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Smart Cornish hoteliers know the value of keeping their accommodation true to their West Country traditions. Family Traveller writers check out the best ones for your clan
Emma Kirkham takes her children on a mission at the oh-so-traditional Nare
‘How lucky are we!’ Annie, squealed as we drew up to the front of The Nare. The gentleman on the door didn’t blink an eye a we tumbled out of our battered old car, greeting us like we were old friends and swept us inside. This wasn’t any old hotel, with a vintage Morgan convertible parked outside it was all vases of flowers and smells of freshly baked scones with polished wooden furniture and proper pastel wallpaper. There is nothing trendy or edgy here, just a good old- fashioned country house hotel.
I was travelling to South Cornwall with my two children, Annie, 11 and Ed, 9, and though we have never visited the Roseland Peninsula before we felt instantly at home amongst the family portraits and teacups.
We were shown to our room whilst our car was parked (nice touch). I say room – it was more like a suite. The kids had a twin room at the back whilst I had the most magnificent double bedroom/sitting room that was all mine, with French doors opening out onto a private terrace. We opened the doors to see the view and what a vista it was – uninterrupted views of Carne Beach sweeping below us. But it wasn’t all fun and games! We were here on a mission, an espionage mission to be precise, to discover who is the Russian mole giving away state secrets. The hotel is the setting for crime writer Jon Stock’s spy thriller To Snare a Spy and we are here to see if we can make the grade and become super sleuthing spy agents. We had already received a mysterious package in the post and we were all set to take on the task in hand. We were chauffeur driven down to the mooring and boarded the hotel’s motor launch, The Alice Rose skippered by Simon and Susie. It is like The Nare on water, cucumber sandwiches and proper scones at the ready.
Skipper Simon had endless patience showing both children the secrets of navigation, and we had lots of fun spotting smuggling caves as we sailed up the Fal River. We finally reached our destination and sailed ashore where we were given clues to solve the next part of the mission. As this is top secret information I think it’s best we don’t give too much of the game away. Safe to say it resulted in me having to stop them both charging round the hotel rooms trying to find clues. By the evening it was mission accomplished. We triumphantly had found the mole.
After all the jolly japes of the previous day, we were glad that we had some time to relax, even though the hotel was fully booked we had the outdoor pool to ourselves, with the added pleasure of a soak in the hot tub overlooking the bay. I even had an hour’s snooze on the pool beds overlooking the beach. Carne Beach is a real gem, there are no shops or cafes, so it was solely inhabited by very organised picnic carrying day-trippers and residents of the hotel.
In the afternoon, Annie and Ed had an art class booked with artist- in-residence Jeanni. Before we knew it, our last evening was here, but we had a special treat in store: a formal dinner! Ed had to wear one of my blouses tucked in as we forgot to bring a shirt. He looked rather fetching! We had one of the best meal we’ve ever eaten, feasting on local crab and mussels. The children even tried venison, but what we had been waiting for was the famous Nare flambé. It was pure theatre. We were told the flames killed off all the alcohol so we were all good to go.
The Nare might not be everyone’s (English Breakfast) cup of tea, but it was ours. We hope it never changes. We love it just the way it is.
Book it: Family suites from £360 on a bed & breakfast basis. Alice Rose charters £95pp includes picnic lunch onboard and return chauffeur transfers. Group art lessons, £50pp. narehotel.co.uk
Family Traveller editor Jane Anderson and her kids review Falmouth’s latest refurbed gem, perfect for spa seekers
There’s a feel-good factor about the freshly refurbished St Michael’s Resort, sitting perkily above Famouth’s Blue Flag Gyllngvase Beach. A whopping £20 million has been lavished on upgrading this Falmouth boutique hotel and now it’s a rather snazzy health and spa resort that has plenty to offer families too.
Rooms have a seaside freshness and calm to them, with wood paneling, pastel coastal hues, Roberts Radios, plus jolly nice crockery to make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a Cornish shortbread. Our family room had a pretty balcony with a sweeping sea view over the beach which, thanks to a clever design feature, you could even see from the shower.
