Over the past 15 years, there has been a revolution in the hotel industry in Britain, especially in the West Country, where many tired-looking coastal hotels have been up-graded, and brought into the 21st century, and in some cases, like the St. Moritz at Trebetherick, completely rebuilt, and many of them occupy fantastic positions with easy access to beaches and coastal walks.
The interiors have undergone different levels of renovation, and in many cases, the obligatory ‘Spa’ has been added, frequently including a heated, indoor swimming pool. Further more the levels of cuisine have improved beyond recognition, inspired initially by the great Rick Stein, and now driven by a veritable ‘tsunami’ of cookery programmes on television, such as ‘Master chef’, so much so, that several hotels now boast dining rooms with one or more Michelin stars (two in the case of the St. Enodoc Hotel at Rock).
Standards of service have also risen to new levels, and the effect has been to attract more visitors out of season, many based around ‘gourmet ‘short breaks’, with the opportunity to walk-off your lunch with a brisk coastal walk, or some equally energetic beach activity.
Of course, the success of any holiday in Britain depends almost entirely on the weather, but most of the hotels we list in our Top Ten, have sufficient ‘divertissements’, like spas, swimming pools, and superb food, to distract you from the weather. But to really enjoy a holiday in the UK, you need to ‘embrace’ the constantly changing weather and be prepared to swim, surf, sail, water-ski, wind-surf, and walk in the rain, which is not everyone’s idea of a good time!
However, when the weather is glorious, then this is one of the most beautiful places on earth to be, so just hope and pray that you get one of those truly magical weeks when the sun shines and the water sparkles.
THE VINTAGE MAGAZINE‘S TOP TEN:-
HOTEL TRESANTON at St. Mawes still wins my vote for the best beach hotel in Britain, being situated in the most beautiful position, with fabulous views across St. Mawes harbour and Falmouth Bay.
Created by the perennially stylish Olga Polizzi, (daughter of the late Lord Charles Forte, brother of Rocco, widow of the late Count Polizzi, wife of William Shawcross and mother of Alex, the feared ‘Hotel Inspector’ of TV fame), her creation at Tresanton was the first truly fashionable and chic contemporary British seaside hotel.
Now fifteen years on, it remains the best of its kind, and its elegance and understated charm, make some of its glitzier rivals seem vulgar by comparison.
The bedrooms remain as comfortable as they are stylish, and the recently enlarged restaurant, beautifully decorated and lit, provides the perfect combination of light and simple elegance, and opens up onto a massive ship’s deck of a terrace.
As for the food, it is stupendous, and includes locally caught seafood, and Cornish meat, with meals served in the magical, Mediterranean style dining room; all white, calm and cool, with a mosaic floor, it is filled with natural light, and candle-lit at night.
The staff are all well-trained, friendly and professional, and the waiters look particularly smart in their white, silver-buttoned jackets, like something straight out of the original QE2, or the earlier luxury cruise ships. At the helm is Federica Bertolini, running the whole place with a quiet efficiency and ensuring Olga Pollizi’s philosophy is adhered to, reinforcing the essential ethos of this bobby dazzler of a hotel.
And the final touch is the opportunity to hire the most beautiful 8 metre classic vintage yacht called Pinuccia, which we were hoping to take out last time we were there, but we were defeated by the English weather! However, it would be the perfect thing to do on a bright summer’s day.
Doubles from £190 Tel: 01326-279955
THE ST. MORITZ HOTEL and Apartments at Trebetherick, near Rock, Cornwall is built on the site of an earlier Edwardian Beachside hotel of the same name, and the new edifice resembles the bridge of an ‘art deco’ ocean liner, looking out to sea, and the wonderful panorama stretching from Rock and Daymer Bay to the south with Polzeath to the north makes this possibly the glitziest of all UK beach hotels.
This is where Hedge Fund managers go with their families in between their skiing holidays in Verbier, and their ‘other’ summer holidays in the Mediterranean. Even if it rains, there is the Cowshed luxury Spa, an indoor swimming pool, and a London standard restaurant, to keep the parents amused whilst their children disappear into one of the many watering holes in the area, such as The Mariners at Rock, and the Oystercatcher overlooking Polzeath beach.
When the sun shines, there is a fabulous, heated, outdoor swimming pool with its own restaurant and private Beach Huts for the hotel guests and apartment owners or just a short stroll down to the coastal path linking Rock to Polzeath.
The St. Moritz Hotel is really Chelsea-on-Sea, but it does occupy one of the greatest positions in Britain. It offers water skiing in the Camel Estuary, windsurfing and sailing at Rock, surfing at Polzeath and a perfect children’s beach at Daymer Bay, overlooked by Brae Hill and St. Enodoc Church, which was excavated from the sands in the last century, and is now the peaceful resting place of the poet, John Betjeman.
I have happy memories of taking my children here for their childhood holidays. It was all so much more basic then, but just as much fun. They learned to water-ski, windsurf, body surf, and catch mackerel in this magical place, not to mention following the grown-ups around the golf course at St. Enodoc, which is my favourite golf course in Britain, with the sea on three sides of it.
For sheer beauty this place is hard to beat as a beach holiday destination with Rick Stein’s famous seafood restaurant a ferry ride, or water taxi away at Padstow.
St. Moritz Hotel, Trebetherick, Cornwall Tel: 01208-862242
The ultimate St Moritz Hotel break offering you the chance to make extravagant ticks in high quality boxes
Relax. We know that time off is precious. So our ‘Break Away’ has enough guaranteed treats to smooth away the deepest worries and untie the knottiest tension with:
2 nights bed and breakfast
A bottle of Champagne waiting in your room
A 2 course lunch at our Sea Side daytime restaurant
A 3 course dinner in our hotel restaurant
‘Cosy’ room £350 (does what it says on the tin!)
‘King’ room £375 (Beach Hut included!)
Ground Floor ‘Suite’ £439 (sumptuous space!)
Prices are based on 2 people sharing and stays are available Sunday to Thursday until Sunday 30th June 2013.
Whether you are celebrating, enjoying downtime with the Do Not Disturb sign, revving up for high energy activity or spending quality time with a group of friends, you’re very welcome to titivate this break with any number of extras and niche treats. Here are the bare essentials to get going with but we can tailor make your ‘Break Away’ to be your perfect stay
+44 (0)1208 862242
Please mention that you read about this special ‘Break Away’ offer in The Vintage Magazine.
ST. ENODOC HOTEL & Spa, Rock, Cornwall
St. Enodoc Hotel was the epitome of old fashioned beach hotels, with its easy access to St. Enodoc golf courses, and the beach at Rock with all its water sports, and Daymer Bay, the perfect family beach. However, it has now had a total ‘make-over’ and joined the ranks of the new breed of stylish boutique hotels, featuring a celebrity chef; this time in the form of the wonderfully named, Nathan Outlaw, who is in charge of the food in the two restaurants.
The first is Nathan Outlaw’s Seafood Bar & Grill which has a Mediterranean feel to it with a wide terrace for outdoor dining, while his eponymous restaurant is possibly the best in Cornwall, with no less than two Michelin stars!
There is also the obligatory Spa, which completes the picture, and this hotel is brilliantly positioned for easy access to the myriad of activities on offer, and an easy ferry ride from Padstow, and Rick Stein’s famous seafood restaurant, although there is really no need to go that far for superb food.
Doubles from £180 Tel: 01208-863394
The Abbey Hotel in Penzance is an attractive Georgian Gothic edifice, and is situated in a narrow lane in Old Penzance, with views across the harbour to St. Michael’s Mount, and was created by the legendary stylish 60s model, Jean Shrimpton, whose son Thad, now runs it.
