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Cornwall - Eating and sleeping
It’s not so long ago that Cornwall’s culinary identity rested squarely on its traditional pasties and cream teas, while crab sandwiches and early asparagus were push-the-boat-out treats. And it would probably be fair to say that until recently (with one or two noble exceptions) Scillonian cuisine was best described as…conventional.
How things have changed! Both Cornwall and Scilly have completely reinvented themselves as high-class foodie destinations and I’m struck by the pace at which this change is occurring. It started, we all remember, with Rick Stein in Padstow, who was followed by a large scoop of celebrity chefs nailing their colours to the Cornish mast and doing much to promote not only the superb local seafood but also award-winning Cornish cheeses, meats and charcuterie.
Stargazy pie is a speciality of Mousehole in Cornwall © Davis Dorss, Shutterstock
But Cornwall’s reputation as a top foodie destination has changed direction over the past few years. You no longer have to go to the big-name restaurants in Padstow, Newquay or Rock to fall in love with Cornish food, for even larger crowds seem to be drawn to places like Simon Stallard’s Hidden Hut – a coast-path café near Portscatho, where outdoor evening cook-ups sell out online in seconds. A host of other informal venues that celebrate seasonal, local produce cooked simply but with passionate regard for the quality of the ingredients –and often served at shared convivial tables – have sprung up. Canteen in St Agnes, The Kitchen in Falmouth, The Crab Shack on Bryher or the Tanglewood Kitchen Company and On the Quay in St Mary’s are all places where solo travellers feel as though they are among friends, drawn together by a love of good food, cooked by good people.
Nor do you have to eat out to get a taste of the way things are heading. I admire the way that village and community shops have pitched in to support local producers and I’ve derived huge pleasure, while researching this edition, from making a point of buying all my weekly groceries – from salt and ketchup to flour and teabags – from Cornish suppliers or producers in village shops and from farmers’ markets and the Great Cornish Food Store in Truro. A rising number of artisan bakeries – Vicky’s, Baker Tom’s, Stones, Da Bara’s – have acquired devoted followings too, and the peculiarly Cornish saffron bun is selling in record quantities from Sennen to Bude. Ice cream has also become an artisan affair, and coupled with the Kea plum that most desirable and local of fruits – is something you’ll not find anywhere else in the country. Cornish-grown and blended tea? Look no further than Tregothnan. Gorse-flavoured chocolate? That’s made in Cornwall, too.
Cornish ciders, ales, craft gins and wines have made a powerful impact on the drinking scene in recent years: there are almost 50 Cornish and Scillonian breweries and micro-breweries at the time of writing, while ciders made with Cornish apples can hold their own among the best that Devon and Somerset can offer and the latest generation of sparkling wines from Camel Valley and Polgoon continue to scoop awards by the bucketful. And as for gin… I’m not alone in thinking that Westward Farm on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly produces some of the finest botanical flavoured gins ever tasted. No doubt about it: Cornwall and Scilly have become hugely rewarding destinations for foodies of every persuasion.
With such an abundance of local produce and culinary talent, it’s no surprise to discover that Cornwall and Scilly host more festivals dedicated to food and drink than any other region of Britain. Some celebrate a local speciality, such as the Falmouth Oyster Festival or the Newlyn Fish Festival, others bring all kinds of specialist growers and producers together, like the Great Cornish Food Festival in Truro, the Food and Farming pavilion at the Royal Cornwall Show in Wadebridge, or the Taste of Scilly Festival held every September – a wonderful excuse for an island-hopping, gastronomic adventure. Porthleven, St Ives, Mevagissey and Rock are also riding the wave of success, hosting food-and-drink festivals that attract greater numbers each year.
