Before becoming a mum, I was no stranger to hostel life. I found hostels to be an affordable and mostly comfortable way of staying in London, bunking after evenings out and for a couple of weeks when I did some work experience. I also had dreams of backpacking around the world. As a mum, it seems I have gravitated towards some of the more costly hotels, but in all honestly I don’t know why because there are some amazing family-friendly hostels out there. They can be much more affordable than hotels which is more important than ever. Staying in a hostel can also open a door to new experiences and often emit a sense of community in comparison to the sometimes predictable, sterile like environment that hotels offer.
YHA Eden Project sits in quiet spot in the serene countryside of Cornwall. Parking is available but we were using public transport. We had missed the last bus (we got distracted by visiting the sites of Plymouth on our way) when we arrived by train at the nearest town, St Austell, so we used a local taxi company that were based at the station.
The shop/cafe bar at the hostel doubled up as the reception area. Staff were quick to help us get checked in. I’d forgotten towels but it wasn’t a problem as they were available to rent for £2.
We had a private room at around £50 per night. It was a room like no other we had stayed in before. All the rooms at this YHA, in keeping with the Eden Project’s philosophy, are eco-friendly converted shipping containers. It may sound a little strange but they are surprisingly comfortable. Each cosy container is equipped with its own private shower/ toilet so no having to share with other residents. Our room had bunkbeds: a single on the top with a TV (Noah’s choice), and below a double (perfect for him to climb into for cuddles).
A colourful dining/communal area is the hub of the hostel where Noah made friends with other children at breakfast. A kitchen area is popular for those self-catering and there are pastries and bacon sandwiches available for a small charge.
We set out early to make our way to the entrance of the Eden Project as the hostel is around one mile from the turnstiles. The path to the Eden Project took us off the main road, past a blooming orchard and a mixture of plants, our favourite being the aromatic cherry plants whose sweet almond scent lingered in the air.
I spotted a number of sign-posted walks along the way. On further research I found out these are part of a network of countryside walks called the Clay Trails. If we had more time, we definitely would have liked to explore these routes by foot or bike.
In the Eden Project, an eco-park set in an enormous crater, Noah enjoyed seeking secret places to play and finding alternative ways to get about, like these little steps that took him off the main path in the ‘zig zag through time’ area.
He seemed rather disinterested in the outdoor gardens, perhaps he was distracted by the Eden Project’s signature ‘biomes’ that dominate the park. The Rainforest biome was our favourite and the one we spent the most time in. It is extremely humid so I recommend dressing light and taking water with you. There are also water fountains available. We enjoyed walking around and spotting the unusual plants. Noah and I had previously read about the huge seeds they have that look mysteriously like bottoms, so he was keen to find these! The rainforest canopy walkway and especially the cloud bridge were a big hit with Noah. We were also brave enough to venture up to the highest (and hottest) point of the biome, the Rainforest Lookout.
When we got down we tried a refreshing ‘baobab’ (a fruit native to Africa) smoothie.
We then attempted to have lunch at the restaurant between the two biomes. This was a struggle. There was plenty of choice but the place was so busy and the queues so large it was hard to manage Noah, get food and find somewhere to sit. Could have done with an extra pair of hands. I think next time I would just bring a picnic lunch with us.
The Mediterranean biome was quiet. We didn’t spend much time looking around as it was later in the afternoon and we were exhausted. The Eden Project also delivered a programme of space related activities on the day we were there which had tired us out. Earlier in the day, we had wandered around an immersive exhibition about the planets, had an encounter with an alien (Noah told the staff he knew it really wasn’t an alien, it was just a man dressed up) and bounced across the moon (humongous dome-shaped bouncy castle).
In the Citrus Grove (Mediterranean biome), we lounged and snoozed a little on floor cushions as we listened to an expert give a space talk. Then finished the day chuckling at a funny ‘rocket launch’ show from two scatterbrained astronauts.
It’s all uphill on your way out of the Eden Project so we made use of the land train to save our feet.
We were caught in heavy rain walking back to the hostel. In hindsight we probably should have taken the shuttle bus that serves the car parks, the nearest one being just a couple of minutes from the YHA. It was such a relief to get back to our spotless shipping container! Although there is no restaurant, the hostel do serve pizza and other snacks if you haven’t brought your own. We got some take-away pizza and had a quiet evening in our room watching TV.
Before getting the train home the following day, we decided to take a little trip to nearby Polkerris beach (£12 by taxi). We enjoyed playing “pirates” on the sand and watching some daredevils jumping into the sea. There is a restaurant and a great beach shop where you can hire watersports equipment.
Passes for the Eden Project last one year so we are looking forward to using ours this spring. Noah thoroughly enjoyed his experience so hostels are certainly going to be given far more consideration when planning our trips in the future.
The Eden Project is open throughout the year but check their website as there are odd weeks when they are closed. Also, check their ‘what’s on‘ page for details of extra activities and events they have planned.