A few weeks ago we stayed at Henry’s campsite on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. It’s taken me a while to write up the review, but I think that just reflects the laid back and relaxed vibe of the site (for holidaymakers at least, the owners work hard).
I’m a Trip Advisor junkie and like to check out places before we visit so as usual I read up in advance of our trip. The word most often used to describe Henry’s campsite in the reviews was ‘quirky’. Now that we’ve visited I agree it is definitely the best description of the site.
The campsite is located on the edge of Lizard village in Cornwall. The village isn’t much to write home about but it was handy to have the local amenities, including an excellent fish and chip shop just a short walk away. However the Lizard peninsula is a fantastic part of the country to visit and there’s lots to do in the area, including some great coastal walks straight from the campsite.
Our pitch was great. Located on a small flat terrace it was surrounded by shrubs which offered some privacy. The campsite is full of these type of pitches; hidden amongst sub-tropical plants with flowers spouting out of walls. We had a view of the sea from our pitch and were treated to a couple of great sunsets.
There’s lots of artistic touches around the site. I particularly liked the wooden seagulls and the bench and seats. There are sculptures hidden in little nooks and crannies and murals on the toilet buildings. There’s lots of recycling in evidence, many items appear to be made from something else.
Free wi-fi is available near the reception and shop area but I felt a little guilty using it; it’s definitely the kind of site where you should abandon all technology.
The campsite shop was legendary. Whilst it was only small it was one of the best stocked camp shops I’ve ever come across and it always seemed to be open. Even better, you could buy items individually. One marshmallow toasting stick for 4p, a peg for 10p, a slice of bacon for 40p or a single egg for 25p. Jugs of Rosie’s cider appeared to be rather popular in the evenings!
The campsite has plenty of animals. Newly hatched ducklings and chicks were in kept in cages up by the shop area, whilst the older ones just wandered around the site. There was a lovely affectionate dog too.
The football field is shared with the alpacas which is a little unfortunate as it meant you couldn’t just send the kids off for a football game; they had to be supervised by adults whilst in the field. It was also home to a couple of Houdini goats who managed to unhook the latch on the gate several times during our stay.
There is a relaxed festival feel to the campsite. During the season they have live music at the fire pit a couple of times a week. It’s undercover which is great if the weather is dodgy. Alternatively you can hire a brazier and light your own camp fire.
The toilets and showers are split across 3 buildings; a couple of them were shack like but they were always clean. The only negative was that they were unisex toilets and showers. Call me a prude but I don’t want to share bathrooms with the opposite sex. If a lady is hogging a washbasin you can jump in to wash your hands quickly, but when it’s a man having a very long wet shave it’s a bit more tricky!
Despite the toilets it’s a great campsite and, whilst it’s not for everyone, I’d happily recommend it to friends who would appreciate its quirky side.
We paid £31 per night for our tent, 2 adults and 2 children. One minor gripe was having to pay an additional 20p for a 2 minute shower. I’d prefer the cost of showers to be included, so much easier than scrabbling around for 20p pieces.
Further details available on Henry’s campsite website.
We recently spent a week at Henry’s campsite on the Lizard Peninsula in southern Cornwall walking the coastal path, exploring beaches and eating cream teas. It’s a fantastic place for a family holiday so, in no particular order, here’s our list of great things to do in the area:
1. Lizard lighthouse
Lizard lighthouse, located at Lizard Point, is the only lighthouse you can climb in Cornwall. The lighthouse is automatically controlled nowadays but still provides an important service to vessels navigating the offshore waters.
We visited the Heritage Centre which is located in the old engine room. This details the role of Trinity House (who run the lighthouse service) as well as providing hands-on exhibits for children and stories about some of the wrecks offshore. The kids enjoyed blowing a fog horn, I’m glad I don’t live nearby!
Whilst the Heritage Centre provides a useful introduction the 40 minute guided tour of the lighthouse is the main event. This was excellent as the guide was informative and knowledgeable. As we climbed up through the lighthouse he talked about how it worked, showed us the bulbs and fail-safe mechanisms and entertained us with interesting snippets. He managed to engage the kids with tales of giant jellyfish and of a great white shark heading to the UK.
The last part of the tour takes you up a steep ladder into the top of the lighthouse. It’s very warm up there, rather like being in a greenhouse on a summer day, so we didn’t stay long. A fantastic experience though and highly recommended.
2. Flower spotting
If you visit in spring or summer you’ll find the hedgerows, verges and coastal path ablaze with flowers. We were treated to displays of sea thrift, campion and foxgloves during our stay.
Living inland my knowledge of coastal flowers is limited so I bought a copy of “Wild flowers of the Lizard” which was useful. It suggests places to spot some of the flowers and is great for identifying the more unusual species.
