Of all the things I miss about Life Before Child (along with sleep, eating with two hands, and not listening to The Tiger Who Came to Tea on loop on every car journey), holidays are top of the list. Those who extol the virtues of family camping by the beach are either not averse to waking up at 6am in a sweaty tent to the sound of other people's children shrieking before spending 12 hours a day on sand-eye watch, or they are lying. The holidays I hanker after are those that involve lying in a cold dark room and being waited on for several days in a row. So, when I was first told about the Polurrian Bay Hotel, I only heard three words: "spa" followed by "free creche".
Polurrian Bay is a sprawling white Edwardian cliff-top hotel at the edge of the village of Mullion. The building has just undergone major re-sprucing, after it was taken over by Nigel Chapman as the first instalment of his new hotel group last year (he has gone on to bolster the portfolio with the acquisition of four of the Luxury Family Hotels that he'd sold to Von Essen in 2006, along with three further properties previously owned by Von Essen, making the new Luxury Family Hotel collection up to eight). A new glass extension – the "Vista wing" – forms a fabulous open living room with wood-burning stove and massive sofas and bean-bags. There is also a cinema, DVD library, games rooms, and each family is provided with a baby monitor which works anywhere in the hotel (including the spa). Oh, and did I mention the FREE CRECHE?
Here is the rub. For anyone living outside Cornwall, the hotel is a schlep by road. But if you don't fancy being backed-up on narrow Cornish roads for hours on end, you can take the train to Truro or – closer still – to Redruth where, if you ask the hotel to book your cab in advance, it will take 45 minutes and set you back £35. Otherwise, it is three buses from Truro to Mullion.
Once there, the view across Land's End from our seafront room was glorious come sun (sporadic during our visit), rain, and cheek-crushing wind (pretty much constant for us). It looked across an endless lawn peppered with wild poppies, nigella and palms, a tennis court, wooden playground and an outdoor pool. Here, a coastal road leads to the bay where year-round lunatics in wetsuits break the waves.
It is also a 30-minute amble along the cliff-tops to Poldhu, where lies another beach, this one surrounded in reeds, with a café/shop. The journey is breathtaking – and extremely blowy, so not suited to buggies or sufferers from vertigo. If you're feeling more adventurous, there are various attractions within an hour's drive, including the Eden Project and Godolphin House, not to mention Trenance Chocolate Factory.
If you haven't packed your brain, don't panic: everything has been thought of for you, from Bumbos to swimming nappies, X-Box to Monopoly. The rooms are cosy. Ours had a supremely comfortable bed, Elemis skin products, Freeview and (what glamour) a nappy bin. We also had a sea view overlooking 12 acres of garden, with plenty of space for the hotel-provided cot and a swish ensuite with a baby bath. The decor is smart and modern, without potentially hazardous table corners or exposed plug sockets; and there are spacious family suites with two interconnecting rooms. Not all rooms have sea views – some overlook the rear grounds.
Every day we were free to play tennis, have a massage, or lie on a sofa in the Vista drinking wine. Each child, from three months to eight years, is entitled to two hours' free daily childcare in the Ofsted-approved creche. While we lazed about, our daughter baked cakes, painted, played outside, and had a great time without us. In the afternoon we could swim together in the indoor pool, go for walks, or be bossed about in the toy room. Older kids can play pool and table-football, watch films and run riot in the gardens.
The food is good and reasonably priced, from lobster Thermidor (£20)at one end of the scale to homemade beefburgers (£12.50) at the other, though the portions aren't huge. A varied kids and toddler menu with portions at £7 or £4 is served throughout the day in plastic crockery with matching knives and forks. If you fancy something smarter, deposit happily exhausted child in room, turn on the monitor and head to the dining room where the rioja, at £27 a bottle, was particularly good. This, surely, is what Life With Kids was meant to be?
Polurrian Bay Hotel, Polurrian Road, Mullion, Helston, Cornwall TR12 7EN (01326 240421; polurrianhotel.com)
Doubles from £165 in summer, B&B. Under-16s stay free in parents' room, room only.