Just before Christmas, we travelled down to Cornwall for a week’s holiday. Cornwall ticked all the boxes for us for a break with its beautiful countryside and coastline, wonderful food, restaurants and luxurious places to stay.
Our base for the week was Trelowarren, an historic 1000 acre estate, situated on The Lizard peninsula, the most southerly tip of England, just a few miles south of Helston in Cornwall.
The estate has been owned by the Vyvyan family for over 600 years. The Grade I main house is lived in by the Vyvyans to this day, and several properties on the estate have been converted into 5* luxury holiday cottages which are let all year round alongside several new-build eco-cottages, making Trelowarren an environmentally friendly holiday destination with something for everyone.
We had a brilliant week and I really want to share it with you. There were many things we loved about Trelowarren. The first, and probably most importantly was the accommodation. We stayed in the Downas cottage which sleeps four people and in fact is the smallest cottage available to rent on the Estate. Downas was converted in 2002 from the former Estate office, and was originally constructed in 1758.
The cottage itself was spacious with very high ceilings and original beams in the bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs, the cottage was roomy and open-plan, with plenty of room for coats and boots, a large sitting room area, a good-sized dining table (to seat 6) and a large and very well equipped kitchen. The kitchen for me is a very important feature in a holiday cottage. I like it to have a dishwasher as doing the dishes is no fun at the best of times, let alone whilst on holiday. I also really like to have a washing machine as we always do a lot of outdoor activities, and it’s inevitable we’ll end up with muddy clothes. The kitchen at Downas was unquestionably good. It had clearly been equipped thoughtfully by someone who cooks and has worked out what equipment you are likely to use.
Upstairs, the beds were made up using hotel quality sheets, and both bathrooms were of a very good standard and immaculately clean, again, with towels provided. The best way to describe the décor at Trelowarren is understated luxury – everything is very simple, tasteful and of good quality.
Food is, for us, one of the great attractions to Cornwall and we found Trelowarren to be a brilliant place to discover and enjoy many Cornish delicacies. You see, the brilliant thing about Trelowarren, is that it has an excellent restaurant, New Yard, at the heart of the Estate, which opens for lunch and dinner in the week and for breakfast and coffee at the weekends. In the summer, the Vyvyans run a pizza pop up using their brilliant wood-fired oven, and also bake bread and a small number of other goodies for you to purchase and enjoy at your cottage. Therefore, if you want to get away and enjoy meals out, you can, but with the same level of comfort of a very good hotel, but more privacy than a hotel as you have your own space. But if you want to cook at home, you can and what’s more, it’s incredibly easy to get your hands on some brilliant local produce.
We arrived at Trelowarren on the Saturday night at around 8pm. We had a really long drive as it was incredibly wet on the way down and were delayed as it, unbelievably, managed to take us two hours to fix our new bike carrier onto my car. It was pitch black and cold when we arrived. The cottage was ready and waiting for us, with the fire lit, the heating and lights on too, which was lovely. There was a tea tray with ground coffee and fresh milk in the fridge ready for us, and a bunch of fresh Scilly Isles flowers, such is the attention to detail and quality here.
Downas was an incredibly comfy base. We were able to relax immediately and settle into what would be our home for the week, and set about planning our activities.
The holiday cottages on the Trelowarren estate are mostly set around the restaurant building, and there is a craft centre and nursery adjacent, too. There is a large reception building which leads out to the swimming pool (outdoor, and heated to 28°C, even in the winter), a well-equipped gym and the Spa.
All the facilities you need are close to hand, yet you don’t feel as though you are staying in a sort of holiday village, which we liked. It would be a very safe environment to let children play and have some independence. Indeed, the Vyvyans have five children of their own, so are very family orientated.
