During Easter half-term, we were invited down to Cornwall to stay at The Valley in exchange for a blog review. The Valley is a five-star Visit England Gold self-catering holiday village at Carnon Downs, which consists of 46 luxury cottages nestled in thirteen acres of gardens and woodland. With promises of being family-friendly, dog-friendly and ideally situated to explore Cornwall, it sounded like a great place to spend a family holiday.
There’s no getting away from it – Cornwall is a hell of a trek for us. After loading up the car, kids and dog, we began the long journey. We set off a little after 10am and arrived at 5pm, comfortably within the 4pm-6pm check-in window. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed, given our cottage key (which also opens the electric gates), information about The Valley and some additional info about the local area which was really helpful when it came to planning what we were going to do.
We were told that our accommodation was one of the Villa Galleries (cottage no. 7), which was a two bedroom cottage, set over three levels, designed to sleep four people (and a dog). There was a drop off point by the cottage, which made it easier to unload the car, then a nearby car park where we could leave our vehicle. The door was at the back of the property, accessed via a pathway shared with the neighbouring property.
First impressions (and second, third, fourth, fifth etc…) were great. The cottage was large, clean, modern and had some pretty epic beamed ceilings. Floor plan wise, everything was off the main hallway. The bottom floor had a bathroom and two bedrooms – one with twin beds and another with a superking bed and en-suite. The ground floor had a utility room, another bathroom and the living room, whilst the kitchen was on the upper mezzanine level overlooking the living room. Off the kitchen was an outside balcony and there was a patio by the main door.
The cottage had a lot of things there as standard. The kitchen had a microwave, fridge, dishwasher, oven, cutlery, crockery, utensils, pots and pans, as well as a sponge, washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets. The living room had a TV with Freeview, DVD player and music system, the utility room had a freezer and washing machine, plus there were toiletries, towels, bed linen and a clothes airer. There was even a bidet! A nice little touch was the complimentary Cornish fudge and cider to welcome us to the cottage. There’s also free Wi-Fi.
Prior to arrival, The Valley had contacted us to see if we needed any optional extras for the children. They’d provided a list of things – from black out blinds, cot beds and stair gates through to plastic cutlery, night lights and baby monitors – and said they’d set up the cottage with those things before we got there. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see all of our requests in place on arrival, namely stair gates, a wooden cot, plastic cutlery, a step stool, child loo seat, high chair and booster seat.
As the accommodation is dog-friendly, they also cater for your four-legged friends. In the cottage, there was a nice, little box with dog treats and dog food, along with poo bags and dog-friendly local info. We brought everything Dax needed with us, but if required, you can request things like bowls, leads, beds, blankets and towels. There were also no signs of previous dogs staying in our accommodation which was great.
We instantly felt comfortable and at home in the cottage, with it taking very little time for us to settle in. We found that the living room / kitchen was where we spent a lot of time when we weren’t out and about – for instance, the kids were happy to play or watch TV, as the dog snoozed on the stairs and we cooked tea. During our stay, there was nothing we needed that we expected to be there but couldn’t find, which is a rarity when it comes to self catering places.
There’s very little I’d do to change things, which is a testament to The Valley and how carefully they’ve thought everything through. My only improvement would be to replace the mattress in the master bedroom with a proper kingsize as it was two smaller mattresses pushed together, which left an annoying gap in the middle. Other than that, we can’t fault it and would happily return again!
On-Site Facilities And Activities
The Valley has a newly refurbished and relaunched on-site restaurant called Azura Bar and Restaurant. Offering modern homestyle cuisine using local Cornish produce, we ate here on our first night after being given a complimentary meal as part of our review stay.
Located in the same building as the indoor swimming pool and with views overlooking the outdoor pool and terrace, it was nicely decorated and had plenty of seating. What’s more, it was kid-friendly, with high chairs, booster seats, toys, games and books, as well as dog-friendly meaning we could bring Dax in with us.
The menu consisted of dishes such as Roast Butternut Squash Risotto, Pan Fried Cornish Chicken Breast, Slow Braised West Country Lamb Shank and Anise & Jasmine Tea Infused Cornish Pork Belly. It was the Specials that lured us in though, as the missus and I shared a Beef Brisket Burger and Sirloin Steak – both came with chips and garnish.
