It’s officially the most ‘meh’ time of year (technical term), which means a good ol’ fashioned country mini-break is a pretty judicious move. Getting out of London is also quite welcome from time to time, and you can’t get more opposite to the big smoke than Cornwall and its raw, unspoilt hills and beaches. So armed with The Boy, far too much luggage for two nights and six cans of Marks and Spencer gin and tonic (classy), I boarded a First Great Western from London to Bodmin Parkway.
We were headed to The Scarlet, a five star eco-hotel perched on a clifftop overlooking the breathtaking cove of Mawgan Porth. It’s the kind of location you forget even exists in England, especially when the northern line feels like the centre of the known universe. It’s also the kind of location that makes you hum Land of Hope and Glory, eat a massive pie and think that hiking anywhere, for any length of time (however short), is a fabulous idea. Such is the power of giddying fresh air and a pretty view.
Still, sometimes it’s exactly what the doctor ordered – and The Scarlet, adults-only, dreamily-decorated and completely peaceful, ticked all the boxes. Waking up on Saturday morning and opening the curtains to reveal the beach below was joy enough; breakfast in bed an added bonus. Part of The Scarlet’s eco-friendly philosophy, all the food is locally sourced, meaning a constantly-refreshed menu of regional produce. Breakfast, therefore, was made up of poached apples, homemade bread and jams, thick pancakes with chopped apple and yoghurt, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and fresh apple juice, all sourced and made either in-house or very nearby. We ate every last bite of what was basically a meal for four, reading the weekend papers and pinching ourselves about the perfect view.
It was a struggle but we eventually got up, pulled on our wellies and headed down the coastal path towards the huge sandy beach below. A mini-break is nothing without a country walk (the hotel even offers its hound Jasper as a companion for your little jaunt) so off we pottered, up the hill towards a tiny farm shop, pretty much abandoned and ostensibly run by chickens.
I’d heard wonderful things about the ayurvedic spa and there was just enough time to do a few laps of the graphic indoor pool and have a quick steam before my appointment. Meanwhile, The Boy decided to take advantage of (read: dive bomb into) the natural rock pool outside. In February. In England. Incredulous, I headed to my full body massage where my lovely therapist asked me about my lifestyle before deciding which type of massage I needed. 60 pretty blissful minutes followed before she took me into the deep relaxation room (pitch black bar a few twinkling lights, full of six cushion-filled pods suspended from the ceiling), wrapped me in a fluffy robe, tucked me into a pod with a blanket and handed me some wireless headphones and a cup of ginger tea. I quite literally have never been happier.
Speaking of happy, The Boy had recovered from his pool-plunging insanity and was soaking in our huge tub watching the rugby and drinking beer by the time I got back to the room. We got dressed for dinner – freshly-caught scallops, perfectly pink lamb and lemon tart and every bit as good as breakfast.
Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity for more food, we had breakfast in the beach-facing restaurant the next morning before our hot tub appointment. Heated to 42 degrees, the rustic-looking wooden tubs on the clifftop were an incredible experience. Six degrees outside, it was a hilarious dance to get out of my robe and actually into the water but totally worth the two and a half seconds of being freezing in a bikini on a cliff. It was 10am (basically champagne o’clock, right?) so we made the most of it and ordered two glasses. I wish we could’ve stayed in there all day but we had a reservation for Sunday lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, a twenty minute drive down the coast to Watergate Bay. Something of a gastronomic hub, Rick Stein’s acclaimed seafood restaurant is also round the corner.
I’m always a bit dubious about celebrity chef restaurants but Fifteen blew me away. The best bloody mary I’ve ever had, plus incredible bread to start (I have a theory that you can tell how good the main event will be by the bread and butter) and amazing squid ink pasta.
What I loved about The Scarlet is how it manages to be luxe and homely at the same time. It’s also great to see that eco-consciousness can actually translate into real luxury. The best bit, though? (Other than drinking at 10 in the morning without judgement). That I felt like I’d really had a rest. It’s almost enough to put me off London for good. Granted, me in the country will always be a bit Paris and Nicole do The Simple Life, but on the up side, I do know how to rock a Barbour jacket and a pair of Hunter wellies. Even if they are the ones they did with Jimmy Choo.
The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ. (01637 861 800). Double room including breakfast from £175/night.