I don’t have any of my own, but feel I should beg, steal, or borrow some to take full advantage of this place. The Bedruthan Steps Hotel, perched on a cliff top five miles from Newquay, is a place that doesn’t just tolerate guests with children, it wholeheartedly welcomes them with a group bear hug. There’s evidence a-plenty that this hotel has been a family affair for well over fifty years and the three sisters who have been running this and the Scarlet (more on that in another post) really do know how to entertain.
From their complimentary baby listening service, a night porter who takes care of any dozing parent and their sleepless child, spa, surfing lessons, jungle gym, adults room, teen room they really have thought of it all. And, if they haven’t and you do, this place will do it’s very best to deliver.
‘Breaks at Bedruthan 2012’ is a booklet I find in the reception and it turns out to be a stroke of pure marketing genius. What better way to take advantage of the slower months then set up a series of breaks which will appeal to the solo traveller, right down to the whole family – grandparents included. The women have pulled together a series of dates that introduce guests to crafts-folk and enthusiasts whom they have worked with over the years. This now means I don’t become the child catcher and I don’t need to beg my man to join me. What it does mean is that I now want to make my own pair of shoes, actually learn to knit and make my own fascinator during an Alice In Wonderland 2-night break, the essence of which is helping you to learn how to throw the best tea party, ever. Beyond this there are family baking days, willow weaving, jam making, bee keeping the list goes on and on, much like the space here at the Hotel.
My bedroom – number 11 – is clean and simple, no frills but tastefully furnished with a comfy bed and four decent pillows. It also claims an envious view of a picture postcard perfect bay, otherwise known as Mawgan Porth.
The wind is kicking up like a mule on Red Bull but in spite of that there’s something very cheery about seeing families making the most of their summer holiday in this country. When the wind drops and the sun shines, and there has got to be at least one week in the year when we’re treated to this meteorological phenomenon, this hotel is fully equipped. Two heated pools that are powered by refurbished solar panels, palm trees, comfy-wheeled loungers, a poolside bar, and when the weather’s like it is today, a cinema and the essential indoor pool.
But us Brits have always been resilient when it comes to the weather, only we know how to find amusement with a packet of Old Maid cards when it’s near hurricane conditions outside, but you don’t even need these here. Indoor play includes ball pools, slides and climbing nets, self-propelled toddler toys to ride in the ballroom, a craft room and for the teenagers air hockey and there’s no getting away from it a Wii, there’s Wi-Fi and a computer in here too for the kids who just can’t be without a chat room there’s also widescreen TV.
But this level of service and abundance of facilities doesn’t come cheap and if you want to make your own entertainment and have guaranteed sunshine then you’ll probably be looking at a holiday involving a flight.
There are villas for families of four and these have a king sized bed with a separate bunk-bedded room, and handily two bathrooms. Tariffs here are calculated, for the time being, on age increments so my pretend family of kids, staying in a villa, aged 2 and 5 will set you back £305 per night, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis during the low season. Unless you fancy hopping in a taxi for supper elsewhere this will be the cheapest option. In the high season expect to pay £440 for the same room. There are sea view doubles, such as Room 11, for those holidaying sans-enfant, low season £180 per night, high £270. Tariffs for 2012 are being worked upon now, so expect a 3% increase on those rates.
During breakfast I and very handily I meet the charming Celia who hails from South Africa. She manages everything to do with the smaller people. Her team will take your children from the newborn to 12 years old and make sure they’re well looked after and more importantly stimulated. She focuses on getting the kids to make the most of the outside space – and what a space – the beach is steps away, and there they create assault courses, build dens, light fires (age appropriately). Art is high on Celia’s agenda, she will turn your little monster into Pablo Picasso before the end of your holiday and just think, its only a matter of time before they’ll pay for you to return. Evening club starts from half past seven until half past ten – and for the kids who just don’t want to sleep, 5 year olds and over, there are movies, beach parties, toilet brush hockey (panic not, they’re not recycled), and fancy dress, the list is endless. She employs 10-12 staff in the peak season that are all obviously CRB checked and hold some kind of childcare or sporting qualification.
The theatre of operations that is the baby monitoring system intrigued me. Kids are left to sleep in rooms and each room has a panel, which flips communication to the reception area. Parents are given an alarm that is activated by the bat-eared staff that activates it when your child begins to cry or calls out.
But the soundtrack to my stay here in mid-September, wasn’t the shout of a children’s club leader but the roar of the Atlantic and the howl of the wind, testing the root and branch of many a hardy palm tree. But as the kids are back in school, parents with toddlers were taking full advantage of the facilities here.
Adults aren’t let down either. There’s a chilled out lounge and for the big kid at heart The Space is a place to let your hair down, poker, and pool and table football all on offer here. If you want the pool for lane practice, there are 2 hours each day for adult only swims. To work off at least one of those cream teas you can hit the gym, and if you’ve really overdone it they’ll hire you in a personal trainer, or you could have a knock up on the outside tennis court.
If you want to hit the Atlantic surf then Johnnie Fryer and Nick Tiscoe are your men. They run the resident surf club from the Surf Shack. Their lessons are personalised, no large groups here; they take on small family one to ones where they supply all the gear for those aged 7 upwards. In the summer there’s a surfing kids club and two sessions are £50. A family of four wanting a lesson will cost £105 and a couple will pay £80.
