Cornwall (review published 2015)

The trouble with planning a family holiday in Cornwall is there are just too many fantastic beaches to choose from.
Every couple of miles, it seems, there’s either a cosy little cove or a wide expanse of golden sand just perfect for kite flying or castle building.
I couldn’t make up my mind when organising a midweek autumn break and ended up booking accommodation in the very heart of Cornwall.
The holiday cottage was within a 15-minute drive of several great beaches on the north coast and the plan was to visit a different one every day.
Now you might think that logic was flawed, considering the unreliable nature of the British weather, but I wasn’t pinning my hopes on a heatwave.
It can be blowing a gale and my daughter Cerys wouldn’t bat an eyelid, not with bucket and spade in hand and sand between her toes.
We were staying at a beautifully renovated barn conversion called Unity Cottage, near Chacewater, which was booked through Marsdens Cornish Cottages.
A delicious, freshly made cream tea was waiting for us on arrival and all of us, except baby Owen, tucked in on the decked area, which has glorious views of the Poldice Valley.
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.Unity Cottage, near Chacewater
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There you will find the remains of Poldice Mine, once the most productive mine in the parish of Gwennap, which was described as the “richest square mile anywhere on Earth’’.
You can explore the lunar-like landscape of the former tin, copper and arsenic mine, which closed in 1930, by downloading an audio trail from the website cornish-mining.org.uk.
Alternatively you can play “chimney stack spotting’’ – there are loads dotted about the area, including one called Wheal Busy where, presumably, the miners never had a moment’s rest.
We soon felt right at home in the cosy cottage, with its little knick-knacks, beamed ceilings, exposed stonework and a wood-burning stove in the open-plan living-dining room.
Furnished and equipped to high modern standards, there are also plenty of thoughtful little touches such as tourist maps, information leaflets and games, toys and books for younger guests.
The cottage makes an ideal touring base. Cornwall’s capital city, Truro, is six miles away and its Georgian streets are home to art galleries, a cinema, a theatre, a museum and, of course, a cathedral.
A little further away on the south coast is Falmouth, where there are four great beaches plus the National Maritime Museum and one of Henry VIII’s impressive fortresses.
The popular coast-to-coast cycle track from Devoran Creek to Portreath’s harbour passes within half a mile of the cottage and there’s a cycle hire shop three miles away.
As it happens, we struck pretty lucky with the weather so mum and dad were just as happy as Cerys during our three full days at different beaches.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExploring the caves at Trevaunance Cove
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First up was Trevaunance Cove, seven miles away and just beyond the quaint village of St Agnes, where steep hills on three sides provided us with shelter from a stiff breeze.
Thankfully, the pretty beach huts, shop and cafe had survived the battering they’d taken during Cornwall’s devastating storms in early 2014.
When the tide’s out, two neighbouring caves – both big enough to be the lair of a dragon if you let your imagination run wild – dare you to enter.
Torch in hand, Cerys was brave enough to explore the deepest, darkest regions of one of the caves and was rewarded when she discovered a small passage to the other.
I’ll never forget the laugh-out-loud moment when we emerged into the adjacent cave and gave a burly bloke the fright of his life, making him scream like a little girl.
The next day, we drove the six miles to Porthtowan, another north coast resort which boasts shops, cafes, a pub and a playground right on the beach.
At low tide the beach stretches nearly one and a half miles to include Chapel Porth beach and the cliffs below the iconic Wheal Coates engine house.
For our final day, we put some miles on the clock by returning to my favourite Cornish beach – the small, but perfectly formed, Porthcurno, near Land’s End.
Above the beach is the remarkable Minack theatre, carved into the granite cliff and set in tropical gardens, looking like it belongs in Ancient Greece.
We watched a play there some years ago and I’ll admit we were more engrossed in the basking sharks in the bay than the actors on the stage.
After the show, we looked down on Porthcurno beach with envy as a pod of dolphins played just yards from paddlers.
On our recent visit, we kept watch from the shoreline, praying for a close encounter of the porpoise kind.
But no such luck. Life’s a beach, eh? Well, it certainly is in Cornwall.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPorthcurno beach, Cornwall
Travel file
Adrian Caffery and family visited Unity Cottage in Cornwall as guests of Marsdens Cornish Cottages.
The three-bedroom, semi-detached property sleeps five. The kitchen has a dishwasher and washer/dryer. Linen and towels are provided and there’s a complimentary first basket of logs. It has wi-fi and parking for two cars. Weekly rental costs from £358 in winter, up to £893 in August.
The village of Chacewater, one mile away, has a choice of two traditional pubs, a small selection of shops and a chippy.
Marsdens Cornish Cottages is based in Cornwall, so local staff are on hand to provide visitors with priceless insider info.
The new agency is a sister company of Devon specialist Marsdens Devon Cottages, which has been operating for more than 40 years.
It offers almost 200 high quality properties across Cornwall, with more coming on stream every week. They include quaint old fishermen’s cottages, smart seafront apartments and character farmhouses.
All boast a VisitEngland grading, guaranteeing a high standard of cleanliness, comfort and equipment and are available year-round, with many accepting pets. Short breaks can be booked outside peak season.
Contact Marsdens Cornish Cottages at www.cornishcottages.co.uk or call 01503 289289.
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