Adrian Mourby

Back to Inspirations

Cornwall is almost synonymous in the British imagination with the word “holiday”. True, it takes forever to get there but the journey is well worth it – picturesque villages and broad beaches with soaring cliffs on the north coast and sleepy estuaries on the south. Cornwall has it all. To whet the visitor’s appetite there are many splendid ales, several gin distilleries and an infinite range of Cornish teas – jam first, then cream on top.


But where to stay? Here is my selection of ten of the best places from self-catering cottages to chic surfing hotels, from country houses by the sea to clifftop restaurants with rooms. Five are on the imposing north coast, three on the tranquil south and two inland. There really is something for everyone here.   

High above Lewinnick Cove on Newquay’s Pentire Point stands a small restaurant with rooms that enjoys perhaps the best views in Cornwall.  Lewinnick Lodge was built on land owned by the National Trust and is the only structure on this beautiful, wild headland. It has been developed by Pete and Jacqui of Crowndell Consulting who over 30 years ago purchased a small café on this site and expanded it into a 17-bedroom restaurant with rooms.


The building looks a bit like a chalet with its top floor overhanging the ground. Slate tiles or stone face most of the walls. Inside, the lodge is deliberately spacious with wide wooden corridors and a lounge area on the first floor for residential guests to hang out or read.


Almost all the bedrooms have stunning panoramic views of the surging Atlantic below but numbers one to seven have the very best views. Inside each are comfortable armchairs for sitting and watching the sea, heavy old-fashioned binoculars for scanning the horizon, and retro Roberts DAB radios.


Visitors who are feeling active can walk to the end of Pentire Headland and watch the surfers on westerly Crantock Beach. Or walk east towards Fistral Beach where there will be even more surfers and an impressive beach bar for snacks.


Lewinnick likes to think of itself as a destination restaurant with rooms and indeed its eclectic mix of food styles is very good. Think Korean tofu, Tex-Mex nachos, curries and Cornish seafood. A lot of locals lunch here as well or just call in for coffee – Pentire Headland is very popular with dog walkers. But by far the best meal to take at this hotel is supper because of the spectacular sunsets visible over The Headland. Staff have got very used to diners rushing outside between courses to photograph themselves at sunset.

The Nare takes its name from the Nare Headland which stands to the east of this hotel on Cornwall’s Heritage Coast. The hotel itself overlooks Carne Bay with its beautiful broad beach, now owned by the National Trust. During World War II Carne Bay was guarded by two concrete pillboxes and The Nare’s flagpole now rises from the roof of one of them.


These days the hotel has 40 rooms, but at its centre it feels like a big, middle-class country house, with a long sequence of rooms facing south on to Carne Bay. Scattered throughout the ground floor drawing rooms are coffee table books, jigsaw puzzles, games, and a lot of modern art owned by the Gray/Ashworth family. There is a library for quiet reading with a varied collection of books that are genuinely worth picking off the shelf. Outside there is a heated swimming pool surrounded by subtropical gardens.  There is an indoor pool too – under the dining room – for when the Cornish weather turns cold.


The hotel was built in 1929 with guest rooms facing the sea and servants’ rooms facing inland. In 1989 it was purchased by Mrs Bettye Gray, a famous hotelier in the area whose portrait still hangs in reception. It was Mrs Gray who set The Nare’s high standards of customer service, and its commitment to original art. Bettye Gray always claimed that she didn’t understand modern art at all, but she famously liked much of what she saw. Indeed she built a small gallery on the eastern end of the hotel to display her early purchases.


In 1996 Mrs Gray brought in her grandson Toby Ashworth to run the hotel, and he has wisely retained many of those famous period touches. No one is asked for credit card pre-authorisation on arrival. No one signs for drinks either – the staff know who you are and keep their own tally.  Although tea and coffee facilities are available in each room, morning tea can also be ordered to be brought up with the papers.  Cream teas are served every afternoon from 4pm in the dining room and on Tuesday evenings at 6pm Mr Ashworth always hosts a champagne reception for new guests.


