Tales of swashbuckling heroes, shameless smugglers and spine-chilling sea creatures are all well and good before bedtime, but the chances of you spotting a real-life pirate on the streets are fairly low

At least, that was what I told my children before we ventured off to Cornwall, birthplace of myths, magic and ancient legends, where mermaids and giant killers rub shoulders with pixies, wizards and wild beasts roaming the moors. And of course pirates.

Inside Pen-Y-Les, near Wadebridge

We didn’t think we would spot them so soon after our arrival, but there they were – The Pirates of St Piran band – alive and well and really getting the crowd going, as part of the colourful Cornwall Folk Festival held each year in Wadebridge.

This vibrant Cornish town forms part of the Camel Trail, a picturesque 18-mile route along a disused railway line, which is popular with walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

Wadebridge is also just a stone’s throw away from the stunning Polzeath beach and Pen-Y-Les, a charming and modern, three-bedroom cottage in the quiet hamlet of Edmonton, which provided the perfect base for our holiday.

The owners have thought of literally everything for a comfortable stay, from toys, games and DVDs for youngsters, to a well-equipped kitchen, utility room, spacious dining and lounge area and outside storage box filled with all kinds of beach paraphernalia.

Much to the children’s delight, there was even a horse and pony staying in a field to the rear of the property, and a sweeping view of the coastline down to Padstow.

A friendly visitor at Pen-Y-Les

Taking advantage of the last burst of summer sun, we journeyed first to Great Western beach in Newquay, around a 30-minute drive from our holiday base.

Situated between Towan and Tolcarne beaches, Great Western is fabulous for surfers and has plenty of little caves and rock pools for youngsters to explore. When the weather permits, the azure waters and sprawling beaches of the Cornish coast really are a sight to behold.

From sandcastles to real castles, our next destination was Tintagel, the fabled birthplace of King Arthur.

Fit for a queen!

This strategic site was once a stronghold for rulers during the Dark Ages and when in the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth described Tintagel as the place where Arthur was conceived, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, decided to build a castle here. Much of it has since decayed over the centuries, but the  dramatic coastal landscape helps keep the legend alive.

Back in the main village, King Arthur’s Hall, opened in 1933, is an ambitious recreation of the castle, with 72 stained glass windows illustrating the legend, designed by Veronica Whall. For the craftsmanship alone, it’s certainly worth a visit.

From the past to the future, our next destination was the Eden Project, located just three miles outside St Austell.

Awe-inspiring in its vision, what began as a disused china clay pit has been turned into an epic showcase of the world’s most important plants.

There’s a reconstructed rainforest, where giant species of bamboo and rubber trees dwarf their spectators, to a Mediterranean paradise filled with olives and grape vines, and all encased within two gigantic biomes.

One can only marvel at what can be grown inside these inflated plastic domes and indeed there is talk of one day using the same system on the moon or Mars.

Outside the Eden Project

We spent our last day at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek,

located just 10 miles from Falmouth, where a Jewish community once settled and a synagogue building in Gyllyng Street still stands.

The sanctuary was set up in 1958 by Ken Jones for sick or injured marine mammals. As well as getting the chance to learn more about starfish, otters, penguins and other marine life, we also heard heart-warming stories of rescued pups, as well as seals now living full-time at the sanctuary.

From myths and legends to natural wonders, Cornwall is certainly a place we would love to return to again and again.

Francine spent six nights at Pen-Y-Les, near Wadebridge, bookable through Cornish Horizons (cornishhorizons.co.uk) and Original Cottages (originalcottages.co.uk), from £532-£1,267 per week. For details, see Tintagel Castle (english-heritage.org.uk), The Eden Project (edenproject.com) and Cornish Seal Sanctuary (visitsealife.com). For more information, see visitcornwall.com