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2 Holford River through the trees

25th September 2023

Helford River adventure with the luxury of an overnight stay at Hotel Meudon.

In a world of near-constant digital connection, there is restorative relief in an immersive break in nature. The opportunity to tune out our over-stimulated minds, embed ourselves in the natural world and savour all the visceral interactions that come with it. From walking barefoot outside to listening to birds sing, or feeling water wash over us as we swim, these experiences conjure deep emotional responses that not only make an adventure more memorable, but revive and renew our energy and well-being.

In looking to transform a precious night away into an experiential stay, we were searching for such a reset; one that would punch above the limited time and distance we could afford. We were hoping for the added anticipation and sense of reward that a challenge would provide, without sacrificing on comfort, and we yearned for something unique. So was born this adventure.

5 Upper Helford

Idyllic, sleepy Helford


A feast for the senses...

Embarking on adventure

Our journey begins at the quaint village of Gweek, the furthest navigable point up the tidal Helford River. Once a busy port exporting tin and copper from inland mines, its waters are now decidedly quieter and with the glassy, high tide flooding in over the mud flats, a picturesque tranquillity permeates the place.

6 Heron

Graceful and beautiful...

Egrets and herons make the gnarled and twisted branches of statuesque dead woods their home or else studiously fish in the shallows. Shags dip dive for their next meal; leaping fish punctuate the water’s silky surface from below, and buzzards circle way up high, harried by crows. It’s easy to imagine kingfishers darting along the banks and deer browsing in the woodland or occasionally even swimming across the channel as they have been seen to do.

23 Cave

Curious explorers

8 Paddling

Paddle power!

Approaching attractions

The river widens and we pass boathouses in varying states of repair interspersed with gloriously tucked-away retreats. Sailboats begin to appear as we near the sea; the river’s water takes on dazzling aquamarine tones and we spy compass jellyfish drifting alongside us. Mythical Frenchman’s Creek rewards us with a tumbledown ruin and shipwreck that evoke all the atmosphere of Daphne du Maurier’s celebrated novel of the same name.

With the assistance of an outgoing tide, we rapidly approach the collection of whitewashed cottages complete with thatched roofs that define Helford village. Docking steps from the Shipwright Arms, we delight in a goat’s cheese salad from the enviable waterside location of their garden tables - surely one of the most attractive lunch spots in Cornwall. Bordering the river, this is an ideal place to watch the world go by, with swans curving their slender necks to search for food beneath the surface and herring gulls patrolling the fringes and preening along the shore. The tide gradually retreats and its pull extends to us, as we eventually continue our journey with the comforts of Hotel Meudon securely in our minds

10 Shipwrights food 02

Onward passage to sea

We weave our way through yacht moorings, filled like a beach car park on a sunny summer’s day, and re-find the far bank with its many points of interest. The Ferryboat Inn at Helford Passage provides a fine alternative for a riverside lunch. If we hadn't been so full, an ice cream and swim at the National Trust-owned hamlet of Durgan might also have made for a wonderful afternoon pause. Exotic botanical collections at both Glendurgan and Trebah Gardens tumble down to beaches on the Helford River here too, while offshore protected seagrass habitat prevents boats from anchoring in the clear waters of Grebe Beach.

11 Grebe Beach

Secluded Grebe beach

Gliding beyond here, the horizon once again unfurls and the ocean is firmly in our sights. Any nerves about leaving the tidal estuary for open water are distilled by calm conditions that are so inviting in the clear shallows around Shag Rock that jumping out of the kayak for a snorkel is impossible to resist. I’m greeted by majestic fronds of kelp and wrack swaying to reveal dozens of spiny starfish, spider crabs and a variety of fish, from large individual wrasse to schools of sand eels. Rounding the depths of Rosemullion Head, we rejoin this hidden-yet-enchanting underwater environment by Hotel Meudon’s private beach at Bream Cove. Schooling fish ripple underwater and imposing pines frame the view of the land above. We’ve made it - and what a welcome!

13 Meudon Ferns

Meandering through a sub-tropical paradise

16 Meudon Cream Tea

Oh go on then...

