For families with young children, staycations are a practical and relatively stress-free alternative to travelling abroad for a summer holiday. With none of the challenges of flights, transfers and time differences to contend with, a holiday on home turf seemed like the most sensible idea for us this year, not least because of the new addition to the family, our 5 month old baby girl, but also for the sake of our nearly three year old, whose current temperament most likely wouldn't lend well to the confines of a plane.
So it was off to Cornwall we went, or Bude to be precise. Bude is popular destination with young families, and as short a drive from the South East as it's possible for Cornwall to get. As with any holiday involving children, much planning and research was required to ensure the 5 day break had sufficient fun factor for the little ones, as well as some potential for relaxation for the grown ups. It also had to dot and cross all the other essential 'i's' and 't's' involved in planning any form of holiday with children. Internet, transport links... and everything in between.
WHERE TO STAY
When it came to finding the perfect holiday rental, choice seemingly wasn’t something that Google was short of, but few properties ticked as many boxes as Waterstone in Bude, listed with Boutique Retreats. This 2 bedroom converted barn is located in Marhamchurch, and having been part of an ambitious renovation project by the current owners in 2011, the property boasts a quality of finish and attention to detail that you could liken to a modern day Grand Designs project. Open plan living and a quirky upside down layout offered a contrasting set up to the average two up, two down. The result is a home-from-home with just enough 'same same' to be practical, and enough 'different' to feel like a holiday.
Furnished and finished in a nod to the rustic surroundings, there is a country vibe to Waterstone which is rounded off perfectly by the field of grazing sheep on its doorstep. For our toddler, the novelty of waking up to the sight of them tottering around outside didn’t wane as the week went on, and in fact this was surely a highlight of the stay from his stance.
WHERE TO GO
Hitting the beach
Though somewhat windy on the day we chose to visit, the nearby Summerleaze beach provided an opportunity for some much anticipated sand and sea air. We may have the only toddler in the world not to like sand (resulting in some reluctant piggy-backing by my husband), but the rock pools would have undoubtedly served for hours of crab-hunting fun if only we’d had a slightly warmer day ... and sand resistant shoes.
Soft play day
The soft play experience may not be a new one for most children (it’s a rainy day mainstay, after all), but the highly rated one at The Venue in Bude takes the concept to new a level. Three new levels in fact. The Venue's acclaim comes with good reason, since this is high rise living-it-up at its best. Within the same complex there’s also a bowling alley, making The Venue a useful go-to for rainy days in Cornwall in particular.
Admittedly some of the main attractions for kids in Cornwall are a bit of a drive away, and Old Macdonald’s Farm was no exception. We combined it with a stop off at Padstow for brunch and to peruse the boats. The popular Cherry Tree Coffee House was somewhat busier than when we visited 2 years ago, which meant taking advantage of their take out service over eating in. With plenty of benches and the weather on our side, sausage baps surely never tasted so good as with a sun-drenched, waterside setting.
Hunger sated and legs stretched, it was then back on the road to the farm. Though not especially grandiose from the front, there is more to the farm than first impressions give it credit for. With a miniature railway, plenty of ride-on trucks, cars and trikes, a playground with trampolines and plenty of open space for free play, it was relatively easy to while away several hours at this seemingly very popular attraction.
The town of Bude itself has much to offer for families staying locally. Shops, cafes and coffee shops line the quaint little streets, and after a short wander around we stumbled upon the relatively quite and spacious Cornish Bakery, which boasted an array of pasties, cakes and scones, not to mention a fairly impressive coffee station - a welcome site for any sleep-deprived parent.
When it came to lunch, a quick glance on Trip Advisor pulled up Rosie’s Kitchen, which is located off Crooklets beach. The reviews had raved about their pizzas, but as it happened these weren’t served until after five. Nonetheless, the menu was distinctly family friendly, with a choice of cooked breakfasts, jacket potatoes and sandwiches to choose from. There is also an on-site play area and some impressive sea views, so little ones can burn off some energy, while parents take a moment to replenish theirs.
Food shopping facilities are fundamental to any family self-catering holiday, and luckily Bude had several supermarkets to choose from, including Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s. Morrison’s proved the most productive of the two shops we did, stocking a much wider range of foods and products than Sainsbury’s, which was really only worth a visit for the tunnel passage way that we discovered later on to be somewhat of a ‘landmark’.
If you’re heading to Bude this summer, you’re certainly sure of a wonderful family break. However, some top tips that might help avoid some of the main stumbling blocks of family travel are:
1. Download the Waze app before you travel to ensure you have the quickest route possible.
2. Pack your first night's dinner from home, so you don’t have the issue of needing to find a supermarket when you arrive, which is likely to be around 4pm (and nearing 'hangry' time) given the standard check in time.
3. If you’re thinking of going bowling, the alley does allow you to wear your own shoes if they have rubber soles. So if communal shoes gross you out, it might be worth packing some plimsoles or similar to wear instead.
4. Even on a warm day, the beach can be a little breezy, so much so that we wished we’d packed a windbreaker. This might be one for the 'to buy' list if you are planning on spending a lot of time on the beach.
5. Equip your little one for the long haul with some easily accessible entertainment. Even if you are anti tablets per se, the exception of some screen time on a long journey can make the miles go quicker... for them and you. Fill up a Little Life car seat organiser with stickers, books, colouring pencils and snacks to help keep the 'are-we-there-yets' to a minimum.