It is a very welcoming place, with complimentary newspapers in your bedroom, and freshly made scones for tea, and in the evening, drinks are brought to you to enjoy by the fire. This is really like staying in someone’s home.
Outside is one of the prettiest of walled gardens, but it is the bedrooms which really enchant; each one different, each one charming, and the whole feel is what I would describe as ‘Boho Chic’, but in the most original and comforting way.
If your taste is ultra modern, uber trendy, minimalist living, then don’t come here. This is a place to be shared with kindred spirits, and it is brilliantly situated for endless cliff walks, and surfing beaches, dotted along the north coast.
Doubles from £130, including afternoon tea. Tel: 01736 366906
The SCARLET HOTEL, Mawganporth, near Newquay:
The Scarlet is an Art-filled eco beach hotel, and relaxing sanctuary, overlooking Mawganporth’s sandy bay, near Newquay.
A child-free hotel with a magnificent Spa and sea views, the Scarlet aims to offer its guests total relaxation and retreat. It is also an award winning sustainable business that manages ‘luxury with a conscience’.
Great expanses of glass maximise this Cornish hotel’s cliff-top setting, and sand and sea views, letting the outdoors in, and every room comes with its own balcony or outdoor space.
It has 37 seas view rooms , with rates for doubles starting at £290 per room including breakfast.
Please note: the Scarlet does not accept group bookings of more than three rooms at a time.
- Facilities Gardens, terrace with sea views, spa (booking essential) and library with DVDs. In rooms: flat screen TV, CD/DVD player, Wi-Fi (bit patchy) free bottled water and Cornwall Soap Box products.
- Poolside There’s a natural swimming pool outdoors and log-fired hot tubs on the cliff side.
Tel: 01637-861206 Email: email@example.com
DRIFTWOOD HOTEL, Rosevine, Cornwall
Imagine your perfect beach holiday – stylish,privately run Cornish beach hotel near the pretty village of Portscatho, near St. Mawes, well, Driftwood has it all. It is like no other boutique hotel in Cornwall.
Striking the perfect balance between accessible and remote, Driftwood Hotel’s main house has an incredible setting, high on a cliff and an easy-breezy atmosphere. Its style could best be described as ‘New England Yacht Club’, with the most beautiful beach at the foot of the cliff on which it stands and its stunning views across Gerran’s Bay.
The service is friendly and informal and it boasts a Michelin Star Restaurant! Where else can you walk down a wooded path to your own beach, or recline on a steamer chair, glass of wine in hand and enjoy an unbroken sea view and then adjourn to a Michelin Star Restaurant?
W: www.driftwood.co.uk. Owner: Paul Robinson tel: 01875 806544
WATERGATE BAY HOTEL, Watergate Bay, Cornwall
It has so many different assets, starting with the Swim Club which uses the state-of-the-art, 25 metre infinity pool, with a shallow area for children, a Studio for Keep-Fit Classes, treatment rooms, a hot tub, and rooms for storing surfboards and drying wetsuits.
There is a kid’s zone, for the younger ones, and an Extreme Academy for the older children who want to learn how surf, windsurf, kite-surf, and wave ski, amongst other sports.
With four different places to eat, each with its own menu based on local produce, guests are not short of choice.
The only Hotel in Watergate Bay, it was built in 1904 but is surrounded by modern extensions which afford stunning views of the broad, glistening, sandy beach.
Inside the flexible accommodation are contemporary seaside style bedrooms, with comfortable beds, some ideal for families.
Another attraction is the Beach Polo, which provides a sensational way to enjoy this perfect beach.
This is an impressive seaside hotel, bringing you the best of ‘Cornwall Contemporary’ hotel style. Doubles from £125 Tel: 01637 860543
SOUTH SANDS, Salcombe, Devon
I have been a fan of Salcombe since I first discovered it in the 1980s, and it became a firm favourite of my children over the following decade as they grew up. It is a magical place with lots of sandy coves of which South Sands is one.
