The boutique Idle Rocks hotel, a member of Relais & Châteaux, boasts a prime waterfront position in Cornwall’s idyllic St Mawes, a remote fishing village on the Roseland Peninsula, long beloved by celebrities, Prime Ministers and the British Royal Family. St. Mawes was a particular favourite of the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, who would arrive on board Royal Yacht Britannia. It was also where Princess Diana is said to have escaped the spotlight following her divorce, while nowadays King Charles and Queen Camilla stay at Restormel Manor, part of the Duchy Estate whenever they visit Cornwall. There is a quiet sophistication about St. Mawes with its boutiques and art galleries that makes it quite unlike any other Cornish village.
The history of The Idle Rocks Hotel goes back to 1913 with the property having been built on the site of the old St. Mawes Bakery, becoming a glamorous spot with the yachting crowd who flocked to the village in the 1930s. Current owners David and Karen Richards, after restoring the building to its former glory, personally designed the contemporary nautical-inspired interiors, fully succeeding in creating the home away from home feel they intended, whilst evoking the glamour of the property’s heyday, best illustrated with the chic terrace which runs the length of the beautiful white frontage on the water’s edge and where guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, a Cornish Cream Tea, dinner and drinks from sunrise to sunset.
Works by local artists and photographs of the Richards family on the mantle in the lounge adds to the welcoming ambiance, while the visitor’s book is filled with enthusiastic praise and appreciation from guests, many of whom have been returning every year since it opened under its current management in 2013. And within five minutes of arriving and being offered a refreshment while my luggage was being sent to the room, I could understand why. Thanks largely to the charming and efficient front of house and the understated elegance, The Idle Rocks possesses an instantly relaxing atmosphere that’s every bit as restorative as the sea air.
Each of the 19 bedrooms have been individually designed and even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a sea view, the sticks of rock on the bed, striped furnishings and driftwood and shell design touches won’t allow you to forget your proximity to the sea. Every detail has been lovingly thought out to offer guests the ultimate in coastal comfort, with Roberts Radios providing the soundtrack to your stay, Hypnos mattresses ensuring a good night’s sleep, while bathrooms are stocked with Aromatherapy Associates and all room have a selection of Tregothnan teas and a Nespresso machine for an afternoon cuppa. Our Grand Sea View Room with double aspect floor to ceiling windows looking out over the bay and harbour was the perfect base for a romantic coastal break and it’s well worth splashing out on one of the more spacious rooms so that you can maximise on the south-facing views.
If the promise of a sea view will prompt you to book a hotel, then it’s the food that will make you return, and equal to the dreamy location is the food served in the sea-facing Idle Rocks Restaurant where Head Chef Matt Haggath, who earned his stripes working for Gordon Ramsay Restaurants including The Savoy Grill, has just been awarded 3-AA Rosettes. Both the a la carte and signature 7-course tasting menus celebrate seasonal Cornish produce, from the fertile land to the bountiful sea, with every ingredient prepared with serious panache and technical ability.
From a starter of roasted guinea fowl with wild mushrooms, savoy cabbage and an orange and chive glaze, an elevated take on fish and chips featuring Newlyn hake accompanied with batter bits, malt vinegar gel and a warm tartare sauce, to the accomplished dessert of chocolate bavarois with cinnamon and pecans, Haggath’s cuisine is not only a highlight of any stay at The Idle Rocks but a destination dining experience in its own right. The breakfast, whether you opt for a freshly baked croissant from the continental buffet or the cooked to order Full Cornish, are equally memorable. It’s no myth that being by the sea gives you a hearty appetite, as does exploring!
Taking the short but steep walk via St. Mawes Castle (one of Henry VIII’s coastal artillery fortresses) we were lucky enough to visit Lamorroan House Gardens on the final day of the season; a subtropical Italiante garden owned by Robert and Maria-Antoinette Dudley-Cooke for over 40 years and which has been featured by BBC Gardener’s World and appeared in the top 10 of the BBC’s Nation’s Favourite Gardens. Arranged over many levels, with statues and water features providing tranquillity and beauty at every turn, Lamorran’s striking, elevated sea views over the bay are cleverly incorporated into the design, while the maze-like paths weave through an array of palms with countless seating areas inviting visitors to pause and enjoy the scenery. There is also a leafy café terrace offering a range of homemade cakes made by owner Maria-Antoinette.
The Idle Rocks, besides being a place you want to cosy up in on a rainy day, is well placed for exploring the glorious Roseland Peninsula, whether by boat or on foot. A 45-minute walk will take you to St Anthony Head with its historic lighthouse or make the most of the hotel’s beach-side location by heading to Mr Scorse’s Deli just opposite the hotel where you can assemble an impromptu picnic including their famous St. Mawes crab baguettes and other local delicacies, from homemade pasties to award-winning cheeses including World Cheese Awards winner Cornish Kern. There is nothing to beat tucking into a crab sandwich or a traditional pasty as the sun sets over this idyllic harbour, while an autumn break allows you to take your dog to the beach and avoid the summer hoi polloi, soaking up the real charm of St. Mawes which, still being an active fishing village, has an infectious sense of community. By the end of our seaside sojourn at The Idle Rocks we almost felt like locals.
The Idle Rocks, Harbourside, Tredenham Rd, St Mawes, Truro TR2 5ANS. For more information and reservations please visit the website.