Cornwall with kids

Cornwall_2012_017I am writing this at home, on a rainy Sunday afternoon. A good moment to write about rainy travel experiences. For me personally, weather has never been a primary concern when making travel choices. My main drivers are curiosity for unknown places and a desire to stay off the beaten track as much as possible. One of my bucket list destinations was Cornwall, in southwest England. In 2012 we decided to make Southern England our family summer vacation destination, starting with a week in Cornwall, exploring kid-friendly and adventurous sights. Despite the weather, it turned out to be a great outdoors family experience. Let me take you on a virtual tour below, listing our top-4 family attractions. Best watched on a rainy day…

Our trip starts with a ferry ride from Hoek van Holland to Harwich, on good old Stena Line. They had a good offer to take our car and caravan across the North Sea for not too much, saving us a long drive via France. A very comfortable way to start a UK holiday. Ferries are great for kids, so our family vacation started on board!!

Our trip starts with a 7-hour ferry ride from Hoek van Holland to Harwich on Stena Line. They had a good offer to take our car and caravan across the North Sea, saving us a long drive via France. A very comfortable way to start a UK holiday. Ferries are great for kids, so our family vacation started on board!

From Harwich it is a full day drive to the opposite end of England. Along the way the weather deteriorated. In a way this picture of a beautiful, but wet flower symbolizes our Cornwall experience...

From the port of Harwich it is a full day drive to the opposite end of England. Along the way weather deteriorated. In a way this picture of a beautiful, but wet Cornish flower symbolizes our Cornwall experience…

#1 – The Eden Project

We stay at a campsite near St. Austell, which is a short drive from the famous Eden Project.

We stay at a campsite near St. Austell, which is a short drive from the famous Eden Project. A good all-weather destination!

The Eden Project is a great example of blowing new life into an old site. It is built in an exhausted China clay pit, typical for the south of Cornwall, in an attempt to convert the empty muddy excavation site into a rich biosphere. The heart of the complex is formed by several so-called biomes: huge transparent domes that house thousands of plants and small animal species, reflecting the rich mix of biospheres of our planet. Even on the rainy day of our visit we can take off our jackets and walk through the hot and humid Asian jungle, complete with insects and local villages. Another dome has a dry semi-desert climate, featuring the plantlife of the Mexican Pacific Coast, complete with a Mexican style cafe. In between the regions of the world, many artists have been given a place for their work, together telling the story of life on Earth and the threat that humans sometimes pose to it.

One of the coolest features of the jungle-dome is this canopy path, leading to a platform all the way in the top of the dome, giving a great view on the jungle deep beneath. Not for the faint of heart!

One of the coolest features of the jungle-dome is this suspended canopy path, leading to a platform all the way at the top of the dome, providing a great view on the jungle deep beneath. Not for the faint of heart!

The view from the suspended platform is great.

The view from the suspended platform is great.

A nice Mediterranean climate year-round in the second dome.

A nice Mediterranean climate, year-round in the second dome.

The old clay pit surrounding the biomes are turned into a lush park with local plant species. A great example of how to turn a barren landscape into a major green experience, attracting thousands of visitors.

The old clay pit surrounding the biomes have been turned into a lush park, featuring local plant species. A great example of how to turn a barren landscape into a wonderful green experience, attracting thousands of visitors. Highly recommended!

Not just plants are an attraction here. The 'recycle' art is very surprising. Even the kids liked it!

Not just plants are an attraction here. The ‘recycle’ art is very surprising. Even the kids liked it!

#2 – South West Coast Path and Land’s End

The 'Pentewan Sands' campsite in Pentewan is beautifully located right on the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately the weather is typically British.

The ‘Pentewan Sands’ Holiday Park in Pentewan is beautifully located right on the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately the weather is typically British during almost our entire stay.

The campsite is right on the famous 630-mile South West Coast Path. This long distance walking path follows the entire Cornwall and Devon coast and offers spectacular views on the ocean, regardless of weather.

The campsite is right on the famous 630-mile South West Coast Path. This long distance walking path follows the entire Cornwall and Devon coast and offers spectacular views on the ocean, regardless of weather.

