A staycation answered our prayers this year when plans for the family holiday turned into a delicate negotiation.
With two teenagers and two adults to satisfy we had requests for a beach activity holiday in Cornwall, a theme park visit to Thorpe Park and a city break to London.
And could it all be fitted in to about ten days because one of the offspring can’t cope with two weeks away from their keyboard.
The sail/ drive option with Stena from Belfast to Birkenhead satisfied everyone plus it’s a very civilised way to start a holiday.
Just fill the car to the roof, check in to a luxurious cabin, kick back with a glass of wine, wake up on holiday and drive.
We’d booked a cottage by a sea in little Longrock with the lure of beautiful beaches, quaint villages and a Cornish welcome. It delivered on all fronts.
The village is perched between Penzance, where Causewayhead is home to the artisan shops and quirky cafes, and beautiful Marazion, a tourist delight full of art galleries and little shops.
The view from our former fisherman’s cottage was over St Michael’s Mount, a thousand year old castle which belongs in the realms of Disney.
The crew were persuaded to take a break from the gentle waves of miles long Mounts Bay to climb up to the castle, a stunning slice of preserved history which is still inhabited by the St Aubyn family.
The Bay is a stunning sandy beach which was never crowded despite being a favourite with the locals.
Since Cornwall is synonymous with surfing I booked us in with Smart Surf School in Sennen Cove near Land’s End.
On a blistering summer evening the team took us through the paces of how to handle your board and the lesson turned out to be the best and most exhausting two hours of my life, barring childbirth.
With the evening sun glinting over clear blue water we learned how to wait for the perfect wave and hop up to ride it to shore. In my case it was how to fall off and drift like a manatee but the rest of the family were living the Hawaii Five-O dream by the end of it.
Any plans to explore picturesque Mousehole and high end St Ives – taxi driver advice is to park and rail to avoid eye-watering car park charges – gave way to body boarding on the beach for the week.
In the name of culture we visited Minack Theatre, an open air amphitheatre carved into the rock which is a stunning creation. There was sighs of relief all round that I hadn’t booked in for that afternoon’s Shakespeare production because the sun had come out again and beautiful Porthcurno beach is next door.
It looks like a beach in the Med where the only difference is the water temperature, but a wetsuit and a few minutes to acclimatise was all it took.
After eating our way through some amazing seafood in Mackerel Sky in Penzance, the Mexico Inn in Longrock and the King’s Arms in Marazion we headed to Thorpe Park for some gut-challenging roller coaster rides.
One happy teenager was prepared to do the hour long queues – Derren Brown’s horror ride had a two hour wait – but many of the rides were a lot quicker. It does take a diehard thrill seeker to wait for 70 minutes for a ride that’s over in 60 seconds but there are still the old school fairground attractions if you don’t fancy challenging your vertigo.
With a base in the Mercure in Staines-upon-Thames, a few minutes from Thorpe Park, we could unwind with a drink in the hotel bar next to the river.
From the town made famous by Ali G, which looks like a new pin, we were a ten minute drive to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 which is at the end of the tube line straight into central London.
An open top bus tour for £90 for a family is the perfect way to see the landmarks of London. The only downside of a wander around Big Ben is that half of the civilised world is there, but it whetted everyone’s appetite for a return visit to slightly less manic parts of the city.
With everyone’s holiday needs met we scooted back up the motorway for the ferry home where Prosecco has never been sweeter and a cabin bed has never felt softer.
• Sunday World travelled on the Stena Line Belfast to Liverpool service which offers a direct link from Northern Ireland to the heart of England on the Stena Lagan and Stena Mersey from as little as £89 for single car and driver (when you book 60 days in advance based on an economy crossing for a car and driver). The crossing time is approximately 8 hours with a choice of day and night sailings.
Experience the various lounges and the great selection of food and drink to choose from on board, as well as free on board movies and free Wi-Fi so you can stay connected throughout your journey. Customers can upgrade to the luxurious Stena Plus lounge while on board and indulge in a wide selection of complimentary snacks and beverages as well as express boarding and disembarkation from just £20 per person single. A variety of cabins providing peace and quiet on the crossing are also available.
To make a booking, click on www.stenaline.co.uk, call Stena Line on 08447 70 70 70, or visit your local travel agent.
*For the lowest fares, passengers should travel off peak, Tuesday –Thursday and book online at least 60 days before departure.