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Renting a Cottage in Cornwall.  Looking at the map placed deliberately on the dining room table it seemed simple enough to plan a trip for three generations. We decided to go to Cornwall and to rent a quaint "country" cottage.
I thought it was time to introduce the little ones to something not made by Disney. Although it started out as five adults it boiled down to three adults and four kids. We had selected our country cottage after much discussion. Our main requirements: off the beaten path, seaside with a view, within walking distance of a village, near a castle, childsafe and with room enough for three generations. We got it all – and more.

Once we arrive in England we picked up our rental car and pulled out the maps. Our destination was the doorstep of our "country cottage". A word of advice: distances on maps in England can be misleading. Cornwall isn’t right outside of London, and we had quite the drive ahead of us. Fortunately, the countryside is pleasantly pastoral and the scenery is spotted with lovely castles and manor houses with stone towers scraping the surprisingly blue sky.

We stopped for supplies in Plymouth - everyone had fun reading labels. Grocery stores in foreign countries are terrific entertainment. I found storybooks to purchase for our journey and spent time in the cookie aisle with the grandkids. We selected six new types of cookies to sample and managed to checkout unhindered by sweet tooth rules.

Refueling at the gas station (known locally as a petrol station) in Plymouth was an experience. When we rented the auto we did not ask how to put the fuel into the vehicle. It took four locals 20 minutes to figure out how to open the lid to the gas tank. All the time they were looking, they were quizzing us about our reasons for going to Cornwall and giving advice. "Just remember those coming down have the right-of-way," confided a retired fisherman through an almost-toothless smile. Over his shoulder and in the distance I could see miles of rolling hills. England seemed a lot hillier than I had remembered.

As we pulled out of the station, I knew that the easy motoring on a divided highway was about to end. With the magnifying glass in hand, we located the first thin black line off the divided highway. The next phase was an even thinner gray line. The sun was sinking off the Cornish Coast as we stopped for the third time to confirm directions. Going through round-abouts is easy but confusing.

I know now that if you need to travel on one of those tiny "hairlines" that can only be seen with the use of a magnifying glass, it is best to do so during daylight hours. As the sun touched the rim of the moor, the road narrowed. Soon the ivy covering the stone walls was brushing the side of our van. With the windows open we could smell the moss. Castle Games near Fowey in CornwallTree branches brushed the top of the van. From nearby sheep were bleating but the darkness obstructed our view of them. From my vantage point on the middle seat the road looked impassable yet we glided on. The grandkids were giddy knowing we were near the sea. I kept wondering if anyone else used this lane and would we meet them head on before long?

We drove right past our designated parking space, and a sharp right turn put us on Battery Lane. Window light bounced off the side panels and curtains rustled as we passed. The lane ended without notice and a U-turn was out of the question. It was obvious that autos do not normally use the lane. Slowly we opened the side doors and the children piled out. I learned later that our late night arrival caused quite a commotion!

"This is like staying in a secret hideaway," chattered the children. "No one will find us here. Turn off the flashlight. See the stars," one of them continued. Dropping duffel bags at the door, their conversation became more excited. "What’s that sound? I smell the ocean. I mean, I hear it," they shouted to one another. There was a pause and then a unified cry of happiness; "We found it!"

The next day, while acclimating to the village, we met our neighbors and found out that our arrival had been an event watched with much curiosity. "Generally folks arrive in time for tea," explained Mrs. McQuwen, the lady at the top of the lane. We learned that Mr. Stubbles, the car-park attendant, had been expecting us – long before sunset. "Even locals don’t do much driving around here at night," he explained to us.

We spent a week enjoying our own harbor-watch. Each day began with us in the breakfast nook watching the fog lift as the foot-ferry began its predictable schedule. Happily we watched the tide approach our well-fortified deck, and enjoyed the sounds and smells of the sea. We monitored the channel traffic and watched seagulls.

Most mornings when the foot-ferry from Fowey on the other side of the harbor was spotted, the kids were off to meet it. After one round-trip on the foot-ferry, our life history had been reviewed with the captain. He in turn gave the children Cornish rules to live by and insider tips on the best place to get licorice. All of the bakeries in the area have Cornish pastries, each one with its own special recipe. The brown bread choices are plentiful and for us, each sampling seemed better than the last.

Our junket took 1,455 kilometers and all of it completed as grandchildren watched from the back seat. This alone prompts some people to think twice about a do-it-yourself fly/drive vacation (or as the Brits say, go-your-own-way holiday). There is no need to worry every family has at least one person who knows right from left and really that is all it takes.

Notes on Cornwall: Phone Booth Fun in Cornwall near Fowey.Getting away from London provides for a totally different English experience. But where to stay? We chose Cornwall because of the stories about Camelot and because the coastline is truly dramatic. But we have also stayed in the Midlands; it was Robin Hood that time. Now interests have turned to Jane Austin as well as Mr. Shakespeare, so we have things to reconsider. The following resources will help in your search for the perfect family holiday. More details at

Favorite Eating Places

Polruan Bakery.
While we took a self-catering cottage, we still decided to eat out more than once. Almost each day the children walked down the lane to the Polruan Bakery. Kid's note: It was just the best because after two days the nice ladies even remembered what we liked.

Penhallow Bistro & Tea Room. Just the best whether you eat in or take out. The desserts are outrageous. Try "Death by Chocolate."
Family Vacation Planning Details
Start at Visit Britain for an overview. They have segmented options so most are able to focus on an area. If you have teens ask for the Movie Map, and if you have book worms checkout  the Literary Britain section. 
Where to find a rental agent? - I like this site because of the rent band chart. - We met a family from Australia who had rented "Nessa Cottage" on the moors north of Tintagel. When we were in Tintagel we saw the one called "Merlin's Roost." Because we like the cliffs and treeless area around Tintagel we would place it high on the list of great places for families.
Places we loved.

Pendennis Castle. This was one of our day trips. King Henry VIII built this castle as part of his coastal defense plan. They have events all summer long. On the day we were there costumed actors were conducting tours and providing history vignettes. Outside there were more costumed people dressed in period costumes. They were part of a living history encampment right in the heart of Falmouth.

Tintagel Castle. Another day trip took us to Tintagel Castle. The location of the grounds and castle ruins is beautiful. The children had difficulty imagining the castle. We saw it in a rainstorm but it was worth the climb. At low tide the legendary cave of Merlin is accessible by following a steep trail down to the sea. We enjoyed the town and would definitely return to the area to follow the pathways that lead from town.

Stonehenge. Designated a World Heritage Site it has been around for more than 5000 years. Even though it was crowded the well-scripted audio tours made the crowds almost disappear.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
This is the place to view more than 800 years of British Naval history in one day. Ships include: The Mary Rose, Henry VIII's warship; the HMS Warrior, Victoria's best vessel; HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship.
Written by a FamilyTravel Files grandmother based on a three-generation family trip. Updated copyright 2016.
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