Earlier this year I stayed in a five-star eco-cottage on Merlin Farm in Cornwall, just a short journey from my hometown in Devon. Merlin Farm offers a comfortable but eco-friendly experience, with many green credentials including recycling and compost facilities on site, electricity generated by their own solar panels, and highly efficient insulation and underfloor heating, which makes for a warm and comfortable stay. I particularly loved the beautiful high windows in the living room, which meant that it was drenched in sunlight by morning, and the presence of a woodburner and logs for chilly evenings (although we didn’t use them because the cottage was well-heated during our entire stay, I do love a nice woodburner!). Directly opposite the cottages is a small play area for children, and a field that is home to friendly horses and a donkey. There is also a henhouse a short distance away and we saw the hens roaming this area during the day. The children fed the hens and we all had great fun petting the horses and donkey and feeding them carrots. We awoke every day to a sun-filled room and a view of the Cornish countryside which literally could not be greener, teeming with glorious hills and a forest. It was truly lush to wake up to and one of our most memorable holiday experiences as a family.
How to get there
Merlin Farm is located in North Cornwall, but sadly it’s inaccessible by public transport. However, this only adds to the holiday feel of the farm as it’s so secluded, and once you’re there it’s easy to ditch the car and get around by foot or bike. The directions on the website are very clear, however we did manage to get lost on the way there, and despite being hours later than we’d meant to arrive the owners were happy to chat to us on the phone to help us find our way. Once we found the farm the parking was right around the corner from the cottage, which made unpacking quick and easy, and when we arrived the cottage was lovely and warm as the owners knew we’d be arriving. It was also very chic to look at, while being incredibly spacious, which was a bit of a surprise! We found tea supplies laid out for us and some food for the hens which really excited my daughters! The key was left on location for our arrival, which meant no fussing around with paperwork and so on after a journey with children, for which I was very grateful! Also, there was information for local takeaways that deliver to this remote location, so we were able to order dinner right away and it was brought right to our doorstep – I felt spoilt by how easy all of this was!
A personal touch
For me, staying somewhere that is child-friendly and low impact adds to the unwinding experience of a holiday. Merlin Farm has an excellent Green Policy on their website, so I didn’t feel guilty about anything – the animals are clearly well-treated, the area is looked after, the cottages are not wasteful. Farm owners Lucy and Darrel could not have been more welcoming, although they also never interfered – they left us in complete privacy for the trip, but were there if we wanted to chat to them. I bumped into Darrel the following morning in the car park and recycling area, and Lucy sent me a kind offer via text message to let my children groom the donkeys while we were there. Although the cottages are based next to one another in a row, we didn’t see any of the other guests, but it was also nice to know that other people were near by.
Staying somewhere that is truly child-friendly made it so easy to relax – there was even a big box of toys and books in the living room, as well as a cot bed in the upstairs room. Having experienced this now, I don’t think I will ever consider staying anywhere that does not cater to families and children in this way! It makes such a difference to the experience, and is really how all family holidays should be: equipped to accommodate for children.
Things to do
It’s surprising how much there is on offer in this remote Cornish location. Nearby is Mawgan Porth, which can be accessed via a private path from the farm down to the beach. This beach has won awards for its beauty, and there are a few gift shops and places to eat opposite it, including a fish and chip shop. The beach is teeming with life thanks to small streams that pepper the sand, which create rockpool-like environments. We found Velella Vellela across the beach, a type of harmless jellyfish that intrigued the children thanks to its colours: some are a radiant deep blue hue, while others are completely transparent. We also found sandworms and a large crab! So, on the first day we didn’t venture far but spent the whole day there and had chips for dinner. The second day we decided to explore the beach more so we walked across it, where we found small caves for the children to explore, and a real waterfall! I may have travelled around the world but I’d never seen a natural waterfall on a beach before this: it was a magical moment for all of us, and we all got happily wet splashing in the flow of the fall.
We spent three nights in the cottage and after we put the children to bed in the comfortable beds (which had black-out blinds so they slept in, thank goodness!) åÊI had a rather luxurious bath with waterfall-style taps in the cottage. Then we snuck outside for a spot of stargazing, a breathtaking experience anywhere but I must admit to usually feeling the chill when I do it! However Merlin Farms have thought of this too, and provided outdoor heating for just outside the cottage. The area is part of the Dark Skies initiative which makes it a great spot for stargazing, as there is so little light pollution, and we weren’t disappointed. In fact, if you have children and want to take up stargazing, I can’t imagine a better route into it, as you’re still near them while they sleep, but you also won’t get cold from sitting out in the middle of nowhere in order to avoid light pollution (something I have done many times!).
Merlin Farm offers something for everyone, and could not be more accommodating. The cottage we stayed in was pet-free, which was great for my youngest who has allergies. However they also offer dog-friendly accommodation, compost dog poo on site, and the local beaches also allow dogs. We were so happy with Mawgan Porth that we didn’t venture further out, but there are five beaches within five miles of Merlin Farm, and a wide range of activities for parents including massages and a spa! There is also a babysitting service, which we did not use, but helped to add to the feeling of being pampered. I had no idea that staying somewhere with children could be so relaxing and easy. They may already offer five stars for accommodation, but they get five stars from us for being so generally wonderful as well.
Find out more – http://www.merlin-farm-cottages-cornwall.co.uk
Zion Lights is the Contributing Editor of JUNO. www.zionlights.co.uk