coast editor-in-chief Alex Fisher explores this lesser-known seaside town on the north coast of Cornwall and discovers a quiet hideaway offering great food and a stunning landscape
The sky is ice-blue and the winter sun sparkles off the Atlantic Ocean. As my gentle stead navigates these sheltered green valleys peppered with the now elegant ruins of the mining industry that once ruled the fortunes of this region, I sense the timelessness of this blissful experience. Many fans of Poldark have visited Cornwall to see the landscape that the show has made world-famous, and there is no better way to do this than on horseback. All I need now is for Aiden Turner to gallop past, cloak flying behind him and I will be replete.
Cornwall is endlessly beautiful, but as many of you know, it can be busy. So, I love to explore the towns that are off the most popular tourist routes, where I can still find a stunning beach and a great pub without having to spend hours queueing to park. Once one of Cornwall’s busiest ports, exporting copper and importing Welsh coal, Portreath (meaning sandy cove) is now popular with surfers and families as a relaxed holiday destination with a down-to-earth feel. However, with a wide expanse of sandy beach, dramatic clifftop walks and nearby Tehidy Country Park, it offers a wealth of activities for a perfect break any time of year.
2PM POOL PARTY
The kids have been in the car for six hours; they are grumpy, sticky and bored. I’m relieved when we arrive at Gwel an Mor , the five star resort where we’ll be spending the weekend. We’re too early to check into our eco-lodge, which I’m glad to know has an eco-home rating of 'excellent', having been designed for energy efficiency, so we head to the pool. Here the kids let off steam and I sneak off for a steam and a sauna after my long drive. Instantly we feel like we are on holiday and our 6 am start seems like distant history. If you book in advance, there are sea scooters, body zorbs and snorkelling sessions in the pool.
6PM SUPPER ON THE TERRACE
Having explored the grounds and luxuriated in our very own hot tub on the deck of these pretty lodges, we walk to The Terrace, the onsite bistro at Gwel an Mor, for supper. Here, we giggle as we play the games left on the tables for customers to use, as the helpful staff take our order for Cornish fishcakes, slow-cooked belly pork and Cornish fish and chips ( prices from around £10 for mains). The games are a great idea and bridge the gap that can often be felt when dining with teenagers. Book a table at The Terrace through the main reception and find their current menu at gwelanmor.com.
9AM A SPA TREAT
I’m stiff from the long drive, so I leave the teenagers in bed and head to the onsite spa to try the treatment of the month: a 60 minute treat, which includes a back massage with warm oil, hot stone neck, shoulders and foot massage and a radiance boosting facial. As soon as I step into Wellbeing Spa and the welcoming therapist smiles at me, I relax. The treatment surpasses all expectations and I drift back to our accommodation ready for an active day. Bookings for the Wellbeing Spa can be made at the Gwel An Mor reception and more details can be found at gwelanmor.com.
11AM A STEP BACK IN TIME
Sitting on a horse just makes me smile, and when the sun shines, that makes me even happier, so as the clouds part to reveal blue sky I am overjoyed. We’re heading off for a hack with the Wheal Buller Riding School and I can see the glimmer of the sea in the distance. On summer hacks the school takes the horse and rider swimming through a lake, but today we will weave our way between the ruins of the copper mines, discovering the history of the region in the mode of transport that was most common at the time. The landscape is breath-taking and the friendly staff make everyone feel comfortable and confident (01209 211852, cornishridingholidays.co.uk).
2.30PM A COASTAL WALK
After lunch back at the eco-lodge we stroll down to Portreath Beach through the wooded, riverside path that runs from Gwel an Mor into the town. Here, the tide is out on the broad expanse of sand and we explore the caves to the left of the beach, venturing up the South West Coast path to get a panoramic view of the town from this clifftop eyrie.
