“A quartet of lavish houses (sleeping 2-12) with fantastic concierge services and stunning views over the tranquil waters of St Mawes”
There are four houses in all: a 2-bedroom house for 4, a 4-bedroom house for 8-10, a 5-bedroom house for 10 (where we stayed), and a larger 5-bedroom house for 10-12. Most bedrooms are double (kingsize), but some can be set up as twins and others have space for a cot. Two houses have a family bedroom in case parents want to share with their little ones.
We saw the 3 larger houses and each has its own trump card: the crisp décor and cool lighting in ours, the extravagant gardens in the largest two. The smallest house is more compact, but still ample for a family on a week's break.
All bedrooms come with top-of-the-range Hypnos mattresses (we can vouch for them), goosedown duvets, Egyptian cotton sheets, an embarrassment of pillows and fluffy towels. The 4 of us slept long and deep. Ensuite bathrooms boast sleek double-ended tubs or wetrooms with drench shower heads; a few have both.
Each house has a generous sitting area with deep leather sofas, a vast TV/DVD, a separate sound system, a smattering of local art on the walls, and some arty touches (giant sea urchin shells in a jar, a driftwood sculpture, a crazy chandelier). The 4- and 5-bedroom houses get a second sitting area, with its own TV in case you don't all share the same viewing habits; and a stylish woodburner for cosying up on cooler evenings. And all have sea-facing terraces or gardens for alfresco dining and daybed-lounging in summer.
But with so many books, board games, DVDs/FreeSat and kids' toys at your disposal, not to mention complimentary cakes and painterly views through floor-to-ceiling windows, these are the sort of houses you could come in any season or weather, and never feel short-changed.
Each house has a beautifully equipped, spacious kitchen and a choice of indoor or outdoor dining areas. We were frankly staggered by the level of equipment in ours: 2 fridge-freezers, a temperature-controlled wine-cooler, an ultra-sharp Sabatier knife set, food processor, silver napkin rings, and no fewer than 3 coffee outlets (Nespresso, plunger and built-in bean-to-cup machine).
It's enough to make you want to enlist the services of a professional chef and, as luck would have it, Amanda has 4 up her sleeve. We indulged on our first evening and were served some top-class culinary creations by Haydn Treneary and his delightful wife. Think seared scallops washed down with chilled champagne (a gift when you book through i-escape), herb-crusted rack of lamb on sweet potato purée with asparagus-prosciutto parcels, plus glorious mini-portions of lemon posset and chocolate brownie to finish. It was all as delicious as it sounds - our young son's menu too - and no more expensive (split four ways) than dining at Treneary's alma mater, the Tresanton.
Should decadence spill over to the morning, Amanda can arrange a local lady to rustle up full cooked breakfasts, using eggs from her own farm and bacon from a neighbour's. But we were happy to raid the Cornish welcome hamper, topped up with fresh pastries from the deli and excellent lemon curd from the castle's gift shop. Amanda is happy to arrange pre-arrival shopping, including locally prepared frozen dishes.
The village also has a couple of small supermarkets, 2 pubs, a simple fish and chip shop and 2 prestigious hotel restaurants. Alternatively, head out to The Driftwood (9km) for Michelin-starred cuisine, or to quirky Melinsey Mill (12km) for home-fired pizzas, light lunches and cream teas. If you're in Falmouth for lunch, we can recommend the fish'n'chips at Harbour Lights - or Rick Stein's if you're feeling flush.
i-escape's Best for Kids Awards 2014
Winner: Best For Families Large and Small
All the houses are great with kids, especially the larger ones; with 4 or 5 bedrooms, they lend themselves to larger families or multi-generational groups. We stayed with young, middle and older generations in a 5-bedroom house, and it worked a treat - there's plenty of space for all to do their own thing, and the gardens are a godsend in good weather. Cots and high-quality blow-up beds are available in all houses for free.
The 2 largest houses each have one family room (with a double bed and 2 singles/bunks) if parents want to share with their little ones. They also have the largest gardens, with lots of shrubbery dens in the 4-bedroom house. Apart from those family rooms, all bedrooms are double (kingsize/superking) or twin; some have space for a cot.
Amanda can arrange local CRB-checked babysitters, including those with their own children (and therefore lots of experience!).
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The private chefs are only too happy to create special menus for little ones.
All houses have plenty of games, puzzles, toys and kids' DVDs, as well as a dressing-up box (our son unexpectedly emerged for dinner as Spiderman one evening). The 2 largest houses have a trampoline in the garden.
There's a playground in the village, a castle to explore, and 3 tidal beaches - perfect for crabbing or beachcombing expeditions (bucket, spade and nets are provided). Older children might enjoy sailing, kayaking or paddle-boarding with the local watersports teacher, Bob.
The gardens in the 4-bedroom house are sloping. The beaches facing the Channel can have a swell, but the waters around St. Mawes are quite sheltered.