The kids love geocaching, and they’ll happily head out on a walk if they think there’s the chance of finding treasure. There are quite a few geocaches and trails in the Lizard area, some of which are in popular locations so watch out for muggles (non-geocachers).
The only slight issue was lack of internet access which made it tricky to download the cache details. If you’re reliant on a smartphone geocaching app it’s worth making a note of the location and hint in advance of your visit.
4. Kynance Cove
According to Trip Advisor this is the number 1 place to visit on the Lizard Peninsula. It’s not difficult to see why as the location is stunning. We walked along the coastal path from the Lizard although you can also park in the nearby NT car park. There’s a good value cafe and toilets although no lifeguard cover.
However it is incredibly popular. On the day of our visit you could hardly see the beach due to the number of people on it. It’s best to go at low tide but if you’re looking for solitude you’ll need to visit out of season or perhaps early evening.
5. Walk the coastal path
This was the highlight of our holiday, and we tried to fit a walk in every day. All of the tourist shops have booklets with suggested routes, alternatively pick up an OS map (No 103) and plan your own. There are plenty of inland footpaths which allow you to construct circular walks or you could just do an out and back linear stretch of the coastal path.
Our favourites were the walk from Lizard to Kynance Cove and from Mullion village to Mullion and Poldhu coves.
6. Marconi Centre
This unassuming building on a hill next to Poldhu Cove marks the transmission of the first transatlantic radio signal. Manned by volunteer radio enthusiasts, visitors can watch a short video which tells the story of this historic event and its preceding history.
I learnt that the signal consisted of three dots (the letter S) as it was too difficult to transmit long dashes. My daughter had fun playing with the Morse code machines and received a certificate for tapping her name out. If you’re interested in radio communication this is a great place to visit but even if you’re not it’s worth half an hour of your time.
7. Visit a garden
Giant rhubarb, bamboo groves and native wild flowers nestle alongside each other in the sub-tropical surroundings of Trebah Garden.
The garden spills down a valley to a private beach where you’ll find a small cafe. Along the way you’ll find tree ferns, huge lilies and winding paths to explore.
Trebah has a couple of playgrounds, children’s trails and is dog friendly so an ideal family destination. The kids also enjoyed watching the koi carp in the fish pond.
There are other gardens in the area which are open to the public. Glendurgan Garden is nearby and a good alternative if you’re already a member of the National Trust.
8. Go rock pooling at Kennack Sands
Kennack Sands is near the small village of Kuggar. The beach suffered in the winter storms and much of the sand has been lost. However, visit at low tide and you’ll be rewarded with great rock pooling.
We joined an organised rock pooling session which I’d recommend as the leader identified our finds and told us interesting facts about them. I can now spot a velvet swimming crab by its red eyes and know not to pick them up (or to do so very carefully)! There are a couple of cafés, toilets and a car park next to the beach. If you fancy taking to the waves check out the surf school which operates from the Beach Hut.
9. Eat a pasty
When in Cornwall it’s obligatory to try a pasty. I’m not really a fan (and being vegetarian doesn’t help either) but the rest of the family enjoyed their takeaway lunch from Ann’s Pasties in Lizard village.
I’d hazard a guess that every beach cafe has a pasty offering, just make sure you pick up one of the locally made options.
10. Pebble hunting at Loe Bar
The shingle beach at Loe Bar separates Cornwall’s largest lake (Loe Pool) and the sea. The surrounding area is owned by the NT and if you’re feeling energetic you can take the 6 mile walk around the lake.
Alternatively just relax on the beach. It’s not safe to go in the water here due to dangerous undercurrents and a steeply shelving shoreline but it’s great for pebble hunting away from the edge. We enjoyed the simple pleasure of sorting through lots of smooth round pebbles of varying colours and sizes.
11. Coverack harbour and beach
We visited Coverack on a damp cloudy day and even in less than ideal weather conditions I could see it was a place I’d like to return to. We didn’t spend long here but I’d imagine the beach is great in the sun.
The village has a picturesque harbour area complete with brightly coloured fishing boats so its good for photo buffs too.
12. Eat an ice cream at Roskilly’s
Roskilly’s is an organic farm which makes and sells its own ice cream. You’ll see it in a lot of cafés around the peninsula and you can also visit the ice cream parlour at the farm. It’s a popular outing with young families who can enjoy the farmland walks, pat animals and watch cows being milked.
13. Visit Lizard Point
Just about everyone who visits the Lizard Peninsula makes the trek down to Lizard Point, the most southerly point in the UK.
