Not so long ago self-catering meant cooking with a selection of rusty and battered implements on a scarily unpredictable cooker, lumpy beds with damp sheets and 'family time' spent in the supermarket sheltering from the rain.
Not any more. Now families opting for self-catering are spoilt for choice and rental companies are having to up their game. Nowhere is this more apparent than at The Valley in Carnon Downs, Cornwall, near Falmouth and Truro.
The Valley proudly proclaims itself to be 'Cornwall's chic country retreat' offering a 'hamlet of five star luxury self-catering cottages...which combines the space and privacy of your own cottage with all the perks of a great hotel'.
Sold! To the woman desperate for a break away from the routine of home-work-home and keen to prise her three children away from their 'Mum, it's the holiday' screens.
No surprise to find The Valley was set behind a large gate in a steep and tranquil wooded (you guessed it) valley. We passed a family playing football on the large front lawn and an invitingly empty tennis court before pulling up outside our 'home' for three days.
There are 46 architect designed houses on the 13 acre site. Ours was called 'The Stables' and boasted three bedrooms; two doubles and a room with bunk beds; two bathrooms and an ensuite and a huge kitchen living room complete with flat screen TV and large dining table, leading out on to a small patio.
If you have a baby, or toddler, The Valley supplies high chairs and cots to make life a whole lot easier. You can even bring the family dog too.
To my amazement the super sparkly kitchen even had a marble rolling pin! Not keen to tackle rough puff after hours of driving (HUGE mistake taking the wiggly A39), we headed down the hill to Café Azur (presumably so named because of the bright blue outdoor swimming pool in front).
Packed with families of young children, tweens, teens and grandparents, it quickly became apparent that booking might have been a good idea. So we ordered takeaway plates of hot food covered in tin foil, brought back to our cottage for an uber relaxing evening. Now that's what I call a holiday - someone else cooking and not even having to hiss at the kids to bee-have in the restaurant. The red mullet and fishcakes were particularly delicious.The menu changes every day with lots of Cornish produce and a kids' menu that's a lot more exciting than chicken nuggets - the following night we made it into the Café itself and my sons devoured the kids' chilli.
The Valley's reception is packed with games and DVDs you can borrow and we quickly became hooked on Banagram (Scrabble without having to wait for the other people - result!), before sinking into our super soft beds.
The Valley's buzz word is 'contemporary', which explains the rather odd shaped cups and 'art' canvases. Although there's an indoors and outdoors swimming pool and an adventure playground, by day it can feel rather deserted as most families take advantage of its location between the north and south Cornwall coasts.
Our days were spent exploring Cornwall's beaches and towns - Falmouth, beautiful Maenporth Beach and bustling St Ives (do NOT try to park!). The Tate was a huge disappointment but the view over the beach and the surfers is fabulous and we consoled ourselves with fat ice creams and rock climbing.
One of the many leaflets in our welcome pack contained Adrenalin Quarry - which invited you to 'jump off a cliff on the UK's biggest zip wire'.
How could we resist? So on the long toil back home, we stopped off to zip wire at 40mph the beautiful flooded quarry. Adrenalin sated, we rewarded ourselves with a paddle and delicious chocotate brownies at the café.
This half term (19 Oct to 4 November) The Valley is offering fun for all the family, including Wild Child Bushcraft School when children learn how to build fires, make shelters and create their very own dream catcher in the woods surrounding The Valley and Mark's Ark when children are introduced to a menagerie of bugs, beasts and birds.
For Halloween there will be a campfire, mashmallows, professional story telling from BAFTA award-winning story teller John Brolly, treasure hunts, creepy crafts and lots of mulled cider for parents. Parents looking for that extra relaxation can have a massage in their own cottages.
A three-night weekend break at The Valley sleeping up to four guests is priced from £310.
To make an enquiry or check availability visit www.the-valley.co.uk or call 01872 862194 between 9am and 6pm.