Every October, Falmouth celebrates its hugely popular oyster festival © Visit Cornwall
Away from the hustle of the foodie-fests, I’ve also discovered the joys of foraging in Cornwall. Rachel Lambert (www.wildwalks-southwest.co.uk), a neighbour of mine when I lived near Penzance, introduced me to the thrill of returning to the kitchen with a bag filled with fresh green alexanders, wild sorrel, crunchy pennywort, pungent threecornered leeks and young nettle tips. I must give special mention also to Liz Woods, whose blog, Feasts and Festivals, opened my eyes to the rich traditions of celebratory Cornish cooking, from stargazy pie to hot spiced cider; the blog became a book, Cornish Feasts and Festivals (Alison Hodge, 2013); and the recipes are now an established part of my own culinary adventures. Another individual making tireless and inspirational efforts to promote quality Cornish produce is Ruth Huxley. Her books, The Great Cornish Food Book (Cornwall Food and Drink Ltd, 2014) and its companion volume The Great Cornish Fish Book (Cornwall Food and Drink Ltd, 2015), present a very contemporary picture of the richness and diversity of the Cornish culinary scene and are highly recommended. Ruth has also been instrumental in the opening of a terrific shop called, appropriately, Great Cornish Food, beside Truro’s new (and long-awaited) Waitrose.
So, what has become of the humble pasty and cream tea? The good news is that they are as popular as ever, but the bar has been significantly raised. The long-established supremacy of Ann’s Pasties is now challenged by the likes of Nicola Willis at The Dog and Smuggler in Falmouth, or Aunt Avice’s Pasty Shop in St Kew Highway. And a Cornish cream tea – jam first, cream on top unless you want to be thrown out of the county and into Devon where they practise the heresy of putting cream on first – is still a fine objective for a clifftop or moorland walk.
For our author’s selection of recommended places to eat see Slow Travel Cornwall.
Launcestion & the northeast
Mid-Cornwall north: the Camel Estuary to Holywell Bay
The Fowey Valley & the Cornish Alps
The Mining Heartland
Truro & the Fal Estuary
Southwest Cornwall: the Lizard Peninsula
Penzance, St Ives & the Penwith Peninsula
The Isles of Scilly
The places to stay listed below are a personal selection of B&S, campsites, self-catering cottages – and one or two very special hotels – that struck me for their location, friendliness or character, or a mixture of all three. These listings are far from exhaustive; for a really comprehensive selection, you might like to look at www.visitcornwall.com/accommodation.
Thatch-roofed cottages such as this one in Cadgwith are typical of the county © David Hughes, Shutterstock
The Beach Bude EX23 8HJ; 01288 389800; www.thebeachatbude.co.uk. Luxury, boutique hotel in a contemporary New England style, with views over the surfing paradise of Summerleaze Beach. A cool cocktail bar and fine restaurant have put the hotel on the London map, but it remains friendly, unpretentious and the suites are an excellent choice for families of all ages.
Mill House Inn Trebarwith PL34 OHD; 01840 770200; www.themillhouseinn.co.uk; A small hotel, in a deep wooded valley setting, with lovely gardens is just a 15-minute walk from one of the north coast’s best beaches and a short drive from Tintagel. Eight unfussy, comfortable rooms, including a family room sleeping up to six, offer remarkably good value.
Bangors Poundstock EX23 0DP; 01288 361297; www.bangorsorganic.co.uk. Traditional comfort with extra-special organic breakfasts and home-made bread and evening meals made with homegrown ingredients. Close to good walks and exceptional beaches, just a few minutes’ drive from Bude.
The Old Rectory St Juliot, Boscastle PL35 0BT; 01840 250225; www.stjuliot.com. Thomas Hardy stayed here while working on the restoration of the church just down the lane and one of the rooms, named after him, has a splendid ‘thunderbox’ in the bathroom. Traditional comfort and exceptional cooking – evening meals, served in the Victorian greenhouse, are bookable and homemade pasties for picnics always on offer.
The Old Vicarage Morwenstow EX23 9SR; 01288 331369; www.rshawker.co.uk. An atmospheric B&B once lived in by the eccentric reverend Hawker is just a field away from the dramatic north coast. The three beautifully decorated rooms are matched in old country-house elegance by a billiards room, library and drawing room straight out of Agatha Christie. The stables have been converted into a self-contained annexe sleeping six.
Orchard Lodge Gunpool Lane, Boscastle PL35 0AT; 01840 250418; www.orchardlodgeboscastle.co.uk. Five double and two twin rooms in a crisp, contemporary style, just a short stroll from the centre of Boscastle. Discounts offered to guests without cars.
