Our week in the Sheepshed on the North Cornwall Coast
When our Easter holiday plans fell through just a week before we were due to set off, I didn't have very high hopes of finding a replacement or at least not one that wasn't a condemned caravan in Rhyll. But just as I was punching North Wales into the Sat Nav and setting off to buy some Calor Gas, a desperate last ditch phone call to the holiday company Forever Cornwall paid off. They had a property available and a pretty amazing one at that: an eco friendly conversion of an old farm building set in a small hamlet located just inland from the stunning coastline of Bedruthan Steps. Judith Chalmers clearly had my back. We arrived on a gloriously sunny evening after a journey that had involved listening to a Basketful of Kipper more times than is advisable for anyone wishing to hold onto to their sanity and stepped out of a sweaty Audi estate and into the Cornish holiday home of my dreams. In that fantasy I can wear a wetsuit without looking like a garden slug, have hair that doesn't look like I borrowed it from Adam Ant in coastal conditions and can swim in the sea without my unusual breaststroke style causing the RNLI to launch a lifeboat.
About the house
The Sheepshed has been converted from old agricultural barns by the TV architect Charlie Luxton (think a more surfy version of Kevin McCloud) and his simple design superbly maximises its location in an area of outstanding natural beauty. A series of huge picture windows make the most of stunning views of the garden and the fields beyond. We got a bit competitive about who could take the best sunset pic (we have 3 kids, this is how we get our kicks these days...). The kids were naturally more captivated by the massive internet enabled TV that allowed access to Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Inside there is not an anchor, seashell or nautical stripe in sight, The muted interiors draw heavily on natural materials and the palette of inky blues, mint greens and soft greys have a calming Nordic edge to them. I was going to describe the style as a Nordic Pine but realise that sounds a bit too much like a fragrance of toilet duck or a car air freshener. Everything has been kept deliberately simple to avoid taking away from the views and it works to great effect.
If I had any criticism at all (without sounding like the person on trip advisor who claims that a chipped toilet roll holder ruined their £10,000 holiday) it would be that the lighting in the living room is perhaps a little bit on the stark side. Even my husband (who can usually be relied upon to mock my penchant for "soft lighting") agreed that the two lighting modes on offer were basically "interrogation room" or "dentists chair". But that is a very minor quibble and to be honest I could quite happily have just turned all the lights off and just watched the sunset most nights.
The Local Area
Within 15 minutes drive of the Sheepshed are the beaches at Bedruthan Steps and Porthcothan. We loved both for different reasons. Bedruthan Steps is a big, dramatic beach that could easily be mistaken for a slice of coastline on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. If, like mine, your kids are the type that enjoy testing the robustness of your pelvic floor by scaling big rocks this is the beach for them as there are both lots of rocks (big and small) to climb and caves to explore. There is a National Trust Cafe at the top of the cliff that looks and smells a bit like Dot Cotton's front room but which serves up great bacon baps and cream teas with an option for eating outside.
Porthcothan is an altogether different type of a beach and, although it lacks the intial wow factor of Bedruthan, was our favourite. The first plus point in its favour is that you can walk straight onto it whereas Bedruthan requires you to navigate down 100+ steps. With a buggy in tow, this can feel like you are unwittingly taking part in the type of physical challenge Royal Marines undertake to earn their green beret.
Despite the easier access, most days we practically had it to ourselves and it's large flat expanse of sand was perfect for playing football and cricket on.
It also has lots of great nooks and crannies carved from the cliffs to explore.
Although the thing the boys enjoyed the most was playing cops and robbers in the sand dunes fronting on to the beach.
Fresh from pretending to abduct the kids and lock them in "jail", we would pile into the beach cafe, Porthcothan Bay Stores, which is tucked just behind the dunes and stocks all sorts of lovely Cornish treats (like sausages rolls from the Chough Bakery and Roskillys Icecream) with interiors that are a lot less like Dot Cotton's front room. You can even order a flat white without someone laughing at you.
How do I book?
We came home with grand (and completely unfunded plans) to buy the near derelict old chapel just across the road, renovate it and move down there lock, stock and barrel. The slightly more affordable way to get back to this slice of heaven more quickly is to book it through Forever Cornwall. It is available to rent on its own or with the neighbouring, larger Sheepfold. Race you down there?