a whirl on the glittering ice-rink. There are 40-minute sessions for skaters of any age and ability – warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate or festive treat.

For more information and to book tickets, go to www.edenproject.com.

For wildlife lovers: an enchanting lantern experience at Heligan Night Garden, near St Austell

What goes on outside when we are all tucked up in our beds asleep? Lit by hundreds of traditional lanterns, the Heligan Night Garden holds up a nocturnal magnifying glass to the often overlooked wonders and beauty of the natural flora and fauna on our doorstep. From frogs to foxes, badgers to squirrels and hedgehogs and a joyful burst of snowdrops, this illuminated seasonal trail creates a treasure-filled space for families and friends to discover these beautiful indigenous species.

Explore the atmospheric Lost Gardens and its much-loved and iconic locations by lamplight – follow the one-way journey around and discover nature in a celebration of the wildlife that make Heligan their home all year round. Go at your own pace, stop to take in the smells of the fire pits, toast marshmallows and chestnuts and enjoy seasonal warming take-away refreshments amid a truly festive backdrop.

The Heligan Shop will be open – pop in for festive treats, local produce and a variety of beautiful gift ideas. Make sure you visit the festive tasting counter to try something new and delicious! 

For more information and to book tickets, visit www.heligan.com.

For seafarers: Lanterns and Lights at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth

As the sun dips below the horizon and day turns to dusk, visit the National Maritime Museum to take in the twinkles of Lanterns and Lights. From beautifully lit vessels to merry Take and Makes and starry trails, festivities take on a magical nautical twist. 

Decked in festive lights and sparkly stars, traditional wooden boats carry Christmas cheer, while the Flying Flotilla, hung high from the Museum’s ceiling, are lit with subtle ocean-coloured hues and set among glistening star bursts. 

There are loads of activities to amuse yourself. Try a Take and Make session, where you can pick up all you need to create festive magic at home, and follow the star trail: search high and low for the twinkly stars dotted around the museum and see displays of real and rare nautical lamps and navigation aids where sailors used the stars to guide them home. 

Pay once and get in free to the museum for a whole year – a place to enrich your understanding of the sea and Cornwall’s maritime history. 

For more information and to book tickets, visit www.nmmc.co.uk.

Penzance Christmas Lights and Windows

Penzance is a fabulous place to visit at any time of year but it’s even more glittering at Christmas time. This year, the town and its shops will be illuminated with the theme ‘Christmas Songs’. Walk the cobbled streets and gaze up at the Georgian terraces amid festive sparkle and spirit. Masses of shop windows will be decorated and you can visit each one using the town trail guide. Don’t forget to vote for your favourite using the QR code in the shop window, then stop off at one of the many quirky cafes, atmospheric pubs or trendy bars for a warming drink.

Find out more at www.lovepenzance.co.uk.