One of Britain’s most westerly counties, you’re never too far from the coast in Cornwall. Its craggy charm, numerous Blue Flag beaches and rich Celtic history continues to draw hordes of hikers and surfers every year. It’s also the perfect location for a family holiday, with loads to see and do with children, as our editor discovered during a family holiday to Bodmin, Cornwall.
Having left it to the last minute to book our family Easter holiday, and not relishing the thought of re-mortgaging the house to be able to afford flights to Europe, we finally made good on a common declaration in our house, “Oh, we should go to Cornwall this holiday”! After carefully perusing the invaluable The Rough Guide to Devon & Cornwall, we mapped and strategized the must-see sights and things to do, to get the most out of our five days in Cornwall.
With expert insight into the different areas to visit, honest reviews on where to eat and sleep in the region as well as detailed maps and images, the guide was the perfect, and a much-consulted companion throughout our stay in the county. Anyone who’s ever planned a family break will understand the careful balancing act of making sure that everyone is catered to. With the Other Half, a tween and an old man in a 10-year-old’s body, it was never going to be an easy task to stop my travelling companions from saying the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored!” But we managed it.
So, without further ado, here are my top tips and guide for a family five-day break to Cornwall.
How to get there
It’s fair to say that a big hurdle to visiting Cornwall is how long it takes to actually get down there. If like us the prospect of a nearly six-hour transfer, door to door, was not in the least appealing, you should consider flying down. Luckily for us, we live near Southend Airport and flights to Newquay, Cornwall are only 1hr 20 mins.
Because we left it to the last minute, Economy flights were £550 (Flybe) for two adults and two children, a little dear, but absolutely worth it for transporting us to the lush surroundings of Newquay in less time than my commute to work!
Visit Southend Airport
Where to stay?
From its almost central location in the county, Waterside, Cornwall in Bodmin was the perfect place to set up camp to explore Cornwall. As soon as we arrived, the resorts’ impressively long and winding driveway, its Scandinavian-lodge looking abodes certainly had the wow-factor. The self-catering lodges (70 two and three-bedroom options) are filled with many of the creature comforts of home.
Highlights were the spacious bedrooms (we went for a two-bed), massive bathrooms, and full complement of kitchen utilities. All we needed to do was stock up the kitchen cupboards and relax, well almost, aside from making dinner on a couple of nights.
The resort also has a number of amenities including a swimming pool, extensive grounds to explore, tennis, a clubhouse for dining and relaxation as well as a restaurant.
Visit Waterside, Cornwall
Eat an authentic Cornish pasty… and other meals at the Clubhouse restaurant
Which brings us to the Waterside restaurant. Within a couple of hours of landing in Cornwall, I’d already had my first Cornish pasty. It would be rude not to have one, right? Crispy pastry and a full meaty interior, spot on.
The restaurant based in the Clubhouse of the resort serves a wide range of delicious food. It’s convenient and the restaurant overlooks a small playground, great for those with younger children and accessible grounds for a post-meal stroll.
How to get around? Hire a car
We hired a car for the duration of our stay and, honestly, it was the best decision we made. While where we were staying was pretty much in the centre of Cornwall, we had a packed itinerary of places that we wanted to visit all over the county, and we could only do that by driving.
Most of the attractions and sites we visited had good parking facilities. We hired a four-door Renault Captur which did the job of transporting us from A to B very nicely.
A big heads-up though, many of the roads in Cornwall are extremely narrow. I’m talking “back all the way up the road to let another car pass through” narrow! Be prepared to traverse roads with hedges and bushes that tower over your car, zig-zag down steeps hills and if you’re really unlucky, get stuck behind a herd of sheep going for their midday stroll. But hey, it’s all part of the experience eh?
Small tip, you don’t need to hire the Sat-Nav add-on. We didn’t and were just fine without it. Whatever sat-nav you use on your phone (google maps etc) should work just fine!
Set aside a day to visit the Eden Project
No family visit to Cornwall is complete without a visit to the wonderful Eden Project. Considering it was in the middle of the Easter holidays in April, we were surprised that it wasn’t packed to the rafters. Less than 30 minutes’ drive away from where we were staying in Bodmin, it was remarkably easy to find.
