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Best luxury hotels in Cornwall for spa breaks and sea views

From boutique boltholes to sprawling estates, these are the places to stay for ultimate relaxation

Oliver Berry
Tuesday 23 May 2023 15:28 BST
St Mawes is home to several luxurious places to stay in Cornwall
St Mawes is home to several luxurious places to stay in Cornwall (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If it’s coastal chic and seaside style you’re after, you’re extremely well catered for in Cornwall these days. Britain’s most westerly county is gentrifying fast, and there’s now a luxurious line-up of hotels to choose from – from smart spa hotels to cosy countryside boltholes, boutique manors and, of course, a liberal supply of cliff-top beauties, where the sea views will knock your socks off.

The craggy north coast has the most choice, especially around the tourist honeypots of Newquay, Padstow and St Ives, while along the gentler south coast, Fowey, St Mawes and the sleepy Roseland have some standout luxury options too. Out west, try the port town of Penzance and nearby Newlyn, or head for Mousehole, a seaside village so perfect it looks like it’s been composed for a painting.

Wherever you stay, remember to factor in travel time: summertime traffic jams in Cornwall can be hellish, so you might well be better off leaving the car and savouring the local scenery instead.

Best luxury hotel for character: The Pig at Harlyn Bay

Location: Padstow

The Pig at Harlyn Bay’s building dates back to the 15th century (The Pig Hotels)

Cornwall now has its very own Pig, and it’s definitely not the runt of the litter. First off, it has a fantastic location, a short walk away from Constantine Bay and Harlyn Beach, and only three miles or so from ever-posh Padstow. As usual with Pig hotels, it’s the decor that makes this place such indulgent fun. It’s lodged in a historic manor house dating from the 15th century, and the whole place teems with offbeat, imaginative design: vintage armoires, peculiar paintings, junk-shop curiosities and antique objets, as well as four gypsy-style wagons in the garden. The restaurant is super (produce supplied from the kitchen garden, or within a 25-mile radius), and there’s a brand new lobster shed for al fresco eating.

Price: Doubles start from £220

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Best luxury hotel for seaside chic: Hotel Tresanton

Location: St Mawes

Hotel Tresanton has a buzzy outdoor beach bar (The Tresanton)

The epitome of the Cornish Riviera, this refined hotel exudes effortless elegance. Owned by hotel guru Olga Polizzi, it feels as if a piece of the Côte d’Azur has been picked up and planted on the St Mawes seafront (fittingly, the main building was once a yacht club). There are 30 rooms in all, decorated with understated grace and Polizzi’s trademark magpie eye for antiques: a Rococo dresser here, a wicker bath chair or conch shell sculpture there. Best of all, every one comes with a sea view. Outside, there are neat, terraced gardens filled with palms and Mediterranean plants, as well as a seafront Beach Club bar – perfect at cocktail hour. The restaurant specialises in seafood: don’t miss the epic Sunday barbecue.

Best luxury hotel for sea views: The Scarlet

Neighbourhood: Newquay

Most rooms at The Scarlet have showstopping beach views (The Scarlet)

There’s one standout USP at the Scarlet: a jaw-dropping location on the cliffs over the golden expanse of Mawgan Porth – perhaps the best hotel view in all of Cornwall. There are many perspectives from which to appreciate it: from the panoramic pool, the clifftop hot tubs, the glass-fronted spa or simply from the comfort of your own room (most of them offer a widescreen window onto the beach). The decor is sleek and minimal, with big expanses of glass and white render, and retro-style furniture and abstract art to make the place pop. It’s a model of modern hotel design, and one of Cornwall’s most indulgent spoils – so, sit back, relax and drink in that incredible view.

Price: Doubles start from £250, B&B

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Best luxury hotel for upscale atmosphere: The Idle Rocks

Neighbourhood: St Mawes

The Idle Rocks sits right on the waterfront in St Mawes (Idle Rocks)

Former Aston Martin chairman David Richards and his wife Karen own this glamorous waterfront establishment in St Mawes, which gives you some idea of the luxe level. Formerly a waterside inn, it’s been reinvented as an upscale, maritime-themed hotel. There’s a sense of fizz and fun to the design here: sea-blue stripes, screen-printed fabrics, nautical artworks and curios galore – from clamshell lamps to antique coffee pots and vintage bathing suits framed behind glass. The rooms are stylish, with indulgences such as Hypnos beds, posh Aromatherapy Associates bath goodies and Roberts radios: go for a Grand Seaview room, with sash windows looking out onto the sea and St Mawes harbour. The restaurant is a treat, with a creative Cornish-themed menu courtesy of head chef Matt Haggath: waterfront tables go quick when the sun shines, so book ahead.

