High above the yacht-dotted River Tamar, the road west crosses from Devon to Cornwall. If many Cornish people, waving their black and white cross flags, had their way we would be entering another country. Also, in this land of Kernow, they would be speaking the Cornish language.
Beyond Liskeard, as we head west, our route drops down past emerald valleys towards a craggy coastline. Then on the east side of the River Fowey, Penmarlam Lodge Retreat, peacefully waits.
Cars are a rarity. After Penmarlam, the road curves down to the small village of Bodinnick and the tiny ferry that sails the few hundred yards to Fowey. At Penmarlam Lodge Retreat guests hear far more birdsong than traffic.
Lovat Holiday Parks has created a new hamlet of some 30 lodges: a mix of two- and three-bedroom properties, some with hot tubs. Designed as long-term second homes as well as holiday rentals, the lodges offer all the comfort and space of a home from home.
Parking by reception, we collect our key and a map. Even though we are a little early, Carol has everything ready for our arrival. Our three-bedroom lodge has space for two cars to park immediately adjacent to the main door. Unloading luggage takes less than two minutes. With milk in the fridge and a welcome pack of coffee, tea and biscuits, we soon have the kettle on.
Only in use since Easter 2023, our lodge feels distinctly new with contemporary decor. Deep pile light grey carpet runs through the open plan lounge and dining room. Beige geometric-patterned blinds keep the sun at bay. A grey L-shaped sofa and a welcoming armchair provide plenty of interior seating.
Equipped with four-ring hob, oven and fridge-freezer, the kitchen, which also hosts a wine fridge, is set-up for some serious self-catering.
Take a trip into Kittows of Fowey, a butchers not only selling beef from the pedigree herds on the family farm but also fresh fish and deli products. Throw in bread from the Cornish Bakery, gin from Tarquins and you have the makings of a foodie feast. Fortunately, the lodge has a full-size dishwasher.
The master bedroom, with a five-foot bed topped by a plush outsize grey velour headboard, has its own en-suite bathroom, including both bath and shower.
A family bathroom, again with both bath and shower, is opposite the second and third bedrooms: twin beds decorated with the splash of grey throws.
Reception runs into a shop, offering the essentials that you may have forgotten for self-catering. An outdoor playground and a table-tennis table provide entertainment for younger guests.
As this is prime walking territory, there are seasons when the dog wash is much appreciated.
Across the river lies Fowey, a quaint town of winding lanes populated by cottages with names such as Sailors Return, Starboard and River View. Seagulls cry, red geraniums glisten in the sun and there is a smack of sea salt in the air.
Drawing foodies from afar, Fowey has a plethora of cafes and restaurants, often with sea food on the menu: think prawn salad, bouillabaisse, crab, fish ‘n chips, mackerel, and mussels.
From Penmarlam it is a 50-minute drive west to the romantic story of The Lost Gardens of Helican, just north of St Austell. Before the First World War, 22 men worked on the gardens. Although some survived the carnage, none returned to tend the gardens after the war. When the house was converted into flats, the forgotten gardens became so bramble-overgrown that a machete was an essential gardening tool.
Many years of blood, sweat and tears later, as well as a cost of around half-a-million pound, the multi-layered gardens opened to the public in 1992. The mantra of restoring the lost continues. Returning beavers to the wild. Rediscovering a lost pea. Working again with long forgotten gardening techniques, such as the country’s only pineapple bog plantation.
With Heligan restored, Sir Tim Smit needed a new project. He found it in the 30 acres of a former clay pit. An unlikely location for Smit’s vision inspired by Conan Doyle’s Lost World but now The Eden Project attracts around one million visitors a year.
Under biomes that look like soap suds stretched across the landscape, The Eden Project takes visitors on a global ecological tour through rain forest and Mediterranean terrain.
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Other nice touches
Double doors open out onto a large decking terrace that wraps itself around two sides of the lodge. Terrace furniture provides an ideal spot for watching the sun set with a glass of wine in hand.
Radiators in every room make the lodges a cosy all-year round retreat from busy lives. Even in the depths of winter the South West Coastal path will be there to be walked.
A three night weekend stay (Friday to Monday) or four-night midweek stay (Monday to Friday) at Penmarlam Lodge Retreat costs from £330 (total) with accommodation in a three-bedroom holiday home sleeping six people.
The best bit
Along a sun-dappled single-track lane, past ferns and purple-flowering rosebay willow herb, a half-mile walk slopes down to the Old Ferry Inn at Bodinnick. This pub-hotel overlooks the estuary where a ferry has sailed to Fowey for over six centuries.
It is a historic spot for a break from self-catering. Ferryside, across the lane, is where novelist Daphne du Maurier first fell in love with Cornwall.
The final verdict
Perfectly located in peaceful rural Cornwall, Penmarlam Lodge Retreat is a mere short ferry ride away from Fowey’s charms.
Providing year-round comfort, these lodge retreats, many dog-friendly, are a luxurious base for exploring Southern Cornwall.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Penmarlam Lodge Retreat.