Whether or not you have the weather, Gwel an Mor is an excellent Cornish family destination

Words Pendle Harte

One of life’s greatest happinesses is when your trip to Cornwall coincides with a heatwave. The long tidal beach at Portreath is a wonderful place to spread out on the sand, or coast a wave on a bodyboard. It’s a popular spot but less crowded than some of Cornwall’s hotspots and it’s easily worth the punishing drive from London.

At first, Gwel an Mor resort strikes us as alpine – clusters of wooden chalets with pitched roofs and cheery yellow painted window frames remind us of Switzerland, but we’re not staying in the main site. Slightly set apart is the newer Residence Collection, whose single-storey, wood-clad lodges are spacious and slightly futuristic, not Swiss so much as maybe virtual reality. Our wide decked terrace faces a wide open field and isn’t overlooked by anyone – immediately we throw open the bi-fold doors and the place is filled with sunlight.

Wood-clad lodges at Gwel an Mor offer privacy and plenty of home comforts – useful when the weather isn’t set fair

While Gwel an Mor, like most places, is better in the sunshine, it’s not absolutely necessary – and of course you’re quite likely not to have great weather. No matter – they have thought of that. The interior is comfortable, complete with wood burner, squishy sofas and large television for when you’re indoors, and a bubbling sunken hot tub in the decking that makes the terrace useable in all weathers. And if you have small children to entertain on a rainy day, there’s a vast soft play barn with its own Clip’n’Climb franchise as well an indoor pool and an extensive programme of activities, including archery, fishing and more.

Gary’s menagerie is lovingly maintained, to the extent that it includes animals not usually thought of as tame or domesticated

We’re signed in for Meet the Animals at 10am on Sunday and I’m expecting bunnies, maybe goats, probably chickens. We are slightly surprised to find adults with no children among the group, but when we get to the end of the tour, we’re amazed to discover that two hours have passed. This is no ordinary hamster-handling exercise. Gary is a real animal-whisperer, a charismatic fount of knowledge and enthusiasm about everything to do with animals – he’s less keen on the people who fail to look after them properly. We start with pygmy goats before meeting an emu (“she’s so attached to me that she won’t eat when I’m here” and some exotic chickens; then there are reindeer (it’s not even Christmas) and inside the barn ferrets and a weasel, rats and a snake, which we are all invited to hold.

Feadon Farm
The expertly guided animal encounters are fascinating and informative, with foxes and a barn owl in the mix

Gary’s menagerie is lovingly maintained, to the extent that it includes animals not usually thought of as tame or domesticated. Before we see the foxes we are told to keep our voices down and not to frighten them. Yes, there are foxes – and under Gary’s expert guidance, we are all able to stroke them, hand-feed them and even – this is no joke – to be kissed by them. We bend our faces and Mr Fox reaches out his nose and actually kisses us. For those of us used to the mangy zombie foxes that skulk around London, it’s a revelation. No wonder fox fur coats used to be so popular, someone points out – the softness is amazing. After the foxes, we admire a whiter-than-white fluffy barn owl, which swoops over our heads and lands on its special glove.

Go wild at Cornwall's Gwel an Mor
The beach at Gwel an Mor is wonderful for a stroll in all weathers

It’s a short walk down a dreamy bluebell-lined path to the beach, and a popular, unreconstructed beach cafe occupies the premium spot and serves up hearty burgers and chips. Dinner at Gwel an Mor’s Terrace restaurant is more refined while remaining acceptable for children of all dietary persuasions (the kids’ menu is pitched just right). We enjoy seafood linguini and fish and chips, and the next day we order takeaway pizza to our lodge, after a lengthy massage at the relaxing spa. It’s hard to think of anywhere that caters better to families, with every detail taken care of – comfort for adults and entertainment for tots. Don’t let the drive put you off.

Gwel an Mor Luxury Resort gwelanmor.com

Further reading: Equine therapy at Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre