Peering down through tropical mists at the lush green canopy and thundering waterfall way below, dripping in perspiration from the intense humidity and temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees, my boyfriend and I surveyed the panorama in awe.
We stood shaky-legged, perilously high on the man-made aerial platform, viewing the largest jungle in captivity, in the biggest greenhouse in the world.
Cornwall’s Rainforest Encounter experience is the most exhilarating of the attractions at the Eden Project near St Austell. Under the 165ft high frame, luscious tropical plants that bring us cola, rubber and chewing gum thrive. Yet, stepping out into the fresh air and bright sunshine of a crisp winter afternoon, looking a little bedraggled after our visit, we didn’t feel too downhearted about leaving this exotic leafy world behind.
We were heading for the cosy confines of another wooded getaway.
Forest Holidays run log-cabin breaks in protected woodland and loch-side locations across the UK. We had chosen their Deerpark cabin site for our sojourn, deep in the heart of a Forestry Commission estate, seven miles from the beaches of Cornwall’s south coast.
Blending almost seamlessly into the surrounding forest, we could just make out our new home nestled near the millpond of an old gunpowder mill.
We had spoiled ourselves and opted for the super-spacious Silver Birch cabin for our short stay.
“Welcome” was spelled out in Scrabble letters on the table when we arrived. Our cabin had all mod cons, including a log-burning stove and veranda with outdoor hot tub and barbecue and, as we’d chosen a romantic package, on the bed were rose petals, plus Champagne and chocolates in the fridge.
We woke the next morning to a dawn chorus of geese squawking as they gathered in pools of sunlight on the lake. And despite the nip in the air, we were looking forward to layering up in comfy woolly numbers and taking one of the walking trails around the lake, crossing streams via pretty wooden bridges.
But enjoying the great outdoors was only half the reason for our stay at Deerpark. The other was to make the most of snuggling up inside.
As the soothing bubbles from the hot tub gurgled around my shoulders later that day, I took in our marvellous setting and realised I could easily have been in Scandinavia rather than the UK.
For parents looking to relax, children are easily entertained on the estate. There is a children’s play area and numerous ranger-led activities to occupy budding adventurers and naturalists. Experienced rangers share their knowledge of forest survival with courses available on map reading, building a shelter and making a fire, as well as night-time forest walks using state-of-the-art equipment to spot bats, owls and even deer.
For outdoor types, bicycle hire, archery, rock climbing and even kayaking on the Fowey Estuary can be arranged through staff on site. And for the supremely adventurous, surfing trips and helicopter rides can be booked via Forest Holidays associate company Active-8.
Groceries and useful things for a self-catering holiday can be pre-ordered from the camp. Or if you fancy eating out, there are plenty of fish restaurants to choose from in the neighbouring towns and villages.
Deciding one evening to reconnect with the real world, we drove from Deerpark to Looe for dinner at The Old Sail Loft. Set back from the quayside, it’s one of the oldest buildings in town with parts dating back at least 450 years. Also known as The Run, it’s said to be a former haunt for smugglers and 16th century seafaring men. Seated close to the unusual Cornish cobb walls, we dined on delicious Looe John Dory, and fresh linguini mixed with day-caught fish and shellfish.
The historic 13th century fishing village of Polperro is also well worth a visit. Fishing boats rest in the sand at low tide, seagulls battle for air space, nets lie on the pavements and lobster pots are stacked along the harbour wall.
A dark, foreboding cave just beyond the harbour wall adds to an air of mystery about the place, while artists depict the picturesque charm in watercolours as recreational fisherman cast their lines out to sea. Looking out across the choppy waters, we spotted a seal putting on a playful display of its swimming skills.
Smaller still, Mevagissey is where we spent a pleasant afternoon gorging on Cornish pasties, fish ‘n’ chips and creamy Cornish ice cream as fishermen landed the day’s catch.But we didn’t need much persuading to call it a day, sneak back and stoke up the fire one last time.
Tori Mayo was a guest of Forest Holidays. Four nights’ self-catering in Silver Birch cabins with outdoor hot tub at Deerpark, near St Austell, Cornwall for four people from £418 (four sharing). Call 0845 130 8223 or visit www.forestholidays.co.uk
Special deals over Christmas-New Year include price reductions of 15 per cent on Christmas weekend breaks, including decorated Christmas tree, hamper packed with Champagne and festive fare, Father Christmas visits and a range of Christmas-themed ranger activities.