I've wanted to take my family to Falmouth in Cornwall since before my daughter was even born. Having trained as a journalist there – and consumed many a Cornish pasty in my hungover student days – the place holds fond memories for me. But whenever I've suggested it as a holiday destination my husband's laughed, unable to believe a 'staycation' could beat a trip abroad.
How wrong he was.
Last week we packed up the car and pootled down to Cornwall for a stay at The Budock Vean Hotel near Falmouth. I'll admit, I was a little nervous at the prospect of staying in a posh hotel with a three year old and a grumpy husband, but I was so eager to take them round my old haunts in Falmouth I gave it a go.
It turns out I was wrong to be nervous. From the moment we arrived in the hotel lobby, laden down with bags and picture books, we were made to feel welcome. Set against the quietly picturesque backdrop of the Helford River, Budock Vean is a paradise for those who want to turn down the noise of their busy day-to-day life.
With a private foreshore perfect for a spot of crabbing and impressive gardens ripe for exploring, there's plenty to keep kids occupied. Add the golf course, spa and swimming pool and you've got the recipe for the perfect multi-generational family holiday.
As we dined on fresh mussels overlooking the lush gardens and golf course, my husband quickly warmed to the idea of a UK holiday – and the icecream instantly won over my daughter.
The food at the hotel is second to none, fresh, tasty and beautifully served. Kids under the age of seven aren't allowed in the main restaurant in the evening (dinner's served between 7pm and 9pm), so we ate our meals together earlier, on the outside terrace area.
If you can pull yourself away from the hotel facilities, there are plenty of fun places to explore – including a whole range of different beaches.
This area is home to some of the most beautiful coastline in the country, so you're spoilt for choice. For a lively atmosphere and beach games, head to Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, while Swanpool Beach is best for watersports fans. Castle Beach is the go-to spot for an afternoon hunting in rockpools and Maenporth Beach - located a few miles west of Falmouth in a wooded valley – is the place to flop with a good book.
Trekking miles with a cool box, buckets and spades and a rucksack full of suncream is no fun, so it's good to see parking available at each site – either in a carpark or on the beach front. There's also a café at each beach, handy for chips, icecream or a cold drink.
For something a bit different – and to really turn down the noise - spend a couple of hours meandering along the river in a kayak, spotting the wildlife (including the odd seal).
It's an instant stress-buster for parents and an exciting adventure for kids. Children as young as six are able to join in using the handy tandem kayaks on offer.
Koru Kayaking trips down the Helford River take off from the hotel's private foreshore, meaning you don't even need to leave the grounds if you don't want to.
And, as my husband found out, it also provides a fantastic opportunity to laugh at each other while wearing what has to be the most unflattering outfit ever invented.
If you can face the crowds, Falmouth is well worth a trip. The narrow pavements and busy streets mean you're best off ditching the buggy if you've got young kids - or at least be prepared to use all your pushchair manoeuvring skills while negotiating your way to the harbour.
There are more pasty shops than you can shake a stick at in Falmouth, so a trip to the town isn't complete without sampling one. My insider tip is to head down to the harbour and look out for the tiny King's Pipe pasty shop, hidden down the side street.
Just watch out for the seagulls – they're determined to pinch any stray pasty scraps going.
Despite living in Cornwall for a year (and becoming expert in the local pasties), this trip was my first ever experience of what is, arguably, the county's most famous recent addition – the Eden Project.
The Eden Project has fast become the jewel in Cornwall's tourism crown, with the huge bubble-like structures now so recognisable that even CBeebies' very own Mr Bloom has filmed an episode there. Built in a disused clay pit around an hour's drive from Falmouth, it's a stunning feat of art, nature and architecture.
Not being a huge gardening enthusiast I was hesitant to spend a full day there, but I soon found out it's not just about the gardens. Huge plants tower above you in the Rainforest Biome – along with butterflies, incredible waterfalls and huts straight out of the jungle.
I could write five thousand words on The Eden Project alone, there is so much to see. In fact, you'd need a good few visits to try each activity and explore every corner of the site.
The breastfeeding rooms and highchairs mean families with babies are well catered for at The Eden Project. In fact, there's so much on offer it would make a great day out for various generations of a family, from toddlers to teens and grandparents.
If you're planning on having lunch there, check out the Mediterranean Terrace in the Mediterranean Biome – it's like dining al fresco on a lazy Spanish afternoon. And the paella is delicious.
Once we'd got over our awe of The Eden Project, we were ready to get a taste of what else the area had to offer before heading home. We skipped the various beautiful gardens nearby (Trebah Garden is an old favourite of mine) and plumped for Pendennis Castle for a spot of history and adventure.
Originally built by Henry VIII to defend his shores against invading armies, Pendennis Castle has everything you'd expect: turrets, moats, spiralled stone staircases and huge ancient canons.
The site was also home to vital lookout points in the First and Second World Wars, each lovingly reconstructed to take you back in time. It's worth looking at the timetable of events before you go, as Pendennis Castle is the regular scene of medieval jousting tournaments!
Three days was just enough to get a taster of the area and persuade my husband not to rule out a UK holiday again. And my three year old's verdict? This picture pretty much says it all.
Prices at The Budock Vean Hotel start at £130 per night for a standard room, including a full English breakfast and four course dinner with coffee in the main restaurant. Rates vary according to the season.
Entry to The Eden Project costs £23.50 per adult, on the door, with entry for children aged 5-16 at £10.50. Under 4s go free. Other pricing options are available if you book ahead or use public transport to get there.
Entry to Pendennis Castle costs £17.50 for a family ticket for two adults and three children. Under 5s go free, while a single adult ticket costs £6.70. A membership pass is available – check online for details.
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