The Kids Menu was a little restricted, consisting of only Macaroni Cheese & Garlic Bread, Wholetail Scampi & Chips and Sausage & Mash. We went with Macaroni Cheese for both children, but they would have eaten any of the options. The great – and unexpected – thing was that children under three are able to eat for free which is a nice bonus for families with young kids.
Washed down with a local Cornish IPA, all of the food was nice and on par with what we expected. It’s not fine dining, nor is it cheap and nasty, but lies somewhere between the two – good quality, well cooked, ‘pub grub’. The brisket burger with a nice onion marmalade on the bun was my favourite.
The Valley has a range of leisure facilities – exclusive to guests – which we made use of during out stay. This included an indoor pool, a spa pool, a tennis court, a games room, a fitness suite, football nets and an outdoor playground. There’s also a squash court and an outdoor pool, but we didn’t use either of those.
We spent a fair bit of time in the indoor swimming pool as both kids enjoy being in the water. It wasn’t the biggest pool in the world, but it was well maintained and more than adequate for having a dip and a play. Even better, most of the time, it was only us in there! There’s also a spa pool next to the swimming pool, as well as changing rooms.
We also visited the playground a few times, which featured a couple of Little Tikes’ slides for smaller kids, a larger playframe for older children and two swings. The tennis court was also a hit (literally!) and L enjoyed her first experience of being on ‘centre court’.
There was a Fitness Suite which had a treadmill, exercise bike, cross trainer and some dumbbells, which I (surprisingly!) visited whilst on holiday – it’s good they have this, but it could do with a bit of modernisation (e.g. carpets) and additional equipment would be appreciated. Still, it’s nice to have the option to burn the vacation chub.
There’s also a Games Room which had table tennis, table football, bar billiards and pool – all but the first are coin operated so remember to take a few quid with you if you visit. Then, out at the front, there’s a large expanse of grass with football goals if you fancy a kickabout.
Overall, we were really impressed with the amount of on-site activities and found it a great way to entertain the kids when we weren’t out exploring Cornwall. We had no issue doing anything that we wanted to, however I’d suspect it may be a little trickier during peak times when the site has more people staying.
If it’s not the likes of swimming or football you’re after, then The Valley have plenty of toys, games, books and DVDs to entertain you and the kids. Located by reception, you’re able to help yourself to anything you want and take it back to your cottage. Some of the things have seen better days, but the selection was impressive and L enjoyed rummaging for new things to do and play with.
There’s no shop onsite, which is arguably the only thing that could be added. However, there’s a convenience shop just up the road and plenty of large supermarkets ten minutes away in Truro. We decided to visit the supermarket on the evening of arrival, however you can order online and get it delivered to you if needs be. There’s also a few takeaways nearby who deliver too.
As we visited during the Easter holidays, we were also made aware beforehand of a few activities that were being put on for the kids during out stay. This included tennis coaching, bushcraft, Mark’s Ark animal encounters, yoga, archery, Easter crafts and an Easter Egg Hunt. We booked L onto Little Warrior Yoga (£5), Mark’s Ark (free), Easter crafts (free) and the Easter Egg Hunt (free).
The Little Warrior Yoga took place in the squash court and was led by Hettie. During the approx. 45 minute class, L and a couple of other kids practised poses and did some activities around mindfulness, such as drawing pictures of what makes them happy. It was a nice, calm session and L enjoyed taking part.
Mark’s Ark was over in the Games Room and involved an interactive and hands-on talk about various animals. With Mark doing the talking and his assistant doing the demonstrating, we got to see a spider, a scorpion, a snake and an owl. At the end of the talk, the kids even got the chance to hold the animals themselves – L was brave, whilst I was happy to hide behind my camera!
On Easter Sunday, the Valley had put on a special Easter arts and crafts session in one of the apartments. We stuck around for about an hour and L got to paint a moneybox and design an egg with all of the crafty things. She had loads of fun, but it was a shame no-one else turned up because a lot of effort had been put into it – the sunny weather can’t have helped.
