Polurrian Bay Hotel

Mullion, Cornwall, United Kingdom Book from

A spectacularly sited Cornish coastal hotel, reinvented as a boutique family haven, with great facilities including creche and spa
Perched on top of a cliff facing the silvery seas and setting sun, this handsome Edwardian building has been around for over 100 years. And it has welcomed its fair share of notables, including Marconi who sent the world's first transatlantic radio signal from nearby Poldhu Cove. But in 2011, under new owners Halcyon (creators of Martinhal in Portugal), it was reborn as a determinedly 21st-century, and unashamedly family friendly, boutique hotel.

Its 40 or so bedrooms sport a pale olive-and-grey palette, with Flos pendant lights and chrome rainshower heads, while its airy common rooms gleam with newly revealed pitch pine floors and bright chartreuse cushions. The lunch and dinner menus feature Med influences (cassoulet, beef carpaccio) alongside classic Cornish mussels and local rump steak. But its real trump cards are the [kids:UK074:children's facilities] - creche, games room, cinema, huge gardens with playground, 2 pools: a fantastic complement to the Lizard's sandy beaches (one of them 5 minutes down a stepped path), fishing harbours and subtropical gardens. It's a place to delight kids of all ages, while giving parents a rare reminder of that stylish, indulgent lifestyle they feared they had left behind forever.

Highs

  • The location: a prime, west-facing spot on the lovely Lizard peninsula, near the pretty harbours of Mullion and Porthleven
  • The free "Den" (creche): one of the friendliest we have encountered - our son is still asking when we can go back
  • The facilities: cinema, games room, Elemis spa, indoor pool - plenty to keep you amused if the weather turns (we could happily have stayed a week or more)
  • The seaview family rooms are perfect for parents plus 1-2 children, and excellent value too (book them early!)
  • We loved the new 'Sea Vista' extension, with deep sofas, a wood stove and funky easy chairs looking out over shimmering seas
  • Staff are unfailingly friendly, and their daily info sheets have some really useful tips

Lows

  • It's a long way to go: 4 hours from Bristol, 6 from London
  • During school holidays, the hotel is full of families; don't go if you want a quiet, romantic break. Outside term time, it's popular with (mostly older) couples
  • Service can be stretched when it's busy
  • The food, though mostly good (superb fish, good breakfasts), had some lapses during our stay
  • With 40 rooms and red-carpeted corridors, it feels more 'hotelly' than some of our smaller Cornish properties

Best time to go

The year is clearly split into 2: school holidays, when most of the rooms are booked by families and the creche and games room are in full swing, and the rest of year, which attracts a mix of older couples and parents with toddlers or babies. The sea and outdoor pool are normally swimmable from late June to early September, or longer if you have a wetsuit or shorty. Spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October) are great for coastal hikes without the crowds. You should be prepared for rain at any time of year, though the Lizard is one of the warmest spots in Britain.

Local festivals include children's dances on Flora Day in Helston (early May), Porthleven's raft race (last weekend of September), Mazey Day in Penzance (23 June) with crowds of pirates carrying ships on their shoulders, Falmouth Oyster Festival (mid October) complete with cookery demos, boat race and children's activities, and Obby Oss Day in Padstow (1 May), when a large black-caped "animal" is led on a jerky dance by a teaser who prods him with a padded stick.

Our top tips

You don't need to bring much - almost everything is provided (racquets for the tennis court, DVDs for your room, baby equipment, pool towels, board games etc) - but do bring your swimmers for the indoor pool, and maybe a short wetsuit for sea swims. Birders should bring binoculars, hikers the 1:25,000 Explorer map of the Lizard (and your National Trust card for parking at Kynance Cove).

You can do a lovely pushchair-friendly 2-3 hour walking or cycling route from Penrose to Porthleven. Park at Penrose Manor House (at a right bend midway from Helston to Porthleven), follow the path down and right (south), past the outhouses, and along the western edge of The Loe lake to the sandy strip of Loe Bar (lovely beach); and then northwest along the South West Coastal path into Porthleven (look out for nesting peregrine falcons along this stretch). There are buses back to Penrose, or you can follow a small lane (Cooper's Lane) from the first houses of Porthleven (1km).

Great for...

