A group of surfers are gearing up to hit the waves. By the rock pools, kiddies with neon fishing nets are gasping with joy at their finds, while Converse-clad parents are setting up the cricket. This is Watergate Bay, on the north Cornwall Coast, and home to one of the best beaches in the county. Of course, other Cornwall aficionados may disagree – as we all have own favourite haunts to return to – but this is mine.
The Beach Hut is a given for lunch. Recently revamped, it’s the epitome of a cool, coastal hangout. Buzzing with groups of friends, extended families and dog-walkers alike – inside it’s all sandy floors, industrial lighting and wrap-around windows to make the most of the majestic views over the bay. Grab a booth – or, if it’s sunny, sit outside on the deck – and tuck into the contemporary soul-food. It boasts the sort of dishes you crave on laid-back holidays: fish and chips (of course), crab spaghetti and burgers with rosemary fries (watergatebay.co.uk/food-and-drink/the-beach-hut).
This little enclave is also famous, of course, for being home to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall restaurant and social enterprise (fifteencornwall.co.uk). Book well ahead (evenings are when it comes into its own but it’s always busy) and opt for the tasting menu. This showcases the best of Italian-meets-Cornish cuisine – risottos feature fresh crab, John Dory comes with artichoke caponata and aged Cornish ribeye with watercress and horseradish. Best of all, is the location – the vibrant dining room is a one of the most stylish places to watch the sun go down (a glass of Sicilian Sensale Grillo in hand, of course).
While the adjoining Watergate Bay Hotel is a joy to stay in, it, too, is nearly always fully-booked months in advance. So, head instead to another gem – The Cornwall Hotel, Spa & Estate, near St Austell. The hotel has been carved out of a Victorian manor house and sits in 43 acres of parkland. Characterful rooms in the main house will put you are in the thick of things, but there’s also a choice of charming Scandi-style Woodland Lodges situated in the grounds – which are a little more reclusive and well-suited to family holidays.
Open-plan living areas with wood-clad ceilings give a rustic feel, but the luxe factor is ramped up with state-of-the-art kitchens, widescreen TVs and glass-clad balconies with views over the estate. Bedrooms downstairs feature en-suite bathrooms and crisp linens. Some of the lodges feature hot tubs, too.
While these offer the freedom of self-catering, guests can also tap into all the facilities on offer at the main house – from taking a dip in the glamorous swimming pool in the Clearing Spa to dining in the Elephant Bar & Brasserie.
Talking of which, breakfast time is a bustling affair with homemade granola, artisan breads and a mean full Cornish breakfast. For something even more decadent, order the American-style pancakes which is served with fruit compote and clotted cream. Dinner is more refined – although just as family-friendly – with a range of crowd-pleasers (fish pie, crab cakes and Cornish steak). Sophisticated ‘standouts’ include Pork Belly and Scallops followed by Stone Bass cooked in vanilla butter with broccoli puree and crayfish. Round off your meal with one of the inventive desserts – such as Spheres (a combination of chocolate soil, white chocolate rice pudding and iced peanut butter parfait). Be warned: you may want to hit the in-house gym the next morning to work off the calories.
As well as being close to the picturesque seaside villages of Mevagissey and Fowey, The Cornwall Hotel is the perfect base from which to explore the rest of Cornwall’s latest offerings. A few minutes’ drive away, for instance, is The Eden Project, which this year boasts its largest exhibition for 15 years – The Australia Zone showcasing the plants of Western Australia (edenproject.com).
Another must-do is Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum’s new British Tattoo Art exhibition (nmmc.co.uk), which boasts a range of historic and contemporary installations and art works from the tattoo world.
It goes without saying that a visit to Cornwall would not be complete without a cream tea. One of the best to be found is also in Falmouth – at The Greenbank Hotel (greenbank-hotel.co.uk). Recently refurbished, the 400-year-old hotel boasts panoramic views over the historic harbor and a standout choice of afternoon teas – including a Gentlemen’s version and a chocoholic option.
Meanwhile, over in St Ives – the long-awaited completion of the new Tate St Ives is finally on the horizon. Four years in the making, and costing £20m, the first phase is already finished, with the full gallery slated to open in October this year. This new cliff-side gallery has been designed by the award-winning Jamie Fobert Architects and will allow Tate St Ives to stay open all year round for the first time (tate.org.uk).
Back at The Cornwall Hotel, come sun-down, parents can enjoy a cheeky Cornish Dark ‘N’ Stormy in the snug-like bar while the little ones are entertained with one of the summer kid-focused activities – from the pop-up pizza events to the movie nights in the lounge with popcorn. This is what holidays are made of.
The Cornwall Hotel, Spa & Estate, from £99 per night in a Luxury Room, breakfast is an additional £15 per person. For more information, visit www.thecornwall.com.