6PM A SLAP-UP SUPPER
Before heading back up the hill we stop at the Portreath Arms to eat. This recently renovated pub with rooms offers relaxed dining and a friendly bar with a garden. As well as various pub classics, such as beer battered cod and chips and homemade burgers, they offer a sophisticated menu of local fish and seafood. We plump for Thai green local Mussels served with warm bread at £14 for a huge portion, fillet of hake with samphire at £15 and fresh pea and mint risotto with a parmesan crisp at £10. They clearly have an experienced chef with a real passion for food and favour as everything they serve is sublime. The teenagers are able to squeeze in treacle pudding, homemade and gluten-free, which is not shared with any nearby adults (01209 842259, Portreath Arms).
9AM WOODLAND CYCLE
It’s up bright and early to explore nearby Tehidy Country Park. Last night mountain bikes were delivered to our lodge by local bike hire company, The Hub Portreath (thehubportreath.com, 07557 232037) and we’re keen to use them. From Gwel an Mor we take the cycle path to the forest, just a few minutes away. It’s great to venture out without having to use the car, and we trail through the woods following the colour coded paths without passing a single person. Having exhausted ourselves, we wheel down to the lake at the centre of the park, stop to admire the elegant swans, and head to the café for coffee and sandwiches. If you are visiting the area over Christmas, look up Rogue Theatre, who put on dazzling performances here in the holiday season (Rogue Theatre, 01726 879500, roguetheatre.co.uk).
1.30PM UP THE WALLS
We’ve booked a session on the climbing wall for the afternoon at the Go Active centre adjoining Gwel an Mor. As well as an extensive indoor soft play area, there’s a Clip N’ Climb wall, archery and fencing. It’s a great place for kids with energy to burn, and they scoot up and down the walls Spiderman style. To book Go Active sessions call 01209 844164.
3PM WILDLIFE ENCOUNTER
The onsite wildlife centre, Feadon Farm, offers a range of experiences to suit all ages, from Find the Gruffalo for littles ones, to midnight badger watching for adventurous older kids (children must be accompanied by adults). With foxes, goats, birds of prey and reindeer, the farm is fantastic addition to the park, and if you are visiting at Christmas, this is where you will find Santa’s Grotto, where, to be honest, the reindeer really are the stars of the show. To book activities at Feadon Farm use the main Gwel an Mor reception number and website.
I think I may have actually worn the kids out, so we spend the evening snuggled up in the lodge, with the wood fire burning, watching a movie.
10AM GOLF BEFORE WE GO HOME
We’ve checked out of our eco-lodge and have a long drive ahead, so I want to make the most of the morning before we head off. Time for a round of golf? Nothing wrong with a bit of exercise and fresh air before getting back in the car. One of the nice things about the golf course at Gwel an Mor is that it’s welcoming to all. We don’t have to join a club, we just book. Those who want a little tuition can book a coaching session with Golf Pro, Jonathan Lamb, followed by a two hour golf experience, for just £30pp, but we just have a go ourselves. It’s a step up from the crazy golf courses I’ve done before… but great fun. Suitable for ages 8+. To book, call 01209 842354.
NEED TO KNOW
coast stayed at Landal Gwel an Mor 5 Star Resort.
The eco-lodges sleep six and prices start from £639 for a long weekend or four day mid-week break. Christmas breaks and New Year breaks cost £1,915 for the eco-lodge sleeping 6. The resort also has assisted living lodges assessed as M3 by the National Accessible Scheme by Visit Britain. (gwelanmor.com, 01209 842354). The new Lakeside Lodges, sleeping 2, start at £105 a night.
As well as Santa’s Grotto, the festive season at Gwel an Mor kicks off with a Christmas Fayre featuring local craft and food producers, on 24 and 25 November.
HOW TO GET THERE
Nearby Redruth has a mainline train station. Alternatively, once in Cornwall head for the A30 then follow signs for Portreath. Gwel an Mor Resort sits just above the town, before you arrive at Tehidy Countryside Park. Landal Gwel an Mor 5 Star Resort, Feadon Lane, Portreath TR16 4PE
There’s a friendly community in Portreath who want to look after their beach and town. To access them look out for the hashtag #LovePortreath