My mother (probably like most Jewish mothers and grandmothers) regularly moans that she doesn’t see enough of us. She complains the kids never put down their phones and their table manners need attention.
And she’s always asking: “Why do they have to be so noisy when they all get together?”
So it was something of an interesting social experiment when, in the months before the country went into Covid-19 lockdown, we booked a Cornwall cottage to celebrate her 70th birthday. It was going to be memorable – one way or another!
For anyone living in London or north of it, Cornwall isn’t around the corner. But if you can get past the five-hour drive – and the restless moans from the children in the back that begin five minutes after leaving home – then it’s well worth the visit.
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The county has some of the best beaches in the UK and those coastal walks overlooking that impressive Atlantic swell with its azure colour are breath-taking. The food is pretty special too. The pasties and clotted cream teas are, of course, legendary, but because you’re right on the coast, there’s plenty of fabulous fresh fish available; and you can have it fried, roasted or baked, which means if the conversation among your party is thin, then you can always talk about the food!
We opted to base ourselves in Trevone, a seaside village near Padstow, north Cornwall.
The beach last year received the Blue Flag award and is only one of seven in Cornwall to receive it – and with good reason.
The gentle shelving and soft golden sand meant the kids had their shoes and socks off and tracksuit bottoms rolled up to the knees the minute we got there and were splashing in the waves for hours. It didn’t matter that it was late autumn and Grandma was worried they’d all catch the death of cold.
The little alcoves meant those of us with more sense could grab a hot coffee from the little beach café and just sit and watch them for hours.
The cliffs to the north east of the beach provide fantastic walks and views to Hawkers Cove, the Camel Estuary and beyond.
We walked about eight miles right across the top to Padstow for lunch and a well-deserved Cornish ice cream. I’m not sure there is a more perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.
The cliff does have a huge blowhole, which appears just at the top as you leave Trevone Bay, so beware of getting too close to the edge if you’re not good with heights. It works well for threatening naughty children though.
Tired legs need a good place to rest and recuperate. In our case, that also meant somewhere we could cook the copious amount of food we’d bought with us, and devour the two honey cakes Grandma had baked.
Our home for our duration was The Quarter Deck – just minutes from the beach in Trevone – and it was picture perfect. You’ll know you’ve arrived for a holiday by the sea when you pull up to the powder blue, wood-clad exterior.
The fresh, coastal design is reflected throughout the property, but the best thing is it has six bedrooms and sleeps 11 guests.
Not that we needed them all. The children decided to grab their duvets and bunk down altogether on the floor. The open plan living is incredibly spacious, too, and we were able to all sit down round one huge dining table for our Friday night dinner.
Afterwards, while the adults finished off the wine, the kids were able to chill on bean bags in The Lookout – an additional lounge with sweeping views out to sea.
There were plenty of games to while away the time. We managed several rounds of Bananagrams – and there weren’t even any arguments. It was a miracle!
Of course, there are few better places in England to experience surfing than Cornwall. I know the water is supposedly warmer down south, but there’s no way I could venture into the water during these colder climes.
The children, however, insisted on having their first lesson, and Harlyn Bay, away from the maddening crowds with its two to three-mile crescent of golden sand and rock pools, is one of the safest and best family beaches.
The lesson was a huge success, although only my son managed to step on a weever fish on his way out the water.
No, I’d never heard of it either, but despite its small size it apparently features needle sharp spines that inject venom into their victims. Squeals of joy turned to squeals of pain.
We had a more successful outing to Tintagel Castle, set on the rugged North Cornwall coast.
Built half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland projecting into the Cornish Sea, it is one of the most spectacular historic sites in Britain.
Its association with King Arthur also makes it one of the most famous. The path to the castle has long been challenging, with more than a hundred steps winding towards the clifftop ruins. Hence, the introduction of a new footbridge last year, which now sits over a 58-metre drop between two cliffs that has reconnected two sides of the medieval ruin. This is is not the place to take out your mobile phone for pictures!
There are, however, plenty of opportunities to take pictures during a short stay in Cornwall. I would have loved one of my 70-year-old mother mounting a bike and riding the Camel Trail with us – 18 miles of a disused railway between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow – but there are some things I’m never going to see. Still, she was happy to meet us back in Padstow for a cream tea, which is much more her type of thing.
After spending a few days with the family, many might ask whether our little experiment worked. Well, there were no phones confiscated, table manners weren’t too badly scrutinised and we got to spend some quality time with one another. Even the weather was perfectly behaved. Who could ask for anything more?
Charlotte stayed at The Quarter Deck in Trevone, Cornwall, where prices start from £1,080 for short breaks and £1,490 for a week’s stay, www.perfectstays.co.uk/property/the-quarter-deck or call 01208 895570. For the latest on Covid-19 measures from Perfect Stays, visit www.perfectstays.co.uk/our-service/covid-19-latest-information