TRAVEL | Our Annual Pilgrimage to Cornwall
Aside from the horrific journey from Leeds to Cornwall (and worse still, the return journey which this time round took an eye-watering 12 hours), North Cornwall is by far our destination of choice for a summer family holiday with small children in tow.
This year we invited the family along – my mum, stepdad, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew joined us on our annual Cornish pilgrimage.
The idea of a family holiday is always fabulous in theory. But do ensure that everyone’s idea of a great holiday is the same as yours before you choose to, without the permission of your husband, invite all YOUR family along for two weeks in very close quarters.
If cremating oneself on a sun bed and doing little else other than sipping on a Pina Colada from a plastic cup poolside is a family member’s idea of fun then Cornwall might not be the destination of choice for a multi-generation vacation.
The weather can be quite temperamental and changes daily, as we witnessed. We left for Cornwall on the hottest day of the year – July 18th with highs of 32 degrees. Everyone was in high spirits at the thought of a week-long Cornish heat wave (confirmed by the BBC weather) only for it to last 48 hours in Cornwall. It’s not often that the weather in Yorkshire is better than it is so far South. This caused further irritation to some – the idea of returning from a holiday without a tan? Quite tragic.
For Family Thomas however, holidays are less about sat around the same pool for 13 days only asserting ones energy to partake in a 30 minute aqua-aerobics session in a desperate attempt to burn an very insignificant number of calories before the clock strikes ‘Beer-o-Clock’ which is usually around 11.45am, at which point the merry-go-round of drink, quick-dip-in-pool, drink, eat, get showered and dolled up (whilst having a drink) and then go out and eat and drink some more, starts again.
That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy doing bugger all but sipping cocktails by a pool. We’ve certainly had many a holiday doing not much else. But throw a two-year-old and a five-year-old in the mix and the reality of it all is very different.
Having to control the cocktail consumption around the pool is pretty miserable. One doesn’t want to risk being that pissed-up, unfit parent duo whose five-year-old is flapping around in the pool trying to keep his head above water and whose two-year-old is nowhere to be seen.
So for now, the responsible parents in us choose Cornwall as our summer family holiday destination. A holiday filled with surfing, swimming, sandcastle building, crabbing, fishing, BBQ-ing on the beach, picnics, theme parks, pretty seaside villages, fish & chips and any form of seafood for that matter, Cornish pasties, ice creams and cream teas. Whatever the weather. And when the kids are in bed we jump into our hot tub and make up for our booze-free day of fun with a couple of bottles of decent plonk, a G&T or three, and maybe something fizzy.
If you are off to North Cornwall this summer of thinking about North Cornwall in the future here are some suggestions.
GREAT PLACES TO STAY IN CORNWALL
2016 was our 2nd time at Rosehill Lodges in the small beachside town on Porthtowan 10 miles south of Newquay and it was every bit as special as we remembered it. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for and the ten luxury 5 star eco-lodges nestled in a little wooded area just a stroll from the beach are very much self-catering with a sparkle.
They sleep up to six and boast all the mod-cons plus three good sized bedrooms (one en-suite), large family bathroom and a few luxuries to include large hot-tubs on glass-covered decks, outdoor showers and BBQs and several outdoor seating areas per lodge. Lots of lush vegetation surround each lodge and long grass-covered roofs provide lots of privacy and sound-proofing from any big groups of tanked-up northerners splashing around in their hot tubs after dark.
The Bedruthan Hotel & Spa
If self-catering is not your idea of fun; and let’s face it not everyone gets as excited as I do at the prospect of going home with a suitcase full of freshly washed clothes, The Bedruthan Hotel and Spa is a great choice for those looking for a bit of child-friendly luxury.
We combined Rosehill Lodges with The Bedruthan two years ago for my the hubby’s 40th. Ferne was six weeks old so hopping on a plane wasn’t really an option. The place caters for the London and home counties types that rely on nannies 50 weeks of the year, so expect to see some interesting parenting techniques from parents who obviously rely far too much on the nanny.
It’s in a great hillside location overlooking Mawgan Porth Beach and its sister hotel; The Scarlet, is located right next door and is adult-only – mostly frequented by parents of children being supervised by the Bedruthan Hotel’s child-monitoring service whilst they drink expensive cocktails in the Scarlet’s very plush bar.
All in all its a wonderful hotel in a great location with excellent children’s facilities, particularly for those with babies – bottle warmers, fridge with daily fresh milk, OFSTED trained nannies etc. Also a great spa for parents who need a little ‘me’ time after spending a whole entire day with their own children.
Take the 45-minute hike along the cliff tops to The Bedruthen Steps, which is a pretty awesome sight. Leave the kids in the creche – the cliff-top trail is a recipe for a small-child disaster.
The north coast of Cornwall has some fabulous child-friendly beaches. Our favourite is Porthtowan Beach. The town itself is made up of a village shop, fish and chip shop, a couple of places to eat and drink, a surf shop and a well-kept park in the sand.
Much less touristy than the likes of Perranporth, St Ives, Padstow etc, the vibe is chilled-out surfer chic and the beach attracts those-in-the-know and locals.