Coombe 01628 825925; www.landmarktrust.org.uk. Three miles north of Bude a cluster of pretty, whitewashed cob-and-thatch cottages and mill has been sensitively restored by the Landmark Trust. Clustered around a millstream in a sheltered valley, the hamlet is wedged between a woodland nature reserve and an unspoilt, pebbly beach at Duckpool. Last-minute offers are temptingly priced.
Pencuke Farm St Gennys (near Crackington Haven) EX23 0BH; 01840 230360; www.pencukefarm.co.uk. A small, organic, family-run working farm with two barn conversions (sleeping eight) and a smaller cottage (sleeping three) as well as a huge shepherd hut (sleeping four) is perfect for families and is dog-friendly, too.
Wooda Farm Crackington Haven EX23 0LF; 01840 230129; www.woodafarm.co.uk. Flexible accommodation and studio space that is well suited to creative groups of all ages. Couples, families, groups of artists and musicians come here to make the most of the barn studios and enjoy the lovely surroundings –and Max and Gary’s delightful hospitality.
Pencuke Farm (see above) Lots of space, sea views and luxury bathroom facilities.
There are some very swanky places to stay in this region which do not really fall within the Slow remit. However, special mention should be given to Mawgan Porth’s Bedruthan Steps Hotel, much loved by exhausted parents for its terrific programme of morning, afternoon and evening activities for children from babies to teens, and its very grown-up sister hotel next door, the Scarlet – positively the last word in green luxury and eco-architecture.
Daymer Bay and St Enodoc church © Helen Hotson, Shutterstock
Lewinnick Lodge Pentire Headland, Newquay TR7 1QD; 01637 878117; www.lewinnicklodge.co.uk. A luxury boutique hotel in a spectacular clifftop location: each has huge windows overlooking the sea, a discreet amount of hi-tech gadgetry and loads of space. The restaurant offers some of the best dining in Newquay.
Roskear Tregunna, Wadebridge PL27 7HU; 07748 432013; www.roskear.com. A peaceful 18th-century farmhouse with two rooms and a shared bathroom. Close to the Camel Trail but off the beaten track. Offers log fires, a beamy sitting room and breakfast cooked on the AGA.
Woodlands Country House Treator, Padstow PL28 8RU; 01841 532426; www.woodlands-padstow.co.uk. Luxury B&B within walking distance of Padstow. Country house ambience, pretty gardens, croquet lawn and very comfortable rooms with understated décor. A beautifully presented buffet table delivers very special breakfasts, featuring locally sourced produce.
Moyles Farm St Minver, Wadebridge PL27 6QT; 01208 862331; www.moylesfarm.co.uk. Upmarket cottages and barn conversions with enclosed gardens and two luxurious shepherd huts in a very secluded rural spot, yet within easy reach of Rock and Polzeath’s surfing beaches. Dogs welcome by arrangement.
Cornish Tipi Holidays Tregeare, Pendoggett, St Kew PL30 3LW; 01208 880781; www.cornishtipiholidays.co.uk. A wonderful, wooded spot with its own clear-water lake in a disused quarry – perfect for swimming, fishing or messing about in the boats and canoes provided. Three sizes of tipi are available, sleeping up to seven – some grouped together, others scattered singly or in pairs among the trees. All have their own firepits for outdoor cook-ups and campfires.
There are some spectacular camping opportunities around the Moor, ranging from luxury yurts to no-frills wild camping spots. Three of the best are included below.
Cabilla Manor Mount near Warleggan PL30 4DW; 01208 821224; www.cabilla.co.uk. The explorer and writer, Robin Hanbury-Tennison and his wife, Louella, live in the Georgian farmhouse, nicely stashed with books and paintings and objects lovingly collected over years of travel. Expect old-fashioned hospitality and comfort in a delightful rural location.
The London Inn School Hill, St Neot PL14 6NG; 01579 326728; www.thelondoninnstneot.co.uk. Three luxurious and beautifully decorated rooms are a new addition to this superb village pub that is rapidly acquiring a name for good dining, too.
Roscrea 18 St Nicholas St, Bodmin PL31 1AD; 01208 74400; www.roscrea.co.uk. Right in the heart of Bodmin, a house with a rich history has been transformed into a very comfortable B&B. All rooms are furnished in a Victorian theme, and tea is served on arrival, either in the garden or the fire-lit drawing room. Breakfast is a treat and excellent evening meals are served on request.
East Rose Farm St Breward, near Blisland, Bodmin PL30 4NL; 01208 850674; www.eastrose.co.uk. If camping isn’t quite your style, just across a very pretty stretch of moorland from South Penquite Farm seven cottages, sleeping from two to six, offer reasonably priced accommodation – and access to the farm’s well-stocked fishing lake as well as easy access to the Camel Trail.
South Penquite Farm Blisland, Bodmin PL30 4LH; 01208 850491; www.southpenquite.co.uk. An idyllic moorland farm with free-ranging ducks and chickens and eco-sensitive laundry facilities and showers. It’s perfect for families, offering safety and freedom for young campers, while bush-craft courses are always popular with older children. Yurts can be hired and there are two bunkhouses, ideal for hikers or cyclists looking for an overnight roost. Hot drinks and breakfast rolls are available in the morning during school holidays and weekends.
Yurtworks Greyhayes, Row Hill, St Breward, near Blisland, Bodmin PL30 4LP; 01208 850670; www.yurtworks.co.uk. Glamping doesn’t get much better than this: three luxury yurts, set well apart for privacy, in glorious oak-fringed meadows offer double beds, crisp linens, log burners, barbecues, hammocks and den-making stuff. And all within easy walking distance of the village shop and pub!
Botelet Herodsfoot, Liskeard PL14 4RD; 01503 220225; www.botelet.com. A working farm of idyllic beauty, located in a green valley overlooked by an Iron Age hillfort, offers very comfortable B&B accommodation in a farmhouse and two self-catering cottages. A camping meadow and yurt complete the picture of bucolic seclusion.
Pentillie Castle St Mellion, Saltash PL12 6QD; 01579 350044; www.pentillie.co.uk. Faultless, fabulous luxury in a restored 17th-century manor overlooking gardens, parkland and a lovely stretch of the Tamar. The Corytons are your hardworking, delightful hosts who have scooped armfuls of awards for achieving such perfection. DIY suppers in the guest kitchen are a popular new addition: you order your supper from a delicious menu, pop it in the AGA for 20 minutes (just enough time to sort out a drink at the honesty bar) and find the table laid and ready.
Talland Bay Hotel Porthallow Hse, Bridals Ln, Killigarth, Looe PL13 2JB; 01503 272667; www.tallandbayhotel.co.uk. Luxury accommodation with a stylish, quirky character (eye-catching artworks and designer fabrics), glorious gardens overlooking sea and beach and a very welcoming approach to canine companions: sausage breakfasts and chicken dinners for well-behaved four-legged diners are provided.
Berrio Mill Golberdon, Callington PL17 7NL; 01579 363252; www.berriomill.co.uk. Two luxury cottages, sleeping two and four, look to the former mill, surrounded by woods and fields, just yards from the River Lynher, where fly fishing for salmon and sea trout is available if desired. The owners are deeply committed to the Slow ethos and produce honey and grow fruit and vegetables for their successful jam, mustard and chutney business.
The Old Luggage Van and the Travelling Post Office Railholiday Ltd, Haparanda Station, Nut Tree Hill, St Germans PL12 5LU; 01503 230783; www.railholiday.co.uk; DaveandLizzy@railholiday.co.uk. St Germans is a working railway station on the main line from Plymouth to Penzance but quiet, flower-filled corners have been found for cosy, quirky self-catering accommodation in lovingly restored railway carriages with all sorts of vintage detail. Only a short step away from Port Eliot, the village pub and shop.
Spring Park Vintage Holidays Rezare PL15 9LX; 07805 990302; quirky-holidays-cornwall.co.uk.Paddy and Kitty have added to their delightful range of shepherd huts, gypsy caravans, cabins and barn conversion with a new Scandinavian-church-inspired ‘tin tabernacle’. Expect vintage furnishings, picnic hampers, proper bathrooms and happy, welcoming hosts. Each comes with its own outdoor space. Great fun and reasonable tariffs.
