CHRISTMAS came early to Gourock when Father Christmas made a surprise appearance to make a special announcement.

Local traders got together to launch their free Yuletide programme in a bid to spread some Christmas cheer - and Santa came along to kick things off.

The Festive Gourock committee, supported by Gourock Community Council, will be running events on the weekend of December 7 and 8.

Father Christmas told the Telegraph: "I've been working my little cotton socks off in the North Pole but I couldn't not be here for such a big day.

"It will be lovely interacting with the children in Gourock.

"They love to tug my beard - I think most expect it to just come off, but it's as real as I am."

Santa was swift to praise the people of Gourock, saying: "This town has real community spirit, some of the best in the west of Scotland."

The busy Yuletide programme will include visits to see the man himself as he sets up his grotto at The River restaurant in Kempock Street.

There will also be a hunt to find mischievous elves hiding in shop windows with prizes provided by CalMac and Toes and Soles.

Inverclyde Shed will be hosting an event at the George Wyllie Memorial Garden with non-alcoholic mulled wine and fun for all the family, while The Bothy will lead elf walks on Saturday and Sunday for people of all ages.

There's also the chance to enjoy lunch at St John's Church's popular Soup Saturday.

The events will take place amid a real festive feel, with the town's Christmas lights switch-on taking place on November 29 at 6pm in Kempock Gardens.

The programme has been sponsored by Amazon and the committee wish to thank Gillian Maxwell from the company for all her support.

Nick Summers, of the Pirate & Bluebelle Gallery, said shop co-owner Heather McCulloch came up with the idea of a promotional festive event for the town.

He said: "Heather loves Christmas and this is a free community event for the people of Inverclyde."

Willie Stewart, of the organising committee, said: "It's good for the street and for the wider community, but most of all it is about the kids."

David Faller, who is also part of the Yuletide team, added: "I love Christmas.

"It's the best time of year."

For more information and to book Santa visits at The River in advance visit the Festive Gourock Facebook page.

Pictured at the Wee Annie statue after, from left, are Matthew Cussons, of The River, Nick Somerville, Santa, Willie Stewart and David Faller