Review: Gwel An Mor, Cornwall – luxury family travel
For me, Cornwall really has only one flaw: it’s too far away to visit more often than I already do (certainly when there’s a preschooler sharing the drive). But after our great trip last year to Newquay and Falmouth, where we met a giant octopus, I couldn’t resist an invitation to return.
I’d heard of Gwel An Mor before, a five-star holiday resort, with its own spa and restaurant alongside the luxury lodges. As an added bonus for me, it’s in a part of Cornwall I haven’t visited, closer to St Ives.
So… perhaps my favourite English county, the chance of a beach or three, a luxurious place to stay with a hot tub, two friends/child-wranglers invited to come with me and a spa treatment thrown in. But how did it measure up?
The five-star resort sits on a hill just outside the beach town of Portreath looking out to Cornwall’s north coast, and is around half an hour from St Ives, Newquay and Falmouth.
All the 78 eco-friendly lodges have sea views, and there’s a choice of four different styles including detached or terraced lodges sleeping between four and six, accessible lodges and the single-storey Residences, in a separate part of Gwel An Mor. Short breaks cost from £439.
We stayed in Residence 102, a three bedroom lodge which had previously hosted one of the stars of Poldark during filming of the second series – Hedda Reid, aka Elizabeth. Aidan Turner also stayed in another Residence, no 97. Just in case you’re interested…
The lodge – let’s start with the essentials. The Residences are tucked away in their own part of the resort, across a quiet lane from the rest of the lodges – it’s only a few minutes amble to the restaurant, playground or reception, as well as the animals at Feadon Farm. I was pretty much won over before we got inside: a big wrap-around deck looking down to the sea, where I can imagine relaxing in the sunshine with a drink, plus the (covered) hot tub in one corner. Inside, three bedrooms. The master bedroom has its own bathroom, the two twins (one of which I suspect could be made up as a double) share another.
Then a big open plan living room with a huge comfy sofa and kitchen/dining room, all sleek white with splashes of red, plus everything you might want to cook with – except a kettle, although there is a near boiling water tap on the sink (perfect for the sachets of hot chocolate left along with biscuits). Underfloor heating mean that even in March, we weren’t cold, but couldn’t resist firing up the wood burner as well which made it impressively toasty. There’s air con for summer too. While the lodges are a different style, they looked equally lovely.
The facilities – top of my list was the spa, where I had a fantastic hot stone massage for my permanently tense shoulders, and there’s a lovely pool plus sauna and steam room, although a recent ear infection meant no swimming for Minnie. She could explore the playground (and did) and would no doubt love the play barn opening this summer, with soft play and climbing wall. Throw in tennis courts, plus a fishing lake and golf course coming later this year. There are even bikes to hire, although the ongoing work meant those were temporarily unavailable when we visited.
The farm – we tried the Meet the Animals experience, aimed at younger children: so good, there’s a whole separate post coming soon. It’s one of several activities on offer though, including falconry, a night safari to spot badgers and other options to learn more about the local wildlife and the centre’s conservation efforts. Feeding foxes has to rank high on my list. It’s worth noting that the activities meet at reception – we weren’t the only ones caught out trying to find the meeting point at the farm itself, nearly arriving late.
Food – getting a balance of informal enough to make families welcome and luxury enough for adults is tricky but the Terrace restaurant managed nicely. Some great fish on the ever-changing menu and Gwel An Mor’s own wine kept me very happy, Minnie went off-menu to request pasta with pesto to follow a spot of colouring. There’s even a vegan menu, with around half a dozen options for each course. If you’re not asked about dietary requirements when you book, do let them know as some of the desserts need 24 hours notice though. And you can get takeaway delivered, including curry and pizza. Which we did after our long drive down.
The location – it’s not just that Gwel An Mor is in a gorgeous setting, this is Cornwall after all. Portreath is just 10 minutes down the hill on a buggy-friendly path (a bit longer back up) for essentials as there’s no shop on site, although you can order breakfast packs. In 15 minutes you can wander to Smuggler’s Cove or try a four-hour hike on the coastal path to Porthtowan and back, just a couple of the nine walks picked out in the resort’s guide. There are also leaflets outlining cycle routes to pick up from reception, including two that are suitable for beginners and families.
The extras – too many little things to mention: the herb garden where you can pick your own, the fox weathervane, fluffy robes, DVDs to borrow in reception, lots of sustainable touches, beachy and quirky artwork and decor.
The not so good
Parking – each lodge has a single parking space, although there’s some extra parking by reception and at a separate car park. I suspect it’s unlikely to bother most guests but as a lot of the lodges sleep six, potentially sharing with grandparents or friends, it’s worth knowing that someone will have to leave their car further away.
It’s always a good sign when I’m struggling to fit all the positives in and struggling equally hard to think of anything that wasn’t great. But Gwel An Mor really does live up to its laid-back luxury billing and our three-night stay seemed all too short – I can imagine spending much longer in summer, passing day after day ambling to the beach or wandering the coast path, exploring the coves and villages nearby. The ultimate accolade? Even with my lovely daughter pushing boundaries like never before, I still came away relaxed.
If you’d prefer to stay in St Ives itself, the Una St Ives looks a perfect alternative for families.
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Disclosure: My stay was courtesy of Gwel An Mor for the purposes of review. All opinions and interest in Poldark’s cast are my own
Main image courtesy of Gwel An Mor/Simon Green photography; all other images copyright MummyTravels