Walking through the door of our luxury holiday house of Stargazers in St Mawes, I felt the Wow! factor as if I’d been given a rather expensive but delightful present. Wow! St Mawes certainly had more than its fair share of Cornish charm, with the pubs overlooking the sea, pretty cottages climbing up the hillside and the lighthouse twinkling across the estuary at St Anthony’s Head. Wow! From the front door we were drawn straight towards the huge expanse of windows with stunning views across the bay. Wow! Every one of the four bedrooms felt like walking into a luxury hotel suite, each with its own bathroom and gorgeous, colourful furnishing.
Stargazers in one of five luxury holiday homes available to rent through St Mawes Retreats and it didn’t take long for us to settle into the good life. After a tiring week at work in Bristol, we told ourselves, this was no more than we deserved! In the Master Bedroom, the huge bed even swallowed up my six foot husband and was piled with silk cushions in lime, crimson and fuschia overblown roses on a crisp white cotton pique duvet. In front of the window were two leather recliners separated by a coffee table of glass on a base of tangled driftwood, the perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee and take in the view.
I hope you enjoy the video below from our stay at Stargazers with St Mawes Retreats and feel free to subscibe to my YouTube channel below
Love was in the air as we snuggled into the bed to watch a George Clooney movie on the flat screen TV on the wall – well at least it was spelled out in big wooden letters L-O-V-E on the cream painted chest of drawers. Even the recliner cushions with motifs like “You rock my boat” , “Love is all you need”, and “Sail away with me” were guaranteed to make those of us who’ve been married 25 years giggle like teenagers again.
We had a bathtime soak in deep, oval bath, liberally doused with the Cath Collins orange flower bath oil, while contemplating the sparkly border tiles, his and hers sinks and huge walk in shower. I fell asleep with the St Anthony’s Head lighthouse winking at us across the bay and woke up with the sky tinged a little pink with just enough blue to make a pair of sailor’s trousers. The passing St Mawes ferry on its way to Falmouth looked like a blue painted toy boat and was followed in hot pursuit by a Cornish rowing skiff out for training. And all this before I’d even got out of bed!
It didn’t feel quite right with just me and Guy rattling around in a house that demanded to be shared, to be filled with friends, with chatter and good food. But on Saturday morning, our friends joined us with their teenage daughters and the house started to feel alive, as we all shared the pleasure of our luxurious holiday house.
Our friends chose the pink bedroom with a deep magenta velvet headboard, pretty crystal bedside lights and curtains covered with oversized pink and purple peonies. The bedroom faced the back of the house looking out on a little gravelled space with a bank planted with shrubs and its own modern bathroom with brown and white stone tiles and sparkly lighting around the mirror.
The girls loved their teenage pad upstairs, under the eves with four beds which was decorated with purple crushed velvet, spangly curtains and silver sequin cushions on the bed. They were thrilled to have their own TV, bathroom across the landing and a little balcony where they could look out on the sea view. The best bit, however, was that they had their own floor to get away from the grownups and make as much noise as they liked.
While we ladies were feeling that we’d stepped into the pages of a glossy magazine, the husbands were more interested in the number of flat screen TVs around the house. Guy even went around and counted them; there were seven in all, one for each bedroom, two in the sitting area and one in the kitchen. For someone who barely watches TV, I found the amount of electronic gadgetry slightly baffling. We lost count of the number of guns to control it all and mysterious voices wafted from the kitchen ceiling until we worked out how to switch off the radio.
Even more exciting for the menfolk was the wood-burning stove in the centre of the living room, which demanded to be stoked up, although fortunately no manly displays of wood-chopping were required. Once Guy had worked out that there were three recliners built into the large bank of leather sofas, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to prize him away from the weekend papers, the TV or that stove.
As if one huge living room was not enough, there was a second sitting area beyond, with cream covered sofas and so many cushions on the sofa that there was barely room to sit down, although of course the teenagers didn’t stand on ceremony and threw them all on the floor to make themselves comfortable. All around the house were lovely art-works, my favourite being all the driftwood sculptures and the ink drawings of boxing hares, although I wasn’t too bothered by the strange, sculptural metal discs.
All the living areas looked out onto the beautifully landscaped garden, with shrubs, grasses and spiky plants. There were paved areas where you could sit on wicker loungers and soak up the sun, with paths among the foliage where children might play hide in seek. Just below the house, although out of sight was Hotel Tresanton, a luxury hotel that I definitely want to visit for afternoon tea or lunch on the terrace when I come back to St Mawes in summer.
