It's the perfect option for foodies who want to cook their own lobsters when visiting North Cornwall, especially if they are also dog lovers coming down for the great beaches
Dog-owners who love Cornwall can't wait for autumn. That's when the ban on pooches is lifted from all the best beaches, and on crisp golden days you can run them for miles on Britain's most broad and scenic sands, ringed by rocks and cliffs and dotted with secret coves and caves. Mostly, these run down the west coast of the county, with the best stretch running from Newquay north to Tintagel (which itself doesn't have a beach, but is a glorious coastal ruin to explore).
Bringing the dog and family to Cornwall is strictly a self-catering proposition, and just finding a dog-
friendly cottage is not enough to assure a comfortable week.
I talk as one who has had beams, slate floors, rough whitewashed walls and all the rustic character you expect in this romantic vacationland over the years, but also suffered damp, draughts and distinctly ill-equipped kitchens.
A large kitchen-diner with dimmable lighting is what lobster-lovers want when they bring down their largest pot with a view to splurging their dining out budget on crustaceans to consume at home.
A comfortable living room with squashy sofas, a woodburning stove and a large-screen TV with DVD player is what you want for post-prandial curling up, and Classic Cottage's Gambridge Barn had the lot. It even had a romantic garden stocked with curious alpacas whose chic hairtyles were in perfect sync with the unexpectedly chic tone of our accommodation, which even boasted a chandelier.
Gambridge Barn is less than half an hour’s drive from Port Isaac, which is how this family calculates distances in Cornwall, given the frequency with which we visit Wendy, the lobster lady in this delightful fishing village now all too well known as the location for television's Doc Martin.
The Llewellyn-Bowens have moved in, too, and what was once a village store now carries Mrs L-B’s name above the door: “Licenced to sell lovely things to ladies.” Her things do look lovely, as does the sculpture in the gallery next door, but the man upstairs declined to come down and open the door when I rang the bell as instructed. It’s that kind of village, living for itself rather than tourists, with all the quirkiness that implies.
There is no beach at Port Isaac, just a picturesque harbour at the end of a steep street, but there are great beaches to run dogs on nearby at Polzeath, Padstow and Watergate Bay. Another great place to take dogs when the beach ban comes off in October is Daymer Bay, where the crescent beach is not the only attraction.
Walk back up the lane a few yards and turn right onto the footpath that leads to the hidden little church of St. Enodoc, where John Betjeman is buried. It’s a great walk with a pooch, though you’ll have to dodge the balls on the golf club fairway for the last stretch.
For eats in this area, it’s hard to beat Nathan Outlaw’s casual grill at Rock (at the St. Enodoc Hotel, Rock; 01208 8673394; www.nathan-outlaw.co.uk) or The Beach Hut beneath Fifteen for alfresco lunches at a fraction of what you’d pay Jamie or Rick.
And now a notable chef has moved into the St. Kew Inn (St Kew, nr. Camelford; 01208 841259; www.stkewinn.co.uk) near the highway, which divides the beach towns from Bodmin Moor, raising pub food to a new level.
To the other side of Gambridge Barn, which lies down a dingly dell of a narrow lane lined with fern-strewn hedges, lie the bleak heights of Bodmin Moor. The nearest village is St. Brewards, which is home to an award-winning silver band which plays the beach towns during the summer season.
No musicians were in evidence, alas, either in the village shop, which stocks some good local products, or the post office, which contains a cosy internet cafe. But it’s a great place to meet the locals and within days you will be sharing their gossip.
Gambridge Barn is bookable through Classic Cottages (www.classic.co.uk), with four-day breaks as well as full week stays available. They have several properties where pets are welcome - and they say they have plenty more offering contemporary chic as well as character. But I wonder if it’s only Claire who puts out the yellow roses.