Meudon's garden of paradise

Our kayak stowed by the cove, the final part of our journey to Hotel Meudon is on foot up through its lush, subtropical gardens. Australian fern trees, rescued after being thrown overboard as redundant ballast from ships returning to Falmouth, have flourished here, and now lend a fantastical, prehistoric aura to the grounds. Enormous, umbrella-like leaves of giant rhubarb plants tower over us on thick, thorny stems and we marvel at a fruiting banana plant - here in Cornwall! - before emerging by lily-studded ponds onto the hotel’s garden terrace.

Although best known for camellia and rhododendron displays in spring, we are so enchanted by the gardens even in late summer that we immediately find a table to enjoy a cream tea in this restful oasis (jam first, of course!). With the sun on our faces, listening to the yaffling of a green woodpecker, which occasionally flits between the magnificent Monterey pines, we feel like we have found our Eden.

Luxuriously comfortable rewards

Eventually retiring to our room, we revel in the gigantic rainshower to wash away our salty adventures and ready us for a well-earnt supper. We start the evening with a pre-dinner cocktail at Freddie’s bar, an unexpected, but wonderfully moody drinking den. Sultry mauve tones dimly illuminated by neon art lend a mischievous undercurrent, making it almost rude not to sip on a maple syrup-spiked Old Fashioned and Cornish Rose 75 featuring organic 'Tinkture' Gin. Well, if we must… Downstairs, we are shown to dinner beneath a trailing vine in the conservatory, but the food itself soon commands our attention, impressing us with each plate presented. A light and airy tomato focaccia precedes locally-sourced hake and melt-in-the-mouth duck dressed in a richly satisfying jus. Feeling contentedly full, and noticing the waning light, we grab a jumper and take our drinks for an evening stroll back down through the gardens to Bream Cove. There, the rosy-hued sky gives way to a looming moon rise and the glossy waters are faintly disturbed by a seal swimming just offshore. We arrive back at our room accompanied by the hoot of a tawny owl and melt into the comfort of our spacious bed.

15 Meudon Terrace

Return to the water

The following morning, we skip sunrise back at the cove to languish with tea in bed and later explore more of the hotel’s art deco meets mid-century modern aesthetic. Breakfast is served back in the restaurant and a combination of blue skies, jam-filled pastries and juicy watermelon transport us to European vacances. Alas, the time has come to return to our waterborne journey, but the Mediterranean pretences continue as we are greeted by sparkling seas for our paddle onwards towards Falmouth.

21 Shags

Friendly locals

With the bulk of Pendennis Castle and St Anthony’s lighthouse beyond us in constant view, we skirt craggy cliffs that are home to peregrine falcons. Outcrops with shags drying their outstretched wings in the warming sun are criss-crossed by channels waiting to challenge our kayaking agility. Rocky gullies lead to hidden caves stained red with ore and suddenly a curious young seal appears out of the turquoise, close enough for us to clearly observe its closed eyes and whiskered nose pointing skywards.

Floating to a final farewell

Weaving through narrow passages around Maenporth’s headland, we notice the rusted wreck of Ben Asdale protruding from the depths, now a mimic of its rocky demise. Scuppered here over 40 years ago, snorkelling over its remnants reveals surprisingly intact mechanics. Details such as the draft scale are still clearly visible on its hull and on closer inspection these are now additionally decorated with audacious shanny fish, while large wrasse shelter beneath its riveted portholes.

24 Shipwreck

With a cafe at each beach from Maenporth to Gyllyngvase, there is plenty of choice for waterside eateries at which to end our adventure. Floating in a mirror-like sea, we too begin to reflect upon our surroundings and the overnight adventure we’ve embarked upon. The trip has been more diverse than we had imagined, a scenic exploration of this little known corner of Cornwall with the opportunity for indulgent relaxation and first-class food in between. We had successfully accomplished our goal and floated to shore with a prevailing sense of discovery and achievement, feeling re-energised and serenely content.

Exterior Hotel Meudon HI RES 1

Seek and you shall find...thanks for the memories Meudon

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