As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve just spent a fantastic week at the Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall. I hope this review* is useful for anyone looking for a self catering holiday with young children. There is so much to say about the place, so I’ll get stuck right in…
My positive impressions of Retallack began from my first contact with them. Emails were replied to promptly and whenever I phoned to ask questions or book activities, the staff actually sounded like they enjoyed their job and genuinely wanted to help make my holiday the best it could be. This excellent customer service was across the board from the reservations team, the FlowRider staff, The Green Room restaurant and the spa staff.
Although check in was listed as being from 4pm, I read on their website that if your property is ready early they’ll allow you in sooner. As we’d had a blustery beach walk and an ice cream already, we decided to risk turning up at 2.30pm and have a coffee while we waited. Thankfully it was ready, so we were able to check straight in. The receptionist was really cheerful and welcoming as she provided me with maps, a list of special offers for the spa and a list of the activities that were on over the next week. She was also able to give me a stack of local take away menus from behind the counter, as we’d planned to get some dinner delivered on the first night.
Our lodge didn’t feel like a log cabin, it was a full-on modern home. The living room had two sofas, a coffee table and a flat screen TV with Sky and a DVD player. The stairs opened up from the living room with a pull across stair gate to stop small people from escaping. The spacious lounge led through to the kitchen/diner, where there was a table with four chairs. Large patio doors on both the front and back of the house allowed light to flood in, and the cream walls kept the light and airy feel throughout. There was plenty of cupboard space to store the food that we had delivered from Tesco the following day (definitely worth doing). We had a ‘welcome pack’ that included some sachets of coffee and teabags, a pint of milk, washing up liquid, a bin liner, dishwasher tablet and washing tablets, which was great to keep us going until the shopping arrived. There was also a utility room with a washer-dryer, which was an AMAZING addition (just remember to bring washing powder), and a downstairs toilet which was another fantastic inclusion.
Out back, we had a decked area that was completely enclosed with a stair gate on the exit. In the little decked area there was a table and two chairs and a little kids table and bench set, along with a BBQ. We also had a locked up hot tub in there which would be open if we’d booked a higher grade of property (maybe next time!) Out front was another decked area with a table and two chairs chairs.
The back gateway was narrow, so you can’t get a single buggy through, but the front gate was much larger and our big City Jogger Elite single went through it easily (and I think a narrow double would too). The front patio doors are plenty big enough to accommodate a double buggy.
Upstairs were two large bedrooms. The master had a superking sized bed – perfect for all cuddling up in the mornings. The second bedroom had twin beds – these were quite tall for my boys who are used to very low toddler beds at home, but they were really comfy. Both rooms had flatscreen TVs attached to the walls. The master had patio doors opening out onto a balcony which offered great views over the resort and the rolling hills beyond. There was a family bathroom with a large bath (with taps in the centre, which means nobody has to have the tap end – very important for argumentative twins!) and a bath mat (we’d taken our own just in case but needn’t have bothered) and there was also a separate shower cubicle which the boys loved hiding in.
If you have twins or triplets, you’ll probably know the problem of trying to find a property with a second bedroom large enough to accommodate more than one cot. When my boys were small we often stayed in places where we had one cot in the second bedroom and one in the lounge or in our bedroom, which wasn’t very practical. In this second bedroom, as you can see in the picture above, there was plenty room for two or even three cots (although we decided to move ours into the master bedroom to stop the boys from waking E up at ridiculous times).
We had a mix of the baby and toddler packs because we took our three and a half year old boys and a nine month old baby. We had stair gates on the top and bottom of the stairs, a baby bath, steriliser, high chair, a set of plastic feeding equipment, a toilet step, a toilet seat and a potty. If you need more than one of these because you’re taking multiples, just ask as they are happy providing two high chairs etc.
I loved that the back garden was completely private and not overlooked as we were on a back row of properties with none behind us. Obviously not all lodges can be on the back row but they all felt far enough apart that you weren’t in anyone’s pocket. We didn’t hear a peep from our adjoining neighbours, so the walls must have been quite thick (I hope they can say the same thing about us!) It was also nice being able to park right outside the property which made unloading easy.