Treworgey Farm Duloe, Liskeard PL14 4PP; 01503 262730; www.hideawayhuts.co.uk. A luxury shepherd hut and bathroom, suitable for couples, on a working farm. The holiday cottages are perfect for families. Ponies and farm animals, a bucolic setting and the beaches just a few minutes’ drive away.
Wringworthy Cottages Morval, Looe PL13 1PR; 01503 240685; www.wringworthy.co.uk. The eight cottages, a heated pool and indoor as well as outdoor play areas are a great set up for families, with lots of friendly animals too. An excellent base – if you can drag the children away – for exploring both coastal and inland areas around Looe.
Hawkins Battery The Earl's Drive, Maker PL10 1JB; 01752 823234; hawkinsbatteryholidaypark.co.uk. Unchanging, secluded and well off the beaten track, the static caravans have a loyal following that come not just year after year, but decade after decade. The site also offers no-frills camping, a prized spot for hikers and cyclists in the know.
Highertown Farm Campsite Lansallos, Looe PL13 2PX; 01208 265211; www.nationaltrust.org.uk. Lansallos is a tiny, unspoilt village and the small campsite sits in a field between the church and gorgeous beach. Washing and drying facilities have been created in a restored barn. Run in a relaxed way by the National Trust (though be sure to reserve a place during school holidays as it is popular with families), it relies on the decency of the campers to make it work.
View across to Bodinnick and Ferryside from Fowey © ian woolcock, Shutterstock
Fowey Hall Hotel Hanson Drive, Fowey PL23 1ET; 01726 833866; www.foweyhallhotel.co.uk. Spacious and comfortable with a country-house style, families come here to unwind. The hotel is very welcoming to children and close to the delightful sheltered beach at Readymoney Cove as well as the town’s numerous pubs, shops and restaurants.
The Dwelling House at Fowey 6 Fore St, Fowey PL23 1AQ; 01726 833662. Just one lovely bedroom, if you can nab it, right in the centre of Fowey. On the ground floor a terrific café and courtyard garden do everything right.
Foye Old Exchange 12 Lostwithiel St, Fowey PL23 1BD; 01726 833252; www.foye-old-exchange.co.uk. Quirky but comfortable accommodation in the centre of Fowey. Three double rooms, one with a four-poster, plus downstairs, a remarkable collection of telephones and telephone-abilia. Nearest parking is in the (paying) car park on the outskirts of Fowey.
Bodrugan Barton Mevagissey PL26 6PT; 01726 842094; www.bodrugan.co.uk. Choose from wooden, no-frills ‘pods’ (described as ‘tipis’), cottages or a large barn conversion on this friendly, family-run working farm, within walking distance of a delightful secret beach. Mevagissey is on the doorstep and Heligan is a short drive away. A great place for families, groups and budgets of all sizes.
Caerhays Estate Caerhays PL26 6LY; 0800 032 6229; www.nicheretreats.co.uk/caerhays. Nine cottages and houses, some beautifully converted from estate buildings, set in glorious parkland, close to a delightful cove and sandy beach. The Fish Sheds and Lime Kiln (both sleep two) are right by the beach, while the Lodge and Rabbit Warren are in the lovely gardens. The Vean is a luxury country house, sleeping 16, furnished to suit the Georgian elegance of the building.
Court Farm Camping St Stephen PL26 7LE; 01726 823684; www.courtfarmcornwall.co.uk. A campsite for stargazers: the low level of light pollution has led to the creation of an observatory on the farm, which runs regular events for would-be astronomers. The quiet camping field is very much in tune with the family ethos of sensitive, sustainable land use. Don’t forget to bring your torch.
Lombard Farm Mixtow PL23 1NA; 01726 870844; www.adventurecornwall.co.uk. Glamp above the River Fowey in either a cabin, shepherd hut, yurt or tipi. A beautifully presented, family-run idyll above the river Fowey, perfectly sited for outdoor activities including canoeing, biking or just feeling close to nature.
