Liverpool Echo, Travel

Getting to Kernow you at Watergate Bay

There are two types of people in the world.

Those who love Cornwall. And those who have yet to visit.

Because a visit is all it takes to be swept off your feet by this gorgeous granite hunk, gloriously poking out into the wild Atlantic.

Cornwall’s got the weather, the food, the sea … it’s got Ross Poldark. Really, what’s not to love?

So, I can never quite believe my ears when I meet someone who says they’ve never visited.

That might be more pasties and cream teas for the rest of us Kernow-philes but, people, you really are missing out!

So, for those who prefer the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, may I offer an introduction by way of Watergate Bay.

It’s a spectacular stretch of sand, sea and clifftops on Cornwall’s coast north of Newquay where a hotel of the same name is the last word in relaxed, contemporary seaside comfort and fun.

What’s that? Cornwall’s too far to drive? True, the county is 80-miles long and 24-miles wide on average but Watergate Bay is at the long-weekend-away Devon end of peninsula.

It’s also not as remote as you might think. Newquay railway station is just down the road with direct trains from across the UK during the peak season. And for the deeper-pocketed, Newquay Airport is five-miles in the other direction.

A suite with a bathtub overlooking the bay
Take in the view from your armchair
Sea and sand sophistication
The view over the beach from the spa sundeck

The hotel at Watergate Bay pulls off the trick of being all things to all visitors without compromising on the experience for anyone.

Families with kids of all ages will love the unstuffy, relaxed, come-as-you-please atmosphere. Dreamy couples seduced by the crashing passion of the Cornwall coast will love the contemporary vibe and seaside sophistication.

Even your dog’s tail will be waggier than usual. There are no restrictions on the beach and Rover can join you in The Living Space, the cool eat, meet and greet lounge overlooking the sea, or The Beach Hut, a separate informal restaurant nearer the beach.

And don’t miss Zacry’s in the hotel itself where you’ll have breakfast but also dinner if you’re wise.

Maybe it was Cornwall casting its spell but Zacry’s was my best meal out this year. Chef Neil Haydock draws on international influences but still delivers recognisably British dishes with a Cornish twist. Non-residents are welcome: two courses £34 and three for £40.

There’s a big choice of rooms at Watergate Bay reflecting the breadth of its appeal. For the hopelessly romantic, choose a suite with a bath overlooking the bay. For families (with or without dogs), there are connecting rooms or family apartments a short distance up the hill from the main hotel.

But whichever you choose, the barefoot comfort and fresh, coastal colours will keep you bonded to Cornwall’s beauty.

There’s never any shortage of things to do and see. For the do-ers, there’s surfing, swim classes, yoga, coastal fitness weekends and the hotel spa and pool.  For those who prefer to watch from The Living Space with a beer and nibbles, there are events throughout the year to enjoy from stand-up paddle-boarding to polo on the beach (on horseback not in the sea, of course!).

For days out, the rest of Cornwall is on your doorstep. Bedruthan Steps just up the road must be one of the National Trust’s most spectacular coastal property – and it’s certainly one of the most accessible.

Whether you’re a Cornwall virgin or you long since stopped counting the visits, Watergate Bay is an exceptional hotel in an exceptional location.

The coast at Bedruthan Steps

Another Place

If Cornwall really is too far, you might want to consider Another Place, Watergate Bay’s rugged Lake District cousin.

Formerly the Rampsbeck Hotel on the west coast of Ullswater, it aims to channel the same relaxed vibe, outdoors-life vibe. Surfing is off the menu here so there’s lake swimming, sailing and fishing and much else to try, including stargazing for the less athletic.

A sympathetic extension to the original hotel is home to family apartments as well as a lovely spa complex.

Another Place hotel from the lake pier
The view north over Ullswater

Pearl and dream

Rosewood London
Carriage entrance to Rosewood London

So, we arrive at our hotel and the first member of reception staff we meet is fast asleep at her post.

Blonde, with a silky coiffure, Pearl is snoozing after a light lunch, weighed down no doubt by her responsibilities as Director of Canine Relations.

No one minds, of course, because Pearl is a pooch: a debonair Golden Retriever named after Pearl Assurance, the mighty financial giant of Empire, whose staff once scribed in the counting halls and offices now home to the elegant Rosewood hotel.

The luxuriously-converted Edwardian stone edifice looms over London’s High Holborn. It is 10 minutes’ walk from Covent Garden but far enough from tourist London to feel like the crowds are far behind.

