Just seven miles from the south-western end of England you turn down a wooded lane and a couple of minutes later arrive at The Cove, with a tantalising glimpse of the sea behind. But only once you have checked into one of the 16 apartments in the hill-hugging granite pile, and taken in the view down through the narrow headlands does the beauty of the place become clear.
Around you is a verdant valley with a stream running through it; below you is what has to be one of the best-sited swimming pools anywhere, with views down to Lamorna Cove itself and the waves crashing in off the Atlantic.
Is this really England? The quality of light is amazing, which is what attracted the Lamorna School of Artists here in the early 20th century – as it did their contemporaries in nearby St Ives and Mousehole.
Calling The Cove a cluster of self-catering apartments does it scant justice and brings to mind homogeneous prefabs and caravan parks. This is something else. And in spite of the luxury it's also a perfect place to bring children on holiday, wallet permitting: all the benefits of a hotel with the facilities to cater for yourself and any small fussy eaters you may have brought along with you.
Service is personal and friendly but unobtrusive, and staff can arrange all manner of activities from bike hire to tickets for art galleries or flights to the Isles of Scilly, or tell you about the best local beaches, walks and pubs.
There's a sauna and gym, and the pool is invitingly warm even on a chilly English summer's day; sun-loungers are also available for when the weather becomes as Mediterranean as the scenery suggests. The restaurant-cum-bar is cosy, with a wood-burning stove centre stage, and the food is superb – I particularly enjoyed a starter of oysters, hand-dived scallops and lobster followed by fillet of Cornish beef. There's a simpler children's menu and you can also eat in-room if you'd prefer not to call on the services of a babysitter or the baby-listening service.
Lamorna is a few miles from Land's End, but unless you have a sudden yen to pass up Cornwall's spectacular scenery in favour of the "35,000 square feet of undercover attractions" that include the West Country Shopping Village and Dr Who Up Close, explore elsewhere. Stop off at the fine sand and turquoise water of Porthcurno beach (selected as one of Europe's top 50 beaches in The Independent, and perfect for a family day with buckets and spades). Above, the world's most improbable theatre, the Minack, looks out from the cliffs.
Alternatively, press on past Land's End to surf-friendly Sennen Cove. Another 25 minutes along the north coast brings you to the Gurnard's Head pub, a laid-back gem with sofas, open fires, books and board games where you can lunch on a pint of prawns and locally caught fish and chips, washed down with a locally brewed beer.
The Cove, Lamorna, near Penzance, Cornwall (01736 731 411; www.thecovecornwall.com). It's remote and a bit of a trek to get to, especially if you drive the whole way with bored children in the back of the car. Roads are narrow and some dirt tracks are deeply rutted so don't expect a low-suspension sports car to survive unscathed.
Time from nearest airport and rail station: Newquay, airport, which is around an hour's drive from The Cove, has links from Gatwick, Stansted, Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester. For a more relaxing journey, take a train: Cross Country, First Great Western and South West Trains serve Penzance, from where you can get a cab or hire a car.
The rooms are big and airy with International Chic design: neutral tones (a mostly caramel and white palette), Egyptian cotton bedding, big mirrors and oak floors.
There's lots of gadgetry, such as touch-sensitive bedside lights (marvel at how long it can take to work out how to turn a light off...) and flat-screen DVD-TVs in both sitting room and bedrooms.
The rooms range from studios in the old building – which was converted in 2006 from a fusty hotel – to two new-build, two-room apartments perched high above the pool with even more spectacular views and their own car park for extra privacy. Each room has a king-size bed, and the deeply comfortable sofas can be made up as beds as well. When you arrive there's a starter pack of essentials: the fridge is stocked with milk, juice and butter, plus there's bread, cereal, tea and proper coffee, and the dishwasher and washing machine are ready to clear up the day's mess. Each morning warm croissants and pastries are delivered to your door.
Freebies: Gilchrist and Soames Spa Therapy bathroom products.
Keeping in touch: each room comes with a direct-dial phone and complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Studios sleeping two start at £225 per night or £1,350 per week during high season including breakfast; or £150 per night during low season.
I'm not paying that: Trewoofe Orchard bed and breakfast (01736 810 214; www.lamorna-valley.co.uk), a mile up from The Cove at the head of the valley, has doubles from £80 per night.