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"The Polurrian Bay Hotel was full when we stayed there…"
The Polurrian Bay Hotel was full when we stayed there in school holiday season, so the staff were working their socks off. It was also halfway through a refurbishment of its bedrooms and had children tearing up and down excitedly. Yet, magically, the overall atmosphere managed to be relaxing, cheerful and actually quite peaceful.
It's helped by having the most superlative-inducing position and view. The Polurrian's website is hard-pushed to convey just how fab its surroundings are. The hotel (built in the early 20th century after the original hotel burned down) sits on top of the cliffs looking out over the Atlantic. There are marvellous views of the coast in either direction and the hotel overlooks a decent-sized cove. The National Trust's coastal path passes through the grounds of the hotel, so you can literally start your coastal treks from the doorstep. No driving to get to the start, finding a parking space etc etc.
So beyond its natural charms, what do guests get at the Polurrian? Well, roughly by age group:
Young children: there's an Ofsted-registered onsite nursery (The Den), which is light, bright, large and extremely well-stocked with things for the staff to do with the children, and things for children to play with. It operates in two-hour slots and you get a slot per day free as part of your package (the only stipulation is that you stay in the hotel while you're children are being looked after).
There's an indoor, heated pool, with unisex changing rooms and family cubicles, and there's a 'naturally heated' (ie cool) outdoor pool, for hardy types.
Older children and pre-teens: as well as the swimming pools, there's a playground in the 12-acre grounds (which can be seen by parents sipping their drinks on the terrace) and a tennis court. Indoors, there's the Blue Room (it has XBox, Wii systems etc, plus computers for CBeebies and Binweevils devotees, 'proper' table football and a pool table), plus a slobbing-out room with comfy sofas and shelves stocked with board games and books.
The Marconi Room shows two films a day, one at 6pm for young children, and one at 8pm for older children. So if you don't all want food together every night, the kids can eat earlier and settle down to watch a film while you have dinner. There are also DVD players and films available from reception.
Teenagers: rich opportunities for "chirpse and surf" (ie flirting on the beach), as my daughter put it. The Polurrian cove is a short, steep-ish walk down (on steps) from the hotel for body boarding or sunbathing (and obviously there are tons of other Cornish coves and beaches for swimming or surfing). There's also tennis and the pool table and computers - once the younger kids have cleared off to bed.
Adults: all of the above to keep your offspring occupied, a very comfy and spacious lounge for relaxing, and outdoor seating on terraces for cream teas or G&Ts, depending on your preference. There's no bar, instead staff circulate to take food and drink orders.
The cove is great for all ages, for sandcastles and paddling. Plus, there are treatments (massages, pedicures, facials etc) available in the hotel's spa rooms.
Food and drink
There's a children's tea around 5pm, but lots of young children ate in the dining room while we were there and it all seemed to work perfectly smoothly. The children's menu has the trusty staples (pasta with tomato sauce, sausages and mash, chips, pizza, roast chicken, ice cream etc) and there's also an all-day menu of sandwiches and things such as mushrooms or sardines on toast, so some children ate in the lounge, on the Sanderson-cushioned sofas.
The breakfasts are substantial and there's plenty of choice, plus the coffee is good (a deal breaker if you're a coffee-at-breakfast person). (I fussily asked for yeast-free bread and benefited from delicious baked-on-the-premises sourdough, which made delicious toast.)
The lunch and evening menus feature local, seasonal produce and freshly caught seafood, plus veggie options and meat dishes for tired walkers/surfers with large appetites.
Cots and even bunkbeds can be put into parents' bedrooms, but there are also interconnecting family rooms, some of which have a small shared lobby with bedrooms leading off, rather than the standard sitting-room-between-bedrooms arrangement. This gives everyone a bit of privacy and could be especially good with older children.
Children under 12 stay for free in their parents' room, and this offer includes school holidays.
All the rooms have an en-suite, plus a flat-screen TV. Tea and coffee is via room service, which makes for a nicer cup than your standard t-bags and longlife milk scenario. There are pleasing textiles and top-notch bedding in the newly refurbished rooms.
The Lizard's multiple beaches provide days of happy distraction. But if the weather's wet or chilly, there are lots of other local attractions, including the Flambards theme park (no, not Poldark, it's big rides and exhibitions, and play areas) and tin mine museums, with underground tours. There's also the National Seal Sanctuary.
St Ives on the Land's End peninsula has the Tate, with exhibitions aimed at all ages (take advantage of the park and ride scheme if you visit St Ives, the short train journey is beautiful).
And the village of Mullion (10-minute walk from the hotel) has two pubs with good grub, plus a popular fish and chip shop, and little shops with knick-knacks and potential presents, plus a post-office, mini supermarket and Boots.
The hotel seems child friendly in a real sense - not just a lipservice sense. The staff were friendly and patient with their mini-guests (being asked to find missing pieces of puzzles etc) and there was none of that slight air of sufferance that some hotels seem to exude.
PS Along with your daily newspaper, you get the Polurrian Packet - the hotel's own 'newspaper' with daily what's on listings, snippets of history and children's comps. It's a nice touch.
PPS There are plans afoot to enclose one outdoor terrace (there are several) with a huge conservatory, heated by wood burners, to create more places for 'informal' noshing. The hotel is already lovely in an Edwardian-dimensions-meet-21st-century-design way, so it should be good.
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