Just off the Cornish coast, Tresco Sea Garden Cottages on the Isles of Scilly are ideal for families seeking sunshine, sea air and a sea-breezy beach-based break from the daily grind. Car-free Tresco offers oodles of activities (so little Smiths will have plenty of room to play) and a safe haven from modern-day stresses.
For the One-Bedroom Cottages: 10.30am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. See the room descriptions for check-in times for specific properties.
Double rooms from £305.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
The nine one-bedroom cottages are charged on a daily basis and the rate usually includes breakfast and a two-course dinner at the Ruin Beach Café. The seven larger cottages are available on a weekly, self-catering basis.
If you're visiting in the school holidays and want to hire bikes during your stay, it's a good idea to reserve these ahead of arrival. The local deli, bakery and mini-supermarket Tresco Stores can arrange food deliveries as well as home-cooked ready meals (perfect for your first night).
At the hotel
Gardens, sauna, Jacuzzi, gym, tennis court (with rackets and balls), croquet lawn, sailing centre, DVD library, free WiFi throughout. There's a golf club close by, on the island of St Mary's. In cottages: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, board games, and Ren bath products. Each cottage has a full kitchen with microwave, oven, hob, extractor fan, dishwasher, kettle, toaster and fridge.
Our favourite rooms
The cottages are dotted among the gardens – they’re pretty little stone houses with turquoise window- and door-frames, screened by the foliage for maximum privacy. Any of the nine one-bedroom cottages are lovely for a couple; for the best views of the sea, lighthouse and rocks, go for Gimble. But if you need more space, Lobster, Oyster, Samphire, Seapink and Starfish have three bedrooms apiece. All are sold on a self-catering basis but breakfast and dinner can be booked and taken at the Ruin Beach Cafe close by. Style-wise, solid oak flooring and white walls are brought to life with lots of soft prints, colourful wicker and hand-painted tiles. Bedspreads and blinds are made exclusively by a friend of the owner, who also designs fabrics for Liberty.
On the island, there are two family-friendly indoor pools – one at the hotel, the other at the Flying Boat Club a short walk away – both of which are gated. One has a shallow end with Roman steps. Floats and inflatables are available to borrow.
The Sea Garden Cottages also have access to their own, sauna, Jacuzzi and gym. And you're welcome at the exclusive Flying Boat Club spa (over-3s welcome), where treatments by Ila focus on purifying, relaxing and wellbeing, in keeping with the island’s earthy ethos. There are only two treatment rooms, so book ahead.
Don't forget comfy walking shoes for getting the most out of Scilly's sea air and car-free paths.
The local deli, bakery and mini-supermarket Tresco Stores can arrange food deliveries as well as home-cooked ready meals (perfect for your first night).
Tresco is more suited to families than couples; children will love the car-free environs of this peaceful island.
Get cosy in the special dining spaces to the side of the sheds, within the ruins of an old boat shed; the tables are adorned with blankets, candles and storm lanterns.
Relaxed digs are all you need here.
Guests on a dinner, bed and breakfast tariff are served meals at the Ruin Beach Café, arranged across a row of old gig sheds, on the sand of Old Grimsby Quay – it’s a very Scilly setting, and it's laid-back enough for fresh-from-the-beach families. Teak furniture is assembled out on the patio. Indoors, a bright, casual, all-wood space sits beneath sloping beamed ceilings. Light lunches and dinners include wood-fired pizzas topped with deli delights and a brilliant sharing plate (meats, cheeses, roasted vegetables, stone baked bread, anchovies). A two-course dinner is included in the rate; the menu features lovely local stars such as Cornish silver mullet, Falmouth Bay scallops and organic leaves from the neighbouring island of St Martin’s. For your other meals, see the local guide to Tresco.
There’s no dedicated bar, but the Ruin Beach Café has a dinky one which will serve most of your needs.
Ruin Beach Café is open for lunch until 2.30pm and for dinner until 9.30pm, with cakes and snacks in between.
