The History of Pentewan Sands and Heligan Campsite

Family-owned Pentewan Sands first opened its doors almost three quarters of a century ago, with the five-star holiday park, based in an unbeatable location on its own, private beach overlooking Mevagissey Bay, and marked its 75th anniversary in 2020.

The park’s sister site, the equally popular Heligan Caravan and Camping Park sited just a few miles away alongside the famous gardens in Heligan, is celebrating its own milestone anniversary this year, with the park reaching its 16th year of operation in 2019, after first opening in 2003.

Both venues are still owned by the same family whichoriginally opened Pentewan Sands and have become well-established holiday parksin the UK over the years, beloved of guests who often return every year, withsome regular visitors to Pentewan Sands having holidayed consecutively at thepark for more than 30 years.

John Tremayne Willis, Owner and Director of both Pentewan Sands Holiday Park and Heligan Caravan and Camping Park, said:

“Both sites have been part of our family for almost three-quarters of a century, and, for us, that’s the draw. We are an independent, family-owned business, and our parks have a huge focus on being family-friendly, where everyone is welcome. I think that’s why people return time and time again, year after year, wanting to spend a summer with us in our own slice of paradise.

“Pentewan and Heligan are both in stunning locations, completely individual, offering something that little bit different for guests visiting Cornwall.”

Located between St Austell and Mevagissey, Pentewan was once home to a thriving harbour. The harbour fell into decline during the 1940s however, and a decision was made to transform the beautiful Pentewan Sands into a holiday destination.

The park was the brainchild of Air Marshal Sir JohnTremayne, his World War One air force observer Sir Victor Sasson and submarinerCecil Malleson VC. Incorporated on 5 April 1945, the trio set out to welcomeholidaymakers to their paradise by the sea and the holiday park opened laterthat year.

Situated on a privately-owned beach with unparalleled viewsof the beautiful Mevagissey Bay, it isn’t hard to see why Pentewan Sands was aninstant success.

Almost 75 years on, the five-star holiday park is stillunder the ownership of the Tremayne/Willis family, relatives of the originalfounder Sir John Tremayne.

And the park has gone from strength to strength thanks toongoing investment in continually expanding and updating the first-class facilitieson site and ensuring the peaceful, unspoilt park enjoys a relaxed, family-friendlyfocus.

Today Pentewan Sands offers more than 400 pitches for tents,caravans or motorhomes, and 131 modern holiday homes which are available torent each year, including new flagship home Antibes which replaces The Lookout.In 2019, the park added another wheelchair-friendly holiday home to itsoffering.

Many are booked in advance by the park’s long-standing regularvisitors – Pentewan enjoys 79 per cent of repeat and recommended visitorbookings year on year, with a long waiting list for peak dates in schoolholidays.

One couple, Shirl and Merv Randall fromChurchdown, Gloucestershire, have been visiting Pentewan Sands Holiday Park for37 years.

Shirl said:

“Even on our very first visit to Pentewan Sands 37 years ago it was a beautiful place to holiday, but since then, the site facilities have grown so much, and it all makes our holidays very enjoyable.

“All the staff are incredibly pleasant, helpful and very accommodating. The static caravans are very modern and comfortable and the touring pitches are large and level. Best of all, we have made many friends who return every year. Pentewan Sands is like the magnet of the West Country and it just draws you back again and again.”

The Burstonfamily from Wellington are also long-term visitors to the park and have beenstaying at Pentewan for almost 30 years.

Glenda Burston said:

“All of the staff from those in the office through to the workmen and cleaners on site, are really friendly and helpful and that’s a large part of the appeal for us. Over the years, we have made some really good friends through coming to Pentewan, who we see year in and year out, and that makes it very special.

“Having a holiday park like this, with its own fantastic beach, has kept enticing us back to this part of Cornwall over the past 29 years. All our family has grown up loving Pentewan Sands as much as we do and we all look forward to coming down every summer.”

Judith Coyleand her family, from Pontllanfraith in Wales, are also frequent visitors to thepark, returning time and time again to visit Pentewan Sands.

Judith said:

“We have been coming to Pentewan Sands for 25 years. The park just gets under your skin, and you are drawn to visit it at every opportunity. We are on the third generation of our family who have holidayed here at Pentewan Sands, and we all love coming. Our family memories here are simply the best!”

As well as its privately-owned glorious mile and half longbeach, Pentewan Sands’ appeal includes its strong watersports offer –holidaymakers can hire kayaks and paddleboards from the watersports centre bythe beach. There is also cycle hire available for those wanting to explorefurther afield, tennis courts, and the South West Coastal Footpath crossesright through the park perimeter.

Families flock to Pentewan year after year to enjoy thepeaceful beachside surroundings, but there is plenty to keep the kidsentertained in all weathers too, with an outdoor play park on the beach and excellentfacilities at The Seahorse leisure centre, a state-of-the-art clubhouse whichboasts two large indoor swimming pools, a 200-seat restaurant and entertainmentarea, a soft-play centre, a modern arcade and a large exterior balconyoverlooking the beach.

Other on-site facilities include a fish and chip shop, a small supermarket, and a branch of the popular Cornish burger chain HUBBOX, which opens from a beach venue each season.

Testament to the hard work and ongoinginvestment in facilities and service levels, the park was awarded a 5 Staraccolade from Quality in Tourism and scored an impressive 96% in a recentreport from Visit England, The AA, Quality Assessment Scheme. This year,Pentewan Sands Holiday Park were finalists in the Cornwall Tourism Awards,taking home a Silver in the Access and Inclusivity Award category and a Bronzein the Holiday Park of the Year category.  In 2016 and 2017, it also earned a SilverTourism Award in Cornwall and South West levels.

There are 34 members of staff employed all year round,increasing to over 120 in peak season, and Pentewan Sands supports the localcommunity in nearby St Austell and Mevagissey by providing seasonal work.

Just a couple of miles down the road from Pentewan Sandslies the park’s picturesque sister site, the five-star Heligan Caravan andCamping Park.

Heligan is slightly quieter than Pentewan but benefits enormouslyfrom its position situated right next door to the famous Lost Gardens ofHeligan. The park has actually been owned by the Tremayne family for more than400 years, as the land on which it now resides was part of the original Heliganestate.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan were consigned to history, havingbeen lost for decades, until it was rediscovered thanks to a chance discoveryin 1990. A long restoration enabled these 200 acres of magnificent gardens,ancient woodlands and rare wildlife to become firmly acknowledged as one of thefinest garden sites in Cornwall today.

The land on which the holidaypark now sits originally formed the driveway to the Heligan estate and the areawas put aside for accommodation use during the restoration.

Following a stint as anowner-occupied caravan site, the decision was made in 2003 to set up a quality camping and caravan park for those couples and familieslooking for an especially quiet, relaxing break in beautiful surroundings.

The site began with a handful of pitches and initiallyopened for the short summer season. Experiencing rapid growth, it’s now openfor 11 months of the year and boasts 90 touring and camping pitches and 18beautiful, modern holiday homes.

Heligan’s appeal is its simplicity and peace however, with no clubhouse or on-site entertainment facilities – holidaymakers can use The Seahorse facilities at Pentewan if required – making the park an appealing destination for campers looking to get back to nature and escape noisy entertainments. It’s also dog-friendly, and welcomes a large number of holidaymakers keen to caravan or camp with the pet pooch in tow. The flagship holiday home, Caerhays, is now completely dog friendly.

The park has grown year on year, and, in 2019, retained itsfive-star rating from Quality in Tourism. It also scored 94% from VisitEngland, The AA, Quality Assessment Scheme.

As at Pentewan, the site is still owned and run by theTremayne/Willis family, descendants of the original owners of the Heliganestate, and a team of hardworking, dedicated employees are employed on site.

Embracing the park’s rich heritage, a skilled in-housegardener maintains the beautiful natural environment of Heligan for present andfuture generations.

Sandra and Andy Frith are Head Wardens at Heligan Caravan and Camping Park. Sandra said:

“All of the team at Heligan love working here because it’s such a beautiful place to come to work; we enjoy coming in every single day.

“We are a friendly team here, and we like to make sure we do all we can to make our guests’ visits as enjoyable as possible.

“Heligan also offers real peace and tranquillity in a truly stunning location – we think that is why the park continues to grow and flourish.”

The future

The owners of both parks are continuing to invest in facilitiesand amenities as they prepare to celebrate both of the upcoming anniversaries.

Pentewan Sands has opened a brand new, top-of-the-range amenities block; a refurbished laundrette; four modern new family-friendly beachfront cabins, and a fully-accessible holiday home especially designed for wheelchair users.

Over the past two years, the park has also purchased 32 newstatic caravans and upgraded existing models to keep replenishing andmodernising.

Heligan too has sought to continually improve, and the team has refurbished the reception and shop; installed eight new static caravans, including a fully-accessible model; continued refurbishment of all its older caravan models, and installed a new and improved play area in response to growth in the family market.

Both sites have update the online booking portal which allowsguests to pay for their holiday completely online, make booking a stay ateither park much more efficient. Both are also continuing to become moresustainable and environmentally-friendly.

Pentewan Sands Holiday Park and Heligan Caravan and Camping Park are firm fixtures along the stunning south Cornish coast and with visitors returning again and again, it looks like they will stay that way for a very long time to come.

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