By late morning I was concerned that I’d never prize the crew out of the house, so I rallied everyone for the walk down into St Mawes. Even though it was 5 minutes down the road, we had to stop for a good look around the Waterside Gallery with beautiful Cornish glass and a wooden seagull sculture that bobbed up and down from the ceiling. We skirted the row of pretty cottages, while the girls ducked down onto the beach and kicked around in the pebbles and seaweed.
At the harbour we checked the times of the ferry, in case we fancied a trip across to Falmouth later and as it was nearing lunchtime bought ourselves a hot, peppery Cornish Pasty from the little bakery shop. Along the sea wall, we attracted the attentions of the seagulls who perched hopefully nearby, thinking that they might get a few forgotten crusts. We peered into the window of the St Mawes skiff club, set in what was once the village garage with vintage petrol pumps outside. Where the cars were worked on, we could see the large Cornish rowing boats that are used these days for sport and racing in local competitions.
We could have easily settled into one of the many pubs and cafes along the sea front but I was keen to see the pretty church at St Just in Roseland, which was one of the suggestions in the helpful guide left by St Mawes Retreats. We retraced our steps past St Mawes Castle, built as a coastal fortification by Henry VIII with the matching Pendennis Castle on the other side of the estuary above Falmouth. We traced the coastal path across fields that became increasingly muddy, and as the girls were becoming tired our friends turned back while we continued until we reached the creek and traditional boatyard with the church of St Just beyond.
This 13th century church has the most picturesque setting and is set in tropical gardens backed by palm trees with an ancient well bubbling into the creek. We walked back up the path that was lined by carved granite tablets carved with verses from the bible and at the car park unexpectedly found our friends who had fetched the car and driven back to save us from a muddy walk home.
Although there seemed to be endless eating-out opportunities in St Mawes, we decided that we really did need to test out the enormous kitchen back at Stargazers, although it felt like you needed a text book just to work out how to use the microwave. The granite covered island was a sociable space to gather with a glass of wine while you were cooking up a storm and the dining room table felt large enough to feed the 5000, or at least 12 of them. The next day we found two potatoes that had gone missing from our meal, and joked that the oven was so big you could lose your dinner in it!
On Sunday morning we emerged sleepy from each of the luxurious bedrooms and gathered around the kitchen work stations for our our frothy hot coffee, croissants, eggs and bacon. Once again, it was touch and go whether we would get out to explore anything else, as Guy was busy perfecting the Sunday morning art of doing nothing (which he’s very good at).
However, that winking lighthouse across the bay was calling us, so we decided to take a look at St Anthony’s Lighthouse. In summer ferries can take you across the water from St Mawes but we drove around the bay and left our car in the National Trust car park (£2 honesty box). All around were old military fortification and we walked down through the pine trees, to the white lighthouse which is as complete a version of a lighthouse as you could find. It was even used as the setting for the childrens’ TV show, Fraggle Rock which I had never heard of, but the girls told me all about the puppets living in the caves.
We could get as far as the gate to the lighthouse which has a cottage that you can rent, and watched the birds on the rocks and even saw some seals bobbing in the water. A few kayakers paddled up to the rocks to spot for seals, and snippets of their conversation with mentions of “Fraggle Rock” drifted up to us. Turning back up the path we walked until we reached the sandy beach that we had spotted from the lighthouse and scrambled down beside the stream, over the slippery, barnacle encrusted rocks to get to the sand. I love walking on beaches in low season with that feeling of freedom that you get in Cornwall in winter, the freshness and wide open skies.
Returning back to Stargazers it was time to pack up our things and leave the house for the next lucky people to come and enjoy the fabulous views and sea air. The sign in the hall says “Relax, it doesn’t get any better than this!’ and how right it was.
We all agreed that Stargazers was a wonderful place to stay at any time of year, and even if you never get out of the house (which is tempting) there’s always something happening out there on the water. St Mawes Retreats have done a fabulous job in creating the perfect luxury holiday home that you’ll want to come back to time after time. I’d come back again just for the breathtaking view, to sit in the garden and watch the boats go by and breathe in the magic of Cornwall and St Mawes.
Stargazers in St Mawes is available to rent through St Mawes Retreats and sleeps 10 people in 4 bedrooms. It is one of 5 luxury holiday homes offered by the company, sleeping between 4 and 12 people, all of which are beautifully furnished in contemporary style with all the luxury and attention to detail you could wish for. Four of the properties are in St Mawes with one in Fowey. Short breaks at Stargazers start at £650 for 4 people or £995 for 10 people. For more details and bookings do check the St Mawes Retreats Website.
