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.
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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
When my friend Julia and I started walking the Tour de Mont Blanc three years ago, we weren’t convinced that we needed walking poles at all. We’d done plenty of walks around Britain without them and couldn’t really see the point. In fact I remember that Julia had to hire one pole from the local ski hire shop in Les Houches, while I had one and borrowed another from Hotel Slalom, which I managed to break before the end of the trip.
Three years on and we are both totally convinced that walking poles are essential on a mountain hike that is as arduous as the Tour de Mont Blanc. In the second year of our walk Julia suffered from altitude sickness and we had to cut short one of our days walking because of it, so she really regretted only having one pole to support her on that trip. Last year I had some inexpensive telescopic poles, but they managed to get wedged together, so that I couldn’t pack them down small, and they had to go. This year I was convinced that I needed some quality walking poles that would stay the course and see me a through a few mountain treks in years to come, so I checked out what my local Ellis Brigham store in Bristol had to offer. My eye was caught by a pair of Leki Micro Vario carbon poles which admittedly weren’t cheap at around £145 but which had the great advantage of packing down much smaller than anything else I’d seen.
Why do you need walking poles?
Perhaps you’re planning a long mountain trek like the Tour de Mont Blanc and are undecided on whether you need walking poles, so let me tell explain why they are essential. Firstly, if you are walking for up to 10 hours a day, carrying a backpack that is 10kg or more, your legs deserve all the support you can give them. The poles spread the load on your knees, legs and ankles through your whole body, so you’ll be less exhausted at the end of the day and with less risk of twists and sprains. Secondly, the walking poles help you balance on uneven ground and sleep slopes, when your rucksack makes you top heavy, or you’re picking your way across a slippery stream.
Trudge up the mountain for 3 hours or more as we did regularly on the Tour de Mont Blanc and the poles will help propel you up the hill, steadying you on the climb. I remember that when I went Nordic Walking on Dartmoor, it was described as “like walking in 4 wheel drive”, which is just the traction you want on an uneven mountain trail. You might think that once you’re over that mountain crest, the walk downhill will be a breeze in comparison, but in fact that can be just as tough, if not more so on your knees. The path may be quite slippery with shale or mud and there could be stones or boulders along the way, so you are just as much in need to poles to support your legs on the downhill run.
Why I chose the Leki Micro Vario walking poles
When I looked around the range of walking poles in Ellis Brigham, I knew that Leki were one of the leading manufacturers of high quality walking poles, so I shouldn’t have any of the mishaps with breaking or locking poles as I’d experienced in previous years. I decided to try the Leki Micro Vario poles because they have a unique design and fold up into sections for storage, making them some of the smallest and lightest poles I’d seen. We were travelling to Geneva on cabin baggage only, keeping our packs as small as possible, so this was a big bonus, as my poles could easily fit easily into the side pocket of my rucksack. The fold-up design also meant that I could pack up my poles and store them in my room in the mountain refuges, rather than leaving them in the communal boot area. Although I’d met the most friendly people on the mountain, I did have a mysterious experience one year when I discovered a piece of my pole had gone missing, so I was a little wary.
How to assemble your Leki Micro Vario Poles
You may think that it would be completely obvious how to assemble a pair of walking poles, but I found that my Leki micro vario poles had a locking button that was hidden when the poles were broken down, and I puzzled for quite a while to work it out, so I’ve made the video below to show you how.
- First fit the two lower sections that are joined by cord together
- Next extend the third section until a small metal button clicks into place to secure the whole pole firmly
- Extend the fourth upper section until you have it at the correct height, marked by the rings on the pole, then push the locking lever down against the pole to secure
- Finally adjust the wrist straps by pulling the top strap upwards to flip up the locking mechanism, adjust the strap length from the underneath and then flip the locking mechanism back down to secure.
I hope you find the video below useful, about how to assemble your Leki Micro Vario Walking Poles
Another great feature of these poles is the grip handle which was extremely comfortable with an egg shaped top that fitted into the palm of your hand and an equally comfortable shaped grip with soft wrist supports.
Who are these poles good for?
I should mention that at around £145 the Leki Micro Vario poles are at the expensive end of the range of poles stocked by Ellis Brigham. There are plenty of options for poles from Leki and other manufacturers, but none that pack so small and light. If you are not a regular hiker and plan to do the Tour de Mont Blanc or a similar mountain trek as a one-off, then I would probably buy some walking poles at the cheaper end of the range. However, for frequent walkers and those who like to travel light, the Leki Micro Vario poles are an excellent investment, the sort of kit that is always a pleasure to use. These poles are also great for those who combine hiking with climbing and need poles that will pack away easily into a rucksack pocket when they need their hands free. Whatever your budget,do make sure that you have walking poles of some sort on the Tour de Mont Blanc as it’s an arduous trek and you really do need them.
The Leki Micro Vario poles are made from carbon for minimum weight with maximum strength. They pack down to around 38cm and extend from 110cm to 130 cm in height. The poles feature the Leki Aergon grip which allows a range of gripping options, with a wrist strap adjustment that is easy to use, even when wearing gloves. The speedlock, external locking mechanism allows the height of the poles to be adjusted easily and securely. The poles also have replaceable metal tips in case one gets caught or breaks. These poles retail at around £145 for the pair, but other walking poles are on sale from £50 per pair. Thanks to Ellis Brigham who gave me a pair of Leki Micro Vario Carbon Poles to try for this review and specialise in all kinds of Mountain clothing and equipment.
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More great gear for the Tour de Mont Blanc
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