Picture the scene. It’s October half-term. Six old friends and their five children all under eight years old decamp to the rugged, wilds of Cornwall for a Poldark-inspired holiday.
Sunshine, wind, rain, a 6th birthday, Halloween, pumpkin picking, laughter until tears ran down my face, a seal sanctuary, the Eden Project and LOTS of surfing.
Welly boots packed for long coastal walks, and bodyboards strapped on the roof rack, we wanted an outdoorsy UK getaway despite the forecast of rain all week.
The striking view of Porthkidney Beach near St Ives is something to behold whether you visit in summer when it’s popular with holidaymakers or – like the Sandersons – during October half term when it’s quieter
Daniel and his son Zak, seven, enjoyed some father-and-son bonding time by bodyboarding at Gwithian Beach (pictured)
Hardy souls can brave the wind zooming in off the Atlantic and go for a bracing stroll from Gwithian Beach towards Godrevy Lighthouse (pictured), which inspired Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse
THE TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO HOLIDAY IN CORNWALL
‘There are two kinds of people who come to Cornwall,’ says Vogue writer Fiona Golfar. ‘The summer people who come and watch it rain, because it always rains in August, and people who spend half their life here. There’s no social life; that’s the beauty of it. Going to Cornwall is escaping from London, having enough time to read a book or make a stew. It’s really old-fashioned: crabbing and boats, long walks and roaring fires.’
The beauty of going to Cornwall for a woolly jumpers, red wine and toasty fires-type autumn getaway is that it’s remarkably quiet.
Golden beaches and tourist havens like the cobbled streets of St Ives that are usually jam-packed with holidaymakers during high season are almost deserted, meaning us hardy souls get these spots all to ourselves.
On Porthkidney Beach, for example, on day one, hardly anyone was there to witness us strip down to our swimming costumes to build sandcastles in the bracing wind blowing in off the Atlantic, save for a few dog walkers suitably covered up in hats and coats.
My brood was staying in the quaint village of Lelant, just outside St Ives on Cornwall’s north coast, the flashier cousin to the quieter south. This stunning stretch of coastline lures enormous numbers of people to relocate or purchase a second home.
Its hotspots also include St Ives, Newquay, Padstow, Rock and Polzeath.
It’s in Polzeath where David Cameron recently bought a £2million holiday home, and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay owns one nearby.
The Sandersons paid a visit to the windy cobbled streets of St Ives (pictured) for fish and chips and the Tate gallery
St Ives (pictured), Newquay, Padstow, Rock and Polzeath are all strung along Cornwall’s north coast, which is the flashier, more fashionable cousin of the south coast and where a number of wealthy celebrities have invested in second homes
Daniel says there is no better place in the world to be than St Ives on a sunny day – with an ice cream in hand
Land’s End is just a 40-minute drive west from Lelant – a photo by the sign (left) is a must. On the right is Porthkidney Beach just after lunchtime on day one of Daniel’s holiday… not another soul on the sand
Our holiday home was certainly fit for the rich and famous set – it was one of the most beautiful self-catering holiday homes I’ve ever stayed in.
So good it’s just received a five-star rating and gold award from Visit England, rated 97 per cent overall.
Genuinely it’s the sort of place (bank balance willing) I’d buy in a heartbeat were I to relocate here.
When we pulled into the stony drive of The Old Vicarage I got a tingle of excitement.
Built in 1834, it’s a vast, stone, imposing building with big gates and set in a walled private garden with sweeping lawns.
A view across beautiful Porthminster Beach in St Ives, which is famed for its golden sand
The Sandersons and co stayed in The Old Vicarage (pictured) in Lelant near St Ives
The sprawling property, built in 1834, comfortably fits 12 people. Daniel says that ‘a chat around the big wooden kitchen table’ with wine was a daily staple
Daniel says that the living room’s ‘cosy sofas’ was where the adults retreated to escape the kids, play chess and watch TV
Daniel says that the holiday home has a ‘Downton Abbey feel’ and is like a ‘home from home… except nicer’
It has a Downton Abbey feel to it. Big, feather-filled duvets, plump pillows, fluffy, luxurious throws, grand, sparkly chandeliers and Temple Spa sets in the bathroom.