Our thanks to St Mawes Retreats for hosting our weekend stay at Stargazers.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
Teenage boys can be notoriously difficult to please, so I wasn’t quite sure what my sixteen year old son and his two friends would make of Bosinver Farm Cottages in Cornwall. We arrive in darkness, having made the Friday night dash after work, driving down from Bristol with a car full of wellies, walking boots, plenty of chocolate biscuits and the Monopoly board.
Turning into the Bosinver drive we follow the lane through a hamlet of cottages and houses of different sizes which seem less like converted farm buildings and more like a small residential enclave. Our house, Cherry (next to Apple and Pear) is a single storey bungalow which comfortably sleeps 6 people, and we’re soon unloaded and making ourselves at home. Before you can say “Put the kettle on”, the boys are watching football on the flat screen TV and have the music on full blast through the iPod Dock. So far so good.
I hope you enjoy the video below of Bosinver Farm Cottages
First impressions are positive. Our cottage is spacious and well-designed, with every home comfort you could wish for, and someone has obviously had great fun putting together the colourful furnishings. There’s a mixture of modern and vintage furniture, lots of Designer’s Guild, and funky ornaments all around the place that give our cottage bags of character. I’m in the master bedroom with lime green patterned curtains and duvet cover and an en suite bathroom so that I don’t have to battle with the boys for mirror space first thing in the morning. The three boys disperse themselves between the two twin bedrooms, one in bright yellow and green, the other in pink and red stripes with cheerful bunting strung above the beds, as if we’re at the village fete.
The living area is open plan taking up half of the ground floor, with a well-equiped kitchen at one end, a pine table which is laid out for breakfast, an open fireplace with a stove and leather sofas positioned to watch the flat screen TV. It would be a great place to stay for families who want to holiday together or multi-generational groups who want a bit of their own space in different cottages but the chance to easily gather together.
I wake up the next morning to find a pair of black and white horses munching the grass in the field outside my window. Eventually the boys emerge and set off to try out the indoor swimming pool which was only built this year. The glass walled pool area gives onto a terrace with oversized curvy outdoor chairs, overlooking the tennis court. If only we were there in summer, rather than chilly October, we’d be lounging around with a cold drink, pretending we were in the South of France. While the boys alternately splash around then sit under the hot showers, I take a look around the rest of the farm. I discover a colourful play barn for little ones, with a couple of exercise machines too – now dad can keep fit on the running machine while the little ones are wearing themselves out on the slide and climbing equipment.
I pop into the reception area at the top of the drive to get some suggestions from Bosinver owner Pat Smith (known to younger farm visitors as Nanny Pat) for a walk to keep us busy for the rest of the day. I have in mind a couple of hours along a cliff path, a stroll on the beach and a nice cafe or pub to have lunch or tea at the end. Pat takes in my requirements, digs out a book of 35 Cornish coastal walks from the pile that are available to borrow and sends us off to Polkerris beach, about 20 minutes drive from Bosinver. Parking a little way up the hill from the beach, we walk down past the pub and pretty cottages to find the sheltered cove, with cliffs rising on either side and a sea wall making a protective arm to shelter small boats.
We take the footpath up the hill through a beech wood to the top of the cliffs and follow the path through the fields with the sea on our right. Every so often there’s a gap where you can peer down to a rocky cove although the cliff edge is protected by a hedge of brambles and gorse. We reach Gribbin head with a red and white striped daymarker tower that sailors use to take a bearing and guide their boats into the Fowey estuary. It looks like a red and white lighthouse and is open on some Sundays for a climb to the top, I imagine it’s challenging on the legs but the views must be amazing.
We walk down through a herd of cows towards Polridmouth cove, close to where the writer Daphne du Maurier lived at Menabilly. She leased the large Georgian house from the local Rashleigh family and lived there for 25 years, using it as the setting on Manderlay in her famous novel, Rebecca. We walk past the gate to the church at Menabilly where the blue hydrangeas are blooming, a flower of Cornwall that I always associate with dried flower arrangement in old country houses.
For a little way we follow the Saints’ Way, an old pilgrimage path that crosses from the south coast of Cornwall at Fowey to the north coast at Padstow. Crossing the field we walk down through the wood to Polkerris and settle on one of the outdoor tables at Sam’s on the Beach. This informal cafe is an offshoot from their popular restaurant at Fowey and occupies a prime position right on the sand in an old lifeboat station with a glass wall overlooking the beach. With perfect timing, the sun breaks through the clouds and we sit in the sunshine eating very good pizzas cooked in a wood fired oven, which pretty much defeat us in their size. There are some alternative places to eat in Polkerris at the Rashleigh Inn which is right opposite Sam’s and the Polka dot café with a small “bucket and spade” shop and and art gallery, the Gribbin Gallery above. I imagine that in August the place is heaving, but out of season with the sun shining it’s just perfect for me.
