There’s something just a little bit magical about Cornwall.
Every time we clamber out of the car to a Cornish beach, or harbour, I feel a little bit like we’re in an entirely new country. The blue skies, sparkling seas, charming cottages lining steep hills curved around a cove – it’s just not the Britain we live in, for the rest of the year.
So when we were invited to go and try out the family friendly resort of Retallack in Cornwall, we jumped at the chance.
Retallack is a purpose-built resort in between Padstow and Newquay, so it’s perfectly positioned for exploring the best of the county. Although it used to be a theme park where people could drive diggers for fun (who knows why?), it’s now a village of log-style cabins, scattered across a hillside, overlooking a lake.
We stayed in a 2 bedroom property which was perfectly big enough for me and Flea, along with our companions for the weekend – Lindy and Squidge from Squidgyboo.
Upstairs there were two bedrooms – one double, one twin – and a nice sized bathroom with a bath and shower. Downstairs, there’s a kitchen/dining room, a large family lounge, WC and utility room.
The accommodation was spotlessly clean, and very modern, with wooden floors and plenty of family-friendly touches – although we didn’t need them, our cabin was kitted out with high chair, safety gate and even toddler toilet training seats. There’s plenty of storage, and the TV came with at least a channel for every day of the year.
We also found the (paid for) WiFi was pretty reliable, although as our property was further away from the main reception, we needed to use the premium WiFi service – two speeds of access are offered, one regular and one high-speed. The cost for access is £20 or £30 a week, depending which service you want to access.
So far, so good. But why should you think about staying here?
Well, I don’t want to alarm you, but the British summer is not always kind to us – and staying on a purpose-built resort like this one means there’s plenty to do, even if the weather’s not amazing.
When you check in to Retallack, you’ll be given a leisure pass for every adult in the group – this gives you admission to the on-site swimming pool, for starters. The pool is small but warm, and plenty big enough for a splash around. The site runs swimming sessions for kids and toddlers through the week, some through a specialist baby swimming company.
There’s also an indoor soft play centre for toddlers, and a lounge area that includes lots of books and games for younger members of the family. Outdoors, there’s a playground which our girls had a lot of fun with. If your kids want to get more involved, there are regular kids’ club sessions at £8 a time, which offer things like movie night, t-shirt painting and treasure hunts. There’s even a spa offering a range of treatments, but we didn’t get time to try it, sadly.
The two obvious highlights of the resort, though, are the Flowrider surf simulator, and The Green Room restaurant.
The Flowrider is a land-based surf machine- basically a huge flow of water that runs continuously down a slope. Experts can surf on these machines – but for kids they’re given boogie boards and encouraged to ride those. Our kids threw themselves into it, falling off and getting splashed over and over, but I must confess I thought that at £20 for a session (or £25 for non-residents) it’s a bit costly. That said, the girls both had a lot of fun, and wanted to go back again (and again)!
The Green Room is Retallack’s on-site restaurant, and focuses on local cuisine. The menu claims to be inspired by a love of surfing, which is apt since the cafe-style dining room overlooks the Flowrider surf machine. There’s a kids’ menu which looked great, and the adult’s menu was no less impressive. Both Lindy and I opted for sea bass, and it was delicious, but the desserts were something else entirely. I’d have taken more pictures, but I was too busy eating, sorry. We ate for around £25 a head including wine and drinks for the children, which I thought was good value considering the quality of the food. During the day the restaurant serves as a coffee shop, and dinner is served from 5pm, perfect if you’re eating with small people – so often if you want dinner at 6pm with kids, you’re reduced to eating chain restaurant food, so it was nice to have an option here.
There’s plenty to keep the family occupied at Retallack but for me at least, what sells it is the location. You’re less than 9 miles from Padstow and 6 miles from Newquay, making it a great base for a surfing holiday, or anyone who wants to explore the pretty little harbour town of Padstow. We spent a gorgeous afternoon exploring the harbour here, and sitting down to watch the boats and eat fish and chips – there are some great options in the harbour, if you’re not keen on spending Rick Stein prices!
Our top tip for this part of the world, though, might just be Polzeath. This small village boasts one of the best beaches in Cornwall, and it’s the most perfect spot for surfing and body boarding, while there’s plenty of golden sand to keep the most determined sandcastle builder busy for a whole day. The water is shallow enough for paddling, and there are plenty of shops and food outlets to grab supplies for a day’s surfing. During the summer, the beach has lifeguards, and if you head towards the left side of the beach, there are some fab rock pools. Although do note the parking is pretty much on the beach and I suspect is inaccessible at high tide on stormy days!
Overall: Retallack is a lovely, relaxed option for families who want a base to explore Cornwall, and close to some amazing beaches and towns. The facilities are great, and take away some of the worry of holidaying in the UK with its unpredictable weather. We found the staff friendly and helpful, and loved the child-friendly touches in the accommodation.
- When booking, do ask about the location of your accommodation – the site is on a hill, and if you have small children in pushchairs or people with disabilities, you might consider being towards the top of the hill, nearer the facilities
- If you can’t be bothered cooking and don’t want to book into the on-site restaurant, there are lots of takeaways in nearby Colomb St Major (and menus in the lodge’s welcome pack)
- Buy your fish and chips at the harbour in Padstow – there is a Rick Stein shop near the car park but it’s expensive and not nearly so nice a spot to sit and watch the world go by
- There are often special offers at the spa, so if you’re flexible on days wait until you arrive to book; you might get a better deal
- Tesco and Sainsbury’s both deliver to the site, so avoid bringing loads of groceries and order them to arrive when you do
- Don’t lose your leisure pass, or accidentally pack it up as you’re leaving (ahem) because you’ll have to pay a £50 fee if you don’t return them.
Details: For the purposes of this review, we were offered a complimentary 3-night stay at Retallack Resort this July. Short breaks at Retallack during school holidays start at £509, although special offers are available throughout the year. For further information, please see www.retallackresort.co.uk