In a way this weather makes the landscape even more magical. Britain at its best.

In a way this weather makes the landscape even more magical. Britain at its best!

One of the most spectacular stretches of the South West Coast Path leads along Land's End. Instead of driving to the touristy Land's End itself, you can go to nearby Sennen Cove and walk a few kilometers to Land's End/

One of the most spectacular stretches of the South West Coast Path leads along Land’s End. Instead of driving to the touristy Land’s End itself, you can go to nearby Sennen Cove and walk a few kilometers to Land’s End.

This shipwreck lies in a spectacular deep cove beneath the cliffs, between Sennen Cove and Land's End.

This shipwreck lies in a spectacular deep cove beneath the cliffs, between Sennen Cove and Land’s End.

Land's End itself is a bit tacky and touristy, but offers great views. The paths beyond Land's End have even better views.

Land’s End itself is a bit tacky and touristy, but offers great views. The paths beyond Land’s End have even better views.

#3 – Goonhilly Earth Station

Cornwall has a famous attraction for spacegeeks like me. Unfortunately it is closed for visitors until further notice, but we got a special tour.

Cornwall has a famous attraction for spacegeeks like me. Unfortunately Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station is closed for visitors until further notice, but we got a special tour.

First operational 11 June 1962, the Goonhilly 1 Antenna is possibly the most famous satellite dish in the  world. Built in 1961-1962 to receive the first trans-Atlantic pictures from Telstar 1.

First operational on 11 June 1962, the Goonhilly 1 Antenna is possibly the most famous satellite dish in the world. Built in 1961-1962 to receive the first live trans-Atlantic television pictures from the Telstar 1 satellite. The live broadcast of the Moon landing was transmitted from Houston to Europe through this very dish!

#4 – Tintagel Castle (King Arthur’s Castle)

The rugged north coast of Cornwall has a very special attraction. It is the alledged site of King Arthur's Castle. True or not, Tintagel Castle is one of the most spectacular castle ruins in the world.

The rugged north coast of Cornwall has a very special attraction. It is the alledged site of King Arthur’s Castle. True or not, Tintagel Castle is one of the most spectacular castle ruins in the world.

Perched on a cliff-faced peninsula on the rocky coast, this castle offered superb defense against intruders from all sides. Despite the modern infrastructure, it still requires some stamina to get into the ruins.

Perched on a cliff-faced peninsula on the rocky coast, this now mostly ruined castle offered superb defense against intruders from all sides. Despite the modern infrastructure, it still requires some stamina to get into the ruins.

Spectacular views from all sides! All kids will love to explore the mysterious history of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table when visiting Tintagel.

Spectacular views from all sides! Any kid will love to explore the mysterious history of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table when visiting Tintagel.

The beach at the small inlet beneath the castle is home to several 'secret' caves...

The beach at the small inlet beneath the castle is home to several ‘secret’ caves…

These caves are carved out by the ocean and make a challenging playground for kids. Bring sturdy boots!

These magical ‘Merlin’ caves are carved out by the ocean and make a challenging playground for kids. Bring sturdy boots!

The rainy season causes many waterfalls to come off the cliffs. Great for pictures!

The rainy season causes many waterfalls to come off the cliffs. Great for pictures!

Practical information: Cornwall is the southwest part of the UK. Easily reached by car, coach or train from all parts of the UK. From London it is an easy 5 to 6 hour drive. A car is the most convenient mode of transport to get around between the different sites, but there is good public transport available too. We stayed at the Pentewan Sands Holiday Park, located near St. Austell. This park is located on the beach in the small village of Pentewan and offers caravan pitches as well as holiday caravan rentals. In case of bad weather it has a good kid-friendly heated indoor swimming pool. Many other accommodation types are available all over Cornwall, ranging from 4 and 5-star hotels in the main towns, to small, typical Cornish B&B’s in almost all villages. Check the official Cornwall Tourist Board site for all options. We travelled in July 2012, which was a very rainy and cool summer period.

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