Monday, 1 April 2013

Travel review: Gwel an Mor, Portreath, Cornwall

A luxury lodge, a roaring fire, good food and a beach minutes away - bliss.

All of this can be found in the Cornish resort of Gwel an Mor (meaning View of the Sea) - a collection of 30 beautiful lodges set in rolling hills and with the beach just 10 minutes away.

I went to Gwel an Mor for a girly catch up weekend with two friends, one of whom brought her 18-month-old daughter Rose. For us, the aims were to catch up, relax and get away from the pressures of work, and to soak in some of the gorgeous scenery. We succeeded on all three counts.

After a relaxing journey down on a First Great Western train from London Paddington to Redruth, one of my friends and I were picked up from the station by a staff member from Gwel an Mor, who took us to the resort in Portreath via the scenic route. With the sun shining down we caught many glimpses of the sea on our way trough the beautiful countryside, and were already impressed before we got to the resort.


There, we met my third friend and her daughter Rose (they had driven down), and checked in at reception, where another friendly member of staff pointed us in the direction of our VIP lodge. And VIP it was. We had our own private hot tub on the porch, three bedrooms and two baths downstairs. Upstairs were the communal quarters, a cosy open plan kitchen, dining room and living room, with glass doors giving us a view of the sea.

While Gwel an Mor's lodges are the height of luxury, they're not uncomfortable in any way - in fact they feel really homely. We settled in immediately, my friend's daughter scattering her toys about happily while we buzzed around the kitchen throwing together a quick dinner for our first night. A baby gate at the top of the stairs and a secure guard around the log burner meant we had no qualms about Rose getting into anything dangerous - the whole lodge was child friendly without it being overbearing.

The next day we had planned to drive to St Ives, but after waking up and feeling too lazy to do so, we decided to just mill around the resort and perhaps head down to the beach. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. It poured and it poured and it poured. Apart from a quick walk and a trip to the on-site gym (small but well-equipped) we stayed inside most of the day.

In the evening we braved a run to the restaurant at Gwel an Mor, The Terrace. Friendly staff (a bit of a trend at Gwel an Mor) made us welcome, and we scarfed down some absolutely delicious food. Thoughtfully, the restaurant does toddler size portions, meaning Rose was also able to tuck into some grub, rather than her mum having to bring food with her or feed her beforehand. The puddings at The Terrace just about finished us off, and we slowly heaved ourselves the 100ft back to our lodge, ready to sleep.

The next morning dawned brighter, and we headed off for our wildlife walk. Gwel an Mor is also home to Feadon Farm, where Gary the wildlife ranger looks after a series of animals and hosts very, very informative tours. First up were the pygmy goats - Gary gave us a talk, armed us with some feed and let the group out, and they happily trotted over to eat from our hands.

Feeding the pygmy goats. Picture: Posed by models
We did the same with the chickens, after watching donkeys Bert and Ernie race around their field, clearly putting on a show for us. Unfortunately we weren't able to see the farm's two reindeers up close, as both were in the midst of shedding their antlers, and would have been dangerous to go near.

Gary then took us inside to see the farm's ferrets and rabbits - giving Rose the chance to hold the fluffy white rabbits just like he did with the other children. Despite her young age, she was made to feel as welcome as the rest of the group, and Gary took extra effort to integrate her, even holding out a glove for her so the farm's owl could fly to her. Rather than being scared, Rose loved every minute of it.

The farm is also home to snakes, mice, and to three foxes who will eat out of your hands if you are calm enough. The experience, which took just under two hours, left us all feeling a lot more informed than when we first started, and finished just before the hail hit - great timing!

Hot stone massage at the spa. Picture: Posed by model
After lunch I headed to the resort's spa. It's small - just two treatment rooms - but stepping inside automatically gives you a feeling of calm. I opted for the full body hot stone massage, and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep at some point, I was that relaxed.

With the rain finally cleared up, I headed down to the beach with one of my friends while Rose and her mum headed to the swimming pool at Gwel an Mor (the resort also has a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room). A path leads right from the resort into the village of Portreath, through atmospheric woods, and it only took us 10 minutes. Despite the cold, the beach was buzzing with dog walkers, and it was clear that others, including the group of surfers we saw, had decided to take advantage of the break in the weather.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around the beach and the surrounding areas, taking in some of the history - the village is still an active fishing village - and snapping away with our cameras. On the way back to our lodge we stopped in at reception, where we chose a couple of films to watch on our last evening over a leisurely dinner by our log burner (with the rain drumming down again outside).

Our only regret at Gwel an Mor was that we didn't get to try out the hot tub - with no cover over it we decided not to brave the rain and hop in. If the weather had been drier we'd also have liked to have tried out the croquet lawn on site, but alas, maybe that's something for next time.

The next morning, as luck would have it, the sun was shining brightly again and there was no sign that it had rained almost solidly for the past two days and nights. As we packed up and said our goodbyes, we all took a look back at our lovely home for the long weekend, hoping we'd all come back again.



First Great Western goes from London Paddington to Redruth a number of times a day.
•Prices for a week-long stay at Gwel an Mor start at £449 for a lodge sleeping four or £529 for a six-person lodge during off-season. Prices can range up to £2,399 for a week at the height of the summer season for a VIP lodge sleeping six.

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