Tresco Stores offers a little menu of comforting dishes that can go directly into your oven, including a mighty pie of Tresco steak, Tribute Ale and Cornish blue cheese. If you order before 10am, your meal will be delivered by 5pm – ring 01720 422806.
The Isles of Scilly form a little archipelago, 28 miles off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula. Tiny Tresco is one of five inhabited Scilly Isles, and the second biggest; the hotel sits right on the coast.
You can fly with Skybus from Land’s End Airport, Newquay Cornwall Airport or Exeter International Airport to Tresco’s neighbouring island, St Mary’s. Then, to get to Tresco (referred to as an ‘off-island’), you take the waiting boat from the main quay; the onward boat rides take about 20 minutes. Newquay receives lots of regional flights with Flybe, so you could get there from Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Norwich. Exeter International is the hub for international connections.
For Land’s End Airport, the nearest train station is Penzance. First Great Western can whizz you there from London Paddington in five and a half hours; a sleeper train makes the same journey. The Skybus shuttle will meet you outside Penzance train station and take you straight to the airport if you call 0845 710 5555 to pre-book. Or, you can get to Exeter International in two to three hours from Paddington.
If you want to drive to either Newquay or Exeter airport, both have ample long-stay parking – Land’s End, not so much. Since the island of Tresco is car-free, the Scillonian III (below) is a passenger ferry only. Tractors, golf buggies and a small fleet of vans serve businesses on the island itself, and the Tresco Estate (of which the cottages are one part) is trialling its first electric vehicle, but bicycle and foot are your best bets for now – hardly a problem when Tresco is only 2.5 miles wide. The hotel can organise bike hire for £50 a person a week (£42.50 for children), including helmets. Children’s bike seat costs £7 a week; a tag-along bike attachment is £32.50.
Scillonian III sails from Penzance, Mondays to Saturdays; it takes around two hours 40 minutes to get to St Mary's. A boat waits at the main quay to take you on to Tresco (www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk).
Worth getting out of bed for
Tiny, time-warp Tresco is an endearingly old-fashioned patch of perfection. With a mild climate, gorgeous white-sand bays and fresh cloud-scudded skies, it offers a Best of British getaway in a so-good-it-feels-staged setting. Nothing is more than 30 minutes’ walk away. The estate staff know everything there is to know about the island. They can help you hire bikes, book boat trips, charter boats, go horse riding, or join fishing trips, and they can organise grown-up tours too if you’re interested in the island’s archaeology or birdlife, for instance. Bike hire costs from £50 a person a week (£42.50 for children), including helmets. Your cottage is right on Porth beach and your bit of ocean is clear and hospitable, with no currents. If you're not a fan of swimming, go to the nine-hole golf course on Bryher island for free. Guests of Sea Garden Cottages are made temporary members of the nearby Flying Boat Club. As a member, you have access to the gorgeous restaurant and spa. There are treatments aplenty, plus a sauna, pool, Jacuzzi and steam room. Sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Garden (+44 (0)1720 424108) showcases the flora and fauna of this sunny southwestern corner of the British Isles; despite the occasional Atlantic gale midwinter and salty sea spray, lots of exotic plants thrive. Beneath palm, fern and flame trees, there is aloe, agave, eucalyptus and more. Pop over toSt Mary's, the hub of the Isles of Scilly. The ‘capital’ is Hugh Town, which has a nice collection of shops, restaurants and galleries – this is also where the main quay is located. Boats sail between the islands several times a day (the hotel will have a timetable). Watch the boats come and go with an ice cream on Holgate’s Green. Alternatively, from the St Mary’s quay in the Old Town, Mark and Susie Groves of Island Sea Safaris (+44 (0)1720 422732) run day trips on their Firebrand IV, a big inflatable boat with an on-board underwater camera; they carry binoculars and waterproofs. A one-hour Island Taster tour will help you find your bearings within the Scillies.
The Flying Boat Restaurant (+44 (0)1720 424068) at the Flying Boat Club has chic rugs and artworks, with lobsters and champagne on the menu. Book a table on the terrace to make the most of your time alone. Despite being Tresco’s smartest spot, dapper guests of all ages are very welcome. There are highchairs, children’s menus and games.