Great surf, lots of rock pools to explore and best of all, a fab beach bar called Blue Bar where kids can run riot and parents can indulge in a sun-downer or three on the bar’s beach-facing deck and tuck into some decent grub whilst watching the sunset after a tiring day of sandcastle building and bodyboarding.
A COUPLE OF CHILD-FRIENDLY BAR SUGGESTIONS
We’ve spent a lot of time in (and outside of) the Blue Bar in Porthtowan largely down to it being a leisurely stroll away from Rosehill Lodges. Wonderful location, relaxed atmosphere, kid-friendly, good, locally sourced fresh food and weekly entertainment Cornwall-style (local bands, open mic etc). The highlights are its beachfront location, chilled-out vibe, sun deck, and front-row view of the Cornish sunset.
The Watering Hole
When my mum found out that Billy Ocean was live at The Watering Hole the night before we rocked up you can imagine her sheer disappointment when she found out she’d missed him. Just one of the musicians to grace the make-shift stage at The Watering Hole that week. It’s a pretty cool place with a Bondi feel about it.
The Watering Hole claims to be the UK’s only bar that sits on the sand so whatever you do, don’t head here in your heels. It’s about as laid-back-beach-bar as you can possibly get and a wetsuit and flip-flops is the dress code or choice. Along with a couple of dreadlocks and an ankle bracelet if you really want to fit in with the locals.
Located on Perranporth Beach just six miles south of Newquay, this bar is largely made up on a huge outdoor seating area with well over 30 beer-garden-style pub benches sat on the sand. Bag a front row seat, dump the kids in the sand with their bucket and spade right by your ankles and order yourself an ice-cold beer or a very decent gin and tonic and relax and watch another Cornish sunset. Great nachos. Can’t comment on the rest of the menu.
SOMEWHERE SPECIAL TO DINE
With the parents in tow this time around we took full advantage of free babysitters and indulged in one child-free night out.
I did a bit of surfing (the net) a few weeks before our holiday – browsed through the websites of Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver etc. But I wanted something a little less… well… pretentious (and easier on the purse). I came across the Boathouse in Newquay – a wooden harbour-side shack serving Catch of the Day and promised me only the freshest of seafood with no fuss.
Apart from that, the website gave little away so it was a gamble. It certainly paid off.
Hidden away behind Newquay’s brash seafront, twinkling fairy lights light up steep stone steps leading down to a waterside courtyard filled with man-made shallow brick pools filled with huge (and I mean huge!) lobsters. We were shown to our table on a large wooden raised outdoor deck overhanging the water below which was lapping up against the side of it quite perfectly.
The place twinkled with candles and soft lighting and buzzed with that chilled-out Cornish atmosphere. Pretty surfer-chick waitresses served dressed-down locals with delicious towering plates full of seafood. It’s all so very perfect and the food and wine is out of this world. Seafood lovers will be quite simply in heaven. And the bill was a quarter of what it would have been up at Ricks I’m sure.
FISH & CHIPS
Us Yorkshire folk are of course very particular about our fish and chips – there are very few places in England that can do fish and chips like Yorkshire.
One of those places, however, is in Cornwall. If you are heading into Looe for the crabbing be sure to pop into Catch where fish and chips are fried only to order and takeaway fish and chips even come with a lemon slice garnish. Fish is sourced directly from the fishing boats coming into Looe harbour right on their doorstep.
This really is the King of Fish & Chip Shops but beware if you choose to sit outside – the seagulls are like giant aircraft.
The hubby heads of Perrenporth Surf School every year for his fix. A one-on-one lesson is £25 an hour and if you find yourself getting on quite well with the instructor you’ll bag another 20 mins on top. A great beach for surfing and home to the world-famous Watering Hole – the perfect place to swill out your salt-filled mouth after a few hours trying to mount a surfboard unsuccessfully.
Crabbing is one of those activities that sounds pretty cool in theory. Buy crabbing line, find a few pretty rock pools, have fun catching crabs with kiddos.
The reality is that you will be very lucky to find a crab in a rock pool. Successful days of crabbing more often than not require hurtling a crab net off a 20ft high harbour whilst trying to ensure that your two-year-old doesn’t follow it.
There is a strategy for a successful trip; you need the right time of day (when the tide is coming in which is more-often-than-not later in the evening). You also need a net, not a line. If you were a crab and found yourself being winched up the side of a 6ft harbour wall what would you do? You’d let go of the bait as quickly as possible and drop back into where you belong – that’s what you would do. Buy a net.
Also, be prepared to have your personal space invaded. The best spots are certainly not a secret. If you want to guarantee a full bucket of crabs head for Looe Harbour on the west coast or Port Levern on the East Coast. The latter is a far nicer experience with Rick Stein’s restaurant and a few decent pubs. Looe is a bit of a dump but you are guaranteed to catch more crabs than you can possibly fit in your bucket. Finally – leave your two-year-old at home.
It’s good to have a few days out up one’s sleeve for the rainy days. There will be rainy days in Cornwall. Here’s a couple:
Flambards is one for the list for the younger ones – very much like Lightwater Valley back in the day. This place will bore any teenager but if you have a five-year-old chomping at the bit to break his rollercoaster cherry then this is the place to do it.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is worth a visit too. Everyone likes to coo over a seal and there are plenty here.
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