Another £30 million is being invested in a residential development called The Liner, which will offer 53 self-catering sea-facing apartments.
A big treat here is the gorgeous breakfast in the nautical- inspired Brasserie on the Bay restaurant. Afterwards you can head down to the beach for standup paddleboarding with WeSUP, and kayaking snorkelling and coasteering with Gylly Adventures.
Mums and dads owe it to themselves to try out the expansive spa, which goes above and beyond with its hydrothermal pool, featuring various jets and bubbles to soothe away stress. Regain your karma in the first Cornish sea-salt steam room, or book a Moroccan mud rhassoul, and don’t miss a soak in the outdoor red-cedar hot tub with views over the subtropical gardens. The quite separate health club is great for an indoor swim with the kids and an exercise class, but make sure you book well in advance.
After all that activity, regroup for a stone-baked pizza lunch at the Garden Kitchen restaurant, with its hanging plants and hipster vibe. And don’t miss dinner back in the main restaurant with fresh Newlyn Cornish dressed crab just some of the local delights on offer.
Book it: A beach house room (2 adults & 2 children) costs from £190 per night. stmichaelshotel.co.uk
Emma Kirkham tackles a blended family holiday with her partner and their four children at this five-star eco resort
Cornwall is becoming a lovely family habit. Early this past summer, I was lucky enough to visit the sunny south coast with my two children, Annie, 11, and Ed, nine. This time, though, we’re heading north and are joined by my partner, Kevin, and his two children, Noah, 12, and Bea, six. We’re here to sample the luxury five-star eco-resort of Landal Gwel an Mor. The name translates from Cornish as ‘view of the sea’ and the resort sits high on the hillside above Portreath, a quaint fishing village built around a cove between Newquay and St Ives. Landal GreenParks, traditionally known for its Swiss-style chalets, has opened up luxury new ‘residences’ – incredibly chic two- and three-bedroom eco- lodges – on its Landal Gwel an Mor site. It’s our job to give them the once-over.
As is always the case when we holiday together, it’s a mad scramble when we finally arrive to see who gets the best bed (spoiler: there are no bad ones). Disappointingly, the most important feature of the lodges, the hot tub, is not yet at the desired 40°C, so a lesson in delayed gratification has the kids hopping about on the sundeck, waiting to be the first one in. It’s definitely worth the wait!
The chalets are pristine and everything so squeaky new. We have a three-bedroom chalet, with two twin rooms and a spacious double for Kevin and me. The living area is huge, with doors that in summer can be flung open straight onto the terrace. We have everything we need (including a bottle of wine in the fridge, thank you very much) and a wood-burning stove. The lodge is even kitted out with a TV at the end of the bath. It’s all designed to be child-friendly, with curved-edged furniture to prevent head bumps, and you can borrow all the paraphernalia that usually fills up your car (highchairs, cots and so on) from reception.
There’s plenty to keep the kids busy. At the indoor climbing centre, we try Clip ’n’ Climb, which includes the popular see-through, face-to-face wall, where sibling rivalry reaches peak levels as brothers and sisters race each other to the top. New for us are the Seascooters – small motorised engines that the three older children are able to try out in the indoor pool.
Top of the list for all the children, though, is the Wildlife Experience at Feadon Farm, just a few minutes’ stroll from our chalet. This award-winning wildlife centre is run by Gary, one of the most fascinating nature lovers you are ever likely to meet. With his endless patience and passion for native wildlife and fauna, he helps us explore the surrounding fields and the farm, introducing us to eagle owls and barn owls, as well as foxes that he has rescued and tamed himself; we even get to handle weasels. During a second, night-time visit, we see badgers feeding.
Landal Gwel an Mor isn’t all about the children, though. I manage to squeeze in a massage, and even though it’s self-catering, the resort’s Terrace Restaurant is handy, serving top-notch lunches, cream teas and dinner using mostly Cornish ingredients. It will even pack you a picnic hamper.