Best luxury hotel for families: Watergate Bay

Neighbourhood: Newquay

Treat yourself to a sea-view suite (Watergate Bay)

Billed as a ‘ski resort by the beach’, this classy seaside hotel is one of Cornwall’s most entertaining places to stay. Its relaxed style and on-site activity school (offering everything from paddleboarding to surf lessons) has made it a big hit with families: sandy feet, dogs and energetic kids are welcomed here, and there’s a knockout panoramic pool. There’s a great choice of bedrooms, from smart suites to family-sized rooms, all decorated in their own beachy style. For a spoil, book one of the new, deluxe beachfront ‘lofts’, which feature floor-to-ceiling windows, Japanese baths and suspended sofas (ask for double aspect 101). For dinner, you’re spoilt for choice: options include a laid-back beach bar (The Beach Hut), an upmarket restaurant (Zacry’s) or the hotel lounge (The Living Space) with panoramic windows overlooking the sea. Better still, top local chef Emily Scott has recently taken over Jamie Oliver’s old space next door, serving her trademark fresh, creative, Cornish-inspired food.

Price: Doubles start from £250

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Best luxury hotel for a stay in the city: The Alverton

Neighbourhood: Truro

The Alverton is a Grade II-listed building with groomed gardens (The Alverton)

Cornwall’s only city, Truro, has hardly anywhere worth staying – except this place, a quietly grand hotel in a manor-turned-convent just outside the centre. Surrounded by groomed gardens, it’s a rambling, gabled, Grade II-listed building, built from the same mellow grey stone characteristic of Truro’s Victorian buildings (including its neo-Gothic cathedral). The 51 rooms range from cosy and compact to big, airy suites overlooking the garden – they share the same restrained style, with more expensive ones featuring luxuries such as roll-top baths or bay-window seats. Fifteen newer suites are located in a separate building across the courtyard. The restaurant has a good reputation, too.

Best luxury hotel for country-house vibes: The Nare

Neighbourhood: The Roseland

A perfect beachfront location and one of the best afternoon teas in Cornwall (The Nare)

Few hotels in Cornwall have a setting as fine as this. Perched on a headland overlooking the sandy sweep of Carne and Pendower, surrounded by lawns, The Nare is a defiantly old-school kind of hotel: with its traditional decor, Farrow & Ball colour schemes and floral fabrics, it feels like a classic country-house hotel, only one that’s right by the sea. Rooms offer either countryside or sea views (we know which ones we’d choose); there’s also a small spa, an outside pool and tennis court, and a couple of posh private boats for coastal exploring. The main dining room is for formal sit-down dinners, while the more laidback Quarterdeck is good for sunny lunches and summer barbecues. Don’t miss afternoon tea – it’s one of Cornwall’s classiest.

Price: Doubles start from £396

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Best luxury hotel for designer style: Chapel House Penzance

Neighbourhood: Penzance

Tasteful furniture and lots of natural light guarantee a comfortable stay (Chapel House Penzance)

Located at the end of Penzance’s pretty Chapel Street, every room here looks like it’s been staged for a magazine spread. Formerly an arts club, the old Georgian building has been opened up with skylights and open-plan spaces to allow light to flood in, and owner Susan Stuart has filled her six Scandi-chic rooms and two split-level suites with all the things she enjoys: luxury fabrics, vintage furniture, mid-century furniture and local artworks sourced from the nearby Newlyn School of Art. Breakfast (or brunch) is a locally sourced treat, and you can join one of the convivial supper clubs on Friday or Saturday evenings.

Price: Doubles start from £200

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Best luxury hotel for life on the river: The Old Quay House Hotel

Neighbourhood: Fowey

Sleep right next to Fowey harbour (Old Quay House Hotel)

Squeezed into an improbably tight spot on Fowey’s harbour wall, among the town’s chaotic muddle of buildings, this hotel combines upmarket townhouse with the Cornish riverside. It’s an intimate spot, with just 13 rooms, dressed in watery shades of white and blue – the best have balconies looking out over the Fowey River. The restaurant has one of Fowey’s best views, with a patio onto the water – as such, it’s very sought after in summer. The only drawback is parking, which is a pain (driving into Fowey in midsummer is a definite no-no). The nearest option is The Old Station Yard Car Park, about 800 yards away.

Best luxury hotel for getting away from it all: The Driftwood

Neighbourhood: Portscatho

Get away from the crowds by staying in the countryside (The Driftwood)

Secluded serenity is the modus operandi at The Driftwood, a refined country getaway that attracts guests looking for the quieter side of Cornwall. It’s out in the rolling Roseland countryside, five miles from St Mawes and a mile from the harbour at Portscatho, and feels gloriously far away from everything – a place to wander though the gardens, set out on jaunts along the coast path, or just gaze over the clifftops and Gerrans Bay beyond. There are only 14 rooms, so you’ll be on first-name terms with everyone soon enough – including head chef, Aaron McNamara, who’s turned the Driftwood’s restaurant into a destination dining address. There are plenty of beaches nearby, too: a popular target is Porthcurnick and its beachside cafe, The Hidden Hut.

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