We drive on the short distance into Fowey, a small harbour town that hugs the hillside, overlooking the sheltered estuary that offers a haven for sailors. It’s full of those shops that sell you pretty things for the home, gifts with a nautical theme that you never knew you needed and plenty of Cornish clotted cream fudge. The water taxis are heading back and forth across the estuary, and we eat our ice creams watching the sailing boats bobbing up and down, before climbing back up the hill to the car park and heading back to Bosinver. Back at the cottages the boys enjoy another swim and try out the sauna, while the cottage is a pleasure to spend the evening in, like home only nicer, cleaner and fresher.
On Sunday morning we join a large crowd of parents with their toddlers to feed the animals in the small farmyard beside the swimming pool. Farmer Dave (Pat’s husband Dave Smith) has the routine sorted and the little ones squeal in delight as the ducks and hens run around them, although there are a few tears when Chalkie the goat grabs at his milk bottle a bit too hard. Even my hard to please 16 year olds have a great time, with the ducks and geese pecking grain from their hand. Farmer Dave gives them the task of keeping Chalkie the goat under control on his lead, which is easier said than done as he has the strength to pull you off your feet if he thinks there’s food to be found. We all troop over to the field and finish the session by watching Dan the moorland pony be fed from his bucket, while the younger ones hold him on a leading rein. We rather wish we could stay another day to have a ride on Secret, the white pony who’s kept in the next field and likes to have his nose stroked.
We pack up and leave Bosinver Farm Cottages by late morning, stopping at The Eden Project for a few hours on the way home. I’ve always wanted to see this most popular of Cornish attractions, with its much photographed biomes, built 15 years ago on the site of an old china clay quarry. The project is all about the way plants and crops are used to create the world we live in and is run as an educational charity. We walk down on winding paths through the hillside gardens and spend our first hour in the Rainforest biome.
The hot and steamy atmosphere soon has us stripped down to t-shirts and we follow the paths through the lush tropical plants, past pools and West African totems, a Malaysian wooden house and along a walkway that take us up through the tree canopy. There’s a waterfall cascading down the side of the rock and we climb up on swaying metal steps to the platform that hangs high above the biome, where it makes you dizzy to look down.
We stop in the outdoor cafe to refuel with a Cornish pasty before tackling the Mediterranean biome where the climate is much more temperate and there’s another small cafe serving paella and other food of the region. The exotic pink protea is flowering in South Africa, while the Harley Davidson is off on a road trip through California, and the Dionysus scultures of a bull and revellers are dancing in an intoxicated celebration of the wine god. Before we leave we stop at The Core, an educational hub where a mechanical contraption demonstrates how it literally does take a sledgehammer to crack a hazelnut and we walk around The Seed, a 75 ton egg shaped sculture carved from a single piece of Cornish granite.
By late afternoon we’re heading back to Bristol after our very enjoyable weekend in Cornwall. Bosinver Farm Cottages has given us a wonderful base to explore the cliff paths and beaches of South Cornwall and proved that you’re never too old or too cool to feed the chickens.
Bosinver Farm Cottages: Stay, Play and Discover the magic
Trelowth, St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 7DT, Tel: 01726 72128 E-mail:
There are 20 separate cottages on the farm sleeping between 3 and 12 people. We stayed in Cherry with 3 bedrooms for 6 people. In November a 3 night weekend stay costs around £310 and a week’s stay around £535. In high season of July and August a week will cost around £1770. Short breaks are available from mid September to mid May.
My thanks to Bosinver Farm Cottages who hosted our weekend stay.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
Are you thinking of taking the family to Thailand? In this article we cover the beautiful island of Koh Samui, featuring parent approved beaches, activities, accommodation and eats on the island. Check out this overview of child friendly Koh Samui for inspiration, with top tips from real parents, to show you how to navigate the island smoothly.
Beautiful beaches of Koh Samui
One of the main reasons to visit Thailand are the simply stunning beaches – with postcard perfect white sand and clear turquoise water. Some beaches are more children friendly than others. It’s important to note that no beaches are completely private in Koh Samui – if you can reach it, you can use it. Here are a few picks of those we have discovered:
Choeng Mon beach is very family friendly. It tends to be quieter than the busier and lively Chaweng, but still within easy reach of a small high street shopping village. It’s a short distance from the airport. The sand is perfect for making sand castles. You’ll also find several child-friendly beach dining options.
