12th October 2022
The approaching festive period offers a welcome chance to unwind after another tough year. Here we explore how you can create the ideal family winter break, one that offers all the rich pleasure of the holiday season – and none of the stress.
Christmas is a rare chance to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, to take a break from the everyday grind and spend quality time with loved ones. All too often, though, the desire to get everything just right only adds to the pressure: you squeeze several generations into the family home; sweat away over an ambitious roast that fails to satisfy the nuanced dietary needs of the gathered hordes; and despair as everyone fights over the TV remote.
But the festive season does offer another opportunity – to truly escape. Together. And with its epic landscapes, cosy evenings, and luxurious food and drink, Cornwall offers all the ingredients you need to stuff your festive break with deep, restorative joy – leaving the whole family feeling totally at home.
Here are a few suggestions for getting that festive break just right…
When it comes to blowing away any tensions and cobwebs, nothing beats walking beneath sprawling winter skies – whether crisp or foreboding – and breathing in the smell of a freshly whipped sea. Cornwall is about letting the quiet magic wash over you. You just have to layer up – and don the gloves, hats and boots – and get out there.
You can take your pick from hundreds of miles of breathtaking coastal walks, and winter is an excellent season for descending on to the county’s beaches. Whether marching across miles of golden sand, or using a low tide to explore hidden coves, this is the only chance you’ll get to have the entire sand to yourself.
Teach the kids to fly kites. Treat yourself to an invigorating swim – or at least to the warm, romantic feeling of being out in the elements, hands warming on an enamel mug filled with seasonal spiced oats, enhanced by cinnamon, cloves and orange zest.
When several generations of the family come together for a prolonged period, people will want different things from the experience. And while Cornwall will offer untold delights on the doorstep, there’s even more to explore further afield. Independence is the great stress diffuser. Bring separate vehicles so everyone is free to go off and explore, and to do exactly what they need to.
Of course, the one thing anyone wants to do with precious time away from work is relax. The problem is that kids tend to be up at the crack of dawn, demanding entertainment. But that lie-in needn’t remain a distant Christmas wish: ensure everyone takes their turn on ‘getting kids out of the house early’ duty, so the rest get to rest.
You could even consider cluster-booking apartments in the same complex. Whether your group includes energetic young children, couples craving private time, or seniors seeking just a little bit of shut-eye, everyone will have their own special place to retreat to.
Cornwall has a healthy dose festive romance too – from the transformative magic of the Christmas lights around the harbour at Mousehole, to the childlike delight of the Truro City of Lights annual lantern parade. Local theatre groups stage seasonal work in spectacular locations around the county, including the clifftop Minack Theatre, Heligan Gardens and countless woodland and coastal locations.
Then there’s the simple bonding pleasure of pausing whatever you’re doing to watch together as the sun sets over the sea. Stand on a harbour under the crisp winter skies, the lights flickering on inside the surrounding cottages, and find your way to the pub.
As well as potentially chancing upon local folk music by a roaring hearth, there’s no shortage of mouth-watering food being offered by Cornwall’s country inns and restaurants these days – on clifftops, moorland, or nestled into breath-taking creeks.
Much of the delight of exploring what’s outside lies in the deliciousness of coming home. Return with ruddy cheeks, kick off your boots and step into a hot shower, as someone heads into the living room to fire up the log burner. Then settle in for a long, slow evening of comfort.
Sit back and relax, and reflect on the satisfaction of a day, before lining up a film. Or perhaps it’s simply time to be alone, together. Disappear into your own world with a good book, iPad, or paper, while you savour a mug of hot chocolate. Or enjoy a tipple from Cornwall’s growing army of award-winning brewers and distillers, who offer premium craft beer, rose gin, whiskey, vodka and rum, all locally sourced and made.
Christmas is all about communing for shared meals. And sharing the cooking. One great way to enjoy a break from all the resting is by testing your culinary chops, enjoying the time and space to create a delicious new dish for your assembled loved ones.
Why not challenge yourself to use only local seasonal ingredients? It will reward the effort. Hearty winter veg like cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli are all readily available from the county’s well stocked farm shops and markets, and pair well with locally produced beef, pork, poultry and fresh fish. Or local pot-caught crab, which is a great sustainable choice through the winter.
You can, of course, take this to the next level – by foraging for edible greens. Keep your eyes peeled for alexanders, nettle tops, wild garlic and wild cress. Researchers have shown that bacteria in the soil releases serotonin – a mood-lifting neurotransmitter – the perfect winter tonic.
Whether you’re creating mezze-style sharing plates, or hearty stews and soups, combine it all with freshly-baked sourdough, and be sure to save some bread to enjoy the next morning – with farm-bought eggs and locally roasted coffee.
What will it be for your Christmas retreat?