Chilled summer break

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Anyone else’s thoughts turning, slowlyyyy, to summer? We’ve bought daffodils already and it’s still light at 4pm so I feel we are emerging, blinking, from hibernation, feeling at some point it really will be warm again. If you’re feeling the need – like I am – to book a break, I thought I would share with you the best family summer holiday we had last year. Easy, stress-free and doesn’t have to break the bank, it’s very child AND pet friendly, if that should be on your mind (for the price of a dog sitter for two weeks in August, it was on ours..).

We’ve always gone aboard for holidays before and while I have no problem with the flights or distance or getting there or any of that, there’s little things that irritate the babies and husbands – namely, the extreme blazing heat of the Mediterranean in the summer months, which amounts to heat rashes, whinging, hours spent applying sun cream, extremely grumpy and hot babies who suddenly need a feed every 20 minutes , running after toddlers with sun hats, avoiding being outside for too long between 9am and 6pm.. alright it’s not that bad, and I quite like it, but for the ease of everyone while the babies are small we thought we’d try the beaches and glorious surroundings on our doorstep. I say doorstep, but Cornwall, where we decided on, is a six hour drive from us – I’d take flights, taxis and trains any day over being stuck in the car with my children for more than 20 minutes, but I sucked it up. People handle the drive in different ways – leaving at 4am, leaving at 9pm, doing it in one day with lots of stops – but we chose a night drive to Somerset, stayed overnight, then did the remaining two hours first thing in the morning. It was kind of OK. Bar one throwing up all over themselves on twisting lanes and one screaming the whole way at the outrage of being strapped in, it was .. doable. It’s worth it though. We went to a different beach every day,  fished in rock pools, took boats to cut-off islands, toasted marshmallows, climbed trees, swam most days and inhaled so much fresh air I hope it set us up for the year. It felt like we were giving the girls a proper Famous Five childhood for a fortnight, rather than dragging them round Hackney on the bus or wondering round a hotel breakfast buffet every day. They loved it and thrived before our eyes, it was an absolute pleasure to watch. I planned a few day trips in advance – we went for a fortnight so some days we just explored the woods near us or went to the local beach, others we got in the car and had full days out. I can recommend:

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What to do

  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Far and away the best family day out we’ve ever had, ever. In one day, we built a den, read books in dappled sunlight on hammocks, toasted marshmallows and balanced on adventure playgrounds made from tree trunks. Have you ever made bracelets and fire in the same hour? I have, now. So wholesome you’ll want to cry. Thank-you, Heligan. Worth a trip to Cornwall alone.
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  • The Eden Project. I’m putting this in here although I didn’t love it. I think it’s an amazing place, I just wouldn’t agree it is targeted at children like they try and claim. The playgrounds advertised everywhere are smaller than the ones round the back of our house opposite the co-op. There’s plenty of space for them to run, play and explore while you investigate, just don’t go expecting anything too special for little ones (who will probably be happy anyway just roaming).
  • St Ives. We stayed an hour or so away from St Ives (more on where we stayed below) so we made it a day trip. Must do? The Tate there is a must-see, and when we were there they had a whole kids craft section set up which was lots of fun. My oldest daughter bought a roll of orange tape from the gift shop after and it was her favourite bit of the holiday, I feel sometimes (aside from the joy and awe she felt at the sheer size of the supermarket we went to a couple of times, where she bought flashing My Little Pony wellies. I don’t think she’s ever been in one bigger than a Tesco metro in her life, and they certainly don’t sell items dreams are made of, like her boots are). While you’re in St Ives, you must must have lunch at the Porthminster Cafe, which also happens to be on one of those perfect white, sandy beaches. Just gorgeous. There is, of course, lots of lovely little shops to explore and lots to look at. Oh, and if you are taking the dog, they sadly won’t be welcome at either of these civilised places, so we dropped Humphrey off at the nearby Doggy Day Care Cornwall before continuing into St Ives
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  • Minack Theatre – carved into a cliff, this open-air theatre is spectacular and really something you will always remember. Worth the trip. Book one of the morning’s children performances as far in advance as you can.
  • St Michael’s Mount. An easy and fun day trip, get the boat across to the island for the day for lunch and a wonder. I confess I can’t vouch for what the castle itself is like as we couldn’t face hauling the buggy up the cobbles and paying for the privilege, when the girls were happy on the island itself. I’m sure it’s lovely though, if you can be bothered.
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  • Kynance Cove. There are, obviously, many beautiful beaches to explore – this one was on our list because it was near us and also apparently it is a famous one, known as the Poldark beach. It was a really beautiful walk down to it through the hills, and the beach itself is great, changing quickly with the tides – make sure you explore first as by lunchtime the tides have come in and cut off all the amazing caves.

Where to stay

We stayed on the Lizard, which is the most southernly tip and thus a bit out the way of the usual bits of Cornwall. It was beautiful, and some of the most stunning beaches were a ten minute drive away. We were at the incredible Trelowarren, which is made up of self-catering cottages set in enormous, beautiful grounds and woods you’re free to explore. There’s a spa, pool and pizzeria on site too, which were pretty handy. There’s so many options of where to stay, I don’t imagine you’ll struggle to find somewhere. If you go, let me know what I’ve missed.. and if you know where we should go this year, please advise ..

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