From breakfasts with seals to steam trains, why Cornwall is the perfect family staycation | The Sun

MY five year old, Molly, is clutching a mackerel head, its eyes bulging, its detached neck bloody.

But she’s grinning – thrilled to be feeding her favourite seal, Yulelogs, his breakfast.

It’s been raining since we arrived, but there has been no moaning – which is a miracle, not least as our private tour of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary lasts two hours.

Normally, we’d be met with cries of, “It’s boring! I want to go home!”, but the seals, sea lions and penguins, plus the panoramic view over the unspoilt Helford River, have cast a spell over all of us.

The sanctuary in Gweek on Cornwall’s southern coast rescues and rehabilitates the animals, and the staff’s dedication is inspiring. 

After feeding the animals, it’s time for breakfast ourselves and we tuck into croissants, yoghurt, fruit and coffee, all while keeping an eye on Diego, the colossal sea lion.


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Molly and Elliott, eight, continue to debate who their favourite sea creature is for weeks to come. Mine? Diego, obviously.

Breakfast with the seals costs £50 per person, general entry costs £17.99 per adult and £14.99 for kids (

Barn to do it

Retallack Resort & Spa is pretty much in the middle of Cornwall, making it a great base.

Its stunning new scorched-black barns sleep six, have total Scandi vibes and overlook a lake where mallards race up and down.

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I loved the stylish Scandanavaian design of the rooms at Retallack Resort
At Retallack Resort & Spa you’ll find luxe-hotel-esque bedrooms and a stylish kitchen

Inside, you’ll find luxe-hotel-esque bedrooms, fluffy robes, rainforest showers and a stylish kitchen.

The next morning, we wander down to the swimming pool, where I hit the steam room and Elliott and my husband Mark try Cornwall’s only FlowRider, which pumps out gallons of water to create a wave to surf on.

The instructor is the most enthusiastic man I’ve ever encountered and makes the experience joyful, despite it being absolutely freezing.

Elliott manages to kneel on the board, much to his elation.

Mark stands up and everyone cheers – I haven’t seen them this happy for yonks!

That night, we head 15 minutes’ drive towards the north coast and The Cornish Arms, a gastropub owned by Rick Stein.

The Pondicherry cod curry with basmati rice, £19.95, is a fresh twist on the usual coastal fare, while I inhale the passion fruit pavlova, £7.95, for pudding (

Garden of eden

I grew up in Cornwall, so you’d think I’d have had my fill of the Eden Project – but the sight of the massive biomes never ceases to amaze me.

Taking the kids trekking through the sweat-inducing rainforest sparks chat about the importance of looking after nature, and Molly defeats her fear of heights to climb the steps up to the platform overlooking the canopy and indoor waterfall.

As it’s the school holidays, a local artist is leading an illustration lesson, and Elliott races to join in.

Entry costs from £33 per adult and £11 per child and you can visit as many times as you want in a 12-month period (

A short drive from Retallack is St Kew Inn, which is so isolated that the night sky is lit up with stars in a way my city kids don’t usually see.

Inside, a roaring fire warms us as we devour treats like Thai-style Porthilly mussels with sea radish, coriander, fries and sourdough, £19, followed by burnt cheesecake with rhubarb, £9 (

Lapping it up

You’re spoiled for days out here, but a must-do is nearby Lappa Valley, which sits on the site of an old lead and silver mine.

The children immediately spy the enormous swan pedalos on the lake before making a beeline for The Engine Shed, home to a giant soft play.

As Mark and I tuck into nourishing leek and potato soup, £6.95, at the cafe, they play happily.

There are three railway lines, including steam trains, in the 35-acre park – our favourite is the miniature Woodland Railway, where the kids spot squirrels, rabbits and a pheasant.

Entry costs £15.95 per adult and £13.95 for kids ( After a run around in the huge outdoor playground, we manage to drag the children away for an afternoon at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, with its 200 acres to explore.

They are goggle-eyed at the tropical gardens and we spot giant rhubarb, banana plants and enormous tree ferns, before all taking a deep breath to walk across one of Britain’s longest Burmese rope bridges, stretching 100 feet above the jungle floor.

Entry costs £22.50 per adult and £9.50 for kids (

Thoroughly exhausted, we bundle into Sam’s Fowey for dinner in a gorgeous 13th-century building in the heart of the fishing village, where they cook fish caught from their boat, The Emperor.

The Thai red mullet with coriander and chilli pesto, £17, is a real treat, and the kids wolf down Samburgers, £7 each.

We finish with apricot and Cointreau bread and butter pudding with clotted cream, £7.50, as the kids dig into mini brownies with ice cream, £4.75 ( 

Afterwards, we roll out to the seafront just a minute away and gaze across to the glittering lights of Polruan on the other side of the water. 

Cornwall is magic, we’re all agreed.  


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Barns at Retallack Resort & Spa sleeping up  to six people cost from £992 a week, (

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