Do you Dream of a Cornish Cottage?
... or would you rather a modern apartment?
Which do you prefer on holiday? Being waited on hand and foot, with chefs to prepare you sumptuous food and someone to turn down your duvet in the evening? Or would you rather be free to set your own agenda each day, eating what you want, when you want, and making your own bed, or leaving the covers crumpled in divine decadence? Perhaps it depends on your mood. I’m not averse to either, but do have a soft spot for self-catering in Cornwall, even as a staycationer.
Why, you might ask, go to another house to do all the things you could do at home, for free?
There are many reasons for this.
Firstly, there is something intrinsically freeing about leaving your own mess behind, and starting for scratch in an immaculate new place. You’re not there long enough for things to slide; it’s like the deliciousness of moving into a new home before it becomes just like the old one.
Cornwall has an almost bewildering myriad of self-catering options to suit all tastes, from conventional to quirky to downright wacky. Big, modern and airy, with a balcony facing out to sea? Check. Thatched ? Check. Triffid-like pods hidden in the woods, off-grid so you learn to live at one with nature? Check. Go somewhere different each time or, if you find one that fits you like a glove, make it your regular bolthole.
The change of scene is refreshing and energising. Everything is different: the views from the windows, the books on the shelves, the toys in the box. Each cubbyhole delivers a new surprise, and because you’re on holiday, you’re more likely to partake in whatever it has to offer, whether it’s a gripping novel or a fiercely competitive family game of Pictionary.
Best of all, you get to choose the routine, or just take each day as it comes. “Breakfast is served between 8 and 9am”? Pah! I’ll have a full-on brunch with endless coffee at 11.30am, thanks. In fact, I’ll have it in bed at no extra charge (if I can get someone to cook it for me…). You can go out if you want, bring food back if you don’t – a good self-catering let has a well-stocked kitchen, a sturdy dining table and squishy sofas if you fancy a TV dinner (we won’t judge).
Go cosy with a fisherman's cottage for two; or splash out on the outdoor pool, or spread the cost on a manor house with family or a bunch of friends. A house with history can make you feel like you’re walking in the footsteps of giants, while an eco-home might inspire you to keep good habits going in your normal habitat.
Coast or countryside, just finding your perfect location can be an adventure, right down to the moment you’re hunting it down in the middle of nowhere, in the dark after a nine-hour drive. It makes that moment of sticking the key in the lock all the sweeter.
During the short days of winter and early spring, self-catering comes into its own. If the weather is foul, you can hole yourself up in the knowledge that you won’t have to share the space with anyone other than your nearest and dearest. Pull up a pew at a picture window for a spot of storm watching, hunker down next to a logburner with a good book, or challenge someone to a game of Trivial Pursuit.
I have especially fond memories of self-catering on New Year’s Eve, on two very different occasions. After a busy Christmas period, we welcomed 2016 in peaceful seclusion in Treyarnon Bay, just the three of us holed up in a comfortable apartment listening to the wind blowing a hoolie outside. On January 1, we had a tiny north coast beach entirely to ourselves, and decorated sandcastles with driftwood and seaweed.
A few years later, we decided to be more sociable and took both sets of parents to a delightful self-catering cottage on the Caerhays estate. We’re talking home-cooked feasts (seven around the table), windswept coastal walks, The Greatest Showman on the telly and an unfortunate visit to Truro’s A&E on New Year’s Day (Mum’s much better now, thanks).
Admit it – you are tempted! There’s a match out there for you – you just need to look, then book.