Best for family breaks: Cornwall

From high-level trekking in Morocco's Atlas Mountains to rubbing shoulders with A-listers on Hollywood Boulevard, and from rural retreats off Tuscany's beaten track to jet-set hang outs for Moscow's super-rich, our writers have been to the ends of the earth to find a world of inspiration

"You know how much that went for last year?" I've just walked up from Polzeath beach after building sandcastles with my two-year-old daughter Lily as the temperature plunged to -6C, and an amateur property consultant is pointing to a Masters of the Universe villa overlooking the bay. "I don't," I reply, shuffling to keep warm. "£1.8m." I exhale appreciatively. "Lot of money round here." There's not much of it on show today but, with its near neighbour Rock, this rugged corner of north Cornwall is the Chelsea crowd's favourite summer-season hangout. And that's exactly why on a crystal clear January day, in England, it's the best place in the world to be. Yes, it was so cold that I had to break through the frozen crust of the sand with a plastic spade as the wind whipped off the Atlantic, but there were no braying hordes spoiling the views up the Camel estuary or jamming the single-track roads with their 4x4s. We had the place to ourselves, and you can't buy that.

Thanks to its exposed coastline, the swell on this stretch of coastline is the best in the country for surfing. And a few miles south in Watergate Bay the wet-suited loons weren't going to let something as trivial as the weather spoil their fun. We had the best seat in the house to watch the tiny black figures being sucked beneath the briny and occasionally even standing up on their boards: cosied up in the corner window seat of the glass box that runs the length of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, we were overlooking the bay (and the 10ft-high "Lily" we'd written in the sand below). The locally sourced Italian-themed food was a triumph: flavour-packed lentil and bacon soup, the sweetest crab rarebit, peppery olive oil. Though if you're a two-year-old, the ice-cream course and the balloon-shaped lights are the only things you really care about.

We were staying at Retallack Resort, about six miles inland from Padstow, incongruously next to the American theme park Spirit of the West ("Don't miss it, pardner"). The 52-acre site is owned by the husband-and-wife team of Amy Tucker Brown and Jason Keyter, she a property developer and he an ex-rugby union professional. Their passion for the place really shows through: the lodges are meticulously kitted out, so sparkly clean it feels as if you're the first visitor. There are vast sofas that you can lounge around on (or spend hours jumping on), king-size beds, even a hot tub. And their green credentials are good: an industrial estate 400 yards away fabricates the timber frames of the lodges, and they're superbly insulated, making the prospect of returning to a draughty Victorian terrace all the more uninviting. Glamour and self-catering don't usually feature in the same sentence but when the accommodation is this good it's the perfect family getaway.

There's an indoor swimming pool with a separate children's paddling pool (a big favourite), a sauna and steam room and all the usual spa treatments (the hot stone massage was otherworldly). In season there's a Kids Club. And, despite the economic gloom, they're expanding, and even have plans to build an indoor artificial surfing centre.

Retallack is just short drive away from the Eden Project, which Lily loved – although trying to explain how you can be inside and outside at the same time proved a bridge too far. And, we kidded ourselves, it offers a brief taste of that tropical holiday. With a fraction of the carbon footprint.

All of which left a little time for a stroll around Padstow and more gastrotourism with a diner lunch at Custard – deliciously light black pudding with poached eggs, and lovely child-friendly staff. And it's difficult to come to this fishing town and not part with money at one (or two) of Rick Stein's many emporia: I made a trip one evening for a takeaway from his Fish and Chip shop: battered sea bream and chips, scallops, tiger prawns and mushy peas, which we ate back at the lodge. Not a bad end to the day.

Retallack Resort, St Columb Major, Cornwall TR9 6DE (01637 882400, retallackresort.com)

Kids' stuff

* Feather Down Farms are a child's, and parent's, dream. Superb locations, animals to pal up with and tents that give camping a good name. New for this year: Higher Lank, a working Somerset farm spread over three valleys. 01420 80804; featherdown farm.co.uk

* Set in around 7,000 acres of prime Perthshire, Kinnard Estate offers nature walks for children along with mushroom picking and fishing followed by a catch of the day cook-up with the chef. Book through Original Travel Kids. 020-7978 7333; originaltravel.co.uk/kids

* The original luxury family hotel Woolley Grange near Bath offers everything you need to keep the kids happy – trampoline, games rooms, heated outdoor pool, a dog (Peanut) for walking plus a great creche and child-friendly restaurant. 01225 864705; woolleygrangehotel.co.uk

* With four locations, each offering a long list of hearty activities amid hundreds of acres of cycle-friendly woodland, CenterParcs is great for children of all ages. Best of all are the flumes, slides and whirlpools of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. Centerparcs.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas