This stylish new hotel on Cornwall’s south coast has something for everyone, including a swish spa for the grown-ups, a wonderful playground and even free popcorn in the kids’ cinema
“We’re having a bit of bother with the wasps,” said our waiter, before bravely diving in among a score of the little pests to clear a table for us on the terrace of The Cornwall Hotel. Waving, blinking and flinching, he moved gradually inside – and we soon followed.
We’d come to The Cornwall, just outside St Austell, to visit the nearby attractions: the Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and the medieval harbour town of Fowey. But it seemed as if the entire peninsula had been taken over by the yellow-and-black hoodlums. Still, it was no hardship to have our tea and scones in the elegant drawing room, while flicking through classic books and debating the oil paintings by the late Robert Lenkiewicz which adorn the walls.
The Cornwall is a new four-star hotel centred around a handsome, 19th-century house at the end of a long driveway, set on a hillside overlooking 43 acres of land. The original building houses nine bedrooms, the grandest in the hotel, naturally. Elsewhere, it feels more contemporary with 56 additional rooms in a curvy modern extension, cleverly connected to the main house by a series of staircases and corridors. Their modern style does mean some annoying impracticalities, such as sinks too shallow to wash in, but they are spacious and all have a balcony, from which you can see cars passing, far off, along the road to Mevagissy and across the estate to the Pentewan Valley. Luckily, as we needed to fling the doors wide open on the hot summer night, the road is a quiet one.
The hotel’s owners are gradually colonising parcels of their vast acreage with luxurious woodland timeshares, available to rent or buy. Happily this process is being done discreetly. We stayed when the hotel was full, but it never felt overcrowded. And it seems truly to welcome young families; there’s a wonderful wooden playground, a woodland trail and a kids’ cinema room which serves free popcorn every day at 5pm. But there’s enough room for the young couples and retired types – who make up the majority of guests – to escape. The pool, open on one side in summer, limits the hours that children can be in the water, and the stylish Clearing Spa, which offers an array of seaside-sounding treatments, including shell massages and salt scrubs, is for adults only.
There are two restaurants. The smart Arboretum has a fantastically good three-course menu for £35. Local ingredients cooked with an international twist appear in dishes such as linguine with Cornish crab, plum tomato and coriander or Cornish sea bass with Thai purée and vegetable stir fry. The Acorns Brasserie is noisier and buzzes with children. The downside was that service, though friendly, was haphazard, with some long waits for food.
Although not the prettiest town, St Austell is well placed for exploring; half an hour away is stunning Polkerris with the popular Sam’s cafe housed in the old RNLI lifeboat building. One glorious night, after sunset, we ate fish and chips on the harbour at Fowey, watching small boats chug in and out.
• Accommodation was provided by The Cornwall Hotel Spa & Estate