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Visit once and you’ll be booking your return when checking out
Goodness me, why wouldn’t you go? This idyllic spot on the south coast of Cornwall is pure heaven. Set on the harbour wall in St Mawes (which incidentally has been voted the UK’s best seaside town) this beautiful boutique hotel is the perfect place to get away for the weekend.
Renovated in 2013 by Karen and David Richards, who took it from an outdated hotel that primarily catered to elderly travellers into a luxury bolthole. This was recognised in 2016 when The Idle Rocks became part of the world-renowned collection of hotels, Relais & Châteaux.
My husband and I spent a couple of days at the hotel to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary and the impending arrival of our second child. It was exactly what we needed – a spoiling, peaceful break that was just for us. Think newspapers in bed with the sun streaming through the windows, creams teas at 4pm with a side of champagne and delicious meals that go on into the late evening.
The hotel itself is an instant soother. Perhaps it’s the sea air, the sound of the water or maybe it’s the crisp rosé that sits invitingly in large bowls of ice at the bar? These are certainly contributing factors, but believe it or not, it’s the actual hotel that puts you at instant ease.
This is precisely what Karen and David, who holidayed down in St Mawes long before becoming hotel owners, wanted – to create a home-away-from-home feel. When you walk into the reception to check in, you’re invited to take a seat in the comfortable lounge or on the sprawling terrace that overlooks the Fal Estuary and offered a drink immediately. Which is what all hotels should be like – drinks on arrival.
Saying that it has been tastefully furnished is an understatement. Rich textiles, brightly colour artwork and personal touches, like family photos, make it a joyous place to be. Each corner and corridor has been well thought out. For example, the walls in the hallways are rather cleverly lined with blue and white ticking fabric, giving it a warm and rustic feel.
There are cosy reading nooks in the lounge that make it near on impossible to put down your book. We liked the sumptuous sofa in front of the fireplace and the window seats that look out onto the harbour.
Scent is clearly very important to the owners because there are St Eval, a local Cornish brand, Sea Salt candles lit everywhere and you smell it as soon as you walk in.
There are 19 rooms in total and each one is decorated ever so differently. But it doesn’t matter which you book – from the Grand Seaview Rooms to the Village Hideaways – you are going to walk in and reconsider your own interior choices immediately. Owner Karen, who took on the project of redeveloping the hotel having walked past it for years, is a self-confessed interior obsessive and took great joy in styling every room.
There are of course nautical nods with the decor, but it’s worlds way away from clichéd anchors and model seagulls. Here it’s giant conch shell lamps, mother of pearl accents and blue and white ceramics. This is seaside chic at its finest.
We were fortunate enough to stay in one of the Grand Seaview Rooms, which was flooded with light thanks to the dual-aspect windows looking straight out onto the water. We went to sleep and woke up listening to the soothing sounds of the water lapping against the rocks below.
Much like the rest of the hotel, the rooms feel incredibly luxurious, yet highly unpretentious.
The restaurant at Idle Rocks is why people visit the hotel. From mid-morning, until late evening the terrace and restaurant are filled with hotel guests, as well as those who have made the journey just to try head chef and local lad Dorian Janmaat’s creations. There are those that come by car, and then those that come from neighbouring coastal towns who tie their boats up to the town’s pontoon just to drop in for lunch.
As you would expect the menu is heavily influenced by the hotel’s location. Fresh fish and shellfish are delivered every morning and served that day. In the evening, you can choose from the à la carte menu or go big and opt for the tasting.
I know I should wax lyrical about each course we tried, and whilst every bite was followed by wide eyes of disbelief and murmurs of pleasure, I really must take a moment to talk about the butter. The butter we were served with our bread was laced with miso and was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The flavours and combinations were remarkable. It didn’t take us long to realise why people make the journey.
You would think that in a boutique hotel with only 19 rooms, there wouldn’t be space for a spa. However, Karen’s desire to create a fully-rounded relaxing escape meant that they made space for one. The single-roomed Knot Reef Retreat is tucked away in a quiet and calm corner of the hotel and with the help of Aromatherapy Associates products the treatment menu features everything from targeted massage to facials.
St Mawes is not your typical Cornish seaside village – yes there are boat trips and fish and chips aplenty – but this is a spot where the wealthy sailing crowd come to play. It’s reflected by the number of yachts moored up in front of the hotel, the rather smart boutiques on the water’s front and the houses that line the local streets.
There’s plenty to do and it’s all accessible by foot. So hand your keys to reception, let them park your car and then forget about it all weekend.
The coastal path will keep you busy for much of the day – you can even walk all the way around to the not-so-hidden Hidden Hut in Porthcurnick. If you’re a keen walker, be sure to make the trip to St Just in Roseland, a village just north of St Mawes with arguably the most beautiful churchyard you’ll ever visit. Think botanical gardens set on the side of a river. Utterly stunning.
You can spend the day on the water, either on paddleboards, swimming or perhaps on the hotel’s yacht, which you can book a day on with the help of a local who will take you out for a day of sailing.
You can go a bit further afield too thanks to the passenger ferries that will take you to other points on the Roseland Peninsula, including over to Falmouth.
There’s a castle previously owned by Henry VIII at the top of the village, which considering its location on the cliffside at open to the elements is in incredible knick.
Good to know
Owners Karen and David bought and renovated The St Mawes Hotel in 2015, which offers a more affordable option to visitors – with its menu and rooms. It has more of a relaxed pub feel, where dogs are welcome and there’s even an in-house cinema.
Just to the right of the hotel, there’s a lovely beach with a floating pontoon, which made for a lovely early morning wakeup and sunset swim.
Much like the rest of Cornwall, the hotel is not immune to the threat of seagull attack. But the hotel has taken a rather fun approach to dealing with them. Next to each table on the terrace is a water pistol, so that you can ensure that your cream teas remain on your plate.
There’s a kid’s playroom on the first floor, which is just as smartly decorated as the rest of the house. Which will keep the young’uns entertained whilst you have a coffee downstairs.
To book visit idlerocks.com or call 01326 270270. (Rooms start from £260 per night based on two adults.)