Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Scarlet & Bedruthan Steps Hotels, Cornwall

The last time I went to Cornwall was many moons ago. I've been meaning to return, so when I was recently offered the chance to go and review two fantastic seaside hotels down in North Cornwall, I jumped at the chance.  The hotels in question are The Scarlet and Bedruthan Steps down in Mawgan Porth, just along from Newquay. Even though they're owned by the same people, they couldn't be more different. One is an eco boutique hotel for adults only, offering luxury, peace and tranquility. The other is so child-friendly that it has in fact won numerous awards for being one of the top hotels in the country for families.

My friend Nikki and I began our Cornish adventure by boarding the First Great Western train from Paddington. We enjoyed a very easy and leisurely journey, taking in coastal views and enjoying complimentary refreshments in our spacious first-class seats. The four hours flew by as we whizzed past Exeter St Davids and Plymouth, finally arriving at Bodmin Parkway where a friendly taxi driver met us and took us to our final destination, Mawgan Porth.

On arrival at The Scarlet, we walked into a room with colourful sofas and an impressive infinity pool which merged into the sea beyond. Wanting to portray a relaxed, seaside vibe, there is no hotel reception as such, just this welcome area where you wait and as if by magic, someone comes out to greet you. A reception-less hotel is a nice idea, although can be quite frustrating at times when you have to go in search of finding someone, as we later discovered.

There are 37 rooms at The Scarlet, ranging from a simple 'Just Right' room to a lavish 'Indulgent' room. We were given a 'Just Right' room and unfortunately there was a mix up as even though I'd requested a twin room, we were given a double. The girl who checked us in and showed us to our room did apologise and said she would look into it, but we never saw or heard from her again...

Despite all that, our room was really nice, comfortable and clean with all the mod cons and came with a spacious double rain shower complete with nice eco toiletries. The best thing of all was having our own private patio area with stunning views over the beach and sea below. We had a tour of the hotel and I must say the contemporary architecture really lends itself perfectly to its seaside location. Yet the interior decor is really mixed. Some areas such as the 'reception', spa and restaurant are really tasteful with a simple chic style befitting of an upmarket hotel by the sea. Yet other rooms were a bit over the top as if Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen had been let loose after too many pina coladas! But the overall design of the hotel is very classy and impressive, priding itself on its eco-friendly focus and use of sustainable materials. There is an indoor pool heated by solar panels and a wonderful natural water pool outside.

The Scarlet really is a perfect place to escape from it all, especially as mobile signals are hard to come by which is ideal for forcing you to ditch the phone, slow down and take life at a leisurely pace for a few days. However, if you do feel cut off from the outside world, fear not because wi-fi is available. Being an adult-only hotel, it makes for an especially good bolt-hole during high season when Cornwall is invaded by the bucket and spade brigade. And unintentionally or not, the architect appears to have designed the hotel with a naughty sense of humour. I won't divulge what exactly, but let's just say if you look at The Scarlet's aerial view on Google maps, you may get a surprise!

After getting acquainted with the hotel, we went for a walk along the beach to the village of Mawgan Porth. This is a quintessential Cornish village which childhood memories are made of, selling homemade ice cream, colourful windmills, crazy flip flops, rubber rings and Cornish fudge. And as Cornwall is a surfer's paradise, there is of course the resident surf shop where you can book lessons and hire boards and wetsuits.

The tide was out so we walked right out to sea, marvelling at the array of mussel-clad rocks, paddling seagulls, and surfers waiting patiently for a decent wave. Back at the hotel, we went for a swim in the fresh water pool, before lying on the sun loungers lapping up the rays. It was then time to hit the hot tub. There seemed to be a bit of confusion about our hot tub booking and for the second time in a day, I was aware of a notable lack of communication. Even though the hotel staff are incredibly friendly and polite, the service felt rather disjointed.

Before long, we were in the tub, and being the hottest weekend of the year so far, it felt like we were on the Cote d'Azur as we soaked in the warm water and drank (rather pricey) mojitos whilst looking at the amazing view of the sun reflecting on the sea. This was definitely a highlight of the weekend and an absolute must if you're staying at The Scarlet. And if spa treatments are your thing, then you should check out the hotel's ayurvedic spa. Unfortunately we didn't have time to use it, but the spa reception area was very inviting with a divine aroma of all the eco lotions and potions they use. The treatments all sound heavenly and some you can even have done in the privacy of your room.

After we'd finished bubbling away in the tub, it was soon time to retreat to our room and get ready for dinner. We showered and put our glad rags on, then made our way up to the fantastic Scarlet restaurant where we had a perfect table outside with a view overlooking the sunset. The restaurant staff were charming and very helpful, and even though it was a warm balmy evening, we were brought blankets to put around our shoulders just in case it got chilly, which I thought was a lovely touch.

The menu was really varied and everything on it was so tempting, it was hard to decide what to have. There was even a separate vegetarian menu which impressed Nikki, rather than being limited to the usual nut roast. The food was sublime and sophisticated with ingredients made from fresh local produce. I had silver mullet with salt & pepper squid followed by chicken confit with crispy bacon and leeks and a delectable chocolate fondant. It was seriously some of the best food I've eaten and together with a varied and comprehensive wine list, I can totally see why locals and visitors alike, drive from miles around just to dine here. A three course dinner is £42.50

The next morning, we woke up to another fantastic sunny day, opening the curtains to be greeted by the sea, so turquoise I wondered if we had actually woken up in the Caribbean. Both hotels offered us morning newspapers which was a great idea, except disappointingly, on both mornings, no newspaper materialised. We had breakfast in the restaurant which was again, fantastic. Fresh apple juice, free-range eggs, homemade bread and jams, warm porridge with local honey. There is of course a good old English breakfast on the menu too. After breakfast, it was time to decamp to the Bedruthan Steps Hotel, located literally a minute's walk away

I won't deny that on arriving at Bedruthan Steps Hotel, it's easy to do a double take and assume you've got the wrong place. Its unattractive exterior resembles something along the lines of a sixties institution, but rest-assured, it is actually much nicer on the inside. We arrived at the reception desk to be greeted by welcoming staff who promptly checked us in and showed us to a spacious family room where we had two beds each! Even though the rooms are a bit dated, they are bright, well equipped and again we had a great sea view. Bedruthan Steps is a totally different vibe - it's like the sensible sibling of The Scarlet with no frills and is all about function rather than glamour.

I quite liked its retro feel and felt like I had gone back in time to a seaside holiday of yesteryear. And with sunshine and the beach beckoning, we dropped our bags then made the most of the glorious day by going for a gentle stroll along the coastal cliff top to neighbouring Watergate Bay. I absolutely loved that walk and felt really alive and invigorated being engulfed by the sea breeze, wild flowers, hidden coves, breathtaking views and above all, the sense of space and freedom. It was then that I fell in love with Cornwall. Apart from a sporadic rambler or two, there was not a soul in sight.  We spotted beaches below which can only be accessed by boat or brave swimmers and everything was so picturesque and scenic, we had to stop every five minutes to take yet another photograph.

We finally made it to Watergate Bay and I was surprised at how considerably empty it was given the soaring temperature that day. The vast sandy beach made me want to run as if I was in Chariots of Fire. And to give you an idea how large the beach is, an annual polo tournament is held there. Thirsty and weary, we enjoyed a well deserved cold beer at the 'Beach Shack' bar.

Back at the Bed Steps ranch, it was time to indulge in a luxurious Indian head massage at the hotel spa. Again, a brilliant spa offering a perfect retreat, especially for mothers who need a bit of time away from their little darlings. They specialise in Ren products and the lovely spa therapists are so friendly, it's pamper heaven from the moment you walk in. In fact, the therapists from The Scarlet spa also work at the Bedruthan Steps spa so they all know their stuff and get to enjoy a change of scene. There's an indoor pool and hydro spa all overlooking the sea, as well as a traditional hammam with hot stone bed. After our amazing head massage, we braved a swim in the outdoor pool which was bracing yet refreshing, and suddenly another perfect day was drawing to a close.

It was soon time for another sunset dinner, this time in The Herring Restaurant. This is an adult-only restaurant with views over the sea where parents can enjoy grown-up time without the kids. There is also the The Wild Cafe which is more informal and caters for families and is a nice way for children to enjoy a meal with their parents before being whisked off by an on-site babysitter.

Again, the food was excellent. I had tempura cod and sticky pork cheeks followed by a Thai-inspired sea bass dish, whilst Nikki enjoyed grilled haloumi followed by monkfish curry. Both impeccably presented and delicious. And all washed down with a very nice bottle of house white. Dinner at The Herring Restaurant is £30 for 2 courses or £35 for 3 courses. After dinner, we got chatting to a few other guests over cocktails in the hotel bar. We had a right hoot being entertained by the hilarious resident bar man, Paul who kept us all amused and well watered until gone-midnight!

As mentioned previously, Bedruthan Steps Hotel prides itself in being a highly awarded family hotel. In fact it won Cornwall's Hotel of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Children will be in their element here as there is a kids club, an adventure playground, in-house creche and daily children's entertainment shows. Not only does Bedruthan Steps offer a spa, pool, great restaurants and every facility you could possibly imagine for kids, it also offers fun creative breaks such as basket weaving; Cath Kidston patchwork making; sea fishing; bee-keeping; yoga; knitting and bread-making. I'm definitely keen to return and try out one of those! Especially the one called Everything Alice which involves making Lewis Carroll-inspired craft and cookery creations.

Sunday arrived and after a tasty breakfast in our room, it was soon time to catch our train back to London and reality. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at both hotels and I really can't recommend either hotel enough as both offer something ideal and unique for everyone. My overall verdict is that The Scarlet stands out as an exceptionally upmarket hotel and is spot on for its eco dynamic; exquisite location; fantastic restaurant and of course the hot tubs. But although I do appreciate it is in Cornwall which is more laid back than London, for a hotel which charges five star prices, it sadly didn't deliver five star service. As for Bedruthan Steps, this is particularly excellent if you've got children, yet still want to enjoy a few of life's luxuries. Although if you don't have children, you may want to give it a miss and book into The Scarlet.

Miss Immy was a guest of The Scarlet and Bedruthan Steps Hotels and First Great Western trains.

Tredragon Road
Mawgan Porth
Tel: 01637 861 800

Mawgan Porth
Tel: 01637 860 860
Check hotel websites for room prices & availability
Newquay airport 10 mins drive
Bodmin Parkway 30 mins drive (£40 taxi fare)


Chris and Judith said...

Great to meet you in the bar!

Chris and Judith :-)

Missimmy said...

Good meeting you both too! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your break. x

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