Kate Green recommends The Idle Rocks in St Mawes for a blissful break
The only trouble with going to Cornwall in winter is that you’ll never want to share it with the seething summer holiday masses again. The narrow, high-banked lanes are quiet, the clifftop paths blustery and deserted, save for cormorants wheeling like Red Arrows, and there’s barely a queue for the King Harry ferry across the Fal Estuary.
The terrace of The Idle Rocks hotel on the harbour front in St Mawes may be balmy on a summer’s evening, but it’s truly mesmerising snugly watching the waves lash from the cocoon-like bedrooms that look across the bay to romantic St AnthonyHead.
David Richards of Formula One fame bought the hotel in 2013 and his wife Karen’s tranquil décor of the 19-bedroom hotel, a member of Relais & Chateaux, pulls off the trick of being coolly muted – gorgeous grey stripy wallpaper, nautical staff uniform of pale blue shirts and cream chinos – yet cosy. The baths are a proper size and, unsurprisingly, the charming general manager Nick Hanson confirms that ‘a lot of hot water’ is used in winter.
And there’s masses to do besides read the paper by the fire. The Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan are open (Heligan’s Christmas fair is on December 10-11), plus several other great Cornish gardens and estates, like Tregnothan which offers tea-tasting sessions – everything blooms early in Cornwall.
The South-West Coast Path is one of England’s great glories and the stretch from St Anthony Head to Mevagissey via Nare Head, Portloe, Caerhays and Dodman Point, is magical, open and not too undulating. St Mawes to the magical little church at St Just in Roseland is an easy hour’s walk up the estuary and ferries still run to Falmouth in winter if you want to continue west round to the Helford.
The Richards’s seven-bedroom St Mawes Hotel, just along the street, has a private cinema for film nights – another blissful treat with reclining seats, blankets and ice cream on tap.
And then there’s eating. The Idle Rocks’ jolly head chef, Guy Owen, is built like a rugby player with personality to match. He’s a knowledgeable forager and a great believer in keeping his food healthy and Cornish – his sister works at Heligan and hotel and productive kitchen garden have recently entered into a partnership.
Look out for another of the hotel’s South West Chef nights when Guy gets his mates in to cook a course each. The result is spectacular: colourful, interesting food and wine in perfect proportions that will delight but won’t leave you feeling bloated.
The Cosy, Coast & Country Break – two nights midweek in December – starts at £232.50 per person and includes complimentary tickets to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth or the St Mawes Hotel cinema.
The two-night Winter Getaway, available January-March 2017 (excluding Valentine’s) includes complimentary Cornish cream tea and movie screening and starts at £232.50 per room.
Telephone 01326 270270 or visit idlerocks.com