The emergence of this fabulous new hotel is just what Salcombe needed when it opened in 2010, with fabulous views from its terrace, and through a curving wall of windows. Its restaurant is sensational, and resembles a New England style space where Chef, Mitch Tonks and Head Chef Stuart Downie have combined their talents to create a vibrant, innovative menu.
South Sands is buzzing with activity in the summer with water sports being the main theme, including sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddling and rib rides all on offer, but in the winter months it is a wonderfully romantic ‘bolt hole’ for couples wanting to unwind and enjoy the fabulous walks to unpopulated coves that can only be reached by foot at low tide, or by cliff walk at high tide.
The 22 seaside bedrooms come in five categories each named after a sailing boat, and there are five spacious beach suites, perfect for families.
Doubles from £150 Tel: 01548 845900 W: www.southsands.com
THE GURNARD’S HEAD, St Ives, Cornwall
This is one of three inns owned and run by the Inkin brothers Edmund and Charles, the other two being the Old Coastguard at Mousehole, and The Felin Fach Griffin in Wales.
Set in the wild landscape of Cornwall’s north coast between St. Ives and St. Just. The Gurnard’s Head is a real haven, and completely unpretentious. Its bedrooms are decorated in lime-based colours from Ty Mawr, a Welsh producer of low-impact paints and are filled with fresh flowers. All the rooms have incredibly comfortable Vi-spring beds and in the bathrooms are White Company products.
There are digital Robert’s Radios and hundreds of books to choose from but no TV’s, or telephones in the rooms, so this is really a place to unwind, and re-charge your batteries and enjoy the award winning menu in the sunshine yellow dining room, which is comprised of locally sourced produce. It changes every day, according to what is brought to the back door!
This place is shabby chic rather than new age boutique, but it is perfectly placed for surfers who can enjoy the numerous surfing beaches, and for the culture vultures there is Tate St. Ives, and Barbara Hepworth’s delightful house and garden, full of her sculpture, and endless art galleries populating the narrow streets.
Doubles from: £147.50 for dinner and B&B per couple. Tel: 01736 796928
Rick Stein’s SEAFOOD RESTAURANT and other establishments, Padstow, Cornwall
The one person who must take the most credit for putting Cornwall, and especially Padstow, on the culinary map of Great Britain, is, without doubt, the amiable, but serious foodie, Rick Stein, whose whole working life has been dedicated to making us realise what a fantastic Island we all live on, and what an abundance of good things nature provides for us, and most of all the value of one of our greatest natural resources, the harvest of the sea.
Padstow is Rick Stein and his various establishments now populate the narrow streets of this picturesque fishing village at the entrance to the Camel Estuary.
The area is blessed with wonderful cliff walks, great pubs, superb sandy beaches and coves, and my children were lucky enough to enjoy this paradise. They learned to water ski, surf, windsurf, play golf (badly), and generally whoop it up in the sand dunes, and the surf, to their heart’s content.
Rick Stein’s flagship is The Seafood Restaurant, but this has now been joined by The Seafood Cafe, St Petroc’s Bistro, and Stein’s Fish & Chips, and each of these has a number of bedrooms over them, as well as other elegant and entrancing accommodation spread throughout the town, all designed by Rick stein’s ex-wife, but ongoing business partner, Jill.
So, you can pick and choose where to eat and where to stay, for different budgets, and how close you want to be to the fabulous sandy beaches and coves which line the estuary, although most of the good beaches are a short ferry-ride across the harbour at Rock, Daymer Bay, and Polzeath.
So, I suggest you log-on, chill out, and devise your chosen progression of culinary delights, but remember to work off the calories before the next meal!
Doubles from £100 Tel: 01841 5321700 W: www.rickstein.com
Robert Jarman – Founder and Editor of The Vintage Magazine and long time admirer of the West Country even when it rains.