Taking the kids to Cornwall might feel like a bit of a cliche, but there’s a reason why generations of British families have flocked to the south-west every summer. The sandy beaches, temperate climate and diet of Cornish pasties and cream teas are an obvious draw, but the land of Poldark also offers ancient castles and witchcraft museums, breathtaking countryside and some truly luxurious accommodation. Admittedly it is pretty far from most regions of the UK, but if you don’t fancy driving, there is a good rail service, taking 4-5 hours from London with spectacular views along the way and a sleeper train option available.
You can also fly into Newquay from London, Birmingham, all the main northern airports and both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Just be aware that you will need a car to get around. It’s a big old place too, so we’ve narrowed down the best places to explore the northern region of the peninsula, whether you’re travelling with a baby, toddler or older children.
1. Widemouth Bay
Head here for: Self-catering accommodation at its finest
Holidaying in Cornwall is the peak of staycation sophistication. It might not be the cheapest option, but it is certainly more convenient than having to fly overseas or stay in a hotel. You still want to feel like you’re being pampered though – and it doesn’t get more luxurious than the Barford Beach House, a family-owned holiday home that is the latest addition to the Tregulland & Co portfolio. From the suspended wooden staircase to the vintage French holophane chandelier repurposed from the Paris Metro, this house radiates homely sophistication. It has eight stunningly decorated bedrooms (two with bunk beds and all with en-suite bathrooms) and sleeps up to 16 people should you choose to bring extended family along.
The floor-to-ceiling windows at Barford give spectacular sea views.
One of the stunning bathrooms at Barford.
A huge kitchen, equipped with an Aga and grand dinning table sculpted out of ancient Turkish wood once thought lost, lies at the heart of the property, over looking the impeccably manicured garden and the beach. The cosy front room, complete with fireplace, is the perfect place to relax and look out at the sea and each room has-ceiling-to-floor sliding glass doors, so you get a perfect view of your surroundings at all times.
Be prepared to be blown away by every single bathroom in the house, each with its own unique design and theme, from the Alice in Wonderland one, to the show-stopping freestanding rolltop brass bath in the master bedroom. A word of warning – you’re likely to have a battle over who stays in this one… There are plenty of extra features too, that sets Barfords apart – a cinema room and ‘secret’ arcade games bunker, complete with cocktail bar and sound system. Then there’s the immaculate sauna and outside hot tub, which will really make this stay a once in a lifetime experience.
Prices start from £2,014 for a three night stay or £4,800 for a week, increasing to £8,000 for a week in high season. Find out more at tregullandandco.co.uk/barford
This high-end holiday home is stylish but cosy for families.
Head here for: The best beaches in north Cornwall
Why bother with the hassle of an EasyJet flight to Ibiza when you have some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe right here in Cornwall? And Bude is the cream of the crop. There are eight in the area, all with demerara-soft sand, recommended as safe for kids and pet-friendly too. Most of the beaches are lined by cliffs – great for the dramatic Poldark cliff top selfies – and when the tide is low, they have an abundance of exposed reefs and rock pools, ideal for nature lovers and curious tots. If the weather isn’t beach-friendly, head to Castle Bude, which houses a gallery, café and heritage centre about North Cornwall’s history. It’s also a great place to play hide and seek and slay the dragon!
Castle Bude is open 10am-5pm daily. Find out more at thecastlebude.org.uk
One of Bude’s stunning beaches.
Head here for: An award-winning afternoon tea
Indulging in scones with jam and cream is a must in the south-west – and the Docton Mill Garden and Tea Room in Lymebridge, Hartford, is a spectacular place to enjoy some. While it is actually in neighbouring Devon, this mill which dates from Saxon times, is just a short trip over the border and set in a beautiful valley. Voted the Best Tea Room in north Devon, it prides itself on using local produce, from homemade chutneys to fresh prawns, salmon and crab. It also has a charming wildflower garden and a river walk with narcissi, bluebells and wild garlic to be spotted.
Docton Mill is open March-October. Entry to the gardens cost £4.50 for adults, children go for free. doctonmill.co.uk
Eating a cream tea is a must on a trip to the south west. Photo by Adam Gibbard, Visit Cornwall.
Head here for: A touch of magic
Cornwall has a dark and mysterious side, which you can learn about at Boscastle’s Museum of Witchcraft and Magic., one of the country’s most unique museums. This part of the county is steeped in in supernatural history, with the museum located three miles away from a prehistoric maze stone carving, known as the Rock Valley carving. Suitable for children of about 7 years and older, the quirky collection has more than 3,000 objects and 7,000 books on witchcraft and magic. You’ll see everything from voodoo dolls to a two-headed pig. It’s far more scientific than you may expect too, and while its reputation can give it the expectant air of a haunted house, it’s much more fun and informative.
Open daily from April until October. Entry is £5 for adults, £4 for 6-16 year olds, children of 5 and under go free. museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk
The museum has the world’s largest collection of items related to magic and the occult. Photo by Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
5. Hartland Cornwall Heritage Coast
Head here for: A good old walk
Four miles of exquisite landscapes, open moors and scrolling beaches, the Cornwall section of the Hartland Peninsula, just north of Bude,is the perfect place to walk off the indulgent cream teas and try and tire out the kids. Recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, you’ll see some beautiful sites, such as the ancient fossilised compressed rock, jutting out of the sand along the coast. You will see an abundance of wildlife too, so make sure you know your stoat from your vole, for when the kids ask ‘what’s that?’ Stop off at the villages of Morwenstow and head inland to see some medieval fields and deep river valleys.
Find out more at visitcornwall.co.uk
There are lots of walking trails in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
6. Port Isaac
Head here for: Fine (adult only) dining
This one’s just for the parents! If you are travelling with family and have a babysitter for a few hours, enjoy a date night at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. The Michelin-starred TV chef’s seafood tasting menu is not to be missed and there is a set lunch option available too. The restaurant does get pretty booked up, so best to book well in advanced. Nathan, who trained with Rick Stein, also has Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in the town and The Mariner’s Public House further down the coast in Rock.
Find out more and make a reservation at nathan-outlaw.com
One of Nathan’s not-to-missed seafood restaurants.
7. Northcott Mouth
Head here for: Surfing
This bay is probably one of the most remote, secluded beaches in the region, making it ideal for surfing, whatever your ability. At high tide, it is a rocky cove and at low tide, it becomes a beach. There are water activity classes to get inexperienced youngsters in the water and at low tide, you can see the wreck of the SS Belem, which met its end in 1917, an amazing bit of history preserved on the shore. Just be aware that there aren’t any toilets at this National Trust run beach and it’s worth checking the tide, surf and weather with the Met Office beforehand, so you can go prepared. Lifeguards only patrol in the height of summer, too. In summer, there is a delightful tea caravan with a rustic garden.
Find out more at nationaltrust.org.uk/northcott-mouth
Northcott Mouth is a perfect spot for surfing. Photo by Matt Jessop, Visit Cornwall