Review: Cornish Tipi Holidays

Cornish Tipi Holidays
With its crystal clear spring water lake, countless outdoor activities and acres of woodland to explore, Cornish Tipi Holidays is the ideal setting in which to get reacquainted with nature, says Tom Watts

What's most impressive about Cornish Tipi Holidays is just how intoxicating the outdoor life becomes - literally within a matter of minutes. This is a place where families can come and enjoy spending time together outside, whether it be while chopping firewood, exploring the myriad lanes or gazing up at the stars with the embers still glowing in the fire pit. Surrounded on all sides by stunning Cornish countryside, you feel a million miles away from the noise and crowded streets of the city. Having managed the tipi field at Glastonbury, owners Liz and Alan know how to kit their tipis out perfectly. Each one stands at around 18 feet - easily tall enough to provide headspace for even the tallest traveller - and come fully equipped with gas stoves, roll mats, cool box, lanterns and kitchen equipment. The only thing guests need to provide themselves is comfortable bedding, and perhaps a bag of marshmallows to toast over the open fire pit outside. The facilities are also far superior to those you'll find at your average campsite - the showers pump out hot water 24 hours a day and the toilets are both modern and clean.

The yurts are spread out over the 20-acre site, either nestled in their own private section or huddled together to accommodate larger groups. Guests will also soon be invited to camp in their own tents in the fields adjoining the site, allowing access to all of the facilities minus the cost of renting a tipi. At the centre of the camp is a beautifully tranquil lake, which was once the site of a quarry. Having filled up by itself when works at the Tregildrans quarry stopped, the lake is now a place to swim, row, canoe and even fish as the owners keep it stocked with trout year round, although guests will need to bring their own equipment. Take the time to float around on one of the boats and watch the dragonflies and birds skimming along the surface, with nothing but birdsong and the creaking of the wooden oars for company.

Cornish Tipi Holidays provides a safe environment in which kids can discover the beauty of nature. Since the quarry closed, the site has been allowed to flourish and a natural ecosystem has developed, complete with a unique collection of wildlife including everything from bluebells to dormice and otters. Every Friday night, Oggy the warden invites kids to take part in an interactive story time session that involves a tour through the woods and a story around the campfire by the central tipi. Further afield, you only need to travel a little distance to find cycling heaven on the Camel Trail, while adventure-seekers can try everything from zorbing to coasteering with Cornish Coast Adventures. Not only is it a great holiday for little ones; since obtaining a marriage license a few years ago it has also quickly grown in popularity as an alternative wedding destination. The beauty and privacy of the site has attracted those looking for something genuinely different for their big day, and Cornish Tipi Holidays can cater for surprisingly large groups with the help of geodesic domes and marquees, not to mention the beautiful wooden wedding pavilion at the centre of the site.

You'd be hard pressed to find much greener accommodation than a tipi, and Cornish Tipi Holidays have clearly put a lot of effort into sustainability. As the website proudly states, their commitment to the environment is such that the tipi poles don't even break the surface of the earth. All of the materials and firewood are sourced locally, and there's also a wind generator, solar panels heating the water in the shower block and Warden's cottage, and solar lights along the paths and in the toilets. In terms of recycling, there are several bins on-site for general waste, and recycling bins can be found in nearby towns and villages. Owners Liz and Alan have also cut out the glossy, brochure-filled welcome pack and opted to write theirs themselves. Not only does this make every piece of advice that much more personal and trustworthy, it also means you're getting insider information into the best spots in the area. In essence, you'll use much less energy here than if you had stayed at home, and there's no footprint involved in catching fish on the lake and cooking them over your own fire pit.

Overall, this is basic camping with a difference. Owners Liz and Alan have thus far avoided the enduringly popular 'glamping' bracket to offer something much more real and activity-focused. The resulting hands-on atmosphere and emphasis on exploration makes this an ideal place for children to put down their iPods and get to know the world around them.

For more information, go to

Need to know:
Cornish Tipi Holidays has 40 yurts in total, sleeping between two and 12 people. Prices start at £435 for a week in a medium tipi in low season (March to April). There are numerous food shops in the nearby towns of Padstow and Port Isaac, plus a range of local produce sold at St Kew Harvest Farm Shop. The nearest station is Bodmin Parkway, though you'll still need to take a taxi to the site.

In the area:
We visited Padstow: the picturesque harbour town made famous by the opening of Rick Stein's top-end seafood restaurant. A collection of quaint cafes and bustling restaurants line the waterfront, and you can while away the hours watching the boats sailing past and snacking on that famous local delicacy, the Cornish pasty. Follow the coastal path out of town and you'll reach an expansive sandy beach that stretches on for miles. A little closer to home is Port Isaac, an historic fishing village where you'll find a handful of fresh fish eateries and some excellent local pubs.


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