The View From Mermaid Cottage, Cornwall
1. Rent a house that’s way swankier than your own
Boutique Retreats with their UK portfolio of 4-5 star homes have the sort of chi-chi extras usually associated with cool, contemporary hotels. Think dangerously comfy beds, gazillion-ply sheets, Elephant Breath walls, hot tubs, sleek en-suite bath-rooms, wood-burning stoves, outdoor showers and smart decking areas with louche rattan beds, sofas and gi-normous dining tables that had house party (!!) smattered all over them. And if the beach isn’t close enough some have hot-tubs and swimming pools too. Forget chintzy sofas and plumbing that’s always on the blink, these houses are where St Austell meets St Tropez. Mermaid Cottage where we stayed, is hidden on an idyllic and tranquil stretch of the Roseland Peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall. Overlooking the sea, (turquoise even on a cloudy day), hip hotel The Driftwood might be five minutes walk away and the pretty fishing village of St Mawes is within 10 minutes drive, but it still felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
2. Make sure there’s a swimming opp minutes from your door
Nothing says holiday like an early morning swim. For me it’s the epitomy of luxury. In this Cornish house in just five minutes we were wading through the foam at Porthcurnick a sheltered and secluded bay that was so balmy in October we were in the sea without wetsuits. Even though the south coast of Cornwall has much tamer seas than the north, if you fancy body-boarding there’s just about enough surf.
3. Find a foodie haven
We can’t claim to have discovered this ourselves but The Hidden Hut (championed by TV chef Tom Kerridge) fast became our go-to lunch venue. A pretty painted beach hut a stones-throw from the beach, everything is fresh, local and a world away from the usual soggy chips and ice-cream you usually get in beach-side cafes. Scribbled on the blackboard on the days we were there, was slow-cooked beef brisket with jalpenos on ciabiatta, fish chowder, aubergine curry and the most amazing Cornish pasties. With tables just overlooking the beach, it’s properly delicious and nothing is more than a £10. We’re already planning our trip back so we can head out to one of their summer feasts on the beach.
4. Luxe up your wet-weather plan
If you book lunch in some Brit hotels in England they’ll often let you use the spa as well. What better way to spend a day in the rain than inside a mosaic tiled steam room? If it’s too cold for the sea but you still fancy a quick swim head to The Cornwall Hotel in Tregorrick – where chalets, a spa, tennis courts and a heated indoor pool all await. It serves up a pretty scrumptious (and substantial) afternoon tea too.
Even better, book yourself a massage or facial. We headed to The Nare Hotel with its windswept cliff-top views for a Stress-Buster massage (£65) at The Carne Bay Spa. Small but perfectly formed the spa offers everything from basic eye and wax treatments to the Drift Away head massage that’s just on the right side of relaxing but still felt like it was working our surfed-out muscles.
5. Avoid the mud
I love a country walk on a windy, wintry day, but muddy fields are not my thing. The glorious gardens that fill the green spaces of Cornwall are a super easy way to melt away an afternoon. While the Eden Project (with those huge green-houses you can even go in the snow) and the Lost Gardens of Heligan are famous landmarks close-by, we headed to Trelissick Gardens one day and Glendurgan another. It was just over the estuary if you go via the charmingly slow King Harry chain Ferry – another must-do while you’re in the area.
6. Spoil yourself
When else are you going to be able squeeze in an extra meal and not feel guilty? A Brit mini-break is the perfect excuse to indulge in some Earl Grey and scones. Tea at Olga Polizzi’s Tresanton Hotel in St Mawes is about as elegant as it gets. The day we got there it was so misty it felt like Pirates could creep up on us at any moment. The beautiful pale, paneled dining room looks out across the bay towards the lighthouse, but we could see nothing and had the just of the sound of the fog-hawn for accompaniment. No matter, all eyes were the on the perfectly formed chocolate tarts, orange cake, fresh crab finger sandwiches and light-as-air scones. Created by designer/hotelier Olga Polizzi there is something chic, understated and original about every room you enter into in this beautiful discreet hotel.
7. A fabulous cottage can make or break your mini-break
Whatever the weather, if the place you head back to at the end of day feels like a haven, you are well on the way to having the most amazing time. Did I mention that the shelves of the sitting room (wood burning stove with logs in the winter) are stacked with DVDs you might actually want to watch and books that you’ve been dying to read (Gone Girl anyone?). And if it’s not quite warm enough to lie on the sun-drenched deck (we spent an hour out there and it was nearly November) hide out in the garden room. Pretty, peaceful – and my kind of bliss.
By: Charlotte Moore