Calize Country House Prosper Hill, Gwithian, Hayle TR27 5BW; 01736 753268. Four double rooms in a substantial Victorian villa close to Hayle’s beaches. Views over the rooftops of Gwithian to Godrevy lighthouse and St Ives Bay. Breakfasts sourced from local farmers markets. A two-bedroom self-catering cottage is also available.
Driftwood Beach Chalet Gwithian Towans, Hayle; 01209 832042; www.forevercornwall.co.uk. A wooden chalet, built in the 1930s, on the beach among the dunes, has been lovingly renovated to create a bright and airy living space with lots of retro touches. Not big or posh, but sleeps a family of six comfortably.
Godolphin House 0844 800 2070; www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk; Atmospheric six-bedroom splendour in a historic house with private garden space.
Beacon Cottage Camping Beacon Drive, St Agnes TR5 0NU; 01872 552347; www.beaconcottagefarmholidays.co.uk. Orchards and paddocks provide ample space for family-friendly camping on a working farm spread over the lower slopes of St Agnes Beacon. Sea breezes, spectacular views and farm eggs and milk for sale. All within easy reach of Chapel Porth, while Trevaunce Cove is a couple of miles away.
Upmarket hotels and self-catering cottages are plentiful in this area. Various B&Bs and campsites are listed on www.falriver.co.uk.
Come-to-Good Farm Feock TR3 6QS; 01872 863828; www.cometogoodfarm.co.uk. A glorious, rural spot, close to the thatched Quaker Meeting House of the same name. There’s one double room and en suite and a family room sleeping four with its own bathroom. The farm keeps sheep (lambing courses are offered too) and chickens and children are encouraged to collect the breakfast eggs.
Hay Barton Tregony, Truro TR2 5TF; 01872 530288; www.haybarton.com. Elegant, grown-up accommodation on the Roseland peninsula.
Little White Alice Carnmenellis TR16 6PL; 01209 861000; www.littlewhitealice.co.uk. In a wild corner of a granite landscape, close to Stithians Lake, six eco-friendly cottages, a natural swimming pool and firepit provide luxurious, close-to-nature accommodation and easy access to the water sports centre on the lake.
St Anthony Head Cottages National Trust Holiday Cottages; 0844 8002070; www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk. Four small holiday cottages converted from former officers’ quarters look over the sea to Falmouth.
The Painted Chapel Greenbottom, Chacewater TR4 8QJ; 07736 940981. Part of a Methodist chapel transformed by artist Penny MacBeth into sublime luxury accommodation. Vibrant mosaics, paintings and lighting make each room a work of art in itself. Loads of space, a brilliantly equipped kitchen, and a little sunny spot outside for sundowners or an al-fresco breakfast. A perfect location in central Cornwall for exploring both north and south coasts, Truro and the moors. Very special.
Treloan Coastal Holidays Gerrans, Portscatho TR2 5EF; 01872 580989; www.coastalfarmholidays.co.uk. Glamping options and clifftop pitches close to long sandy beaches on the Roseland peninsula. All types of campers are catered for here – from coast-path backpackers to those seeking the cosy comfort of a snug wooden cabin or yurt. Children can help feed chickens and guinea pigs, while adults exclaim over the sublime views – and proximity to the gastronomic delights of Portscatho.
The Hen House Tregarne, Manaccan TR12 6EW; 01326 280236; www.thehenhouse-cornwall.co.uk. Two comfortable en-suite rooms in a very peaceful, rural location, close to the Helford River.
The Old Temperance House St Keverne TR12 6NA; 01326 280986; www.oldtemperancehouse.co.uk. Four characterful, comfortable rooms (three double, one twin) in a historic house between the pub and church, overlooking the popular village square. Cornish cream breakfasts will set you up for the day exploring the rugged coastline easily accessed by footpath from the village.
Kynance Cottage Next to Kynance Cove Café, TR12 7PJ; 01326 290436; www.kynancecovecafe.co.uk. Sleeps two plus two small children right next to one of Cornwall’s loveliest beaches.
