Apparently North and South Cornwall are very different scenery wise and you can have a very different holiday in each of them. I long wanted to visit Padstow, home of the famous chef Rick Stein and his empire of successful restaurants. For this reason and this reason only, we based ourselves in the North Cornwall town. We were very pleased with this decision however, it was the perfect place for us.
The scenery throughout the northern part of the county is very dramatic - some say it is like the coastline of Brittany. It really is nature at its finest - all craggy coastline, full of coves long used by smugglers; huge forbidding cliffs with huge waves crashing onto the shore. It is a surfer's paradise as you will see around Newquay, but perfect also for families with its golden, sandy beaches.
Our base was Padstow - not quite on the coast, but sheltered inland on the estuary of the River Camel. We had day trips around the local area, we never travelled more than about 20 miles from Padstow, but still found we could not fit in everything we wanted to do. You will not find time to be bored here, however active a holiday you prefer.
Families are catered for really well in North Cornwall and the Padstow area. There is a great choice of accommmodation and no end of lovely self-catering cottages. All accommodation seemed to be of a very high standard. There are beaches galore - all of them accessible. We walked to some from Padstow, but if you want to drive and venture further afield to some of the surf beaches, all of these had plenty of parking. There are also lifeguards on most beaches during the summer season. Do keep an eye on the tide times though. Some beaches - e.g. Bedruthan Steps can get cut off at high tide and you could be stranded. High tide information is readily available in the towns or on the internet. Check this, visit the beach at low tide and just plan accordingly.
The whole area is also full of great restaurants. We found that all of them seemed very family-friendly and all offered children's menus. Even the poshest restaurants seemed happy to have children dine there.
If your children enjoy surfing, or want to learn, they have surf schools especially for children. It is not all about the sea and the beaches though, there are lots of other attractions too. That being said, we did have a bit of a challenge getting our 8 year old away from the beach. He would happily have stayed there all day, every day.
The shape of Cornwall means that wherever you stay, nowhere is really too far away. We found we could do a cultural excursion in the morning, e.g. visiting Tintagel Castle or Bodmin Jail; have lunch or a cream tea in a nice pub; spend the afternoon playing on the beach and then go crabbing in the evening. It is bliss, a place where all members of the family are happy on the same day!
I think Cornwall is one of the most beautiful counties in England. It is also a real mixture of old and new. The Eden Project is like something from the future with its huge biomes and a recreation of the rainforest you can walk through. A few miles down the road, you will find an ancient market town or an old smuggler's cove. It all blends seamlessly together though.
The whole county is buzzing. It is very stylish and trendy - lots of chic bars, restaurants, shops and hotels and everywhere feels "alive". The climate is good too - milder than the rest of England, and even if it rained sometimes, we found the bad weather tended to clear very quickly and the sun was never far away. The scenery is breath-taking - you never tire of it, the beaches are heaven on earth - as good as you will get anywhere in the world. All this, plus great food, no end of fun activities, a wealth of history and legends galore make North Cornwall one of the best places anywhere to spend your summer holiday.