Take your binoculars as there are usually seals bobbing around in the waters off the Point. Whilst you’re there pop into the NT wildlife watchpoint to find out more about the choughs which inhabit the Lizard cliffs. When you’re finished head over to the cafe for a cream tea; the sun-trap garden has beautiful views.
14. Goonhilly Downs
The satellite dishes of Goonhilly Earth Station can be spotted from afar. It’s used as a centre for controlling satellites and although the visitor centre is currently closed their website indicates it will re-open after refurbishment. In the meantime why not enjoy a walk across the heathland and combine space age technology with Bronze Age archaeology.
15. Mullion Cove
One of my favourite coves. The piers suffered damage in the winter storms so are subject to ongoing repair work. Even so the area surrounding the harbour is beautiful and worth a visit. We walked down to the cove from Mullion village and made a short detour to the small Chocolate Factory en route.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of activities. We didn’t get a chance to experience everything so if you’d like to recommend other places on the Lizard Peninsula please pop them into the comments below.
Opening times for the Lizard Lighthouse vary so check the website before you make a special journey. Adult entrance to the lighthouse and heritage centre costs £7, children are £4 although saver tickets are also available. The lighthouse is not suitable for young children (height restrictions apply) or those with mobility difficulties. If you’re wearing flip flops you’ll also need to change into black plimsolls, evidently a Health and Safety requirement.
The Marconi Centre has limited opening hours. Admission is free but please leave a donation towards upkeep.
The ice cream parlour at Roskilly’s Farm is open daily from 10am-6pm. Milking takes place at 5am and 4.30pm, visitors are welcome at both sessions!
The Lizard and Penrose NT blog is a great resource if you’re interested in conservation events and news across the peninsula. Read updates on the Lizard choughs and check out when the next rockpool ramble is.
Trebah Garden is open every day of the year from 10am. The entrance fee changes according to season, ranging from £4.50 to £9 for standard adult tickets and £1.50 to £3 for standard child tickets.
Following on from our Sidmouth post, day two of our trip to East Devon dawned grey and dismal. We’d known in advance it was going to be a wet one so I’d already decided on a couple of all-weather attractions, Seaton Tramway and Beer Quarry caves.
The Seaton tramway is a narrow gauge tram that runs for 3 miles between Seaton and Colyton. We boarded our bright pink tram in Seaton and were glad that we’d managed to get seats in one of the closed compartments. I felt sorry for a couple who decided to sit in the open part, they looked rather wet and wind blown by the end of the trip. However on a sunny day it must be great to sit up top.
The start of the journey, past the back of Tesco, isn’t particularly scenic but once it gets away from town the views improve. The tram runs along the River Axe estuary and past two reserves, Seaton Marshes and Colyford Common. The reserves have bird hides and look like they’d be a great place to explore further on a dry day. We saw a couple of little egrets whilst passing plus lots of wildfowl.
The journey to Colyton takes about 30 minutes. From the tram terminus it’s a 10 minute walk into the town centre but the rain deterred us. Instead we ate lunch in the Tram Stop cafe and had a look round the gift shop. The trams run every 20 minutes during high season so once we’d finished lunch we only had a short wait for our return trip.
The attraction is expensive for a family so despite being advertised as a wet weather option I’d suggest a visit is best saved for a dry day. The explorer ticket allows you to travel all day on the trams if you wish, and you could make a full day of it by spending time in Colyton or stopping for a drink in the pub at Colyford.
The rain came down even heavier once we’d got off the tramway. I’m sure Seaton is a lovely town on a sunny day but on a wet weekend it was pretty grim so we moved swiftly on to Beer Quarry caves.
Beer quarry caves
We escaped the rain by heading underground into Beer quarry caves. After donning our yellow helmets we joined a guided 1 hour tour which took us through the history of the caves from Roman times up until modern day. The caves are man-made as a result of quarrying Beer stone which is used in cathedrals and churches across the country. The tour focuses on the quarrymen who worked in the caves in dark, noisy and dangerous conditions.
Upon entering there is a small museum area which also showpieces a stone window made from Beer stone. After an introduction the guide took us through the caves and pointed out how the Roman part of the cave is distinguished by its arches. Saxon quarrying resulted in squarer arches, whilst the Norman area had been excavated the most as the stone was used for cathedral building.
Our guide demonstrated how noisy the caves would have been by banging on the walls with a hard hat to simulate the use of pick axes. The noise reverberated around the cave and when you realise they were doing incredibly manual jobs by candlelight I’m so glad we were born in another era.
In addition to quarrying, the caves have also been used as a place of worship, a smugglers refuge and (my favourite) for growing rhubarb and mushrooms. It’s also home to some bats which were pointed out to us. No flash photography is allowed because of the bats but I just about managed to get one successful photo of them.
