Whenever I travel to Cornwall by train, something I do at least once a year, I always try to get a seat on the left-hand side facing forwards. Do the same and by the time you reach Dawlish in Devon you’ll see why: the view opens up to calm blue water and bobbing boats, with whitewashed houses on your right, and sets the tone nicely for the rest of your stay in the West Country.
Just over a mile from St Austell Station and set in natural woodland are 33 timber-clad, New England-style three- and four-bedroom villas, plus three two-bedroom, stone-fronted cottages. After such a long journey, it’s a relief to arrive at a modern, spacious, uncluttered and clean space and find a complimentary hamper filled with bread, scones, Rodda’s clotted cream and butter, eggs, Trevilley Farm granola, yoghurts, milk, orange and apple juices, coffee, a bottle of St Austell beer and some chilled wine. For an extra cost, you can also request a breakfast hamper with bacon and sausages for a fry-up in the morning or a barbecue hamper.
But we’d only just arrived, breakfast was tomorrow and our first evening we were visited by Kirsten and Sarah, aka Angels in the Kitchen, who flitted in, created an impressive and plentiful tapas for us to enjoy with welcome drinks, then flitted off leaving the kitchen as if they’d never been. Angels indeed.
We slept like babes and awoke to birdsong. If you do visit and like a silent night, ask for a villa next to woodland or meadows, or if you have children ask for number 15 with extra garden space for them to play in. All villas come with a flatscreen TV, DVDs, CD player, iPod docking station and free wifi, as well as dishwashers, washing machines and so on. The house we stayed in (19) had three double bedrooms with ensuites and goodies by The White Company, plus a room with two bunk beds.
While you’re here, be sure to take advantage of the concierge service. Natural Retreats works with local businesses and can arrange activities including archery, cycling, horse-riding, kayaking, surf lessons, bodyboarding, coasteering, car hire and taxis. You can also buy a beach pack with a picnic rug, cool bag, beach tent, buckets and spades, goggles and snorkels. Later in the year, there are Halloween pumpkin hunts for children and Santa can drop by at Christmas.
We, on the other hand, were here in high summer to explore Cornwall and eat great seafood. Luckily, Trewhiddle is well situated and nowhere in the county is more than an hour’s drive away. The traditional fishing village of Mevagissey, for example, is about five miles away, as are both the Eden Project and my favourite The Lost Gardens of Heligan with its great farm shop, Lobbs.
As for the seafood we were after, Angels Kirsten and Sarah can also visit with Cornish fish pie and fishcakes for the kids, or there’s Sam’s on the Beach in the old lifeboat station at Polkerris, just under eight miles away, where we sat by the window and enjoyed a memorable seafood platter watching kids in diving suits eat fish and chips and dogs run into the sea then shake themselves over sunbathers. You’ll also find simple, relaxed fare at Wreckers in Charlestown harbour, where we were served what I’d call big food – so arrive hungry – including lobster thermidor and sea bass. The night we went coincided with a rock concert at nearby Eden and all the taxis were booked; we learnt the true meaning of Cornish hospitality when the waiters offered to drive us the two miles back to Trewhiddle.
Equally friendly is Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall in Watergate Bay – ask for a table with a view over the expanse of sandy beach, which always makes me feel I’m looking at one of Lowry’s seaside oil paintings. Fowey also has several smart fish restaurants, or book a table with a harbour view at Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes for top food and service.
Natural Retreats has expanded its portfolio (be warned that there will be building work at Trewhiddle over the next two years to include a swimming pool and café) and now offers handpicked residences to rent throughout Cornwall. My favourite is The Manor House in Port Isaac, otherwise known as Doc Martin country. This characterful, rambling house would make a great base for a family or a special birthday break with friends. It’s a minute’s walk to laid-back The Mote, which makes a satisfying fish pie and enormous, waist-busting puddings, or choose from two of Nathan Outlaw’s celebrated eponymous fish restaurants, both Michelin-starred. As always, there’s plenty of choice in Cornwall, whether you fancy casual, friendly fare or fine dining, usually accompanied by a superb view of either a plate of fresh seafood or the sparkling sea.
For further information on Natural Retreats and its expanding portfolio, visit www.naturalretreats.com.
Read more about Angels in the Kitchen’s private chef service at www.angelsinthekitchen.co.uk.