NO bucket and spade, but a thirst and a keen eye leads NICK HAMMOND to the rocky coves of Cornwall. And there he finds a waterside hostelry offering just the right amount of charm, style and Bohemian bonhomie…
THERE’S a rich, luxurious blue to the harbour and the wheedling cry of a passing gull overhead. Sun splashes down beneficently on a scene of timeless English seaside splendour.
Is there anywhere better than Cornwall on a fine Spring day?
The mouth of the estuary is today cracked in a wide grin. Steeply wooded hillsides, spectacular pads and pootling lobster pot men all set the scene in this beautiful little corner of the globe.
Fowey – pronounced Foy, in case you don’t know – is a well-off little town. Artists and actors abound; the air is pure and the light extraordinary. Eateries are strung intermittently throughout the place, which is just big enough for a few minutes’ fresh air and a leisurely dawdle down to Readymoney Beach. I know, I know, what a name.
Today, as the collaborating waters of both sea and river sparkle like the French Riviera, I’m feeling in mid-season form. I’ve landed on my feet.
Since disembarking from the wonderful little Bodinnick Ferry and finding somewhere to park amongst Fowey’s hair-raisingly narrow streets, I’ve pitched up at one of the town’s newest guesthouses. And, as others trudge along the quayside, having to content themselves with a cornet and the bun fight for a wooden picnic table nearby, I am led to a lofty perch above them all and my very own sun terrace – which, incidentally, comes equipped with its own luxury seafront apartment. I pull up a chair and people watch with a suitably feudal air.
The Havener’s Bar & Grill opened just last Summer after an extensive overhaul courtesy of the St Austell Brewery. I can faithfully report they’ve done a fantastic job.
New rooms have been added and my seaside eyrie – shared only with my wife, our two girls and a pair of amorous Herring Gulls – had everything we could ask of it and more.
Kitchen, lounge, dining room and bedrooms all had slap bang views of the briny blue. And down below was the Bar & Grill itself, smart, enticing and run by a gang of young, bright, optimistic sorts to whom nothing was too much trouble. And do you know what always makes a difference when you stay somewhere new? People who are genuinely pleased to be there with you.
The folks at Havener’s were; local lads and lasses who knew they were onto a good thing in Fowey – and who were determined to hang onto it.
We spent the afternoon in splendid contemplation of Fowey’s glories. A spot of gawping at the shallows at low tide, where freshly-painted hulls bobbed and sparkled in the sun; along the whitewashed, cobbled alleys, where well-planted flower pots sang lustily to passing bees; to the myriad hippy dippy, buy-yourself-that-smock-you’ve-always-wanted shops lying in wait for unwary wives and daughters; and to a slow halt at the aforementioned Readymoney Cove at the far end of town.
A pocket handkerchief sandy beach with a lovely panorama of cliff and sea, Readymoney is like a private beach. Except it’s public. So the girls stripped off and braved the icy waters. My wife and I closed our eyes at the sun and listened to the sounds of a British beach at play. The sound of happiness, I reckon.
On the way home we found a Pintxos bar and I overdosed on palo cortado and pickled jalapenos. And later, sun-kissed skin glowing and freshly pressed skirts and shirts gleaming, we had dinner at a corner table at Havener’s which gave us a jackdaw’s eye view of the harbour, estuary and a Bloody Mary sunset.
The food was better than perhaps I’d expected – well cooked and seasoned, sure of itself without pretention. I won’t turn down fish when I can get it this fresh and didn’t on this occasion – Sea Bream, sun dried tomato and caper butter; light, just cooked, simple seafood.
We slept like logs, too; there’s nothing quite like the gentle lap of waves to send you off the right way. Even the gulls were considerate enough to muffle their breakfast banter until we’d risen.
More browsing and beetling then in the morning, a fresh cup of coff on the quayside from Brewer & Bean, which is also owned by the brewery. And happy in our hearts and heads, we went back to rejoin the little ferry and explore more of the wonderful west.
Apparently, St Austell Brewery owns a slew of pubs, inns and bistros with rooms across Cornwall and beyond. That’s worth knowing. If they’re anything like The Havener’s, they’re all you could hope for a joyous seaside jaunt.
The new rooms at Havener’s start from £85 per night, based on two sharing. Bed and Breakfast. The self-catering two-bedroom apartment is available from £540 per week.
For more information, visit www.westcountryinns.co.uk or call 0345 2411133.