The guide had lots of interesting stories to tell. There have been a couple of disasters in the cave so this included some ghost tales. The kids weren’t sure whether to believe him, and even I found myself wondering if they were true!
We really enjoyed our tour around the caves, and they’re well worth visiting if your children are of school age. I think younger children wouldn’t get so much out of it and the ground is quite uneven so it’s not suitable for pushchairs.
Seaton tramway is open from April to October, and on some additional dates during the winter. An adult explorer ticket costs £10, tickets for children age 3-15 are £5. Reductions are available if you’re only travelling to Colyford. We’d also received a discount voucher from the Donkey Sanctuary, but I forgot to use it, worth looking out for though.
Beer Quarry Caves are open from April to September. A family ticket costs £23.50, alternatively an adult ticket costs £7.50, children aged 5-16 cost £5.50. Children under 5 are free but ensure they’ll be happy to spend an hour on a guided tour. Entrance is by guided tour only, these run every half hour from 10.30am. There are no toilets in the caves, use the ones in the car park before you join the tour. The caves are not wheelchair accessible.
We recently spent a long weekend in East Devon. Despite living in the county a few years ago we’d never visited this area before so we had a lovely time exploring new places. Our first day was spent in and around Sidmouth.
Salcombe Hill walk
The morning started with a short walk on Salcombe Hill. We cheated and parked in the car park at the top of the hill, rather than walking up from Sidmouth, but if you’re feeling energetic and like steep hills I believe it’s a lovely walk from the town.
Our walk was a 1 mile loop out to the coastal path and then back inland through the woods. It’s easy walking and once you reach the coastal path you are treated to fabulous views along the Jurassic coastline.
We hadn’t brought a map with us and I was slightly concerned that our basic directions said to turn inland again when we reached the ‘frog stone’. However we need not have worried as it was immediately obvious when we reached it; whilst it’s recognisable as a frog shape more noticeably it’s the only large rock in the area. We stopped for a while to admire the view, wow!
As we walked back inland and through the woods to the car park we had the first indications of just how severe the winter storms had been. There were so many recently uprooted trees that I gave up trying to count them. It was hard to imagine how scary the storms must have been, given the calm sunny day of our visit.
Sidmouth donkey sanctuary
After our walk we hopped back in the car and drove the short distance to Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to around 500 rescue donkeys and is a popular tourist attraction. You can easily spend a few hours wandering around the fields and looking into the barns.
Everything at the sanctuary looks spick and span, with neatly tended grounds. Most of the donkeys are out in the surrounding fields and you’re free to wander as you wish. Each field has a board which shows you donkey details, along with some of their history.
My mum had recently sponsored a blind donkey, Teddy, as a present for the children so we set out on a mission to find him. We found him in a group of other blind donkeys and their companions. We also found quite a few people with the same sponsor donkey, he’s obviously a popular choice!
We ate lunch in the Hayloft cafe, which was reasonably priced and good quality; the kids particularly enjoyed their ‘donkey bags’. There are plenty of picnic spots too, but as the sanctuary is free to enter it felt right to spend money in the cafe and shop.
There are plenty of donkeys to stroke out in the fields; you can also take part in a grooming session for a small extra charge so it’s a great place to visit if you have donkey-loving kids.
The only thing I found a little strange was the large number of memorials to people and dogs that had passed away and had donations made in their name. It almost felt like we were walking through a garden of remembrance rather than a donkey sanctuary.
It’s possible to walk to the beach from the donkey sanctuary, but for our last stop of the day we headed a few miles east to Branscombe instead.
Branscombe village is in a picturesque location at the meeting point of two valleys (combes). It’s a long strung out village, some parts of which are NT owned.
We parked at the village hall then walked along a flat track (fine for buggies) a mile or so down to the beach at Branscombe Mouth. It’s also possible to park at the beach but we rather enjoyed our stroll down.
There is a small shop selling beach paraphernalia and ice creams, although we found it quite expensive. Instead we wandered along the pebble beach, enjoying the views and practising skimming stones into the sea. A couple of children were braving the water but there’s no way I’d have gone in!
Branscombe hit the national headlines when the MSC Napoli was beached nearby in January 2007. It became infamous for the looting that took place, including that of several BMW motorcycles.The ship was finally broken up and removed, all that remains now is the anchor which was presented to the people of East Devon.
Along the beach were further reminders of the winter storms. I felt sorry for the owner of this chalet as the foundations beneath it were completely gone. It looked like quite a lot of repair work had happened to the other chalets so hopefully it’ll be restored before long.
Heading back I almost regretted not parking at the beach but it wasn’t long before we were back in the village and on our way home.