Trelowarren Mawgan TR12 6AF; 01326 221224; www.trelowarren.com. Upmarket holiday rentals on a historic estate with impeccable green credentials.
Henry’s Campsite The Lizard TR12 7NX; 01326 290596; www.henryscampsite.co.uk. A legend among barefoot campers – perfect for old hippies and young travellers.
Penmarth Farm Coverack, TR12 SB; 01326 280389; www.coverack.org.uk/accommodation-in-coverack/camping-and-yha/. Static-caravan rentals and spaces for tents on a small, friendly farm that offers basic facilities.
The useful website www.cornwallfarwest.co.uk, not affiliated to the tourist office, is used by owners of all types of accommodation in Penwith to advertise their stuff. The site has an excellent interactive map, particularly good for finding out-of-the-way campsites and B&Bs. Another useful resource is www.bookpenzance.com.
Chapel House Chapel St, Penzance TR18 4AQ; 07810 020617; www.chapelhousepz.co.uk. A Georgian house transformed into an elegant boutique hotel with a relaxed atmosphere. Susan Stuart has really pulled it off: it’s billed as a hotel, but from the moment you walk through the front door, you feel as though you’re in a private home… six double rooms and a generously proportioned living room are light, bright and beautifully furnished without compromising on comfort. Downstairs in the kitchen a supper club brings Penzance’s cultural soul to life, and outside a terrace offers great views over Mount’s Bay. Two very modern duplex suites have recently been added.
Gurnard’s Head Near Zennor, St Ives TR26 3DE; 01736 796928; www.gurnardshead.co.uk. A fine pub with very comfortable rooms. Set between granite moorland and coastal scenery.
Primrose Valley Hotel Porthminster Beach, St Ives TR26 2ED; 01736 794939; www.primroseonline.co.uk. A ten-bedroom family favourite, close to the beaches and town centre.
Boscarne Farm Crows-En-Wra, St Buryan TR19 6HR; 01736 810366. A cosy, traditional farmhouse with four rooms, one with bunk beds.
Boswednack Manor Zennor, near St Ives TR26 3DD; 01736 794183; www.boswednackmanor.co.uk. Rambling Victorian farmhouse, surrounded by organic meadows and a kitchen garden and close to the coast path.
Cove Cottage St Loy, St Buryan TR19 6DH; 01736 810010; www.covecottagestloy.co.uk. A romantic, first-floor hideaway overlooking subtropical gardens and a sheltered cove.
Gypsy Caravan, Levant Lane, Trewellard, Pendeen TR19 7SU; 01736 787585; www.gypsycaravanbandb.co.uk. Well located for coast-path walkers and mining-heritage enthusiasts – an authentic gypsy caravan next to a house with a handy downstairs bathroom.
The Abbey Abbey St, Penzance TR18 4AR; 01244 356666; ww.theabbeyonline.co.uk. Formerly Jean Shrimpton’s much-admired hotel, the Georgian townhouse has been repurposed, with no loss of character, as a luxurious, country-house-style self-catering holiday let, with open fires and seven en-suite bedrooms. A very pretty walled garden overlooking the harbour is just the place for summer sundowners. Chapel Street, with its terrific mix of pubs, restaurants and antique shops, is right outside.
Boscrowan Farm Heamoor, near Penzance TR20 8UJ; 01736 332396; www.boscrowan.co.uk. Two cottages on a pretty smallholding, sleeping two and four.
Castallack Farm Mousehole TR19 6NL; 01736 731969; www.castallackfarm.co.uk. Two dog-friendly cottages, sleeping two and four, in a lovely rural spot, close to Mousehole and Lamorna. Converted from single-storey granite barns to provide cosy, comfortable accommodation in a peaceful location on a small working farm. Perfect for walkers and anyone looking for a quiet spot in which to relax or explore the Penwith peninsula.
Land’s End Hostel Trevescan, Land’s End TR19 7AQ; 07519 309908; www.landsendholidays.co.uk. Good value, spotless rooms within easy reach of the coast path and Land’s End.
Bosavern Caravan & Camping Park Bosavern House, St Just, Penzance TR19 7RD; 01736 788301; www.secretbosavern.com; No-frills peace and quiet with B&B accommodation available in the house for non-campers.