There is ample parking facilities in the massive car park. We were pleasantly surprised to see that there was a park and ride that takes you directly to the Eden Project entrance.
We picked up our pre-ordered family ticket (two adults, two children, £67) and again were surprised that the queues were not much longer.
From the moment we stepped out of the ticket hall, the scale of the attraction floors you. There’s a lovely viewing deck to take pictures of the whole park, the sight of the Biomes is very impressive.
A highlight for us was the Rainforest Biome. We loved seeing the natural flora and crops, many of the West African ones were familiar and I took great pains to point them out to my children. Be prepared to strip off all but a t-shirt in the Rainforest Biome. At the top of the 50-metre Biome we clocked temperatures of 40 degrees!
After a full day of exploring, we had a lovely lunch at the Mediterranean Terrace, which as the name suggests, serves Mediterranean food.
Visit Eden Project
Fly on England’s longest and fastest zip wire
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity of taking on the longest and fastest zip wire in England, especially when it was on the grounds of the Eden Project. Hang Loose Adventure activities are for the adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers among you.
Covering 660 metres and reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, this was an exhilarating experience which I enjoyed with my son. We felt completely safe and looked after. You can’t really describe the feeling of zipping through the air, weightless and carefree.
Ticket prices for the zip wire activity are from £30 (no need to purchase Eden Project tickets).
Visit Hang Loose Adventure
Swing by Padstow and eat at Rick Stein’s Fish and Chips restaurant
The TV chef has put the little fishing town of Padstow on the map (read our review). After spending the day at one the town’s many pretty beaches, head down to Stein’s Fish and Chips for a family friendly meal, a great way to end the day.
You can choose from a wide range of fish, which you can have grilled or fried, with a side of fluffy chips, or opt for their tasty Goan Chicken Curry. With the lively, relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and reasonable prices, this is an easy way to tick the “I have eaten at a Rick Stein restaurant” box.
Family of four, two adults, two children (two starters, mains and no alcohol) approx. £80.
Visit the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro
Just one of the many museums we visited, the Royal Cornwall Museum, founded in 1818, gives visitors an opportunity to learn about Cornish heritage and its rich contribution to the rest of the world through the many collections and exhibitions held there throughout the year.
We enjoyed looking at the artefacts, art and in particular learning about “Black People in Georgian England” [pictured]. I never miss an opportunity to educate my boys about Black culture and coming across this installation at the museum was a pleasant surprise.
It’s frustrating to constantly come across the erasure of Black people in all walks of like and I had to explain this to my son when he asked why there was “no description of the Black man in the painting” [pictured]. Another educational moment was when he noticed the caption on the boy holding the dish “Young African boys were fashionable as servants at the period, circa 1765”.
In spite of these, we enjoyed our time at the museum.
Learn the history of international telecommunications at Porthcurno
Our last full day in Cornwall saw us driving west, where we first stopped off at Porthcurno, once the heart of international telecommunications, boasting the largest telegraph station in the world.
Though no longer in use, those cables still run beneath the world’s seas and oceans. The museum is home to information-packed exhibitions and interactive displays. I found it incredibly enthralling to see how the early days of telecommunications began, something most of us now take for granted. Without this early work, there would be no telephones or internet.
We found time to also head down to the world-famous Porthcurno Beach and even saw some evidence of the buried cables, visible due to shifting sands on the beach.
Take the obligatory family snap at the Land’s End landmark
We couldn’t go all that way and not visit Land’s End, the most westerly point in England. I wasn’t quite expecting the amusement park style attractions at this famous spot. Luckily, they were all closed, we got there in the late afternoon. We much preferred exploring the craggy shorelines and cliffs.
Due to the late hour of the day the original Land’s End landmark had been put to bed and in place was a substitute (we learned that this is so that the original doesn’t go for a walk!) A little disappointed, we still posed for our family snaps.
You can’t help but be in awe of the beautiful landscape and amazing views off the coast and toward the sea. There were telescopes pointing sea-ward, but even without these, by squinting really hard, we were positive we could see the Isles of Scilly in the distance 28 miles off land.
For more activities and places go to the Visit Cornwall website