The last time I had holidayed in Cornwall, veteran Ken Rosewall was losing Wimbledon to a young Jimmy Connors, and the total footballers of Holland were victims of Germanic efficiency in the World Cup final.
Our resting place then was a grimy bed and breakfast where you had to pay extra for a bath, and the food was such a glutinous mess the thought of it makes me gag even now. This time, we were at Mesmear, a glorious, eco-friendly and fully restored farm complex near Polzeath in north Cornwall, and we were in the best of the three 18th-century cottages on offer: The Mill, capable of sleeping 10 in terrifying luxury.
An open plan kitchen – brilliantly designed, expensively finished, like the whole place – and dining room with high, high ceilings, and a sweeping semi-circular staircase lead up to the vast, comfortable living area and the most impressive wooden stove. Two of the four bedrooms are ensuite – one with a cavernous free-standing bath, which enticed even 12-year-old Billy to give cleanliness a chance. And the master bedroom boasts a rather fetching lime-green chaise longue, adding a touch of decadence that was typical of the painstaking attention to detail.
The food and drink
Chef Colin Hutchings is The Mill's big, big plus point. He and his partner Caroline, the housekeeper, look after us for the week. He serves all with full breakfast – I'd never had a five-course breakfast before – knocks together an impressive afternoon tea (none of us was ever hungry enough for this) and then a staggeringly sumptuous dinner. He'll split the kids off and does them separately, if you prefer. (Yes, please!) Nothing he served up was anything less than fabulous – all fresh, all local, all up to you to choose – but mention the lamb shanks to Billy and his chin begins to show signs of dribbling. All of this with all the wine you can drink. Fortunately for Tessa and Alan Rose, the owners, our visit coincided with a month I was off the booze.
There's tons of stuff to do around here, even when it's freezing. There are, of course, fantastic walks. Surfing is a must, even for us wrinklies, and there's coasteering or cliff-jumping. For kids, the Eden Project is not to be missed; there's a great go-karting track and an excellent aquarium nearby. Then there's Rick Stein's in Padstow and Ripley's in St Merryn. Tessa's got all these numbers, and there's a very good visitors' guide.
Children are very welcome. The kids' room was brilliant – four bunks and tons of toys. There's an outside games room, and our lot would disappear there for hours on end, a lovely swimming pool, plus a separate kids' TV area. And each morning, Caroline would take Ruby and Bella out to collect eggs from the chickens.
You could pay up to £5,000 for a week at The Mill, and about £1,000 for each of the other smaller cottages. But if you did have 10 sharing – and there is space to do so most comfortably – that is £500 a head for a week's lodgings in a stunning house in one of the country's most beautiful places with all food and drink thrown in. Weekend rates – for parties, for example, or for Easter and Christmas – are available on request.
Mesmear, St Miniver, Cornwall PL27 6RA (01208 869731; www.mesmear.co.uk).Reuse content