The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel
Bosinver Farm Cottages Practical Cornish cosiness
With its rustic vibe and wholesome activities, this is the perfect place for a family holiday, says Hattie Garlick
Sometimes this column takes me to dark places. Not in the UK, you understand, but within my soul. Take a recent stay at Bosinver Farm Cottages. Tons of light. Spring sunshine falling in divine rays over the lush Cornish hills – but a cloud passed over my conscience. “Maybe you don’t really have to write about it,” the devil whispered from his perch on my shoulder. “They need never know…”
Because Bosinver is a treasure. An absolutely perfect place for a family holiday. Ideal for grandparents, toddlers and preteens. Good value, characterful and comfortable. Awash with wholesome activities and unspoilt places to unwind with a book. The last thing I need is you lot, with your superior organisational skills, booking it up before my moth-eaten mind turns to my own summer holidays.
For starters, it is right in the sweet spot of Cornwall: 15 minutes to the Eden Project or the higgledy-piggledy port town of Mevagissey; 10 to the Lost Gardens of Heligan; a short drive to surfing beaches… In summer, when all this is gridlocked with grockles, Bosinver’s 35 acres of wildflower meadows, farmland, lake and woods must be an oasis. Owners Dave and Pat Smith knew it as soon as they clapped eyes on this patch of valley in 1998. “We could build a village here,” said Pat. So they did, converting the fairytale farm buildings and adding more. Twenty holiday cottages are now strung along paths that teem with curling ferns and garish buttercups.
Plenty of places purport to be “farm stays”. Few are this sincere. Dave is a proper, lifelong farmer. Pat – aka “Action Nan” – pens child-centric guides to the area, provided in every cottage. Their son, Paul, is an ecologist and ensures every detail is as green as possible. His tweenage son, Sam, ambles around issuing tips to young guests, such as Mevagissey’s best ice cream (the millionaire’s shortbread flavour, from She Sells, on the quayside). Everyone in this three-generation family business knows and cares about kids (of the goat and human variety).
Every morning, “Farmer Dave” herds resident children past the dove cote, through the speckled hens that peck about the cottages and into a Beatrix Potter farmyard. “He doesn’t even like animals,” says one mother, as her son feeds handfuls of grain to a sheep. City kids clamber ferally over gates, shy children square up to goats. A child whose complex needs mean she rarely speaks chatters endlessly to the ponies.
Our nine-year-old vaults a stable door to bottle-feed a lamb. After that, we lose her. In the nicest possible sense. The site is so safe, she and her 12-yearold brother roam free for much of each day. They grab fishing rods, wander down to the Tom Sawyer lake, catch (and return) 10 fish under Sam’s tutelage. They ride the zip wire and scramble through the assault course hidden among trees. They feed dandelions to the guinea pigs, borrow rackets and play tennis, or hang out in the old “village hall-style” games room playing ping-pong. Eventually, we reconnect in the eco-friendly indoor pool and microgym, then walk down the track for an evening drink at the Polgooth Inn – an archetypal Cornish pub.
You can buy locally made frozen meals in Bosinver’s honesty shop, have boxes of local, seasonal produce delivered, or book private chefs, babysitters and spa treatments. Private swimming lessons with fun and fabulous former synchronised swimmer Dawn Haden are a joy. Otherwise, all activities and kit are included.
The place is so safe, our nine-year-old and her 12-year-old brother roam free for much of each day
If you’re not prisoner to school dates, book an off-season stay. Toddlers can explore the two-storey playhouse, softplay barn, playground and Gruffalo trail. All cottages come with the necessary clobber (cot, high chair, etc) and, outside of school holidays, are a steal.
You can choose from a gaggle of styles and sizes – from the six-bedroom thatched farmhouse to carbon-zero new-build Lowen. Bosinver is not about marble bathrooms and sanitised luxury. The vibe is practical Cornish cosiness, not postured Cotswolds chic. If your idea of luxury is letting the kids roam entirely free while you unwind – and if, like me, you prefer to think of your cash going to a hard-working family – this place is perfect. Every child is given a sunflower seedling when they leave. Ours sits on the windowsill as I type, reminding me that I really should book a return visit. Ideally, before you read this.
Three-night minimum stays in low season for a family of four cost from £540. Seven-night minimum stays in high season from £2,300