Sarah and I have decided on a two-centre break in the British Isles – one in which we’ll spend a few days in Cornwall and the rest in a tiny group of islands just off Land’s End. These are as child-friendly as it gets. There will be long, sandy beaches, tropical fauna and – on the island where we’ll be staying – absolutely no cars.
We arrive on the islands on a bright Saturday afternoon, emerging onto a grass runway from the sort of tiny, eight-seater plane I’d only previously seen in the Indiana Jones movies.
The transfer from our landing point on St Mary’s to the nearby island of Tresco is as seamless as the flight itself. A driver is waiting for us, loads our luggage into the back of his minibus and drives us straight down to a quay, where we board a motorboat and are whisked across the water to a jetty on the other side.
We trundle around New Grimsby Quay, passing the sandy beach upon which fishing boats lie scattered like skittles and turn up a hill that goes by the New Inn – Tresco’s only pub. The island’s interior is even more beautiful than I’d imagined. We pass stone walls draped heavily in flowers that would look more at home in the Caribbean: scarlets, burnt-oranges, canary-yellows, pinks and purples jump out at us from wherever we look. And palm trees and rubbery cacti-like bushes share soil with yellow sprays of gorse and milk-white daisies.
As we round a corner, we find ourselves looking through a wooden gate into the eyes of brown cows and their calves; hides burnished copper in the late-afternoon sunlight. Then the tractor pulls us onward beneath a twisting canopy of elder branches that sways in the breeze above our heads. Martha is first to see the sea on the other side of the island – a strangely tropical vista of dark-green headlands and islands dotted onto a baize-like sweep of deep-blue water.
Our cottage, Samphire, comfortably sleeps six to eight people (a fact reflected in its weekly rate), so there’s plenty of room for the four of us. Martha and Seth rush around the two sitting rooms, three bathrooms and three bedrooms, climbing up on furniture and marvelling at the kaleidoscope of seaside-inspired art on the walls. ‘Daddy, quick!’ Martha calls out. I find her in the master bedroom, peering through French doors onto a balcony that overlooks the bay.
She’s right. The wildlife on Tresco, we quickly realise, doesn’t have the same suspicion of humans as its cousins on the mainland. The sparrows, robins and blackbirds lined up on the balcony rail, peering in at Martha, are just the first birds we encounter on the island who regard us as equals. As the week goes on, we’ll find beaks poking into our crisp packets, finches hopping across our shoes and even a pheasant that returns daily to our terrace to remind us we are on its territory.
We spend an idyllic few days on Tresco. Part of the island’s charm is there’s actually very little to do – and, as a family, we find this surprisingly easy to embrace. We go to the beach, we poke around in rockpools, we go to the New Inn for pints of Cornish ale and glasses of apple juice, and, a couple of times, we head over to the Ruin Beach Café for plates of prawns, crab sandwiches and other fresh seafood. But, the rest of the time, we simply relax. Martha and Seth play on the lawn, lining up toy dinosaurs or pretending the boats in the bay are carrying pirates into land, while Sarah and I read books on sunloungers, prepare meals in the large open kitchen or just open a bottle of wine at the outside table.
Where to stay
The Bull Hotel is the perfect getaway, it’s grown-up atmosphere will seem like a real luxury. The hotel blends cool contemporary decor with old fashioned hospitality. It’s rustic, charming but also lively- it’s bar serves cocktails until the early hours that follow a seculded dinner in the resturant downstairs. A stones throw from both West Bay and Lyme Regis The Bull serves as a base to kick off your shoes after a day spent exploring Dorset.
Price: Doubles from £85
How to get there: Driving is the primary means of transport to the town though for those wanting to put their feet up and relax the trains from London run to Dorchester South. London Waterloo to Bridport South 2hrs45mins from £57.90.