Though there are lots of activities on site, none of them takes away from the tranquility. It never feels crowded or rushed, even though we’re here during the busy half-term week, but it’s definitely worth venturing off site to Portreath. It’s a 15-minute walk through the woods down to the village and its sandy, surf beach.
It’s also close to some of the filming locations for the BBC drama Poldark. Portreath was once a busy port and some of the old tram roads, used for transporting ore from the mines, have been transformed into cycle paths. The Mineral Tramway makes it possible to cycle from Portreath
on the north coast to Devoran on the south, avoiding traffic, and bikes can be hired from Landal Gwel an Mor too!
Book it. Three-night weekend or four-night midweek stay at The Residence, Landal Gwel an Mor, costs from £569 to £1,754 for cottages sleeping up to six. Clip ’n’ Climb, £8 (ages 4-15), £9 (adults); off-peak prices £4/£5; seascooters, £8 (age 5+); Wildlife Experience, £8 (child), £13 (adult). landal.co.uk
Jane Anderson and family enjoy the clifftop setting and laidback vibes
Catching a wave with your kids on Polzeath Beach, on Cornwall’s impressive north coast, is a special family moment made sweeter by the walk back along the dramatic clifftop to your family suite or apartment at the St Moritz Hotel.
Looking rather like a majestic 1920s liner from the cliff approach, this relaxed yet slick hotel has families firmly on its radar. Rooms are uplifting, with tongue-and-groove walls, wooden floors and underfloor heating in the bathroom, along with luxurious Cowshed toiletries, extra-comfy double beds and simple bunk beds for kids. Junior garden suites have a snug conservatory with loungers and doors out onto the lush gardens.
If you’re coming with family and friends, Room Pods are a cluster of three/four hotel rooms which share a private hallway – a neat solution to multi-gen stays. Dog-lovers will be pleased to hear there are pooch-friendly rooms too.
There’s plenty of space for little ones to run around on expansive lawns and a gorgeous heated outdoor pool with cute beach huts with fun names like Punch – with Judy next door! The hotel has a kid’s surf club, beach boxing and yoga to keep you all on your toes in the fresh Cornish air. And, if the weather’s bad, the indoor pool will keep little ones amused while mums and dads can take it in turns for a Moody Cow massage in the gorgeous Cowshed Spa.
The St Moritz makes life easier for parents with thoughtful touches such as wooden games of noughts and crosses by reception, plus old leather cases full of child-friendly DVDs to borrow.
There’s a lively programme of Mini Moritz kids events during school holidays from cake decorating to scavenger hunts. As we passed by the Sea Side Café next to the outdoor pool, with views over the Camel Estuary, we peered in on a creepy-crawlies session with a tarantula at large!
Above reception is the Shorecrest Restaurant. Instead of a sea view there’s an open kitchen to spy on the chefs and tasty local produce, including Porthilly mussels. A simple but fresh kids menu, with staples like fish ‘n’ chips and yummy chocolate brownies, keep young tummies happy after active beach days.
Bonus: if you can’t manage the clifftop walk to Polzeath or Rock with little legs in tow, there’s a handy Land Rover shuttle service during daylight hours.
Book it: A family garden suite at the St Moritz costs from £230 with breakfast. stmoritzhotel.co.uk
London to Penzance by train starts from £24 for an advance single standard-class fare; children 5-15 get a 50% discount, so from £12; up to two children under five can travel free with each fare-paying adult. gwr.com
The Night Riviera service runs in both directions baring Saturday nights, with a £70 supplement for a solo cabin, £45 per person for a twin cabin. gwr.com
Flybe flies from London Gatwick to Cornwall Airport Newquay up to three times a day from £26.99 one way. Flybe operate 11 other UK routes into Newquay including Edinburgh. flybe.com
WHAT TO TAKE
Get a copy of Find & Seek: An Illustrated Atlas of Cornwall’s Culture & Heritage with space to add your own finds, £10.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
go to visitcornwall.com