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Family Holidays in Cornwall

It’s not the surf. Or the beaches. It’s not the estuary creeks, the fishing villages or the Eden Project. It’s not even Stein’s Fish & Chips. The reason families fall for Cornwall is that it epitomises the childhood-holiday idyll: tradition spiced with adventure; days on the beach that become days of discovery. But be warned – Cornwall is addictive. With the A30 providing a fast-track through the Southwest, it’s now a straightforward, if occasionally congested, matter to reach this far-flung corner of Britain. Whether you base yourself on the north or south coast depends on whether you prefer your sea rough or smooth. Popular north-coast resorts like Bude and Newquay are a sandy sprint from some of Cornwall’s finest surf, while Perranporth, Polzeath, Porthtowan and the beaches fringing Trevose Head also offer that frothy cocktail of Atlantic breakers, surf schools and beach cafés.

Top 10 Things to Do in Cornwall

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1 Dig the beach, any beach – make a miniature St Michael’s Mount, scoop out a network of canals or build a sandy dam to hold back the tide.

2 Venture into the tropics at The Eden Project, Cornwall’s essential day-out.
Find out where chocolate and vanilla come from, make crafts in the Jungle Town
and operate the biggest nutcracker you’ve ever seen.

3 Discover how a marine rescue centre works at Gweek’s National Seal Sanctuary.

4 Explore the leafy subtropical paradise of Trebah Gardens.

5 Learn to surf at Whitesands Bay, a golden crescent at Sennen with a cool surf school, rock pools near the lifeboat ramp, acres of sand at low tide and great fish and chips from the café on the waterfront.

6 Dangle your legs over a harbour wall, a crab line in one hand, a Roskilly’s ice cream in the other.

7 Plan an adventure to St Michael’s Mount, the legendary home of the giant, Cormoran; walk across at low tide or take the boat.

8 Cycle the 9-km stretch of the Camel Trail between Wadebridge and Padstow alongside the estuary.

9 Track down the legend of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle.
10 Smile when it’s raining by heading to indoor attractions like Tate St Ives, Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum and Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium.

Family-friendly places to stay in Cornwall

Gwel an Mor
Cornish for ‘view of the sea’, Gwel an Mor's 60 timber lodges occupy a grandstand position above Portreath on the north coast. Sea views are almost a happy coincidence at this luxurious resort where quality accommodation, great facilities and friendly, helpful staff have set it on course to becoming one of Cornwall’s holiday hotspots. Granted, the two- or three-bedroom lodges have been designed upside down (living rooms upstairs to make the most of those views), but don’t overlook the hot tub on the deck, the cosy wood-burning stove or flat-screen television. It’s stylish rather than rustic – a theme that continues through the landscaped grounds, the Clubhouse with its swimming pool and the Wellbeing Spa.
When not self-catering, you can dine at the superb Terrace Restaurant which uses ingredients that are almost exclusively Cornish. If there’s just one thing you do while staying here, make sure it’s a walking safari with Gary Zammit, the wildlife ranger at Gwel an Mor’s adjacent Feadon Farm. Cornwall’s Dr Doolittle, he’ll have your kids’ eyes on stalks as he reveals slow worms, slugs and sparrowhawks in the woods and meadows below Gwel an Mor. You’ll go pond dipping, rock-pooling, badger watching and get to meet Gary’s rescued foxes and his barn owl and Harris hawk.

Cornish Tipi Holidays
Tipis have popped up all over Britain, but not only was this the first site to add a touch of ‘pow-wow’ to camping holidays, it is arguably still the best. That probably has something to do with the setting – a 16-acre woodland surrounding a spring-fed quarry lake where kids can play real-life Swallows and Amazons: swimming, fishing, boating or simply watching the dragonflies whizz past. Then there’s the tipi experience itself – ducking inside to flop on cosy rugs and rolling on to your back to gaze up at the 18ft high cone of canvas and locally sourced poles, lashed together with twine and hessian and daubed with authentic Native American designs. There are 40 tipis here, sleeping up to 10 and arranged either in village fields (complete with totem poles) or tucked away in private clearings. Each one comes with its own cooking fire and woodpile. There’s a gas stove for back-up (plus flush toilets and hot showers at either end of the site), but essentially this is no-frills, back-to-nature camping where, in the absence of electricity, tipis take on a warm, magical lantern glow at night.