The New Yard Restaurant at Trelowarren is excellent, and has been voted one of the top three restaurants in Cornwall by the Good Food Guide 2013. It opens throughout the day serving modern British food, sourcing all ingredients very locally. Olly Jackson, Head Chef at New Yard prides himself on sourcing all meat, fish and cheese very locally and information about the suppliers is readily available. Other ingredients, such as game, eggs and herbs come from the estate, as do some vegetables and fruit, working in partnership with the Head Gardener at Trelowarren. The menu changes regularly, working with the best of local and seasonal produce. It is also exceptionally good value for the quality of cooking and so worth a stop if you are in the area, as it is open to non-residents every day, too. We thoroughly enjoyed our meals at New Yard, in particular the fresh fish, which was beautifully cooked. We did feel exceptionally lucky to have this on our doorstep during our stay. The pizzas at the pizza pop up are very good, too. Thin, crispy, interesting toppings and good value – a must if you are staying.
I was lucky enough to fit in a treatment at the Trelowarren Spa during our stay. Oh my, it was wonderful. I had a full body wrap using organic Cornish products made by Spiezia. The Spa is such a peaceful place to unwind, without the hustle and bustle of many salons, and Kim, my therapist was absolutely lovely – I could have chatted to her all day long. My skin felt absolutely amazing after my treatment and I’d definitely recommend at least one trip there!
We discovered some great local food producers and shops on the Lizard which were well worth a visit for stocking up on goodies if self-catering, or to take home for presents, as we did!
Roskilly’s Farm – home to the famous Cornish ice cream. They have a farm shop selling lots of goodies including homemade fudge. Best for ice cream, obviously, and very nice milk and cream. Appeared to be very family friendly if you have small children.
Retallack’s in Lizard sells very nice meats and cheeses. We brought home some Cornish Brie, Yarg and Cornish Blue from here to add to our Christmas cheeseboard – all of which were utterly delicious.
Ann’s Pasties in Lizard is a must. You can’t miss it – Ann sells her pasties from her home (painted bright yellow). Excellent steak pasties and Ann so kindly offered to make Tony a gluten free one especially.
Gear Farm – excellent for pasties and cakes and just a few miles from Trelowarren. David, the owner is absolutely lovely and extremely helpful. Stop by at Spiezia here too, the team are such a delightful bunch of ladies and the products are amazing.
Mawgan stores – the local village shop at Mawgan – the nearest village to Trelowarren. They stock an excellent range of fresh and storecupboard ingredients, many of which are very local and well-priced.
There are also several people who sell eggs and honey from their gates – we picked up some lovely bits and pieces and would encourage you to stop and have a look too.
If you like art we’d recommend the following places to visit:
Situated on Porthmeor beach at St.Ives, the Tate displays around 4 rooms of British and international contemporary and modern art. The current exhibition divided opinion between Tony and I, but still was an interesting trip. Look out for the Patrick Heron glass window as you enter.
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
Being an ardent admirer of Hepworth’s work, I didn’t want to miss the sculpture garden. It didn’t disappoint. It was utterly magical. Tony on the other hand arrived a sceptic and left entranced. So much of her studio is preserved just as it was – it is a joy to see.
If you are interested in Cornish art, head here to catch a glimpse of a wonderful collection of work from the Newlyn School of artists.
Walks on the Lizard we enjoyed (bearing in mind it was December, soggy underfoot and short daylight hours!)
Lizard Point – we walked along the coast past Polpeor Cove, Polbream Cove and up to the lighthouse. Although it’s dangerous, we walked down to the disused Lifeboat launch, which was very dramatic.
Kynance Cove – very touristy, but worth a look. Park in the National Trust carpark and walk up the cliffs to take in the view
Mullion Harbour and Million Cliff – the harbour is worth a look – we walked right out and climbed up the harbour wall to watch the waves crashing beyond. Very dramatic in winter (quite dangerous though, please be careful)
Cadgwith Cove – we walked along to the cove and to the Devil’s Frying-pan
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Sir Ferrers and Lady Victoria Vyvyan for having us to stay and looking after us so well.