Every January, I tell myself I really must book our family holiday. Get in there nice and early, choose somewhere wonderfully warm and sunny, and we can feel all sorted and smug as we pack our bags and jet off somewhere glorious.
Every January, I fail to do this.
Before I know it, Easter’s arrived and we still have nothing booked. I start researching, feel completely overwhelmed, and by the time we’ve actually agreed and decided on somewhere, flight prices are through the roof and we can’t afford to go.
It genuinely drives me crazy. And I know I’m not alone. So many families struggle to sort out a holiday and end up succumbing to good old Blighty. But do you know what? It’s not such a bad thing.
Staycation after coronavirus
If, like many people, you’ve missed the boat for a summer holiday and suffering from lockdown thanks to coronavirus, it’s not too late to at least plan a balmy September weekend away or even get ahead for the October half-term – social distancing restrictions permitting.
Holidaying in the UK can actually be pretty wonderful. Bunging everything in the car and heading off to a home-from-home destination avoids a mountain of stress. There’s no week-long build-up of angst before you head off, no Next Directory splurge to kit the kids out in a brand-new hot-weather wardrobe of clothes they’ll not need or fit into again, no waking up at the crack of dawn and forcing them to brush their teeth in the dark to make it to the airport in time…
You just pack your cases, squish them into the boot, and then arrive somewhere that’s generally a lot prettier than where you live. And when the weather behaves, there are few better places to be than the Cornish coast and good old Cornwall holidays.
While holidays seem something for the distant future, staycations are the most likely bet during the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s my report from a time before social distancing and lockdown so you can start your planning for a staycation of your own.
Cornwall holidays – discovering the West Country’s quieter side
Mullion, on the southern tip of England, is quiet and quaint. Around seven miles from Helston, it’s home to houses that look like they’re lived in rather than rented out, and a village centre that keeps the locals busy, by the look of the wooden noticeboards.
We follow a steep path down to the sheltered cove and strut along the coastline dotted with wildflowers and rubbly stones. Families gather before dinner for one last surf in the frothy ocean, while horse riders plod about on the sand.
The mossy rocks enclosing the shoreline house an abundance of life for foragers, from perky sprigs of elderflower to lemony rock samphire.
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A refurbed hotel with a homely touch
The area is home to the Polurrian On The Lizard hotel, which has recently had a huge refurb and is now a very welcoming space for families, couples and wedding parties. It’s easy-going, a little bit quirky and very cool; somewhere with hip little touches and good standards but where kids can roam free and be themselves too.
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The staff wears a uniform of red Converse trainers and denim shirts, there are Waltzers that have been upcycled into funky chairs, and local information about the area has been inserted into record sleeves in the rooms.
The new Vista bar serves lunches and kids’ meals, but comes alive when we try out the extensive local spirit menu. There are eight different types of gin, plus a choice of 10 Cornish rums. The barman recommends the slightly less local (but still UK-made) Old J Tiki Fire with a mixer of Ting, which is a bit like Sprite. It’s delicious, but at 75% proof, I don’t remember very much afterwards…
The restaurant serves freshly-made pizzas (from £10), lobster (£28) and tapas (£6 each or three for £15), and the bill comes in a cassette case, with your waiter’s face Photoshopped onto an old album cover – it all adds to the personality of the place. There’s a cinema room and cosy lounges, a pool table and games. And a shiny old trumpet on the fireplace.
As I wander through the blue lily and summer lilac-populated gardens and around to the outdoor pool to soak up the sea view and sniff in the salty breeze, I notice I’m walking at half the pace I normally do.
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Exploring the area
This part of Cornwall plays host to lots of Europeans on vacation. You barely hear a foreign accent when you holiday in bustling and busy Padstow, or even St Ives, but it seems to be the quieter hideaways of Cornwall that people from overseas travel to.
And I can see why.
It’s delightful to rock up at a little pub on a sunny afternoon and have a choice of outdoor tables to sit at. And not have to fight for a spot by the sea. Many come with hiking boots and sticks, and walk the clifftop coastal paths.
For anyone who’s worked up an appetite, Cadgwith Cove Crab sells fresh lobster wraps for £10 a pop, and if you teeter up the teeny wooden staircase to the Crow’s Nest art gallery above, you can buy original paintings, kitsch crafts and beautifully imperfect pottery.
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We head three miles on to Lizard Point, a National Trust property (just pay for parking) which is Britain’s most southerly point. The whole area, from the cliffs and seashore to the local farmland, is a great spot for wildlife.
The Watchpoint is open from spring to late summer and within minutes of arriving, we spot grey seals bobbing their heads out of the water and cormorants gathering on a big rock as the sun beats down on their backs. Heading down to the bay, we hop over the rocks to discover huge swathes of seaweed that have been washed in with the tide. Ribbons, stalks, gnarly sea creature-esque blobs and curvy latticework abound, and the saltiest stench fills the air.
So, despite all my disappointment at not making it overseas for some guaranteed sunshine and a bit of lounging-by-the-pool action, holidaying in the UK really isn’t a second-rate option.
Cornwall holidays are less hassle, the sun does shine (sometimes), the food is reliably good, and if you buy croissants for breakfast, you can pretend you’re in the south of France anyway. Post-Brexit, this may be the future of family holidays and actually, that’s not a bad prospect.
Cornwall holidays – how to get there
Inland Facing Double Rooms at the Polurrian (polurrianhotel.com; 01326 240 421) start from £189 per night (two adults and two children sharing) including breakfast. Sea View Double Rooms start from £199.