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How to Escape the Crowds in Cornwall This Summer

17/06/2014 14:38 BST | Updated 16/08/2014 10:59 BST

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Photo copyright William Gray

A day at the beach

Families love Cornish beach-beauties like Kynance Cove and Porthcurno, while Summerleaze (at Bude), Watergate Bay and Sennen Cove always score highly for ease-of-access, child-friendly facilities, beach lifeguards and places to eat.

This summer, however, why not venture a little off the beaten track and plan an adventure to one of Cornwall's least visited beaches? More suited to families with older children, these hidden coves and bays usually require a bit of a trek along the coast path and perhaps a short, sharp descent from the clifftop. You'll need to check tide tables first and be aware that no lifeguards will be present. Of course, you'll also need to be self-sufficient, packing a picnic, plenty of water and suncream.

Where to go? Our favourite back-of-beyond beach is in the Far West of Cornwall. Nanjizal can be reached either by following the coast path a mile south from Land's End, or walking north from Porthgwarra. Framed by rugged, heather-blushed headlands, the turquoise waters of this secluded cove will stop you in your tracks. The rockpooling at low tide is superb, and there's also an offshore sandbar, which you can wade out to (just take care if swimming - the currents and surf at Nanjizal can be fierce). To one side of the cove, the Song of the Sea - a narrow cleft in the cliffs - is crying out for a wading expedition, while the freshwater stream that tumbles onto the beach is perfect for rinsing off sandy feet before the walk back to where you've left the car.

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Photo copyright William Gray

A day on the moors

Apart from those sneaky speed cameras and imposing wind turbines, Bodmin Moor can pass in a blur as you race down the A30 towards your seaside bolthole. But don't overlook this wild, windy - and often woody - part of Cornwall. If you're feeling surfed-out, it offers a refreshing break from the beach, and there's plenty to keep active families happy. One of our favourite places on Bodmin to spend the day is Cardinham Woods where you can explore four waymarked trails, including the two-mile bike- and buggy-friendly Lady Vale Walk. Keep an eye out for kingfishers and dippers as you follow a stream through the trees.

More adventurous families can tackle off-road biking trails, but to really feel the wind in your hair, head to the lofty hamlet of Minions where a 2.5-mile path leads to Cheesewring Tor. You start by squidging across spongy moorland, dotted with sheep, tea-coloured pools and even the odd standing stone. But all eyes are fixed ahead on the tor where kids will soon be scrambling over the giant stacks of granite boulders and even reaching the top of some of the more accessible ones - arms spread wide, pretending to fly in the breeze.

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Photo copyright William Gray

A day on the water

The Wind in the Willows was partly inspired by Kenneth Grahame's holidays in Fowey and it's a simple matter to follow in the wake of Mole and Ratty by joining a canoeing trip on the South Cornwall river, nosing about in sheltered creeks and exploring hidden inlets. Encounter Cornwall runs gentle paddling trips from Golant using stable open-cockpit or sit-on kayaks. You can potter around the backwaters, keeping an eye out for otters and egrets, or venture into the main Fowey Estuary, stopping for a picnic at the idyllic riverside settlement of Lerryn. In the words of Ratty himself, "there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

Top family places to stay in Cornwall

Looking for somewhere to stay in Cornwall this summer? Located right on the action-packed North Cornwall coast, Sands Resort Hotel has superb facilities for families, including well-equipped suites, flexible mealtimes and OFSTED-registered kids' clubs. Overlooking the north coast at Portreath, Gwel an Mor is also a top choice for families - its luxurious timber lodges make self-catering a breeze, while facilities include everything from an indoor pool and spa to a fabulous wildlife centre offering rockpool safaris and pond dipping. For holiday cottages you'd better be quick to snap up a Cornish bolthole from Classic Cottages this summer. There are some real gems still available, including three-bedroom Pender Cottage overlooking the harbour at Mousehole. For a more rural setting, try one of the country cottages offered by Rural Retreats and Holiday Cottages, or spend a week under canvas at the Feather Down Farms site at Boswarthen Farm, near Penzance.

Find out more

William Gray is the editor of 101 Family Holidays. Check out his guidebook Cornwall with Kids - the fully revised and updated 2nd edition is out now.