24-hour room service: The Scarlet, Cornwall

Tree-hugging might not actually be on offer at this stylish new "eco hotel", but tree-climbing is, along with activities including sustainability courses, wild swimming, surf lessons and kayaking. You can even take the hotel dog for a walk if you fancy some canine company. To complete the country weekend look, bring your hunter wellies and wax jacket but leave the 4x4 at home: environmental awareness is the 37-room hotel's raison d'être.

Tree-hugging might not actually be on offer at this stylish new "eco hotel", but tree-climbing is, along with activities including sustainability courses, wild swimming, surf lessons and kayaking. You can even take the hotel dog for a walk if you fancy some canine company. To complete the country weekend look, bring your hunter wellies and wax jacket but leave the 4x4 at home: environmental awareness is the 37-room hotel's raison d'être.

The founders are three sisters who, prior to opening The Scarlet, had inherited the nearby Bedruthan Steps hotel from their parents. They want "to show that sumptuous need not mean unsustainable and luxury isn't necessarily a guilty pleasure". Opened last September, this contemporary hotel is all about a rather healthier form of luxury, where a harmonious relationship with the surroundings is prized over conspicuous consumption.

The stylish, modernist mix of metal and glass which sits on a cliff overlooking Mawgan Porth beach was designed to be sustainable. Among its range of ecologically sound features, the hotel has solar panels to heat the indoor swimming pool, a biomass boiler – which is considered carbon neutral – run on sustainable wood chips, and natural ventilation instead of air conditioning.

So far, so virtuous. But none of The Scarlet's innovations impinges on the pursuit of self-indulgence. It has the treat factor of a "posh hotel" but is laid-back and never intimidating; an atmosphere helped by the colourful, modern take on seaside chic with curvilinear shapes and sofas in unusual prints.

One of the nicest communal rooms in the hotel is the restaurant, thanks to large French windows leading to a terrace overlooking the beach. "Seasonal" and "local" are the buzz words, and Michelin award-winning chef Ben Tunnicliffe focuses on mainly British dishes, with perfectly cooked local fish and meat, and good vegetable options such as wild mushroom pie with truffle oil mash, roasted beets and baby leeks.

Other ways to relax include soaking in a seaweed-filled, wood-fired hot tub overlooking the beach, champagne in hand, or lounging in a pod-like hammock in the Ayurvedic spa.

Even if you arrive a cynical urbanite, some of that Cornish mysticism and green thinking might rub off; among glowing plaudits in the visitor's book there were poems extolling the joys of nature.

Location

Set in the small village of Mawgan Porth on the north Cornwall coast, The Scarlet has impressive views over a clean sandy beach and is just a couple of minutes' walk from the sea.

Comfort

Rooms have a contemporary feel, with curved wood tables, mossy green sofas and quirky felt lampshades. The rooms are divided into five categories, and the most basic "Just Right" rooms feature glass doors on to a sea-facing balcony. The "Unique" rooms are the third most expensive type and probably offer the best balance between price and luxury; they have their own rooftop "pod" lounges from where you can see the sea. A drawback in some rooms is the open bathrooms, which lack privacy; in our "Spacious" room, the free-standing bath was set on a plinth near the door.

There are no tea- or coffee-making facilities, because that would necessitate an environmentally unfriendly fridge, but room service will deliver up to four complimentary cups a day. The reception offers cables for free broadband, but there's no Wi-Fi in the rooms. Consider it a good excuse not to bring any work. Take your lead from the hotel, and focus on conserving energy.

The Scarlet Hotel, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ (01637 861800; scarlethotel.co.uk ).

Rooms 3 stars
Value 4 stars
Service 4 stars

High-season doubles start at £270, with breakfast. There is a two-night minimum stay at weekends.

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