Another great thing was the lack of breakable things everywhere. The decor was minimalist and I only had to remove a lamp and vase of flowers from the boys’ bedroom before it was clear of things that could get them into trouble (unlike our holiday last year where I had to pack most of the caravan away for the week to stop them breaking everything!)
As soon as we set foot inside, the boys declared that they loved their ‘new home’ and didn’t want to go back to their ‘old home’ again! It felt spacious, light and clean (in fact, it was spotless). The folded robes on our bed, the fluffy towels and the Egyptian cotton sheets were a beautiful touch that made me feel like we were staying in a hotel, not a self catering lodge. It felt a million miles away from the holiday parks I visited as a child with my parents.
The views across the valley were lovely. A few steps from our lodge was a little pond and dotted around the resort were other larger ponds as well as some large fishing lakes. Ducks roamed freely around the resort and we made friends with a pair who turned up at our door most days for bread, which the boys loved.
Top tip: If you’re coming with a double buggy, you might want to ask the reservations team which grades of lodge are close to the main facilities. The resort is scattered over a hill and I pushed E up it one evening – it gave me a great workout, but I’m not sure I’d have made it with a double buggy containing two toddlers! Our Harlyn property was a level two minute walk away from the main complex so was ideal for families.
In the main complex there is a swimming pool, gym, spa, indoor soft play, The Green Room restaurant and a lounge area. Outside is the FlowRider (check out my review here as there was too much to cram everything into this one). Across from this is an outdoor playground, tennis courts and a golf course.
We went swimming a few times and found the large family changing room really great (there were also regular changing rooms too). There are lockers in there (remember to take a £1 coin for them) and a fold down baby change mat. It worked well as the boys were older and we only had one baby. If you’re going with baby twins then you might want to take in your car seats so you can keep one in there while you change the other, then you could either store the car seats at reception (who looked after our buggy while we went for a swim) or take them around the pool area. The water was lovely and warm, so we were able to stay in until we got bored rather than being forced out with a cold baby. There was also a steam room and sauna, but we didn’t use these as it was too tricky to juggle three kids in the pool.
The indoor soft play was a great feature for little toddlers. It was a bit small for our three and a half year olds, so we only used it once. They enjoyed it but we found they were being a bit too adventurous and were climbing over the young babies, so we spent most of our time in the outdoor playground. This was a huge hit with the boys. There were swings, a pirate ship and slide, a zip wire, a see saw and a climbing wall. It was never overly busy and each time we went they could get on the swings.
I pre-booked a Polynesian Spa Ritual at £80 in advance because French Polynesia is one of my favourite destinations, so whenever I see something that mentions Bora Bora on a spa list I have to give it a try! It was 80 minutes of bliss – a full body exfoliation followed by a massage. I left with sparkly skin, all ready for a nap! The only downside to it was seeing the special offers list I received on arrival, which said I could have had the treatment on a Monday for £50 instead! But then again, there is no way of knowing if they’d have been able to fit me in if I’d waited until I arrived to book. My advice would be to pre-book your treatment if you have a specific time/day in mind for your treatment, otherwise wing it and see what offers are on when you arrive, as each day there is a different discount. I did try to book one more treatment while I was there (the therapist sold me on the Bikini Bootcamp treatment), but as I was limited to the times I could make, I wasn’t able to find a suitable slot.
The Green Room restaurant
This newly revamped restaurant is led by Masterchef 2008 winner, James Nathan. The restaurant offers high quality food served in a very relaxed, family friendly environment overlooking the FlowRider. It’s a great concept – a restaurant that believes just because you have kids doesn’t mean you don’t want to eat great food.
I popped in the restaurant for coffee with E a couple of times. During the daytime it’s a quiet and welcoming place where you can watch people surf the waves below. On a Thursday evening at this time of the year the resort offers a great kids club session where the kids (over three) can eat in the restaurant early and then go off to watch a supervised movie in the lounge while the parents enjoy the tasting menu (£39 per head). Due to our arrival dates we couldn’t fit this in, but during school holidays the cinema club runs more often, so it’s certainly something we’d look at doing next time.
