Monday, 13 June 2016

Cornwall: Where to stay from Ruthernbridge near Bodmin to coastal Mawgan Porth

If it's May it must be time for a road trip and this year Cornwall was on the cards. First stop, Ruthern Valley Holidays, by Ruthernbridge. This sounds like a 1950s-style holiday camp, doesn't it? But it's very modern in the best way. The owners – a couple with two nearly teenage boys – are keen to keep it green. So showers for the campers are solar heated, eco-lodges are well insulated and waste is recycled. It's true they have a row of older-style cabins, but these have their own retro charm – plus two bedrooms, a comfy living room with picture window and well-equipped kitchen.

Or, if you'd rather, on site you can camp, pull up in a motorhome, stay in a wooden wigwam or even a static 'mobile' caravan. There's a children's play area, a stream with fairy-like bridges in the woods for make-believe games, pigs, chickens, a small shop for essentials and local produce, plus bike hire and a Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award 17 years in a row.

Walking (or cycling) distance away is the Camel Trail – once a railway line, now an 18-mile bicycle, walking, riding trail that's pushchair and wheelchair friendly, and along the way – as well as beautiful countryside – there's a tea garden and, when you get to Helland Bridge, the wonderful studio of internationally reknowned ceramicist Paul Jackson. If you're lucky, you'll find him at work on one of his beautiful pots or plates, and can also have a look round his pretty garden.

Next stop was Gwel an Mor, a five-star luxury holiday resort by the coastal town of Mawgan Porth and just 45 minutes' drive further into Cornwall from Ruthernbridge. Here you have two kinds of accommodation to choose from: Scandi-style wooden lodges, with the bedrooms downstairs and the open-plan living space upstairs, for taking full advantage of the far-reaching views over to the sea; or the very modern, one-level Residence lodges, which are ultra-futuristic, highly eco-efficient, with so much floor-to-ceiling glass it's hard to tell where outside ends and inside begins.

All the accommodation at Gwel an Mor has hot tub and word-burning stove as standard, and are designed to give maximum privacy. We were told, for instance, that they were nearly full during our stay, but we certainly never heard anybody else's noise and barely saw anyone else either!

Happily, Gwel an Mor is dog-friendly (though some accommodation is kept pet free, so don't worry if you have allergies); there's an indoor swimming pool; an on-site spa with a wide choice of relaxing treatments; gym, restaurant, bar, putting green, bicycle hire, tennis and – best of all – the Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre. It's an incredible resource, as is Gary, who runs it and you can't leave without enjoying at least one of the 'experiences'. There's a meet the animals visit, where participants can feed goats, chickens, reindeer and foxes, plus meet and learn all about Britain's diverse wildlife; try falconry; go on a badger watch; take a night walk or go rock pooling, all with Gary's knowledgeable commentary and presence. This is a unique conservation centre and there's nothing else like it in Europe.

If you're feeling energetic, head for the Coastal Path. Spring is an excellent time to visit down here. I've never seen so many wildflowers blooming at once – we even saw wild orchids, a first for me. As my companion has the Duracell-battery-like energy, we walked the path all the way to Rosehill Cottages in Porthtowan, just over 4 miles away – and back again...

You pass a strangely eerie, seemingly abandoned army range that's heavily fenced off, and also old bits of tin-mining buildings and closed up entrances along the way. We had the good fortune to meet a chap coming up from the cliff edge in a wetsuit and wearing a headtorch and carrying a bucket. What had he been up to? Oh, just exploring an old mine, now filled with sea water, that went 30 metres down. He explained that he's been excavating this particular mine for years. His occupation? He's the guy who accompanies submarine folk into their waste tanks to make sure they follow health and safety procedures. So. He works underwater, in a tank that's in a submarine. And his hobby is going 30 metres under water in an old mine shaft. I think we can safely say this guy doesn't have claustrophobia issues.

Rosehill Lodges is another five-star eco-stay (can you see a theme here?). The cottages have soil roofs, with grass and wildflowers growing on top of them and they're all cleverly blended into their environments so you almost don't notice them. However, again, these are upmarket stays, with all mod-cons and comforrt to the fore. And hot tubs. What is it with hot tubs, anyway? They seem to have become de rigueur.

So, Cornwall is good for cycling, walking and... eating! We found farm shops that sell gluten-free pasties, vegetarian pasties, local fruit and vegetables, plenty of homemade produce, like jam and scones and, of course, clotted cream (don't say yuck until you've tried it). What we couldn't find and not for lack of trying? Fish! There was the sea, but where was the local catch? A mystery to be solved one day I hope....

Scandi lodges at Gwel an Mor at sunset

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