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Review of Rail Holiday (converted carriages), Cornwall

Posted by at 10:17 on Friday 26 April 2013

Our writer, Chloe Stickland, visits some delightful, family-run converted railway carriages stationed next to the train platforms of St Germans, a pretty village in South East Cornwall and the harbour town of Hayle, where the owner gives a £25 cash back if you arrive by public transport.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Rail Holiday

Rail Holiday's converted carriages. Photo: Rail HolidayRail Holiday's converted carriages. Photo: Rail HolidayThe Setting
Make a beeline in the general direction of the train stations in both St Germans and Hayle, and you’re on the right track in finding your historic holiday homes. The owner’s station base in St Germans, is flanked by The Old Luggage Van on one side, an intimate 24 foot carriage with woodburning stove and double bed, set in its own sweet garden and on the other, the spacious Travelling Post Office, a larger distinctive coach, sensitively updated and sleeps up to six. There’s a children’s play area and the site lies in 10 acres of private woodland. The site in Hayle is just set back from the town and holds the largest carriage, a handsome 1957 corridor coach called Harvey which sits slap bang next to Hayle Train station, in nearly an acre of peaceful grounds which include a butterfly and herb garden.

Cosy bed in the Old Luggage Van Photo:  Chloe ImagesCosy bed in the Old Luggage Van Photo: Chloe ImagesThe Rooms
Harvey can either be rented as a whole or as two separate carriages, perfect for holidaying with friends or two sets of families. The main body of the carriage is completely original with the separate compartments in tact, so guests get the full old-school train experience, which children will adore. There’s masses of original British Rail details from the upholstery to the luggage racks and signage. The East and West wings are connected by a central sliding door with both lets featuring a kitchen, a living/dining space, a bunk room with either 4 singles or a double and a sun deck.

Although each space is compact, the west wing has a surprisingly large bathroom compartment with a fab shower and the east wing a conventional double bed that gives it that luxi edge. The bramble patch and nature garden with its apple tree and nesting birds are just asking to be explored. The Travelling Post office, at 48 foot long, has a lovely large linear living space complete with twin bunk rooms and double bedroom. In the summer evenings, fire up the BBQ and watch the trains arrive into the station. The carriage’s appeal is evident in the number of drawings and handmade presents from friends as well as the train spotting fraternity and general visitors alike. The Lilliput Lane Collector’s Club have even made a model of the carriage, joining a medley of other gifts. The Old Luggage Van sits prettily in its enclosed garden, a cosy one bed, ideal for couples and crammed full of special touches that fuel the romance like handmade quilts and little vases of fresh seasonal flowers. 

The Kitchen in Harvey Photo:  Chloe ImagesThe Kitchen in Harvey Photo: Chloe ImagesThe Food
The carriages are self-catering, but a welcome basket of Cornish treats such as locally made biscuits and apple juice plus basics like tea, milk and soap are thoughtfully provided on arrival. Hayle is bursting with eateries a short walk away and St Germans has a super local, The Eliot Arms, plus a community shop and post office, stocking local produce and booze.Carriage Corridor in Harvey Photo:  Chloe ImagesCarriage Corridor in Harvey Photo: Chloe Images

The Activities
As well as providing wet-weather diversions such as a DVD player, TV, radio, a large collection of books on railways and walking and a big box of toys for the smalls, it’s the outdoor pursuits that this holiday is really tailored for. In Hayle, head down to the sandy beaches, stretching for three miles, and boasting the largest sand dunes in Cornwall plus there’s a sheltered estuary attracting migratory birds for the twitchers. The buzzing harbour town of St Ives is handily one train stop away and is home to the Tate museum and Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture garden. 

St German’s residents can explore the surrounding Area of Outstanding Beauty, take a day trip to the nearby fishing villages of Looe and Polperro, located a few miles away or visit the stately home of Port Eliot. The extensive grounds are open to the public and Wednesday is Dog Day, when your canine best friend can roam wild amongst the gardens without a lead. Of course there’s always a spot of train spotting too.

The Green
Lizzy and Dave are hugely compassionate about minimizing the impact on the environment. The energy it takes to run Harvey is provided by the Green Energy company and the lightbulbs are low-energy. Water wastage is greatly reduced as the orginal taps only release water when the button is pressed down. There are recycling facilities on all sites including a composter and the garden has been considerately planted with flowers that need little watering. A SECTA Green Acorn Award in recognition of sustainable tourism has also been awarded. Obviously train travel is highly recommended and as a clever incentive, guests arriving by public transport are given £25 cash back. Lizzy also makes sure there’s plenty of timetable info and self-guided walking tours are offered.

Interior lights in the Travelling Post Office Photo:  Chloe ImagesInterior lights in the Travelling Post Office Photo: Chloe ImagesHow to get there by public transport
Both sites are on the Cornish main lines which runs from London Paddington to Penzance, stopping at a multitude of places including Reading, Exeter, Plymouth and Truro. St Ives is also only one stop away.

Top Tip
Whilst staying in Hayle, bag yourself one of the tastiest pasties in Cornwall at the popular Philps Bakery down the road, be warned they are whopping! In St Germans, pop along to The Long Gallery, a large art space and sculpture area set up for photo and art exhibitions, film screenings and presentations. The gallery is part of the Port Eliot Estate, which is home to the annual Port Eliot Festival held in July.

Lizzy is a warm and devoted host, brimming with passion for her current projects. Her enthusiasm is contagious as she chats about their forthcoming enterprise – Mevy, a carriage from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee train, which Dave is working tirelessly but happily on. Coming to rest in the best place, the last GWR slip coach of 1896 will be ready for guests in Summer 2013. Watch this space.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Rail Holiday

See the photos from Chloe's visit on our Pinterest board for Railholiday.

Hayle beach. Photo: Chloe ImagesHayle beach. Photo: Chloe Images


Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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