Why you should savour a visit to Cornwall during the off-season...

Feeding the ducks in the park.
Feeding the ducks in the park.

Even as a perennial favourite with holidaymakers, this summer was an extraordinary one for Cornwall.

Inspired by factors including the increasing cost of foreign breaks, a long-lasting heatwave and the huge popularity of the Cornish-set Poldark, visitor numbers reached such a peak that the local tourist board took the unprecedented decision to stop promoting two of their most popular beaches due to overcrowding problems.

Hengar Manor Country Park.

Hengar Manor Country Park.

The surge in visitor numbers to Kynance Cove and Porthcurno, which both featured on the BBC drama, led to major tailbacks and Visit Cornwall advising people to head for other beaches.

Outside the school holidays, Cornwall still remains a popular place for visitors, but a visit in late September provided a chance to enjoy its many and varied attractions in a more leisurely and less crowded way, albeit without the best of the weather experienced this summer.

Our family of four, including an almost three-year-old toddler and his 11-month-old sister, made the long journey from Yorkshire to a spacious and well-equipped holiday lodge (complete with outdoor hot tub) at Hengar Manor Country Park, a 35-acre site in the heart of the county close to Bodmin.

The self-catering lodge we stayed in had one double and three twin rooms, with a balcony on the double, along with full central heating and a fitted kitchen.

With school-age children back in the classroom, the family-focused site was fairly quiet which made it easy to make the most of the on-site activities which include an indoor swimming pool, mini-golf and a children’s playground, as well as tennis courts, fishing lakes and a nine-hole pitch and putt golf course for adults.

There was also children’s entertainment in the evenings, although it was somewhat sparsely attended because of the time of year.

But the site was also an ideal base for exploring what is a stunningly beautiful county – something made a bit simpler by downloading the useful ‘App for Cornwall’ (www.appforconrwall.com) which provides details of local attractions and activities, as well as money-saving offers and sat-nav directions.

With something of a downpour combined with extremely gusty weather on our first day, we looked for something indoors to do and settled on the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, which featured sharks, turtles and shoals of colourful fish. After battling our way back through the weather, we made the most of our resort’s indoor swimming pool, which has a waterslide, separate toddler pool and a whirlpool spa among its amenities. The following day, the weather cheered up and we made a trip to what proved to be the highlight of our visit – the brilliant Eden Project, which includes plenty of outdoor activities as well as two giant biomes filled with plants from climates and environments across the world. One of them makes up what is the largest indoor rainforest in the world, complete with a waterfall.

There are also plenty of outdoor activities on the impressive site and during our visit, the children were lucky enough to take part in an hour-long nature programme involving games, songs and identifying wildlife. It helped round off a wonderful time at a place that has lots to interest people of all ages and is an attraction that it is easy to spend an entire day enjoying.

The following day we headed back to Newquay and the town’s popular zoo, which is home to more than 130 species, including lions, zebras, antelope and penguins. We headed back after lunch to make the most of our accomodation, with another visit to the swimming pool and a couple of rounds of mini-golf.

Our final day also involved a visit to the beach as we headed off to the beautiful fishing port of Padstow, famous for its association with chef Rick Stein, among other things.

We arrived early - a good decision even out of season as the town was soon filled up by visitors - and managed to find our way down to a secluded beach where the children were able to play. Padstow is a wonderful spot to walk around, with a vast array of independent shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from and is well worth a visit at any time of year.

We headed back up north after a fantastic break only for a slight cloud to be put on the holiday by an extremely long drive back caused by a series of traffic jams and motorway diversions.

Some things don’t change whatever the time of year - but we came away certain that a visit to Cornwall is one that doesn’t require the summer holidays to be enjoyable and is actually arguably enhanced by the relative lack of other tourists.

Travel facts

- Chris stayed at Hengar Manor in Cornwall, where holidays for up to six sharing start from £159 for weekend breaks and from £219 for seven-night getaways in November. Accommodation options include luxury caravans, lodges and cottages.For latest deals and all prices, visit www.hengarmanor.co.uk or call 01208 850382.