Then, in the afternoon, the Valley put on an Easter Egg Hunt. Led by the (real) Easter Bunny, the kids went hunting along the woodland walk for plastic eggs. Within each egg was a prize, and because there were only three kids taking part, we ended up taking home loads of chocolate eggs and sweets! Again, L had a lot of fun and it was fab that the Valley made such an effort to make Easter special and enjoyable.
Things To Do Nearby
The Valley is located a few miles from Truro and provides the perfect base to explore Cornwall. Previous family holidays to the nearby area have seen us stay closer to Bodmin, Dartmoor and South Devon, so this gave us the chance to see more westerly parts of the country.
With the weather being really nice and us having the dog with us, the majority of our day plans revolved around being outside and exploring the stunning coastlines. Although there’s things like activity farms, theme parks, soft plays etc, we wanted to see Cornwall rather than visit something we can do closer to home. As such, here’s what we got up to when we weren’t at The Valley:
Day 1: Just a few miles up the road is Trelissick – a country house and gardens set in an estate, which is run by the National Trust. As dogs aren’t allowed into the gardens, a member of staff instead suggested we do the Woodland Walk. This was about a three-mile circuit which took us along the river bank of the Fal, through the woods and back to the car park. As we’re National Trust members, it was a nice place to check out for ‘free’, but I doubt we’d pay to go if we didn’t have membership.
Day 2: Our first stop was The Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek, which is managed by SEA LIFE Trust. Located half an hour away from The Valley, it provides an idyllic spot on the banks of the Helford River to help injured and sick seal pups. With the chance to see and learn about seals, penguins, otters and sea lions, as well as a playground and quiz trail, it provides a great place to visit for a few hours. What’s more, it’s dog-friendly and if you buy tickets online in advance, you can save yourself a bit of money.
Next, we continued our journey down to the Lizard Peninsula for the Lizard Lighthouse Heritage Centre and Lizard Point. We pulled up in a large National Trust car park, then had a wander around the grounds of the lighthouse – however we didn’t go in as we had the dog. Instead, we had a very blustery walk down to Britain’s most southerly point and took in the fab views across the coastline as we passed the old lifeboat station to get to the beach.
On our way back to The Valley, we made a brief stop at Roskillys organic Cornish dairy farm. Free to get in and dog-friendly, we ate tasty ice-creams from the Ice Cream Parlour, then had a wander over the road to check out some of the animals (cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, quails). There’s also a milking parlour where you can see the calves milked, but this only happens at certain times so we missed it.
Day 3: Exploring the remote peninsular of Roseland was our aim for this day, in particular visiting a couple of the National Trust owned sites. This involved heading down to the lowest point at St Anthony Head, where we did a short (but steep!) circular walk, had a look in rock pools and ate lunch on the cliff edge with panoramic views across Falmouth Bay.
We then got back into the car and headed back up the road to Pendower Beach. It was pretty windy but L wanted to try her wetsuit and bodyboard, so she went into the sea for a bit before we all got warmed up with a pretty epic luxury hot chocolate from Shallikabooky Beach Hut.
Day 4: We got up early and made the hour journey across to Land’s End. Instead of going directly to Land’s End though, we instead parked at Sennen Cove and walked the mile or so along the beautiful cliff tops to reach the most Western point of mainland England. Land’s End was a little touristy, as demonstrated by the fact that you can’t stand next to the iconic signpost without paying! Still, it was a really nice walk there and back, plus we found a playground where L could have a quick climb.
Our plan was then to visit St Ives to check out the town and beach, but the fact that it was sunny and a Bank Holiday meant that it was packed. We drove around a few times looking for a parking space, before we gave up and went to Hayle for Cornish Pasties from Philps Bakery.
Day 5: Having failed on the beach front the previous day, we instead decided to go to the UK’s surf capital, Newquay. Only half an hour away from The Valley, we got over there early to ensure no parking disasters. The kids enjoyed building sandcastles, playing games and dipping their feet in the sea at Towan Beach, before a mooch around the shops and the customary ice-cream. As the weather was nice, we then headed back to the beach later in the afternoon for a bit more sea fun.
Disclosure: We were provided with a complimentary stay at The Valley in Cornwall, along with a £50 voucher to Azura Bar and Restaurant, in exchange for sharing our thoughts and experiences.