Given its location it's frankly staggering that until recently no one had really made a go of turning this hotel into an attractive destination. In the heart of the small town of Marazion, three miles east of Penzance, the Godolphin Arms looks out over the vast, sweeping and dramatic grandeur of Mount's Bay.
Its obtrusive neighbour is St Michael's Mount. The Victorian building, cream coloured and rambling on the outside, has 10 rooms, a restaurant, bar and terrace. It's a fantastic place to drink or sleep in all weathers, whether the sun is shining or there's a force eight blowing in from the Atlantic (and when they blow, they really blow). At low tide, the beach seems to stretch for miles, but everything is transformed at high tide when the sea, suddenly 15ft deep, muscles up against the walls of the hotel. Recent renovations have channelled a good deal of thought into the look and character of the place, with hanging paintings by local artists, refreshed menus and refurbished bedrooms.
The 10 bedrooms have recently been redone, two on the ground floor almost at beach level, the remainder on the first floor. All are now furnished with curtains, pillows and headboards by Penzance-based Elizabeth Harris. Flat-screen televisions, iPod stations, stylish counterpanes, paintings by the St Ives set, and fair-trade drinks add to the classy feel. The bathroom smellies – lemongrass and bergamot – are by Cole and Lewis. The only problematic decision, one which changes the atmosphere of the room significantly, is which direction you want your room to look out. Room one's magnificent, low bay window looks out across Mount's Bay. Upstairs, Room 10 looks east to the Lizard and is the room for sunrises, while room 11 has a breathtaking porthole window bay view, surely one of the best positioned rooms in the UK. The two family rooms (Room 11 is one of them) have separate bunk rooms and some friendly touches, such as buckets and spades and kids' bikes. Two rooms have private terraces and would make a personal list of top 10 places around the world for a sunset drink. The two inward-facing rooms – while obviously not what you're here for – are just as well appointed. They overlook a narrow road, but positioned so you are at least not eyeballing the neighbours.
The food and drink
There's a welcome, strong emphasis on local food, such as cheeses, eggs, meats and yoghurts. Mains are typically £8.95 and range from classic fish and chips to chicken murgh curry. Local Newlyn crab is well used, featuring as a soup, in a sandwich, with linguine or as a salad. The specials menu changes daily. The reasonably priced kids' menu (£4.50) comes in generous servings and doesn't try to be too clever. Breakfast ranges from cereals and pastries to smoked haddock and variations on the full English. It's at breakfast that you'll probably be served by Geoffrey who, apart from keeping the hotel ticking over, is local born and bred and will find time to tell you everything you need to know about the area. As almost everything else at this hotel works well, we'll forgive them the dated restaurant carpet, which is in any case scheduled to be replaced.
There's a global wine list and Cornish beer. The Gig Bar, decorated with rowing oars and Gig (rowing) trophies, is more informal than the main restaurant and leads to the terrace for those classic views of the bay. At high tide, you can almost dip your hand in the water. Staying in Room five or six? If the sun's out, you would have no soul if you ate anywhere but on your private terrace.
The beach awaits just outside the back door. St Michael's Mount can be reached two hours either side of low tide, via a causeway and is well worth a visit, even if you've been before. Look out for the unexpected, such as a 12th-century stone staircase and Roman maps of Cornwall. The castle is illuminated at dusk from time to time – to mark a local celebration or a funeral – and looks wonderfully atmospheric. The Cornish coastal path passes the front door, west to Newlyn, Mousehole and Lamorna, east to Perranuthnoe and Prussia Cove.
The two ground-floor rooms have level access and one has a wet room. There are no lifts but staff are helpful and will look to meet any needs. The hotel is child and dog friendly.
Double rooms and breakfast from £90 to £180 per room. First Great Western (08457 000 125; firstgreat western.co.uk) offer direct services to Penzance from London.
The Godolphin Arms, West End, Marazion, Cornwall TR17 0EN (01736 710202; godolphinarms.co.uk)