We came to Cornwall in search of high-octane (versus high-calorie) treats, and a bit of rain wasn’t going to stop us. Our first stop was Adrenalin Quarry near Liskeard, home to The Zip – the UK’s longest (490m), highest (50m) and fastest (up to 60km/h) zip wire. Great for adventurous kids aged about five up (there’s no age restriction but there is a minimum weight requirement of 25kg), The Zip has twin parallel lines so parents can ‘fly’ at the same time. Jumping off a cliff with my 10-year-old son Joe evoked one brief moment of maternal horror – “Look Mum, no hands!” – but swooping out over the flooded quarry proved more serene than scary and was definitely worth the 10-minute trek back up the hill to do it all again… Three more times.
There was more water – thousands of gallons of the stuff – at the Retallack Resort & Spa, a five-star self-catering holiday village with the UK’s first permanent, simulated surf wave, FlowRider. This million-pound piece of kit shoots a thin sheet of water up a trampoline-like slope to create a safe, shallow rapid that – using either a surf- or bodyboard – you can “slide down, ride up or carve a turn on”.
Incorporating elements of all board sports (plus an obligatory wetsuit: for muffin-topped mums not blessed with natural balance, the embarrassment potential is high), FlowRider is much more than just an all-weather surfing substitute. It's a total blast – the water’s power is astonishing, and steering the board took all my strength. I lost control and the next second I was dumped in the ‘wipe-out zone’ with water and God knows what else pouring from my nose. Still, by the end of a hugely exhilarating hour, Joe and I mastered some basic skills and even managed to kneel up on our body-boards and let go.
Set in St Columb Major a few kilometres inland of Padstow and Wadebridge, Retallack works hard to keep families occupied. Each week sees music, swimming and Buggycise classes for babies and parents, while the school-holiday Kids’ Academy for 4- to 12-year-olds provides activities ranging from bush tucker trials to Glee Dance Club. Teens, meanwhile, get the Loop Academy (complete with den) and high adrenaline/skill activities including surfing, coasteering and beach photography. Add an adventure playground, indoor pool, small golf course and tennis courts, and you have a resort where older kids can just crack on with it, ideally while you're indulging in a Pilates class and massage over at the health club and spa. Accommodation ranges from one-bed apartments to swish Polzeath Houses sleeping 12.
I left the next buzz to the boys: St Eval Kart Circuit is only a short drive from Retallack, which is probably how we ended up there twice. Far more enjoyable, in my opinion, was the afternoon spent exploring the Camel Trail: a 25-km traffic-free route linking Padstow to Poley’s Bridge, via Wadebridge and Bodmin. Virtually flat, it follows that an old railway and is perfect for family cycling. (Bridge Bike Hire in Wadebridge has everything from trailer bikes to tandems). Despite rather grim weather, we spent an idyllic afternoon pootling through woodland and along the Camel Estuary.
Our last day should have been spent bouncing about in a RIB, searching for basking sharks, seals and dolphin with Cornish Sea Tours, but rough seas put paid to that. Instead, with Joe desperate for a paddle despite the weather, we headed to The Beach Hut at Watergate Bay. Set right on the sands, it must offer phenomenal views over this dramatic coastline from its terrace on a good day. In the driving rain, with a filthy sky that seemed to fall straight into the surf, it verged on Biblical.
The sort of place where kids can run in and out trailing water and sand and nobody gives a stuff, it won our hearts instantly – especially that of our water- and sand-trailing son. The food was fab too – we tucked into the lightest of crab salads, whopping Extreme burgers and berries with crushed meringue – but frankly, with that view and that vibe, they could have served sardines with Smash and we’d have been happy.
Find out more about and book at Retallack Resort & Spa, and read more about Cornwall family holidays and breaks.