A comprehensive list of accommodation from campsites to upmarket hotels can be found at visitislesofscilly.com. By far the greatest number of B&Bs and self-catering cottages are to be found on St Mary’s; (though many of the B&Bs are being transformed into self-catering apartments these days); accommodation of all types is very limited on St Agnes, Bryher and St Martin’s. The tourist information centre has a finger on the pulse of all availabilities, late deals and out of season offers. If looking for a cottage rental on Tresco, you can contact the island office directly on 01720 422849. There are only four campsites spread across the islands – one each on St Mary’s, St Agnes (Troytown Farm), Bryher and St Martin’s. Reserving a pitch is essential, especially during the school holidays. Note that during the pilot gig championships in May, every single bed and tent pitch is reserved, months in advance.
Atlantic Hotel Hugh St, Hugh Town, St Mary’s TR21 0PL; 01720 422417; www.atlantichotelscilly.co.uk; Feb–Nov. A small, friendly hotel with a lively bar overlooking the harbour. Refurbished to a high standard.
Hell Bay Hotel Bryher TR23 0PR; 01720 422947; www.hellbay.co.uk. A multi-award-winning treat for lovers of remote beauty who wish to retain all the sybaritic comforts of a small, modern hotel. Facing the wild Atlantic coast but only a step away from tranquil, turquoise waters that separate the tiny island from Tresco. Great food and a convivial ‘crab shack’ in the garden attract foodies from far afield.
Karma Hotel Lower Town, St Martin’s TR25 0QW; 01720 422368; www.karmagroup.com/find-destination/karma-retreats/karma-stmartins. The only hotel on St Martin’s offers upmarket luxury, a spa and fine dining and is just about as close to the beach as you can get and less than a minute’s walk from the passenger ferry. Everything else (pub, shop, bakery, tea room, winery) on the island is a 10-to-25-minute stroll away.
Mincarlo Hugh Town, St Mary’s TR21 0PT; 01720 422513; www.mincarlo.info. Rooms overlook the harbour and have been nicely updated in an unfussy way, with lovely beds and linens, and breakfasts are terrific. Owners Nick and Bryony organise and participate in the inter-island swim-and-runs that Scilly is now becoming known for.
95 Watermill St Mary’s TR21 0NS; 07760 661627; www.95watermill.com. A romantic shepherd hut, offering the last word in luxury, set in an idyllic garden in a sheltered corner of the north end of the island. Outside there’s a firepit, seats and hammock; inside a huge bed, crisp linens, miniature kitchen and instant hot-water shower room. Wow.
Little Arthur Crofter’s Cabin St Martin’s TR25 0QL; 01720 422457; www.littlearthur.co.uk. A tiny, no-frills hideaway sleeping four, plus a summerhouse with bunks in the garden. An incredible roost for budget-conscious families, pioneer types or get-away-from-it-all writers.
Troytown Farm St Agnes TR22 0PL; 01720 422360; www.troytown.co.uk. Two cottages suitable for families and a studio on a small dairy farm, just a step away from the beach. Farm shop, happy cows and fabulous ice creams. Nothing on the island is more than a few-minutes’ walk away – and a 30-minute stroll to empty white beaches leaves you feeling like Robinson Crusoe.
Longstone Lodge Holy Vale, St Mary’s TR21 0NW; 01720 422410; www.longstonecafe.co.uk/hostel. A stylish hostel in the rural centre of St Mary’s has a variety of immaculate, beautifully designed en-suite rooms offering real value for money. The roomy kitchen and dining area makes for convivial evenings. Homemade frozen meals available – or there’s a great café offering lunches and the occasional dinner or lobster feast.
The Garrison Campsite St Mary’s TR21 OLS; www.garrisonholidaysscilly.co.uk. Campsite with far-ranging views and good amenities. Bringing camping gear to the Isles of Scilly is not all that easy – especially if travelling as a family (the campsite will transport your gear from the harbour though, if need be). But here, if you wish, you can just bring a sleeping bag as tents sleeping either two or up to four people, equipped with everything else you need, are provided on site at reasonable prices.