Bedrooms are still divided between those that face the sea and those that face inland. These days the ‘country-view’ rooms are an excellent budget option and are also useful as an overspill room for a big family. Do whatever you can to get a sea-view room however, especially one of those with a terrace where you can spend an entire day admiring the view and possibly working on your tan. You can even arrange for a room service lunch to be brought up so you never need to leave.


If you do fancy venturing beyond The Nare do ask about the hotel’s 38-foot motor launch, the Alice Rose. She is available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in spring and summer.  Guests board eight miles away in Tolverne and the cruise begins down the beautiful River Fal with lush vegetation on either side. Heading further out to sea, the Alice Rose passes Falmouth and Pendennis Castle before turning up the Helford River in order to moor for lunch. The captain even invites you to a pre-prandial swim if you’re feeling hearty. The round trip costs £100 per person and includes drinks, house wine and lunch. Guests are back at the hotel in time for that splendid afternoon tea – scones, cake and shortbread biscuits. You probably won’t need dinner that evening!

Merchants Manor Hotel is a hotel set on a hill above the town of Falmouth. The original mansion was built in 1913 for the Carne family. They were brewers -and also local entrepreneurs - who invented the screw–cap bottle. This sumptuous family home was sold in 1958 to pay death duties, whereon it  was opened as the Green Lawns Hotel, a B&B, by two ladies.


Subsequent extensions meant that the Carne’s old house eventually became an events hotel, capable of seating up to 200 people for wedding receptions.


In 2012 it was bought by Nick and Sioned Parry-Rudlin who renamed it. Merchants Manor was their first joint venture with a hotel although both had worked in the hospitality business beforehand. The couple brought in the London designer Helen Hughes who made a feature of the dark wood floors, stripped back the over-fussy décor, brought in Farrow & Ball paints and furniture in muted blues, grey and greens to create a hotel for adults. Helen also oversaw the garden, which has now been divided into a series of “rooms” separated by foliage where guests can sunbathe or eat. In fact so much of the garden has now been repurposed that ‘Green Lawns’ could no longer be an appropriate name for the hotel even if Sioned and Nick had wanted to keep it!


The renaming was partly to distance the hotel from big local functions. It now aims to give a luxury experience, with the emphasis on food. The seven-course tasting menu (it changes seasonally) by chef Aidan Blakely-May is probably the best on the south Cornish coast and contains some real surprises (all of them delicious). Imagine crispy monkfish, char siu hake, cucumber granita and Falmouth Bay scallops served with a dry Tokay. The dining room, now known as Rastella (Cornish for grill) was originally known as Restaurant de la Garras by the two ladies during the 1960s and had a menu in French. These days it is darkly stylish with colourful modern art dramatically highlighted on the walls.


This is definitely a hotel for adults who love food and relaxation. There is also a spa and indoor pool but its greatest charm lies in its drawing room and library, rooms built for the Carne family that still radiate calm and understated affluence.


Meanwhile Falmouth’s beaches are only a ten-minute stroll away down the hill. That tasting menu really needs working off.

Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa, Newquay is the most chic of the hotels that overlook the town’s 750 meters of surfing paradise.  Its dining room, named Dune, overlooks the beach and serves prosecco and buck's fizz at breakfast time. Surfboards line the walls and its half lobster is the best on Cornwall’s north coast.     


There are 71 rooms mostly overlooking the sea. The best are on the second and third floors where corner bedrooms have big white baths with floor to ceiling windows. There is some very relaxing about taking a hot bath while waves pound the beach.


The vibe is very surfer dude meets party girl, with the logo Check In, Chill Out over reception and Work Hard, Play Hard on the door into the gym. Beach towels proclaim What Happens On The Beach, Stays On The Beach and plastic room cards are emblazoned with the  logo Be gentle with me, we’ve only just met.


The bar is presided over by Jesus, who has a flamboyant way with a cocktail shaker and claims a passing resemblance to Freddie Mercury. He also runs cocktail-making classes (£45pp) and when not mixing his favourite whisky cocktail, the Fig Old Fashioned, is probably surfing, like so many in Newquay, or running on Fistral Beach.

Fun fact for those who like to jog to music. If you keep your speed up it is possible to cover to entire width of Fistral Beach while listening to Vangelis's title music of Chariots of Fire.


The hotel also markets its own gin (£30 a bottle) which is made on site by the mobile distillers Still on The Move. This Devon company visits Fistral Beach once a year to distil its gin in the car park. Everything about this place is a little bit different but the bedroom views are a constant delight. 

Malcolm Herring bought Blue Hayes Hotel in the year 2000. It was by then a rather rundown B&B on the North Cornish seacoast overlooking St Ives Bay. Malcolm had made his money in IT and wanted very much to move to Cornwall where he could trace his ancestors back to 1580.


Blue Hayes had been built as a private home in the 1920s. The prominent Oxford surgeon, Professor Samuel Whitnall wanted a home by the sea for himself, his wife and their children. They moved in with several staff, including a chauffeur, and the Whitnall children befriended the local farmer whose fields ran below their house. Given the lack of telephones in rural Cornwall in the 1920s cook used to run the Union Jack up the flagpole when they were required home for lunch!


It's believed that Mrs Whitnall named the house Blue Hayes because of the fields of blue poppies she often she saw on the journey down to Cornwall. Hayes comes an Old English word for a field or enclosure.



The Whitnall family moved to Bristol in 1935, and the house had several owners after that.  In 1965 it was turned into an unremarkable hotel – also called Blue Hayes - and so it remained until Malcolm bought it for himself and his family. He wrestled with whether to keep the house entirely for himself or maintain it as a private hotel but after three years of expensive refurbishment, Malcolm opened this upmarket six-bedroom hotel. He admits it would have been cheaper to demolish the old Blue Hayes and build anew but he wanted to retain that link with the past.



Because this hotel is built on a steep slope facing the sea it is three floors down from the car park and lobby to the dining room.  Bedrooms lie off to either side of the staircase, each of them highly individual in shape and layout although cream carpets and blue drapes run throughout the hotel.



There is a bar and dining room on the lowest floor with a terrace that has views of St Ives half a mile away. Below the terrace there is a huge Monterey Pine growing across the lawn. It was actually felled during a storm in 1971 but managed to stay rooted, and now affords great climbing opportunities for Malcolm’s grandchildren when they come to stay. 


Blue Hayes is open from the end of March to the end of October every year. After that the beautiful pale carpets need cleaning for the next season. The hotel only serves breakfasts and supper as Malcolm claims there are so many great places to get lunch around the harbour of St Ives.


On Newquay’s Headland stands what looks like a turreted Edwardian railway hotel – but without its railway (there never was a train connection out as far as The Headland). With its terracotta ornamentation and flocks of starlings sweeping dramatically round a mansard roofline the hotel looks like a film set - and indeed it was used as such in Nicolas Roeg's 1990 film The Witches.  Other visitors of note have included the future kings Edward VIII and George VI when they were at naval college in Dartmouth and Clark Gable who in 1951 filmed the Cold War romance Never Let Me Go in Newquay


This century The Headland decided to expand but rather than spoil the historic lines of its old hotel or build a modern block nearby, the owners commissioned 40 self-catering cottages that would be grouped together between the hotel and the old lifeboat station.


At first glimpse Headland Cottages looks like a traditional Cornish village at the foot of the hotel.  All the buildings have slate roofs and pebble-dash exterior walls painted in a range of pastels, and they’re accessed along a winding narrow street as would be the case in a genuine Cornish village. No two cottages are the same. Some accommodate just two people. Others can run to six. Most are two-storey, with the living room on the first floor for a possible sea view as all have a small balcony or terrace. The decoration inside is as luxurious as the exteriors are spartan, modern four-poster beds, big colourful comfy sofas and a well-equipped self-catering kitchen. There are even flame-effect gas fires if you want to feel cosy in the evenings.


The sea in this part of Cornwall is so lovely you do want it visible from your cottage so check when booking that you have ‘sea view’ as part of your deal, not “sea glimpse”, “coastal glimpse" or “village view”.

And if you don’t want to cook but just want a cottage for the extra space, meals can be taken in the Headland Hotel which offers three dining options: the Deck at the nearby Aqua Club, the terrace to the side of the main hotel, and the Samphire restaurant which is a beautiful, old fashioned place for fine dining.


The Deck is good for poolside food and it has great views over the ocean. There is also a circular lounge inside for colder days. The food is a happy fusion of Cornish and the Mediterranean and three meals a day are served. Also available are sandwiches and all day snacks like spicy flatbreads, locally sourced cured meat antipasti and crispy seasonal salads.


While staying in the cottages, make sure you walk out to the very end of the headland to the coastguard’s old hut which resembles a small white temple. You can also walk into Newquay’s old harbour past the medieval Huer’s Hut where a "huer" was stationed day and night to look out for shoals of pilchards coming into the bay.  His job was to raise a hue and cry so that fishermen could harvest the waters off Newquay. Significantly nine of the Headland Cottages are named Huers – numbers one to nine.

Halfway between Truro and Newquay, in the rural village of Mitchell, there stands an old coaching inn. It has a formal frontage with a white, neo-classical portico mounted on to a much older building. It is unclear quite how old The Plume of Feathers, but its well (that used to supply the whole village of Mitchell) is known to be 450 years old. Today it still supplies the carafes of water that you’ll find on your table at mealtimes.


Twenty years ago the pub was bought at auction by Jackie Fair of Crowndell Consulting Ltd, the company that owns Lewinnick Lodge on Cornwall’s North Atlantic coast. Since then, The Plume has steadily built accommodation up the hill behind it. With a growing reputation for its food, the pub eventually added 20 rooms in what has become known informally as its ‘village’. The village lies behind an vine-clad arch and consists of what look like restored barns and agricultural buildings. One is even called The Hen House. Some have full-length French windows and views, others are cosy with small windows and no views, as would be the case in genuine old farming buildings. All have very modern bathrooms, comfortable sofas and desks.


The real joy of The Plume of Feathers, however, is its food which is supervised by Head Chef Andrew Dudley.


Dining is both in the oldest part of the pub or in its new, airy and bright conservatory. All the old pub rooms have been knocked together, making a free-flowing dining area that surrounds most sides of the bar. It's a common way of maximising space these days, but the low ceiling beams are authentically old as indeed is that water well which is to be found just behind reception. Today it only supplies water to the pub but do ask to be shown it. There is a glass cover so no danger of children falling in!


Breakfast at The Plume of Feathers has no truck with the ‘All You Can Eat- but probably shouldn’t’ buffet. Everything is chosen from the menu which has a succinct range of very well prepared dishes. Food remains the number one priority at The Plume of Feathers and there is an ambitious blend of international dishes on the menu.


[A small word of warning:  there are three Cornish pubs that go by the name Plume of Feathers. Make sure you programme the correct one into your GPS.]

St Michael’s Resort is a 92-bedroom hotel with an impressive health club and spa. It sits just across the road from Falmouth’s ‘Gylly’ Beach, real - name Gyllynguase (Cornish for a shallow inlet).


This former 1920s guest house has been owned for over 20 years by developer Nigel Carpenter. When Carpenter bought the original St Michael’s Hotel in 2001, he called it ‘’a Fawlty Towers’-style property in dire need of a makeover”. Fifty million pounds later he has completely turned around the business. Nowadays St Michael’s is a modern hotel that also runs half the apartments in The Liner, the luxury block next door, whose four bedroom, sea-view penthouse retails at £4,000 a week in peak season.


Currently the resort is undergoing a £100,000 refurbishment for its health club and gym which is the best equipped in Falmouth, if not in all Cornwall. The club has recruited 2,000 local members and offers more than 100 classes a week, all of which are open to hotel guests. There are two large indoor pools, one in the spa and the other in the health club.  The hotel is also planning a number of “spa suites”, two-bedroom cabins that will be built on the lawn below the spa itself.


At the bottom of that same lawn stands the hotel’s outdoor bar. During the summer it is available during cinema evenings with barbeque food and fizz available to purchase.


Meals are served in the Brasserie on the Bay that strives to offer food made from locally-sourced ingredients, and in the more relaxed Garden Room, which has a Mediterranean flavour and its own pizza oven.


The hotel describes the style of its bedrooms as “relaxed luxury”. The colour scheme is coastal classic – a lot of white and sea blue with headboards made of old distressed wood.

Inland from Padstow and tucked away down an unpaved lane in the north Cornish hamlet of Tregonetha, stands a cluster of old farm buildings. One of these, a freestanding barn, has been turned into a five-times award-winning, luxury cottage. In this year’s Cornwall Tourism Awards, Old Barn at Tregonetha picked up Silver for Best Self-Catering Property 2022.


Owners Stephen and Allen continually invest in the property. This year a “nature pond” has been created in the south-facing gardens so that young guests can enjoy its profusion of tadpoles, newts, frogs and small fish. 


Up to five people can be accommodated here in three bedrooms. Old Barn has an electric Aga that wonderfully warms up the beautiful kitchen that Stephen has installed. This is a state-of-the-art country kitchen with drawers and cupboards ready-supplied with spices and condiments, two wine-cooling fridges, two (small) dishwashers and every kind of pot, bowl, and implement you could possibly wish for. The nearby farm, Trewenna Barn kindly provides a starter pack of its own “Elemental” gin for guests, while Stephen himself provides a hamper of exceptional Cornish delicacies such as Boddington Berry jams, Cornish clotted cream, scones (of course), shortbread baked in Redruth and Old Barn’s own handmade chocolate.


The cottage has a delightful living room on its first floor where there is a wood-burning stove, tv and dvd player, plus a baby grand piano (surely a combination unique in UK hospitality). The carpentry throughout is a beautifully finished and the well-chosen artwork is understated and local. This is a place to come back to after a hard day’s sight-seeing, or a cosy spot to hide yourself away completely for a few days in front of that wood-burning stove, reading books and watching dvds.

This November Stephen and Allen are installing a smart TV that will stream Netflix and Amazon Prime however they will retain the Blu-Ray DVD player so guests can bring their own favourites.


While staying at Old Barn be sure to visit the neighbouring farm to purchase their Elemental Cornish Gin. Stephen and Allen’s guests are always offered a discount.

On top of Tregenna Hill just south of St Ives stands a massive 72-acre estate known as Tregenna Castle. This sturdy granite house was built in 1774 by local MP Samuel Stephens in a quasi-Tudor style.  The architect was probably John Wood, the Younger who designed Bath’s magnificent Royal Crescent. 


The castle was extended in the 19th century, so much so that when it was put up for sale in 1871 and bought by the Bolitho family, they were able to lease it to the Great Western Railway in 1877 as a hotel. GWR had just opened its St Ives branch line and Tregenna was a new development for the company. Hitherto their hotels had been situated near large terminals or junctions, but this was the first intended by GWR as a holiday destination in its own right.


Sir Daniel Gooch, the chairman of the GWR, stayed at the hotel a few weeks after it opened to the public and wrote: "The situation of this house is very fine; it is a castle within its own grounds of about 70 acres, a great part of which are gardens and woods with pretty shaded walks ... The house feels more like a private house than a hotel; the views from it are very fine, looking over the town and bay of St Ives and along the coast as far as Trevose Head."

The company purchased the hotel outright in 1895.


When GWR was nationalised in 1948 to become part of British Railways Tregenna Castle became part of the British Transport Hotels division. Today Tregenna Castle is privately owned and well known as a wedding venue for it has the right level of picturesque exclusivity. The hotel also hosted President Joe Biden and his team during the G7 meeting of advanced economies at the nearby Carbis Bay Hotel in June 2021. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife and young son were also accommodated in the castle and the five of them were famously photographed together walking on the beach at nearby Carbis Bay.

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