AN OFF-SEASON TRIP TO CORNWALL IS THE IDEAL ESCAPE FOR FAMILIES WITH TODDLERS...
There’s something about a Cornwall break that offers a wonderful sense of escapism not always found from other UK breaks. Perhaps it’s because it’s at the foot of the country, one way in and one way out on the A30. But what that means for us, lifelong fans of Cornwall, is the chance to feel like we’re getting away from it all without having to negotiate airports and aeroplanes. Especially with a 1-year-old and 3-year-old in tow.
Tucked into the south west corner of Cornwall is Falmouth. Recently named by the Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in the UK, it is a bustling and increasingly trendy Cornish town with a rich maritime history and busy working harbour. Its sandy beaches and quiet coves are family heaven for bucket-and-spade days, but together with a pretty town centre, museums, castles and boat trips, it also offers plenty for when the British weather lets us down. Especially when we last visited in chilly March.
Falmouth’s hotel scene is an improving one, although not yet offering the luxe options found on the north coast such as the fantastic Watergate Bay and The Scarlet hotels. There’s always been lots of choice in Falmouth, but solid 3-star options, favoured by coach trippers. St Michael’s Hotel, also found along the strip of Falmouth hotels that overlook the sea, is an exception and one of the best Falmouth has to offer. It’s an overtly nautically themed 4-star hotel that ensures its guests know they are in a location proud of its maritime history. The hotel has been extensively refurbished and feels fresh, light and welcoming. It’s also the ideal hotel choice for kids, offering a small range of family suites, including the Giant Family Suite with two bedrooms and a separate lounge area, particularly suited to us as our boys needed early nights and we could enjoy a glass of wine and Netflix in peace.
St Michael’s has a swimming pool that’s heated to a lovely temperature but no slides or water geysers to keep my energetic boys occupied for long. Still, it was the ideal activity for us post-breakfast, before getting wrapped up to hit Gyllynvase beach, just a hop skip and jump from the hotel. As it happens, the Cornish wind in March proved too much so it was a brief visit. Fortunately, Gylly Beach café was a warm and inviting option for hot chocolates where we sat outside under heaters and tucked cosily under blankets to enjoy the incredible view, sheltered from the easterly wind.
WHAT TO DO
The majestic Pendennis Castle is a good option for little ones to live out their own knights and princesses fantasies. Perched on a headland overlooking the sea on three sides, its twin castle, St Mawes Castle, can be seen on the other of the water. Under the care of English Heritage, it’s a visit that will keep you occupied for a few hours if needed, with a small exhibition to learn about Pendennis Castle’s history and a small café.
For my two toddlers, the National Maritime Museum was a great choice. With an array of boats on display, the boys loved climbing in and out of lifeboats and pretending to ride a jet ski, before we made our way up to the top of the lookout for a breath-taking view of Falmouth’s working harbour. The lookout also descends two storeys under the sea, and the boys love spotting fish swimming past the windows – a real life aquarium.
As a family, we’re rather partial to a boat trip, and the trip over to the small town of St Mawes worked well for us as it wasn’t too long. We stayed long enough to find seashells on the beach and have a quick ice cream (yes, it was a little chilly, but holidays mean ice cream, whatever the weather) before making the short return journey to Falmouth.
WHERE TO EAT
It wouldn’t be a trip to Cornwall without fish and chips, and Falmouth has some great chippies to choose from. Rick Stein also has an outpost here, opposite the National Maritime Museum. We dined on the obligatory fish and chips, although plenty of other dishes are available. Harbour Lights, another chippy favoured by the locals, is delicious too. And with the added benefit of beautiful views over Falmouth harbour. Kids meals are served in a bucket at Harbour Lights, my boys’ proudest souvenir from their trip.
Thanks to the ever-expanding University, there is an increasing choice of cafes and restaurants in Falmouth’s pretty town centre, so there is lots of choice in the town for snacks and meals. Happily, most of the options are independent too.