Booked through Cornwall Hideaways, it’s a home from home… except nicer.
As soon as we arrived the kids were running from room to room shrieking with delight as they picked their bedrooms.
The massive square whirlpool bath in the master bedroom en-suite was perfect to dunk all five kids in to wash off the sand after a hard day’s surfing.
The house itself was perfect for a big group with small children.
Comfortable enough to be an amazing place to stay but not so pretentious that you spend the whole time fretting our little terrors will smash something. And big enough so that 12 people and dogs don’t feel on top of each other.
I think the key to any enjoyable holiday is excellent accommodation, so if the weather is typically British, you have somewhere comfortable to retreat to and the Old Vicarage is undoubtedly that.
Our days followed a pattern.
Early every morning started with a brisk run along the beach – handily five minutes away, to blow away the cobwebs.
Then a day on the sand with the kids – or on the particularly wet days, the Eden Project and a local seal sanctuary – then back for a late afternoon glass of wine, a cook-up on the Aga and a chat around the big wooden kitchen table.
The big draw of Cornwall is surely the world-class beaches on your doorstep.
Booked through Cornwall Hideaways, The Old Vicarage, says Daniel, is a grand grey stone building with a big expanse of walled grounds that the kids can safely explore
A highlight of Daniel’s stay was ‘chucking five laughing kids in the same giant, deep-filled square bath in the main bedroom en-suite (and enjoying the sheer underfoot luxury of a heated floor!)’
Daniel says that the house is ‘comfortable enough to be an amazing place to stay but not so pretentious that you spend the whole time fretting [your] little terrors will smash something’
We found none better than Gwithian Beach, just along the coast from St Ives, on the ‘Cornish Riviera’.
Seventy-six acres of golden Cornish sands, lovely, cosy dunes, and a striking view of the Godrevy Island lighthouse, which inspired Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse.
Anywhere else in the world this would have been packed with shops selling novelty plastic inflatables and ice creams.
Here there’s just a surf school, a café and around three dozen surfers bobbing in the water.
For £20 my seven-year-old and I hired wetsuits and bodyboards for two hours of fun.
Despite the cold temperatures we were toasty in our wetsuits and had a blast… a proper father-and-son bonding session.
Tate St Ives, pictured, hosts works by all the big names, such as Matisse and Picasso
The Eden Project is one of Cornwall’s top tourist draws and ‘well worth a visit’, says Daniel
A lone surfer walks across Godrevy Beach, which has a reputation of being a good spot for beginners
Daniel Sanderson and his family and friends were hosted by Cornwall Hideaways.
In August 2020, a seven-night stay in the Old Vicarage just outside St Ives, which comfortably fits 12 people, costs £4,994.
For more details visit www.cornwallhideaways.co.uk.
Because it rained all but one day of our holiday, we had to find things to do for the kids that didn’t involve the beach.
We walked the six-mile coastal path from St Ives to Zennor to see Man’s Head and Seal Island, home to Atlantic grey seals.
A trip to the Eden Project near Plymouth is well worth a visit with its vast greenhouse of rainforest.
As is a trip to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, which was a lot of fun.
And of course St Ives itself is definitely a big draw.
It harbours the Tate art gallery, which hosts works by all the big names, such as Matisse and Picasso, as well as local artists like Nicholson and Hepworth.
And we particularly enjoyed one rain-lashed afternoon noshing fish and chips and downing IPA while watching the boats come into the harbour with their hauls.
For years we have gone abroad for our autumn half-term break, but this holiday was such a success we will stay in the UK in 2020 and head back to Cornwall.