Family travel with a baby or pre-schoolers can be tricky, and its nice to be able to confidently recommend a few hotels/holidays that we are sure will live up to your expectations.
The Sands Resort just outside Newquay in Cornwall were willing to let us loose on them (us being the entire Laura Family, all 6 of us).
The Sands Resort Hotel is a very special place. Sitting on the edge of Porth, just outside Newquay, with views straight out over the Atlantic, it is perfectly situated for a traditional British seaside family holiday.
However that is not to say that it is in any way old fashioned. Oh no no.
As you enter Reception the atmosphere is calm, warm and welcoming. The decor (which feels just like a chic-shack beach house) is contemporary and stylish, but not so much that I was nervous entering with my four small-people-who-break-stuff.
The thing is, the whole hotel is designed around families. There are countless areas to escape to on rainy days, all equipped with various toys and games. The indoor pool (and baby pool) are lovely – and believe it or not, the individual changing rooms will hold a family of 6 on one go. Honest, we tried ’em (the last one on the right is the biggest).
We weren’t committed enough to try the outdoor pool (it was March!), but it looked as though it would be fab come the warmer weather.
The kids clubs (all run by NNEB/NVQ trained staff and OFSTED inspected) were just great. I have to admit to being a bit reluctant – feeling not just nervous at leaving the small people in a strange place, but also a vague feeling that I was being immoral by dumping my children on a ‘family’ holiday.
However we had a good nosy round, and the rooms were well-equipped and the boys couldn’t wait to go! The itinerary of activities was varied and fun, and the age groups were separated well to allow them to be properly catered for. The atmosphere in the creche was especially relaxed and friendly, and I felt obliged to let the staff know that Bear hadn’t actually slept much the night before, and had never been left in a creche/nursery, so would no doubt screech the minute I left. Instead of handing her straight back, however, they laughingly brushed off my worries and told me to go and enjoy myself.
I made use of the time to visit the Ocean Breeze spa (6 treatment rooms, and a huge choice of beauty and relaxation therapies) and enjoy a massage – the spa is a haven of peace and tranquillity (NB – its in the rules, busy mamas MUST use it while you are staying for an hours heavenly respite. Pure indulgence, and sooo worth it). The therapist was utterly lovely, and best of all was completely silent throughout the massage. Perfect!
I got back to pick Bear up at the allotted time, and there she was, pootling about merrily, and in no rush to leave. Traitor.
In the 6 acres of grounds there are stacks of things to do – we all had fun in the maze, and the new adventure playground was a huge hit with the three boys after the long car journey. The toddler playground is no shoved-in-a-corner after-thought either, oh no, all beautifully designed and laid out. We just didn’t get a chance to do more than peek at the tennis, Junior tennis, Climbing wall, Basketball, Football, Croquet, Golf…
We were staying in the new wing (the very first guests to do so :D), and I have to say that the rooms are lovely (we did however get to look at the other rooms, and all were of a similar standard and clever design). It is not easy finding accommodation for all six of us – we either have to squish up, or have connecting rooms/suite which come at a heavy premium.
However, the Sands Resort has cleverly solved this problem – aided by architectural-magic-ery way back in the design stage when they kept a firm grip on what a family would need.
You enter straight into the children’s room, which though not large holds bunks, plus a single and a solid cot. The walk-through ‘passage’ has shelving along one wall (stacks of storage for cases) and the bathroom and extra sink (handy during the morning rush) on the other. You then step into the light, bright airy main room, which faces over the sea with floor-to-ceiling windows and french doors (no balcony, just railings, but we had those doors open at every opportunity). We opted to have Bear in the travel cot in our room rather than inflict her on the boys, and the cot was all made up and ready when we arrived. Even with it there, we still had plenty of space and never felt cramped.
The restaurant is another area that I must mention (I know, I’m rambling on, but you need to know all this – stick with me…). Dinner times are divided into three, and we tried all the options. On the first night we spent too long in the pool and missed high tea, so we opted for a family dinner at the 7 sitting. It was so nice to enjoy an evening meal in a restaurant as a family without worrying about the children being there – we were surrounded by other families doing exactly the same.
The food was excellent – an adult menu with a couple of child-friendly options – and the menu was varied and interesting.
The second night we were more organised and made it in time for high tea. The children loved choosing their own food from the hot buffet (pasta, grilled chicken, mash, peas, sweetcorn etc). Back in our room we settled them into bed to watch the film which is piped through every night (plus shown on the big screen in one of the lounges).
They settled well (thankfully!), and by 8 we were seated in the restaurant ourselves, secure in the knowledge that any small-person squeaks would be heard instantly by the staff listening to the monitors. This time we sat in the smaller, quieter ‘adults only’ area. Same food, but a far more sophisticated atmosphere, and we sooo enjoyed having a really lovely ‘grown-up’ meal. Mr Laura didn’t spill his drink or ask me to cut up his food or anything :)
With all the great design and practicality and facilities, however, one thing above all else makes the Sands Resort a really special place to stay.
Without exception they were efficient, genuinely warm and so friendly. Unfailingly the children were welcomed and spoken to, and their needs were considered and anticipated (our table was laid with a highchair before we got there, for example). Which all just makes life easier, and a whole heap nicer.
So. If you are looking for a hotel which doesn’t just ‘accept’ children. but positively welcomes them, we don’t think you need to look much further than the Sands Resort. it may not be 5* in hotel rankings, but when it comes to its welcome, care of its guests, and attention to detail, it most certainly is.
(And if you were in the room next door on our first night… Bear’s really really sorry, and totally blames us for messing up her bedtime. Never before has she cried for three hours straight and needed a car drive to get her off to sleep… *blush*)