This is a secluded and remote beach on the south west side of the island. This area is home to a number of luxury villas and resorts that are tucked away. It is within easy reach of Ang Thong National Marine Park by speedboat. The sunsets you’ll see from this beach are well worth hanging around for.
This is one of the largest beaches on the island. It is about half an hour to walk from one end to the other, though you can’t always do this when the tide is in. The sand is grittier here, but it is a convenient location for families with easy access to the pedestrians Fisherman’s Village.
Chaweng is incredibly lively and a central point for those on the backpacker trail. It may not be suitable for a place to stay for a family with young children. However, it is still good for a visit as lots to see and do. There are several watersports activities, shopping, markets and still a stunning beach with really soft sand and shallow safe water.
Little eats and exotic treats
Would you like a fried cockroach poppet? Maybe your teenager will be adventurous enough to try one of the fried creatures on offer in the Thai markets, but this level of experimental bravery isn’t compulsory. There are a range of traditional Thai dishes that will appeal to children such as ‘Pad Thai’, a stir-fried rice noodle dish and ‘Kaow Pad Gai’, a chicken fried rice dish. It will be easy to ensure your children hit their five a day quota with the abundance of exotic fruits available – pineapple, coconut, mango and papaya. Fruit is available in bags straight from sellers on the beach and you can also purchase some mouthwateringly delicious juices and milkshakes from the beachside restaurants.
Many of the traditional dishes are cooked with chilli and can be very spicy. Peanuts are also very prevalent in traditional Thai cooking. If you are looking for some Western alternatives, they can be found in most restaurants. It seems that spaghetti and pomodoro sauce is a favourite at home and in Thailand!
In Samui you are not too far from the comforts of home, if you are travelling with very young children it can be reassuring to know that there are several Tesco Lotus supermarkets on the island as well as a Boots pharmacy. It is possible to get home brand baby food from these stores and formula milk. You can also stock up with other goodies if you have a fussy eater.
Opportunities to eat out as a family are plentiful. Here are some tips from parents:
Rose, mum of Teddy 4 and Lottie, aged 8:
“Our children loved eating fruit in a bag on the beach and milkshakes at lunchtime, then. In the evening we had dinner on the beach at Fisherman’s Village and spent the evening people watching in the market. The children really enjoyed it.”
Kerry, mum of Maya aged 4
“Bread is hard to find on Samui, but we found Maya loved filling up on croissants and pastries from the bakery at Anantara Bophut. We also had a great experience at Treetops restaurant on the branches of a tree.”
Louise, mum of teenagers Jack and Rosie:
“We always stay in a villa when we visit, that has a wonderful Thai chef onsite. You simply tell them what you would like to eat, whether western or Thai and they’ll make it for you.”
Impress them (and wear them out)
Many resorts and villas have swimming pools, which are a necessity to keep children entertained and cool them down in the heat. When you are ready to try something new, there is plenty more to discover around the island. A top tip from mum Rosie is to hire a driver to give you a tour of the island. This is likely to be priced similarly to tours on the island. On Rosie’s trip with children aged 4 and 8 she agreed in advance where she wanted to go. They visited the Big Buddha, a temple, the Butterfly farm and also the Na Muang Waterfall.
Rosie says “The kids really enjoyed the tour of the island, they loved seeing the elephants at the side of the road, but we made the decision not to ride them. One of their favourite things to do was football golf!”
Football golf is an 18-hole small golf course that you go around with a football. A unique, but popular Koh Samui sport for all ages. Those with older children and adventurous types could try canopy walking and zip lining through the jungle or going on a hunt for Uncle Nim’s Magic Garden. Half the fun is finding the magic garden!
Louise and Martin have travelled to Samui with their teenage children several times and favourite activities include kayaking in the crystal clear waters and snorkelling.
Louise says “Jack and Rosie loved hopping on a speedboat to get to the Ang Thong National Marine Park. We managed to snorkel, go kayaking and walk to a beautiful lagoon, all in one day. Amazing.”
Comfy Sleeps on Koh Samui
There are several family friendly hotels on Koh Samui. Another option is to rent a private villa. This can be the perfect option for a family with children. Check out the Paradise Island Estate – a collection of three luxury villas with their own private pool and just a short stroll to Choeng Mon beach.
About the Author: Maggie Saout first visited Koh Samui in Thailand with her family over 10 years ago and has returned every year since. Her son now lives in Koh Samui with his own family. Together they own and run Thailand Retreats – a collection of luxury villas to rent across the island of Koh Samui.
More tales from Thailand
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey