Adrian Mourby

Back to Inspirations

It seems we all love Cornwall. And why not?  It has broad beaches and colossal cliffs, tiny castles and even tinier villages. It has seafood and surfing, cozy coves and cream teas. It has art galleries and pasty shops on just about every street corner, and a population who may feel overwhelmed at times but who remain polite and welcoming to visitors.

As soon as the British government eased its restrictions on UK travel earlier this year, Cornwall’s self-catering properties filled up overnight. Much the same happened when the county’s hotels were finally allowed to reopen. “One hundred percentage occupancy” could be the motto on Cornwall’s coat of arms. However in 2022, as foreign travel opens up fully for UK tourists, domestic tourism will get back to normal.  It’ll no longer be a question of grabbing any hotel, self-catering property or roadside inn that happens to have one free room. There’ll be choice again. So here is my selection of ten excellent places to stay in Cornwall during 2022. I visited them all just recently and can recommend everyone. There’s huge variety, from magisterial Victorian hotels to self-catering cottages, old fashioned country houses to pubs with rooms, and of course lots of places by the sea. There’s even a former convent in the mix. If you’re thinking of heading to Cornwall in 2022 – or getting in a quick pre-Christmas break -- I hope this selection will inspire you.  

Any holiday in Cornwall must include at least one night on its dramatic north coast. Cornwall’s north and south coastlines have very distinct characters. The south coast looks out on to the frequently flat, tranquil waters of the English Channel while the north faces huge waves surging in from the Atlantic. At Cornwall’s narrowest point, these two stretches of seaside are only fifteen miles apart.

One of the best beaches on the north coast, and one of the coast’s best hotels, is in Newquay. Here the broad expanse of Fistral Beach is home to a community of surfers and dogwalkers. If you’re not carrying a board, you’re probably trying to stop your overexcited puppy chasing after all the other dogs. Presiding over this busy, happy scene is the Headland Hotel. The Headland sits on a literal headland that divides Fistral Beach from the town of Newquay. At first sight the hotel looks like a film set – indeed it has been one. It’s a towering structure, almost in the style of a French chateau with a mansard roof and lavishly decorated red terracotta columns and pediments. When it opened in 1900 the Headland boasted furnishings all the way from Heal’s of London, an electric lift and electric lighting in all of its 120 rooms. Designed to cost £25,000 it had run up bills of £50,000 by the time the first guests arrived. Silvanus Trevail, the most prominent Cornish architect of the nineteenth century, had boasted that he would build Newquay the grandest hotel in the southwest and he probably did. Edward VII and Queen Alexandra came to stay so it was obviously good enough for royalty.

Today the Headland dominates Newquay, not just because of its size but because it is the only historic hotel in the town not to have been spoiled by modern accretions. From every angle the hotel looks almost exactly as it did when it opened in 1900. Even the modern Terrace Restaurant is located within a recreation of the Victorian conservatory that ran along the hotel’s southern flank.  The old lift, though now modernized, occupies the same lift-shaft from 1900, next to the concierge’s desk.  The long visitor’s lounge – known as The Ballroom - only needs a few aspidistras placed between its many sofas to step right back in time.

Not surprisingly the main staircase is very wide but with shallow steps for the benefit of ladies in generous Victorian skirts. It leads up to a first-floor landing so deep that it’s known as The Library. Here rattan and leather chairs are grouped around a table on which Ordnance Survey maps of Cornwall are laid out under glass for perusal. There is even an enormous (seven by four-foot) Lego model of the hotel made with loving attention to detail by a former guest.

Dining at the Headland’s Samphire Restaurant under glass chandeliers is a rather grand affair with tables well-spaced, attentive service and an excellent sea-based menu. Try the scallops thermidor if they’re on the menu.

The Headland isn’t just a heritage property, however. It has a modern spa and gym in its basement and a brand new Aqua Club with six pools, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and a sun terrace looking out to the Atlantic. In keeping with the sensible and sensitive way the Headland has been developed, the Aqua Club is not tacked on to the old Victorian building but is located at a discreet distance across the car park. It’s modern in style, with a rugged façade of local stone, but that is fine because it’s entirely separate from the hotel. There is also a self-catering “village” of modern rooms clustered together on the hotel’s northern edge. These 39 low-rise apartments resemble a fisherman’s village and again don’t distract from the Headland’s unspoiled architecture (although anyone staying in the self-catering accommodation can also dine in the Samphire Restaurant and use the Aqua Club).

Somehow the Headland manages to offer something for every kind of guest  without ever losing its identity.


On Fistral Beach, just below The Headland there is a tall, light blue pennant advertising Tarquin’s Gin, which is probably Cornwall’s finest.

There actually is a real distiller called Tarquin. In 2012 he was 23 years old, working in the City of London having first trained as a Cordon Bleu chef in Paris. Unhappy with his lot, Tarquin Leadbetter moved back to Cornwall, began experimenting with distilling a gin that he liked, found one and marketed it. Now 10 years later, Tarquin’s bottles are well-known around the world for their light blue waxed seal that looks as if a candle has melted down the bottle’s stem.

It’s apt that The Nare calls itself “a country house hotel by the sea”. This long sequence of rooms facing south on to Carne Bay has the feel of a family home. Scattered throughout the ground floor drawing rooms are books of genuine interest, jigsaw puzzles, games, and modern art owned by the Gray/Ashworth family. Outside subtropical gardens surround a heated swimming pool.

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 who installed her long-term collaborator, Mrs Burt as manager. Mrs Gray’s portrait still hangs in reception. It was she who set The Nare’s high standards of customer service, and its unusual commitment to modern art. Bettye Gray always claimed that she didn’t understand modern art at all, but she 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 a hotel on which she had placed her own stamp. As proprietor of the Nare, Toby has retained some 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. There is a decanter of sherry in every bedroom that is topped up daily and televisions are hidden in chests of drawers, behind pictures, or inside ottomans. At breakfast time tea is served in heavy old silver teapots and there are framed cartoons from a pre-PC era in the hallways. Although tea and coffee facilities are available in each room, morning tea can also be ordered to be brought up with the papers, a detail that harkens back long past 1989 to 1929 itself.

The old-world charm of The Nare also extends to afternoon tea being offered as part of the full-board option. Scones, coffee cake and fruit cake are served every day from 3pm. And this charm seems to rub off on the clientele, who quickly become good friends. Unusually for a 40-room hotel, paying guests greet each other as they pass in the dining room or on staircases as if we are all at the same house-party. The staff, sporting Cornish tweed ties, are also clearly enjoying themselves. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for them. Guests often ask to picked up from home and brought to the Nare by a driver. You can even be collected from Heathrow with a stop-off for lunch enroute to Cornwall. Fortunately the hotel keeps a fleet of suitable vehicles.

While staying at The Nare, be sure to go down to Carne Bay Beach at first light to watch small fishing boats coming back into St Mawes. Or spend the morning there with all the joggers, swimmers and dogwalkers, or go down in the evening to see the sunset over Nare Head. Because the hotel faces south, you can view both sunrise and sunset from its terraces or down on this lovely National Trust beach.


A boat trip to Falmouth and the Helford River is one of the best things offered in the area. Captain Simon takes the hotel’s teak-decked Alice Rose out from King Harry’s Landing for a pleasant four-hour cruise with lunch. The journey is interspersed with stops at places like Falmouth Harbour and St Mawes for Simon to give a local’s view of the ever-changing Cornish landscape. With excellent food, plenty of house wine, beautiful views -and even an option to swim from the boat- this unique excursion is excellent value for £100 pp (maximum number of guests:8). 

Boconnoc is a stunning Cornish mansion built in the eighteenth century by two members of the influential Pitt family (who famously provided Great Britain with two prime ministers). The house sits low in a sunny valley, tucked away within its own 7,500-acre estate. Boconnoc is so extensive and remote it’s almost like staying in a county within a county.

During the nineteenth century the estate passed through various family members, including Lord Grenville (yet another British prime minister) until it ended up in the hands of the Fortescues who still own it today.  

Boconnoc House has recently come to the end of a 12-year restoration project and is today a gracious self-catering property filled with family portraits, modern art, and busts of the Pitt family. Currently it is run by Elizabeth Fortescue, her daughters and a small staff.  The main house contains nine bedrooms and must be rented in its entirety – perfect for a house party or wedding. There are also three self-catering cottages in a little servants’ village above the house. Dairy Cottage sleeps up to nine, Groom’s Cottage up to seven and the Head Groom’s Cottage six.

Days pass calmly on this tranquil estate. For exercise try the Deer Park walk, which takes you along the Valley Crucis and brings you back – an hour and a half later - to Boconnoc House alongside the River Lerryn. Then at the end of the day climb to the top of the Shrubbery or Deer Park for sundowners.

In 2021 Boconnoc’s self-catering properties will be open for the first time for festive stays during November and December. Expect Cornish hot chocolate and marshmallows on arrival with a twinkling Christmas tree handpicked form the estate. Boconnoc will also be organising children’s activities so parents can have a well-deserved rest.


Lostwithiel is a small, ancient Cornish town four miles west of Boconnoc. It’s reached across a six-arched fourteenth-century stone bridge. The town’s main sights include the thirteenth-century Church of St Bartholomew and the circular ruins of Restormel Castle. There are also the remnants of Lostwithiel’s Stannary Palace where the production of tin was historically taxed by knocking off a corner from each new block of tin for the financial benefit of the Duchy of Cornwall. 

The Greenbank Hotel stands on high ground above where the Penryn River enters Falmouth Harbour, a grassy slope that was historically known as Green Bank. It’s an imposing spot on the north side of one of the world’s deepest harbours, with expansive views south to the town of Falmouth and the village of Flushing across the Penryn to the east.

It is believed that a private residence stood here as early as 1640. Later the house became an inn from which the ferry over to Flushing on the other side of the harbour operated. In June 1785, The Sherbourne Mercury carried an advertisement referring to “a commodious dwelling house known as The Ship Inn, Falmouth” which is thought to be a reference to this public house on Green Bank. In 1813 a Mr Thomas Selley became the new proprietor of the Ship Inn and upgraded it to a gentleman’s residence where the captains of packet ships could stay. (Packet ships were medium-sized boats designed for mail and freight transportation with only limited space for passengers.)

Under Selley the Ship Inn changed its name to the Commercial Packet Hotel, Greenbank. Amongst seafarers it was also known as “The Packet Terminus”, as all packet ships on the south coast of England assembled in the harbour below awaiting further orders while their captains took life easy on land. The Commercial Packet Hotel was also an important assembly point for coaches departing to Plymouth, Exeter, London, Bath and Bristol.

In 1841 Mr Selley died and his family sold the hotel to John Hoskin Mitchell who passed it to his daughter Martha Mitchell on his death in 1888.  During Martha’s long reign at what was now known as “The Greenbank Hotel” Florence Nightingale came to stay in 1907 at the end of her very long life. The (much younger) author Kenneth Grahame stayed the same year while on a series of Cornish boating holidays. During this time, he wrote letters to his son Alistair about a mole, a rat and a badger that eventually formed the basis of his best-selling novel, The Wind in the Willows.

The present owners of Greenbank, The Cornwall Hotel Collection, took over in November 1999. Today their hotel is an amalgamation of four nineteenth-century buildings overlooking the harbour with a lively pub, the Working Boat, in its basement. Most of the 61 bedrooms are named after sea and packet captains with links to Falmouth (although not necessarily ones who stayed at the hotel) but Room 101, perhaps the most glamorous in the hotel, is known as The Florence as “a nod to one of our most famous guests”. A guest book from 1887 showing her signature is displayed near reception.

Today the Greenbank is renowned for its food, served at the recently refurbished Water’s Edge Restaurant under the enthusiastic guidance of head chef Bobby Southworth. Not surprisingly seafood is a speciality. The Water’s Edge has large picture windows that gaze across the narrow stretch of water to Flushing, an appropriate view given that it was the ferry to Flushing that centuries ago inspired the conversion of a private home into a very successful public house and hotel. 


Walk to Pendennis Castle, an artillery fort constructed for Henry VIII between 1540 and 1542. It formed part of the “King's Device” to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire after his dramatic break with Rome. This two and a half mile walk takes you through the narrow shopping streets of old Falmouth, which have great charm, then past the modern docks and up on to a headland with great views of the extensive harbour.

Fears of a possible French invasion in the 1730s and 1790s led to Pendennis' defences being upgraded. Indeed during the Napoleonic Wars the castle was armed with 48 large guns and canons. Today it’s a favourite place for afternoon strolls and picnics.

Tucked down an unpaved lane in the north Cornish hamlet of Tregonetha stands a cluster of old farm buildings, one of which is a freestanding barn that has been turned into an award-winning self-catering property. Up to five people can be accommodated here in three bedrooms. The Old Barn has an electric Aga which wonderfully warms up the beautiful kitchen that owner Stephen Chidgey 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 the Old Barn’s own handmade chocolate.

The barn has a delightful living room on its first floor where there is a wood-burning stove, tv and dvd player, and a baby grand piano (surely a combination unique in UK hospitality). There is also a large garden for al fresco dining. This self-catering property will satisfy the most ambitious of cooks and demanding of aesthetes. The carpentry throughout is a delight 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 indeed somewhere just to hide yourself away completely for a few days in front of that wood-burning stove with a stack of dvds and books. 


Padstow lies ten miles north of Tregonetha. Known locally as “Padstein” because of the way celebrity chef Rick Stein put it on the tourist map, Padstow is a wondrous place to spend money. There are numerous Rick Stein outlets but also many art galleries, rows of coffee shops and pasty shops -- even a place to buy luxury teddy bears. Nothing is cheap in Padstow, but everything is desirable. Given the port’s popularity, Stephen recommends that guests only visit early in the day - and certainly not at weekends.

Standing on high ground to the northeast of Truro city is the Alverton Hotel, built originally as Alverton Manor for the banker William Tweedy. Mr Tweedy constructed what is now the central section of this hotel in the early 1830s as a family home. The Tweedys were Senior partners in the very important Cornish Bank which had its headquarters in the county town below.

Tweedy was a keen gardener and President of the Royal Horticultural Society for Cornwall until his death in 1859. The steep gardens of Alverton Manor were laid out for the enjoyment of his thirteen children. After Tweedy’s death, the house was partly taken over by The Bank of Cornwall but with its demise in 1879 the Alverton’s fate was precarious. In April 1881 Jane Tweedy, the widow of William sold the 13-bedroom house to a Mr Pascoe for £6200. Pascoe built on a library, now known as the Oak Room and located just behind what is now the reception). His tenure was not long however. In 1883 Mr Pascoe sold the house to The Order of Epiphany, a group of nuns from London who had based themselves in Truro.

The Epiphany grew to be a very big order in the dying days of Queen Victoria’s reign. They built neo-Gothic wings on to the north and eastern end of the manor, including a lofty chapel (now known as The Great Hall) and the courtyard buildings towards the top of the hill.

By 1984 Alverton Manor was too big for the few remaining nuns and they moved to Copeland Court on the other side of Truro. The manor house was then converted into a hotel. In 2012 it was purchased by The Cornwall Hotel Group who extended its room numbers to 51 and added a two AA-rosette award-winning restaurant.

This is an ideal hotel if you’re breaking your journey west in Truro or want to see the city itself. If you can possibly secure it, book the Bishop’s Suite (Room 31) probably the best in the hotel. It is spacious yet cosy, and the bathroom has not one but two rolltop baths.


From the Alverton it’s easy walking distance down to Truro Cathedral and the elegant eighteenth-century terraces of Lemon Street. It’s a commonly overlooked fact that although King’s College Cambridge made the Nine Lessons and Carols event world-famous, it was thought up by Edward White Benson, then Bishop of Truro as a way to lure Cornish men and women out of the pubs on Christmas Eve. Benson was also behind the building of Truro Cathedral (1880-1910). Dominating the small city with its three Gothic Revival spires, this imposing structure is well worth a visit. 

The Norway Inn stands alongside the busy A39 in the village of Perranarworthal.  In the nineteenth century this used to be a busy industrial settlement thanks to the Perran Iron Foundry that was set up by the Fox family in 1791.

Eight or nine barges at a time could unload at Perran Wharf on the River Kennall, with many bringing timber for local mines all the way from Scandinavia. For this reason, the inn that was opened on the other side of the river in 1829 was known as The Norway Hotel. However when the Perran Foundry closed in March 1879 with the loss of 400 jobs, Perranarworthal went into permanent decline as an industrial site.

Now known as The Norway Inn, this old public house retains its low ceilings and big dark flagstones. The main rooms of the inn are wood-panelled and there are a number of working fireplaces in winter, making the place warm and welcoming. The staff are young and friendly, and the menu is unashamedly pub-food orientated with pizzas, burgers and a curry of the day. Upstairs the Norway Inn has four modern, comfortable bedrooms named Perran, Levan, Sennen and Brioc. They are surprisingly quiet and very convenient if you are hiking in this area. 


Tullimaar House, an early nineteenth-century mansion, is just a minute’s walk from the Norway Inn. It lies off the A39 behind a broad white gate and was for many years the home of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sir William Golding. Today it is occupied by Golding's son David.

With a sweeping view of the southern Cornish coast, the Talland Bay Hotel sits on a wide, well-trimmed lawn. Below it, a steep road drops down to the Talland and Rotterdam Beaches, traditionally two favourite haunts of smugglers in the eighteenth century. The house in which the hotel is based dates back to the sixteenth century and is said to have belonged to the famous Trelawny family. Bishop Jonathan Trelawny was one of seven Anglican clerics who rebelled against King James II's Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 (granting religious tolerance to Catholics).  As a result he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of seditious libel. Trelawny became a cause-celebre in Cornwall and after his release became a favourite bishop of William III and Queen Anne (once King James was dethroned).

The building you see today owes much to its conversion into a hotel in the 1940s. It’s a quirky take on the English country house look with that bright green lawn lined by pine trees, sculptures and carvings. The modern sculptures are certainly eclectic, with a Puck-like bronze of a fairy, a carving of six giant budgerigars into a log-bench, and a life-sized sculpture of a sleepy old man sitting on a bench that is a firm favourite among the social-media crowd. There are also three brightly painted cabanas on the lawn, ideal for an intimate lunch -- or finishing a few chapters of your novel.

Inside the hotel is equally committed to colour and original art. The dining room showcases as much Cornish produce as possible under head chef Glen Merriot whose motto is “Authentic Cornish food — delight with every forkful”. Talland Bay also has its own gin which is distilled, unusually, by combining a Cornish potato-wine base with juniper berries, rose petals, pine wood, and mint from the hotel’s semi-tropical gardens.

There are 20 rooms in the hotel plus four garden cottages  and a self-catering bungalow in the grounds.  From the front door it’s a short walk down to the sea (and it really is much better to walk than drive; roads in this part of Cornwall may be two-way in theory but are often only one car wide. Besides if you drive down parking is not cheap). Once on the beach there is a lovely view south into the waters of Talland Bay which means that you can catch the shifts of light at sunrise and sunset.


Walk from the Talland Bay Hotel to Polperro along the South West Coastal Path. It’s only one and a half miles of serene coastline to get   to this beautiful Cornish fishing village. You can drive if you wish, but the route is steep and narrow, and heads inland for quite a distance before returning to the coast. Then when you arrive you’ll find you have to park at some distance from Polperro village itself because no visitor cars are allowed in. And that parking starts at £5 for three hours. So walk – it’ll do you good!

Down a long, leafy lane running off the A3075 sits The Rose in Vale Country House Hotel, a Georgian building that originated as a thirteenth-century Cornish long house. In 1761 a certain Mr Thomas Nankivell added a neo-classical façade with pedimented doorway giving his home its current look, something reminiscent of an old parsonage from the Jane Austen era.

A local story runs that the renowned Cornish painter John Opie RA (1761 – 1807) used to visit the grand house in Mithian as a young man because his sister was in service to the Nankivell family. In her book John Opie and his Circle Ada Earland writes “Mr. Thomas Nankivell of Rosenvale and his daughter, Joyce, had been kind to the boy”. There is a tradition within the family that Opie painted young Joyce (later Mrs. Joseph Townsend) out of gratitude for support she had given him in his early artistic training. Earland adds “The name of the house Rose-in-Vale is said to have been given as a pretty compliment from a visitor to this fair Cornish flower (Joyce) set in the deep valley in which stood the house.” Joyce Nankivell was also described as “The Belle of Mithian.”

In subsequent years Rose in Vale was owned by a Captain John Oates who in the mid-1800s controlled all the copper mines in the area and later by a former South African diamond miner, and then by a local farrier called Fabian. In the 1940s Rose in Vale was bought by the Dores family who were the first to take in paying guests. Today Rose in Vale is a 20 room adults-only country resort for those who wish for a quiet time in this most tranquil corner of Cornwall. There is an outdoor swimming pool and 10 acres of ground to wander. The current owners, Claire and Paul Hodson also offer some historic suites: the John Opie (after the local boy who went on to paint George III’s family) the Magor Suite in the old stable block, and the Captain Whitfield Quarters with a four-poster bed.


St Agnes Head, a stretch of the north Cornish coastline owned by National Trust is only four miles away with the remains of the Wheal Coates Mine (one of many owned by Captain Oates) nearby.

In good weather this is a perfect place for a picnic, although be warned there are no facilities at St Agnes Head except parking. Each May Day weekend the villagers of St Agnes re-enact the legend of tyrannical giant Bolster who was tricked by St Agnes into trying to fill a deep hole with his blood in order to prove his love for her. The poor giant bled to death, but this meant that the Cornish people were freed at last from a terrible ogre. 

At the bottom of a very narrow road through Portloe you come to The Lugger. This seafaring inn (named after the typical single-sailed Cornish fishing boat) takes up most of this south coast port.  Its accommodation consists of five bedrooms above the old white-washed inn, twelve in a row of houses behind the pub, four in the old school house and others in various cottages nearby.

By day it is delightful to sit on the Lugger’s small terrace and watch local fishermen unload their catch. Their buoys (marking the position of lobster pots in the bay) are visible from the hotel. In the evening you can dine on fresh sea produce which is delivered daily, drink in the small bar or sit in the residents’ lounge with its big open fire and a scattering of books and board games.  No two bedrooms are the same at the Lugger. Some have their own terraces, a few have sea views. Room 301is perhaps the best with its view directly into the tiny harbour and the sea beyond.


 Caerhays Castle is a semi-castellated manor house overlooking Porthluney Cove six miles east of The Lugger. The garden hosts the largest collection of magnolias in the United Kingdom under the auspices of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens.

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