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Cornwall with Teenagers

07/05/2015 22:28 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 10:59 BST

How do you keep a 'family holiday love affair' with Cornwall going when your children become teenagers? Try these ideas for making Cornwall cool for big kids this summer.

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View of St Ives from Stuart Cottage ©William Gray

In the heart of St Ives

Our twins are 14, so during Easter we tried to put together a Cornwall break that appealed to teenagers. Instead of defaulting to a rural cottage or remote campsite, we opted for a more upbeat town location for the first half of our holiday - somewhere that had good shops and restaurants within walking distance, but still had plenty of character and things to do. St Ives ticked all the right boxes. Not only does it have a bustling harbour and vibrant food and arts scenes, but it also presides over several spectacular sandy beaches.

Available from St Ives self-catering specialist Aspects Holidays, our rental accommodation, Stuart Cottage, was located just above Tregenna Terrace - the equivalent of the front row in the dress circle if you imagine St Ives as a theatre. The views from the stylish town house enjoyed a panoramic sweep from the harbour all the way to Godrevy Lighthouse across St Ives Bay. Our daughter quickly bagged the chaise longue tucked into the bay window of the sitting room. A juliette balcony in the master bedroom provided equally stunning views, while the large, open-plan kitchen-dining room opened onto a courtyard with barbecue and outdoor shower - ideal for rinsing off wetsuits.

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Surfing at Porthmeor, St Ives ©William Gray

Catching the waves at Porthmeor

Most teenagers will want to make a beeline for Porthmeor Beach on the west side of town - it's one of Cornwall's prime surf spots. We booked lessons with St Ives Surf School, a friendly and professional outfit headed up by manager Harris Rothschild. After kitting us out in thick wetsuits and booties, Harris gave us a thorough - and entertaining - briefing on land, teaching us the basics of balance, how to catch a wave and spring into a standing position. Practicing on the beach is one thing - it gets a whole lot harder when you add water. Nevertheless, Harris still succeeded in getting us all riding waves. Each two-hour lesson costs £30, or £25 for groups of four or more. Private surf lessons are available, and you can also join kayaking, coasteering and stand-up paddleboarding tours.

The aprés surf scene

Surfing can be addictive. And so is the hot chocolate from the café above Porthmeor Beach. But if your teenagers are anything like ours they'll also be keen to immerse themselves in St Ives' shops, galleries and restaurants. There are plenty of designer boutiques in St Ives, including Fat Face, Superdry, Weird Fish and Cath Kidston.

If your youngsters are studying GCSE art, a visit to the Tate St Ives is a must. Open daily during summer from 1000-1720, this curvaceous vision of clean-cut modernism looms above Porthmeor Beach and showcases a fantastic array of contemporary art. Special exhibitions this summer include Images Moving Out Onto Space, which explores what happens when art works are set in motion.

More food for thought can be found in the numerous cafés, bakeries and restaurants scattered throughout St Ives. For surfed-out teens with big appetities we'd recommend Hub St Ives - right on the harbourfront and offering a range of delicious Cornish beef burgers, including their 'Big Kahuna' which won Best Burger at the 2015 National Burger Awards.

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Rusty the Tin Tent ©William Gray

Heavy-metal camping

No matter how liberating it felt to visit Cornwall without a roofbox jammed with camping gear, we couldn't leave without at least a taster of sleeping in the great outdoors. And camping for teenagers doesn't get more uber-cool in Cornwall than Rusty the Tin Tent. Once a shipping container, now half-tin-half-tent, Rusty offers a trendy, up-market glamping experience near Mullion on the Lizard Peninsula. Featured on Channel's Four's TV series George Clarke's Amazing Spaces, the old shipping container has been lovingly converted into a wonderful living space.

Large, sliding glass doors have been inserted into two sides - one opening onto a canvas-covered deck with a hammock and table and chairs, the other leading to a wooden annex with kitchen area, flush toilet and wet room. The main 'tin tent' is cleverly kitted out with industrial-style bunk beds and a dining table constructed from scaffolding poles, while luxury mattresses and duvets, a wood-burning stove, wool throws, scatter cushions and fluffy towels add the finishing touches.

Rusty the Tin Tent is one of several glamping options in Cornwall offered by Classic Glamping which includes safari tents, Airstream caravans and shepherds huts.