The Famous Mousehole Christmas Lights

The Mousehole Christmas lights are quite a big deal here in Cornwall. Every year throngs of people head to this sweet village in west Cornwall for the Christmas lights switch on. We have many other villages who proudly adorn their streets, houses and harbours with festive illuminations. It seems Mousehole holds the crown as being the best place to see Christmas lights in Cornwall.

Where is Mousehole?

Mousehole is a beautiful, traditional fishing village in west Cornwall, about 3-4 miles from Penzance. It’s a popular place to visit in the summer, well known for its picturesque views and sleepy fishing village feels. In winter it comes to life and draws more people for its dazzling Christmas displays.

Mousehole’s not just famous for it’s Christmas lights, you know. It’s also the location of the children’s story, The Mousehole Cat based on the legend of Cornish fisherman, Tom Bawcock and the stargazy pie. Sadly, Mousehole has an association with tragedy, following the Penlee lifeboat disaster in December 1981.

How it started

The Mousehole Christmas lights have been a tradition since the 1960s. They started as a string of lights along Mousehole harbour. It seems that what was intended to be a little display has become a staple in the Mousehole festive calendar.

Since the string of lights first made an appearance in 1963, the Mousehole Christmas lights have grown considerably. Some pieces have been damaged over the years, with several light displays being remade.

When it comes to the Mousehole Christmas lights switch on, there’s definitely a need to be flexible. Bad weather forced a previous switch on to take place in a local church, and one year Santa was swept out to sea! The 21st anniversary switch on was televised on Blue Peter, and drew a record crowd.

The Mousehole Christmas lights illuminating the village

The Mousehole harbour Christmas lights are a longstanding tradition. However, following the devastating Penlee lifeboat disaster in the early 1980s, the lights are always dimmed or turned off on December 19th in memory of the crewmen, lost at sea, attempting to rescue others.

Last year, because of the pandemic, the Mousehole Christmas light switch on didn’t happen. I kept a keen eye on this years arrangements though, and it was great to hear that we could nip down for the 2021 “soft switch on”.

A white fishing boat and buoy at low tide with Christmas lights on the harbour wall in Mousehole

Our visit to see the Mousehole Harbour Christmas Lights

After filling up on Sunday roast and decorating our own tree, me, Henry and mum hopped in the car to see the famous Mousehole Christmas lights for the first time. We live just the other side of Truro so it was about an hours drive to Mousehole.

We parked at the top of the village, in Parade car park. It’s actually quite big and while you can park along the harbour, Mousehole can be hard to navigate.

There’s a lovely bright Welcome sign at the gateway to Mousehole. Walking down the hill, I glimpsed the string of rainbow lights hanging between houses in the narrow alleyways and cut-throughs. There’s something quite magical about visiting a Cornish fishing village, like Mousehole, when it’s lit up for Christmas.

Traditional festive light displays, like Christmas trees, a Christmas stocking, and the ubiquitous festive bell, decorate Mousehole harbour. Lanterns grace the village side harbour wall. It’s very alluring and certainly put us in the Christmas mood. There was even a blue whale in the middle of the harbour too, such a great coastal touch.

The Mousehole Christmas lights display
an illuminated whale and Christmas lights in Mousehole harbour
the Mousehole Christmas lights along the harbour

Thankfully, Mousehole wasn’t too busy during our Sunday evening visit. I can see why the committee decided not to have a big Christmas light switch on this year. I can imagine how popular it is but what an amazing experience for the local community!

We walked the length of the harbour. Naturally, we stopped for a phone box photo opportunity (as you do!). We went in search of a hot chocolate too, but some of the places to eat and drink in Mousehole were closed. Others were open for takeaway hot drinks only. The Ship Inn looked real cosy though, and No 2 Fore Street was only serving food in the evening (it looked delicious). If you want to make a night of it, I’d recommend booking one of these places to eat.

a boy walking at night in Mousehole Cornwall

In the end, we made our way back to the car and enjoyed driving through Newlyn and Penzance who both have their own Christmas light displays (love the mermaid!).

If you’d like to experience Mousehole in the daytime, you can find out more in this blog post on Mousehole Harbour and Village.

Have you seen the Mousehole Christmas lights? I think it’s such a lovely thing to do as a family on a dry winter’s evening. Can’t make it to Mousehole? Why not check out the Mousehole webcam and see the illuminations from your home?

You can find out more from the Mousehole Harbour lights website and make a donation.

Author: plbedford

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