Bedruthan Steps Hotel
Don’t feel intimidated by the smart, contemporary style of this cliff-top hotel – it’s as child-friendly as they come. In fact, with its indoor and outdoor play areas, daily entertainment, heated pools, OFSTED-registered clubs and special mealtimes, children could be forgiven for thinking that it was made exclusively for them. In a way it was. But grown-ups get a fair share of goodies too. There’s the sumptuous Ocean Spa and the award-winning Indigo Bay Restaurant (for adults only), as well as exemplary childcare for those moments when you crave some ‘me time’. The simple but tastefully decorated bedrooms often have spectacular sea views and they come in all shapes and sizes – from spacious family rooms to villas.

Rosehill Lodges
A five-minute walk from Porthtowan and nuzzled in wildlife-rich woodland, these classy timber lodges have private hot tubs, glass-covered decks, log burners and outdoor heated drench showers – just the job for rinsing off children and wetsuits after a day on the beach. Each lodge is also equipped with handy extras like buckets and spades, softball tennis and badminton sets. And they’re green too, thanks to solar panels and grass roofs.

Sands Resort Hotel
A genuinely family-friendly hotel, Sands does more than most to make parents and children feel welcome and well catered for. Most of the rooms are suites, with separate children’s sleeping areas. There are sports facilities, play areas and children’s clubs for all ages; the Surf Shack has wetsuits and boards, while two beach adventure centres are just minutes away. Little ones get pre-dinner entertainment; grown-ups get a health spa.

Watergate Bay Hotel
Behind the quite traditional Victorian-looking façade of this hotel lies Cornwall’s ultimate base for surf and chic. Watergate Bay Hotel is right on the beach, with its own watersports centre and no less than four places to eat, including the Hotel Brasserie and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen (see page 83). The hotel has playrooms, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, supervised Kids’ Zone, children’s activities and evening entertainment, plus a baby-listening service. Bright, contemporary family suites feature a king-size bedroom and bunk room for children. Plasma televisions and DVD players come as standard – for those rare moments when you can tear yourself away from the ocean views. Interconnecting rooms, some with balconies overlooking the bay, are also available. Outside there’s a lovely terrace with steps leading down to the beach.

Bosinver Farm Cottages
Bosinver combines the rural idyll of a farmstay (35 acres of wildflower meadow, farm animals wandering past your doorstep etc) with the pick-and-mix appeal of a self-catering cottage agency and the facilities of a holiday park. There is a choice of no less than 19 highly individual and stylishly furnished cottages (sleeping 3-12) scattered through this hidden valley between St Austell and Mevagissey. Local characters include Lovejoy and Tinker the Shire horses, and Chalky, a tree-climbing Pygmy goat that’s fond of digestive biscuits. As well as feeding the animals, kids will love the play barn, games room, adventure playground, tennis court and outdoor pool. Bikes are available for hire (the Pentewan Valley Trail is nearby), while groceries can be pre-ordered from the local store.

Fowey Hall Hotel
A 19th-century mansion that was thought to be the inspiration for Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows, Fowey Hall is set in five acres of gardens and is just a short stroll from Readymoney Cove and the town of Fowey itself. Facilities include an OFSTED-registered Den for children under eight, a playroom for older kids and an indoor pool. Rooms are large and indulgent with everything on hand – from DVDs to baby equipment – to make your stay hassle-free. Fine food and an Aquae Sulis Retreat add the finishing touches.

Cornwall-Cornish TIpis



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William Gray, the editor of Family Travel Expert, has written a series of award-winning family travel guidebooks. Find out
more about family holidays
in Cornwall by ordering your copy of Cornwall with Kids.