Beach
Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Family Hotel
  • 41
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pools
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Tennis Court
  • Pool Table
  • Bicycles Available
  • Surf lessons
  • Table football
Room:

Rooms

The 40 or so rooms are arranged over 3 floors, including some on the ground floor (for the less mobile) and some under the roof (which have the best sea views). Of course, sea views are what it is all about - sometimes turquoise, sometimes silver or glinting orange, always fringed with the foam of breaking waves - and it is amply worth paying the small supplement for them.

All rooms are dressed in fairly standard boutique clothes - a muted palette of greys, creams and olive green, with colour from a red blanket or chartreuse cushion, and a splash of designer style from white-balloon Flos lights and a pair of low slung Wegner oak chairs. We slept well, on thick mattresses with a chunky topper and half a dozen pillows (though the duvets were a bit too warm for our liking); and washing was a pleasure, with generous bottles of Elemis toiletries and a choice of tub or overhead rainshower. There's plenty of wardrobe space, a flat screen TV (with DVD player on request), and free WiFi. The only things you might miss are tea- and coffee-making facilities, though room service will whisk drinks up to you at any time.

Rooms are divided into 3 categories - inland, seaview and superior (like seaview, but larger). Most are around 20 square metres - neither big nor small - though a couple have narrow (4'6) beds as opposed to the more common queensize (5').

In addition there are some lovely family rooms which consist of 2 bedrooms (1 double, 1 twin) sharing a bathroom. We stayed with our son in #105, a lovely first-floor room if you can get it, with corner views to the sea. A couple of the family rooms have bunks instead of twin beds; another is on the top floor, with lofty views straight out to the Atlantic and a cosy kids room lit by a skylight window. Other rooms we liked were #118 (a smallish but very bright seaview double) and #114 - though it's worth noting that this, like several others, has a windowless bathroom.

Features include:

  • CD/DVD player (on request)
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • IPod dock through TV
  • Iron (on request)
  • Phone
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The hotel offers a full restaurant service (breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus all day snacks and drinks, but no bar) in an airy, sea-facing dining room with parquet floors, white walls and high ceiling fans. There's also a less formal dining area above the 'Sea Vista' extension, aimed primarily at families and using a similar but more kid-friendly menu.

The fare is what you might call contemporary English with a hint of the Med, all of it painstakingly sourced from local suppliers. Menus are now a la carte (following mixed feedback about the fixed menus), with starters from about £6, mains from £12 and desserts from £5 (in 2012); wines - including a decent house prosecco - start from about £5/glass. So it's not cheap, but it is not bad, and if you're lucky, it might be truly excellent.

Certainly the salt-baked sea-bass I had on my first evening was one of the tastiest and softest fish dishes I've had all year, and my amaretto peach tart with Roskilly's ice cream was not far behind (though my wife's zabaione semifreddo was a bit mushy). Beef carpaccio and rump steak (from nearby Goonhilly Downs) also got a thumbs up, and it was nice to see squid and Cornish blue cheese salad making an appearance.

Needless to say, there is also a kids' menu, offering a familiar range of pasta, pizza, sausages or fish and chips (superior goujons and chunky chips). We actually preferred to order a starter from the main menu for our son - pea soup and smoked chicken salad both went down well, and felt somehow healthier. Alternatively you can book your children into High Tea in the Den at 5pm.

Breakfast - part buffet, part served - is good too, especially the syrupy figs with rhubarb yoghurt, the smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, and the crispy pancakes with raspberries; though, if we're being picky, it would be nice to see a wider range of breads. But staff were always open to requests, and quick to bring high chairs and borrow pens from reception to keep littl'uns amused while waiting.