We pre-booked the Sunday lunch on Father’s Day a couple of weeks before we arrived. The day before Father’s Day I popped in the restaurant to check they’d still be running the regular kid’s menu. I was told they would so I took a copy of the menu with me so we could pick what everyone wanted in advance. Eating out with three kids aged three and under can be hard work, so making it as easy as possible is important! When we arrived for the meal – armed with our menu choices – we were disappointed to find the children’s menu wasn’t running and only roast beef was available in a child’s portion. My kids hate roast dinners and at home I have to practically argue them to death to eat one. As soon as they realised they couldn’t have what they wanted the tears began, but we went with it and ordered them a roast each anyway. Husband wanted a starter, so as there were no starters on offer for the kids I asked if we could get some bread so the they had something to nibble while he ate. The staff were great and brought some little slices of rosemary bread for them which kept them happy for a while. We almost had a breakdown when the mains arrived and they realised they weren’t getting their fish goujons after all, but the sight of the Yorkshire pudding calmed them down. T1 even ate at least half of his beef, which he never usually does and as it came with peas and carrots we managed to persuade them to try some vegetables too. The meal was lovely and it was a nice change to be able to take the kids out somewhere that we felt in place rather than out of place! Practically every table had a toddler or baby at it, all tucking into their roasts. Both Husband and I went for the roast beef too, then I had Eton mess, while the boys opted for chocolate ice cream. At just over £60 for two courses each and one drink each (Husband had a pint and I had a large glass of wine, plus two fruit shoots) it was expensive but we did enjoy it, and I was amazed it wasn’t anyway near as stressful as we’d expected it to be.
It’s definitely worth calling the resort before your holiday to find out what days and times the kids club and crèche service will run during your stay (although I believe you’ll receive a planner by email in advance of your booking so you can see what is going on if it’s during the school holidays). We pre-booked E into the crèche and the boys into the kids club for the Wednesday of our holiday from 2 – 5pm. Costs of the kids club and crèche vary from about £5 – £15 for a session.
The kids club and Jellytots crèche are based in a large lodge. It’s currently being upgraded to create a great space for kids to play. The inside was fantastic and there was a large deck outside. The deck had just been painted so the kids couldn’t use it when we were there, but it was packed full of ride ons and toys so I think any child would love it. The staff were all really welcoming and friendly and the boys ran off the second we arrived without a second look, hurling themselves into the large soft play section of the room. E sat down on a mat and started playing with dolls and again was was really happy and contented so we made our escape. Three hours was a great amount of time – enough for a spa session, swim, meal or just a chance for some alone time. It is also a great opportunity to give the kids some independence and let them play with other kids. When we arrived to collect them the staff talked us through what they’d been up to and what snacks they’d eaten. When it came time to put their shoes on, they didn’t want to leave!
As we were staying out of school holidays, the kids club was running limited sessions during the days, but during the peak weeks they run loads of sessions for kids. These include gardening sessions, mini discos, pamper sessions and my favourite – the breakfast club, where they collect your kids from your lodge and take them off for breakfast while you get to go back to bed.
We had a fantastic time at Retallack. The kids loved it and we loved being surrounded by other families in the same situation as us. There are some amazing beaches a short distance away, and lots to do for families of all ages nearby. There were a few days we didn’t touch the car, preferring to stay on site and enjoy the pool and playground.
If you’re a TAMBA member, just remember to mention that when booking as you’ll receive a discount. Following their adverts in the TAMBA magazine you’re sure to see plenty of twins around the resort as they really want to make it a great place to bring multiples. They have well and truly succeeded. My boys cried when the time came to go home.
You can read my review of Retallack Resort’s FlowRider in this separate post. If you’re going to stay at Retallack, or just going on holiday in the area, I can’t recommend the FlowRider highly enough. We had so much fun on it!
I’d just like to say a huge thank you to the Retallack Resort and Spa for inviting me to stay and review the resort and facilities. It’s amazing to find a forward thinking company who are trying to make their services accessible to parents with multiples. We are already planning our return!
*For the purpose of this review I received one week in a Harlyn lodge at a heavily discounted rate. I paid for the meal in The Green Room, the spa and all activities myself.