Passing through the carriage entrance, a friendly and nattily-attired doorman greets us in what’s a surprisingly light courtyard even on a grey afternoon.

Understated elegance is the hallmark of the Rosewood and meets you in full in the glorious lobby. In keeping with the rest of the hotel, it is rich and luxurious with black and white marble mosaic flooring and gilded glass partitions filled with quirky art and books.

Dividing the two reception desks is a huge and beautiful painting by Chilean artist Eduardo Hoffmann, displaying the rolling countryside surrounding an English country estate.

Rosewood prides itself in a “sense of place” aiming to ensure the design needs of the hotel sit harmoniously with the original building.It does this beautifully because wander out of reception and you find yourself in the magnificent marble and mahogany global headquarters of Pearl Assurance, preserved and restored to how the original clerks and directors would know.

Our suite on the fifth floor was vast. It simply went on. Acres of lacquered wood and mirrors led from the living room, through the bedroom (an achingly comfortable king-size), then right to a dressing room and into the marble bathroom beyond.

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There was room for a dance in the rainfall shower and a TV was embedded in the wall at the head of the bath.

(Interesting fact. Rooms on upper floors have lower ceilings because that’s where Pearl’s clerks worked. In the days before lifts and escalators, the grander, higher-ceiling directors’ offices were near the ground floor. Less distance to walk, old chap.)

There are smaller rooms than ours, of course, but much bigger ones too. The highlight is the Manor House wing.

Billed as one of London’s most exclusive residences, the single-level wing not only welcomes deep-pocketed guests through a private entrance and lift but is the only hotel suite in the world to possess its own postcode. There are seven bedrooms and six full bathrooms.

Complimentary nibbles and soft drinks were available from our room’s not-so mini-bar but for dinner we headed to the Holborn Dining Room.

Holborn Dining Room

It sits at ground-level in what must have been one of the public spaces in the original Pearl building. Lots of original features are complimented with reclaimed oak, antique mirrors, red leather banquettes with tweed detail, and two copper-topped bars.

If you wish, you can order from The Pie Room next door.

It’s the Rosewood’s own takeaway and chefs put on a show for passers-by each day as they make the more than 200 pies customers consume.

From pork pies to beef wellingtons and pate en croutes to complex pithiviers, it’s a pie purists’ paradise. There are even pie-making classes available for the passionate pastry crimper. *

A good pie deserves a good walk and there’s a great one nearby.

Ten minutes from High Holborn is 40 Doughty Street where Charles Dickens lived when he achieved international fame as the author of Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby.

It’s a small museum now on a quiet residential terrace from where Ben’s City Tours does a regular walk, Twists and Turns, and explores the places that inspired Oliver Twist.

You don’t need to know anything about Dickens to be gripped by Ben’s tales of the grinding poverty and social injustice that characterised mid-Victorian London.

It all ends at the Old Bailey, site of the former Newgate Jail, where Ben vividly describes the hangings which were a public spectacle in the street outside until 1868.

We finished the day at Scarfes, the bar across the Rosewood’s carriage entrance from the Holborn Dining Room.

It’s named after and decorated with the works of artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. Older readers will know his work from the animated titles to the 1980s TV series Yes, Minister.

Scarfes is reminiscent of a London private members’ club you might imagine from a post-war period TV drama – even down to the jazz singer and her band playing that night.

The vibe, however, is bang up to date, the service terrific and the people-watching unmissable.

Like the Rosewood, you could say we were inexorably drawn …

Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood

* Jay Rayner, The Guardian, food critic wrote a terrific review of Holborn Dining Room after our visit.

Diana: Her Fashion Story

More than 20 years after her death in a Paris road accident, the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, casts a continuous and endlessly fascinating shadow. Even in today’s celebrity-obsessed world, it’s easy to forget the worldwide enormity of her fame.

To paraphrase Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond, Diana was big – it’s the celebrities that got small.

Diana: Her Fashion Story, at Kensington Palace traces the evolution of Diana’s style from the demure, romantic frocks of her first public appearances to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life.

Among the highlights is the ink blue velvet gown worn at the White House when the Princess danced with John Travolta and the “revenge dress” she wore to a party the night Charles admitted adultery in a TV documentary.

For the price of the same ticket, there is also Victoria: Revealed, a portrait of the Queen-Empress, told through extracts from her journals and personal belongings.

Not to be missed (and for my money better than the Jewel Room at the Tower of London) is a collection of Victoria’s jewellery.

Take your sunglasses.


This is a longer version of a feature published in Reach plc regional titles.