Dinner in the restaurant was very pleasant. I was early, and so was spoilt with table four, set for four; it had that incredible sea view I will never tire of. Sunday night’s set menu offered a wide choice of seasonal food. I had the pea and ham soup, which was sweet, and the lean cubes of bacon worked well.
The fish stew had a variety of meaty chunks of white fish, and there were pieces of lobster dotted around the creamy sauce with ciabatta rounds of croutons topped with a well-flavoured rouille. This was served with cauliflower cheese and runner beans and no dish here is complete without the Cornish new potato.
The pear and chocolate clafoutis (made to order) was a lovely light chocolate sponge, which hid a sweet, fresh pear. I tend to cook mine a little less than chef, simply because I like a really gooey chocolate centre.
I also had a delicious carafe of Petit Chablis, which complimented the fish dish perfectly. For diners uncomfortable with the wine menu the hotel has helpfully compiled a food and wine-pairing list.
My only criticism, if I had to find one, was the dumplings in the stew, weren’t quite the fluffy dumplings I make and whilst the concept of saffron dumplings is great on paper they were dense, bullet-like and floury.
That said, the chef bends over backwards to ensure diners needs are met, cauliflower without the cheese, pea and ham soup without the ham, these were all conversations I overheard and I was asked when I checked in whether I had any dietary requirements. Soya, wheat-free, cheese allergies, they’ll accommodate your dietary needs wherever they can.
When it comes to eating as a family, or if the kids want to eat without you, again this place has thought of everything. The children’s high tea takes place at half past four until six, and I so want to see the kids’ dining room full but sadly it’s a ghost of a place when I go to photograph it but I can imagine it jam-packed during school holidays.
If you haven’t got the energy to make it to the restaurant, the kids are playing up, or you want to just stay in and watch a little television, they’ll serve you a three course meal in your room. If you fancy a kids-free zone, you’ve guessed it, that’s not a problem either, at Breakfast time there’s adult-only areas set aside and during the dinner service, only well behaved over 7s are allowed for a couple of hours from half past seven.
My breakfast was a great start to the day, a cracking Cornish one at that, expect traditional items on offer from hogs pudding, Bedruthan sausage, Cornish split rolls and locally made bread. But, where was the orange juice, the buffet table staple? Oranges are grown using lots of nitrogen fertiliser that can produce greenhouse gases. If you want it, you can have freshly squeezed, but there’s a supplementary £1.50 charge, some of which goes to their carbon offset company. Try the local Cornish apple juice and celebrate the apple. Most of the items are locally sourced and a list of local suppliers is even on the menu.
The hotel is well-placed for day trips to Watergate Bay and Padstow, they’re an easy taxi ride away, and the Cornish weather is so changeable it could be that it’s bright sunshine there and rainy at Mawgan Porth.
Beyond that a car is a must. Shopping around, I got a deal from Hertz and my three days cost me £42.00 and £20.00 to fill it up to return, but then I’m sure there are deals to be had in the peak season too.
The Ocean Spa is on site offering facials, massages; holistic therapies that include reflexology and a hot poultice body massage. There is also Hammam therapy practiced here, carried out on a heated stone bed, which relaxes your muscles and opens up your pores. There are also treatments for pregnant ladies thirteen weeks and beyond and post natal massages to alleviate tiredness. The usual nails, eyes and waxing treatments are on offer. There’s also a hydro pool, sauna, steam room and hot bath. They use Maharlika therapies, REN, the Irish VOYA the ingredients include harvested organic seaweed and the brand Mama Mio who offer a range of pre and post natal treatments. Non-hotel guests can pay to use the spa.
If the last thing you need when you get home is to attempt the washing forget that too, give all your sand-filled garments to the staff here who’ll deliver it back drawer-ready. Or, if you like doing your own, help yourself, they’ve got two laundry rooms, and why not take home a little of that Cornish air by drying your clothes on the on site clothes line.
It came as no surprise to me that the Hotel is one of the leading providers of sustainable tourism in the county – the recycling bins on my floor one clue, the note in the bathroom about being a member of Cornwall’s sustainable Tourism project another, and the Mor organic soap and shampoo bars (which are divine and give the bathroom a lovely Rosemary fragrance). The hotel even harvests its own rainwater from the room of the spa, which is visible each time you flush the toilet. A discount on accommodation is on offer to those who travel by foot, bike, train or bus, no plane journeys and they’ll want to see proof so you just can’t cheat!
The locals do well out of the hotel too, a whopping 70% of all their products are sourced locally.
There’s a shop on site stocking formula, Calpol, and arm bands (and that’s just for the adults) so if you’ve forgotten that toothpaste you’ll get it here.
Fresh milk in the fridge for the fair-trade tea and coffee and the customary packet of biscuits, take your pick from Cornish Fairings or clotted cream shortbread, which you can scoff whilst watching the sun go down. Alternatively if you fancy something stronger there’s a cocktail bar and terrace where you can watch the sunset or the storms brew.
I’m coming back but not sure whether it’s knitting or bee-keeping I’m going to sign up for.
Bedruthan Steps Hotel, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4BU
Breaks at Bedruthan start with a two-night knitting course with Erika Knight on 2nd March. Prices start from £304.00 per person.