We were given some gift vouchers for Christmas (thanks sis-in-laws) a while back for the Forest Holidays resorts and, though as usual it was pretty last minute, we managed to book up just before they ran out of date! We have always fancied going to Cornwall, so we spur of the moment picked the Forest Holiday resort farthest from home, in Deerpark, Cornwall.
The booking system was great and easy to use. After booking I received regular updates via email with helpful things like directions, checking in, a packing list and ideas for things to do in the forest and nearby. Normally I unsubscribe quickly to any mailing list, but these were actually really useful and they made me pretty excited for our holiday!
Forest Holidays have cabins in nine woodland locations around the UK. We stayed in a Golden Oak cabin, but all the cabins focus on ‘simple luxury’. I wasn’t totally sure what that meant until I arrived at a big, beautiful, fully equipped cabin with a wood burner, a private hot tub and barbecue on a deck outside, a multimedia centre (that you can use to order food and drink!) and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river outside. I guess the simple bit is that you don’t really need much more than that!
Every morning we enjoyed our breakfast outside on the deck listening to the sounds of the trees and the river (and the ducks and geese and moorhens and squirrels who really wanted some cereal). Alongside the sounds of our kids squealing happily at said wildlife, and not-so-happily when they were told not to share their cheerios and toast with them! We didn’t really see any other people because the cabin was surrounded by huge trees, so there was nobody to overlook us.
After the kids were in bed we fired up the hot tub. (I took the little lady in it too. I mean, I couldn’t not give her a turn in the ‘tiny pool’.) Even when it was raining slightly this was still absolutely wonderful. The only thing we could see were the stars and the moon and the trees and our cabin. There were no other lights around anywhere. It was seriously stress busting!
It is absolutely the type of place where you can just turn off your phone (we didn’t have a signal anyway at Deerpark) and forget about absolutely everything else in the world. I found it incredibly relaxing. Husband did still have to do a little work while we were there though (being self-employed has it’s cons as well as it’s pros) and so we also paid the extra to get the wifi package.
The Forest Park
We were staying in Deerpark for 5 days. There were definitely a few lazy mornings spent in and around the cabin, just enjoying the ducks and the geese outside, and each others company.
We spent a couple of full days there in the forest. I’d booked us and the kids into a couple of forest ranger activities. I had booked us all into a Forest Explorer activity, where went on a walk with Martin the forest ranger who is one of the most wonderfully knowledgeable humans I’ve ever met.
When he arrived, Martin handed the kids a large bit of card in the shape of a face with a lot of double sided tape strategically stuck to it, informing them that they had to make themselves a nature mask as we went along. My husband and I had just as fun collecting bits of leaf and stick and flower to attach to this mask as the little lady did!
We spent a good 2 hours exploring the forest and examining all the different trees, plants and wildlife we found along the way. The kids fed the fish in the river (and inadvertently the geese as well). We were told what wasn’t edible, and we tasted some wild leaves that were.
Martin had based the walk on the Gruffalo book (I know that everyone has heard of that) and along the way there was even a log pile house where the snake might live… At the end of the walk there was a little lean-to in the forest which, of course, was where the Gruffalo lives. Sadly he wasn’t in when we got there. It was such a sweet and nicely thought out activity for the kids. And I’m totally taking the mask + double-sided tape idea for the future!
The only other thing I had booked was a pond dipping session for the little lady. As a zoologist in a previous life with a whole bunch of pond and stream dipping sessions on field trips and the like, this was totally up my street and I thought the little lady would really enjoy it too. Martin took us to a bit of the stream where she could stand in the shallows and handed her a net and she got right on with it.
We caught mayflies and beetles and a few little fish and lots of types of nymph plus loads of others. The little lady had great fun catching them, and even greater fun when she was allowed to hold a fish in her hands! We took our catch up to the ranger station where she had a look at everything through the microscope.
We were supposed to be id-ing them but being a typical 4 year old by this point she was getting pretty hangry, so Martin ticked off all the species we’d found and we headed back to our cabin. She absolutely loved the dipping part though!
We had hired bikes in advance but to be honest we didn’t really use them. Because we’d hired them we did go a few little cycles along the forest paths. We had a bike trailer too which neither of us had ever used before. So that was fun, but it really wasn’t necessary to have the bikes since we weren’t far at all from the reception/shop/bar/cafe.
The bar/cafe served food most of the day, including really good pizza and the cheesiest, most delicious mac & cheese I’ve ever come across, and they served nice local beers and ice creams. We ended up spending less time there than I expected. On our way there we had popped into a nearby Morrisons and stocked up on breakfast and barbecue grub. The cabin felt so chilled and lovely that we just ate there in the mornings and most evenings.
Days Out from Deerpark
Since we were down in Cornwall anyway we wanted to explore a little bit. I have wanted to go to the Eden Project ever since it opened so I grabbed the chance while we were nearby and we made a day of it. What a place! I was in plant heaven. The kids loved running around exploring and they particularly enjoyed the waterfalls and rope bridges up in the aerial walkway of the rainforest zone. The little lady loved the different craft activities that were on through the day too. Great place – definitely worth a visit.
We chose the nicest forecasted day to head out on a little day trip to the beaches and towns along the west coast. In the morning we went to Watergate Bay, a beautiful surfing beach just north of Newquay, and had lunch in a beachside surfers bar there.
We weren’t going to be back down in Cornwall anytime soon, so we decided to go to Lands End next. Baby boy needed his usual extensive nap anyway. Lands End was exactly how I remember it from the 90’s except that they take that iconic white distance marker sign away when there’s nobody manning it so you can’t take your own photos at it. (Yup, seriously. They do it at John O’groats at the opposite end of our island as well.)
Afterwards we went to St Ives for some dinner and a little walk in the harbour there. The tide goes so for out that you can walk along the sea bed between the boats and the buoys and the huge chains that link them up.
The Extra Bits
- The fridges in the cabins are a decent size, but the freezers are a compartment within the fridge. So don’t take too much stuff that has to be frozen.
- There are loads of cutlery, crockery, pots, pans and utensils in the cabins.
- The blinds close pretty neatly so it isn’t too light in the morning. Our kids have blackout blinds and thick curtains at home to keep out as much light as possible. They just got up at their usual times when we were away though.
- The decking area outside was completely enclosed with a high (for kids) fence. Nobody was getting over or through that into the river.
- The barbecue is a gas barbecue and it was great for cooking on. I’d never used a gas barbecue before but it was super easy to use. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be grand.
- The hot tub was maintained and cleaned every day and again was really easy to use. Just flip open the lid after it has been cleaned and jump in.
- You can order meals, drinks, snacks and other bits right to your cabin via your tv. We didn’t need to but a takeaway and movie night was pretty tempting.
- The cafe/restaurant wasn’t open late quite a few nights. Make sure you check opening times if you’re planning on eating there.
The price of cabins ranges widely throughout the year at all Forest Holiday locations. If you were to go in winter you can get a cabin for around £250 for a Monday – Friday stay; in June it’s more like £650. Going in August you’re looking at quite a lot more than that.
There are lots of things you can add onto your booking. These include the multimedia package, bikes, activities, food and loads more.
Forest Holidays Deerpark is one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been. The cabins are perfect; those floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river are just stunning. The customer service is great. The forest ranger and his activities were fantastic fun and the forest is quiet and still and a beautiful place to stay. I would highly recommend Forest Holidays and hopefully we’ll be back again one day.
Forest Holidays Deerpark is located at Liskeard PL14 4QY. There are several other locations around the UK, including 2 in Scotland.