If you want to head out, there are pubs and a restaurant in Mullion (2km), and more in Helston (10km) and Porthleven (15km). Just north of Mullion, the Poldhu Beach Cafe gets rave reviews for its beachfront pizzas and fish'n'chips - a great lunch stop if you're walking the coastal path.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • At the hotel, you've a choice of indoor or outdoor swimming, table football or pool, Wii or board games, tennis or (occasionally) football, plus a spa and a playground
  • Just below the hotel is the cliff-ringed cove of Polurrian, with rock pools, gleaming sands at low tide, and surf-friendly waves at any time; a great spot for splashing, swimming, frisbee, running with the dog etc
  • You can also book horse rides along this beach; just ask at reception
  • The hotel is on the South West Coastal path, so follow it south towards the Lizard, passing glorious beaches (Kynance Cove is a favourite) and dark serpentine sea cliffs lashed by waves
  • Or north past Poldhu Cove (where Marconi sent his first transatlantic signal from) to the sandstrip of Loe Bar and the pretty harbour of Porthleven
  • Explore the disused tin mines of Poldark, made famous in a BBC series, which has exhibits, family-friendly activities including gold-panning and a ghost tour
  • A mile away is Mullion Golf Club, the most southerly golf club in Britain, with 18 often windswept holes and long sea views
  • Just beyond Lizard, Housel Bay is a hidden gem, with beautiful sands and aquamarine sea, accessible only by footpath; while further afield near Land's End, Porthcurno boasts a glorious, sheltered cove and the open-air Minack Theatre
  • Staff can arrange crab and lobster chasing trips with local fishermen; kayaking or motor cruising up the Helford river; surfing tuition and board hire with a friendly instructor; or a day out on a skippered 33-foot yacht
  • And there's lots more too, from a chocolate factory (in Trenance) to a seal sanctuary (at Gweek), not to mention gorgeous gardens at Bonython (a short hop away) and Trevarno (near Helston)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Kitesurfing
  • Playground
  • Pool table
  • Private guided tours
  • Rock pooling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Table football
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are welcomed with open arms at Polurrian Bay, and will find all manner of games and entertainments to amuse them, from the superb creche to a weekly game of football (guests vs staff) in summer. We were particularly impressed with our pre-arrival email asking which of the many bits of child equipment (from potties to pushchairs) we would like awaiting us, and which creche sessions we would like to prebook (2 hours per day are included in the rates, even on the day you check out).

On our final morning, while our 3 year old was busy building a cardboard spaceship in the Den, my wife had a 2-hour spa treatment and I plunged into the surf of Polurrian Cove - a perfect way to purge our minds and bodies before the drive home.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The family rooms are ideal, with 2 bedrooms (1 double, 1 twin) and a shared bathroom (tub and shower); you can also put a cot in most of them. Best of all, the rates are barely more expensive than a normal double room (you only pay for the extra breakfasts). For older kids, there are pairs of communicating rooms with their own small hallway - though these are considerably more expensive so personally I would not recommend them. For a couple with 1 baby, most normal double rooms have space for a cot.

Babysitting:

Babysitters can be booked at reception, or...

Baby listening:

... you can use the hotel's baby listening service for free when dining in the restaurant.

Baby equipment:

A vast range, including:

  • Baby baths
  • Baby carriers
  • Bottle/food warmers
  • Bumbo seats
  • Changing mats
  • High chairs
  • Night lights
  • Potties and children’s toilet seats
  • Pushchairs
  • Step ups
  • Sterilisers
  • Swim nappies

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Creche/Kid's Club:

The Den is a fabulous Ofsted-registered creche for children aged from 3 months to 8 years, and a 2-hour session per day is included in your room rate (starting at either 10am, 11am, 2pm or 3pm). Rowenna and her 2 colleagues are really friendly and confident with kids of all ages, and offer everything from a craft table and a sandpit to face painting or dancing.

Children's meals:

There's a kids' menu, available from noon until 9pm, with the usual suspects - pizza, pasta, sausage, fish goujons with chips - though we found that the adult starters worked well as children's mains, and were tastier. Alternatively you can book High Tea in the Den at 5pm (under 8s only).

Kids Activities on site:

  • Games, sandpit, crafts, music and more at the Den
  • Cinema with family friendly screenings
  • Playground with slide, swings, ladders
  • Shallow section in the indoor pool
  • Weekly football or rounders matches in high season
  • Table football and pool table (older kids only)
  • Wii and Playstation consoles (older kids only)
  • Various board games in the Snug
  • A range of children's DVDs to borrow

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Adventure playground and boating lake at Helston
  • Tour of Poldark Tin Mine (with evening "Ghost Tours")
  • National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek
  • Go crab chasing with local fishermen

Families Should Know:

The beds are quite high (but bed guards are available on request). Parts of the grounds are stepped - not ideal for toddlers.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour
  • Beach: 10 mins' walk
  • Shop: 5 mins' drive
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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