If pirates were around today, they’d have one eye on Artist Residence Cornwall. Set in a dashing Georgian pile in the heart of historic Penzance, this boutique hotel is a bold and beautiful collection of one-of-a-kind rooms styled by local artists and the expert house team behind the Artist Residences in Brighton and London. The rustic-industrial Clubhouse restaurant turns seasonal local produce into tasting plates and home-smoked specials, while next door in the lounge a roaring log fire greets guests returning from a bracing coastal walk. Mark this spot with an X, me-hearties.
22, including one suites and a three-bedroom cottage.
11am, or up to 12.30pm on request. Earliest check-in is 3pm, but flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £99.00, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates do not include breakfast; à la carte options from £2.50 for toast and jams, to £9 for the mini full-English.
The hotel's town centre location makes exploring Penzance a (sea) breeze. Chapel Street itself is well worth a wander: it’s history-packed and has the blue plaques to prove it. Nelson’s victory (and death) at Trafalgar were announced from the minstrels’ balcony at the Union Hotel, the Brontës’ mother Maria Branwell lived at number 25, and there’s even an Egyptian-style townhouse from the 18th century, when Pharaoh-fashion was in vogue.
At the hotel
Restaurant, bar, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, Roberts digital radio, minibar with local and gourmet snacks and drinks, tea-making kit, Nespresso coffee machine, Bramley bath products, free Cornish bottled water and, oh yes, a Tunnock’s caramel wafer. The Cottage and the Lookout each have a kitchenette and dining table.
Our favourite rooms
For longer stays and extra space, look to the third-floor Lookout suite, with its exposed beams, reclaimed furniture and a log burning stove; there’s also a fridge stocked with Cornish goodies in the rustic kitchenette. Some of the seaside-themed Comfy Luxe rooms have a roll-top bath tub in the bedroom, and each Super Comfy Luxe Double has cabin-style wood-plank walls, tea-chest bedside tables and a cavernous freestanding bath tub in the ensuite bathroom.
Bring sturdy boots to navigate the ups and downs of the coastal path. Leave space in your suitcase for antiques and curiosities from Chapel Street Bazaar.
The nook-and-cranny nature of the historic property (and lack of a lift) makes it inaccessible for wheelchair users and baby buggies. Please note: rooms do not have air-conditioning.
Selected rooms are dog-friendly: the Cottage, a Cosy House Double and a Comfy House Double on the hotel's ground floor; a £15 a dog a night supplement applies. Each dog is given a bowl, welcome treats, and a bed just so they know they’re on holiday. See more pet-friendly hotels in Cornwall.
All ages welcome. The Gallery Loft has a mezzanine floor with an additional single and double bed, but the family-friendliest is the Cottage. Baby cots (free) can be added to some rooms, best to check when booking and you'll need to bring your own linen.
The recycled-craft-paper menus at the Clubhouse feature wholesome dishes made with seasonal and free-range produce from local farms. Reclaimed wood plays a starring role in the rustic interiors, including feature walls in the bar and several bedrooms. The Bramley bath products in each room are hand-made by a West Country apothecarist, using all-natural ingredients. Behind the scenes, even the cleaning products are eco-friendly, and beyond the usual glass and cardboard recycling collections, the hotel also repurposes its delivery pallets as fuel for the wood-burning fires.
Behind the Banquet Room there’s a secret terrace garden, with hanging hammock chairs for lazing in after lunch.
Easy-going checks and rough-hewn denim, for the lumberjack look.
The Clubhouse is more than just a restaurant, with its gathering and working spaces and playful garden area, but here's where you'll find top-drawer local food. Take meals at one of the pews by the alfresco bar or in the lounge – a vision of vintage finds, bold artwork and shabby-chic nous. Breakfast runs from healhtful granola bowls to full Englishes with eggy and smashed-avo bits in between, and there's creative bistro fare for lunch and dinner (prawn tacos, Balinese veggie curry, hake with a pepper and butterbean stew). The hotel also has its own smokehouse for magical meats – with black-treacle-smoked brisket and beer-can-smoked chicken.
This is the kind of lounge that makes even the most sodden, bone-chilling, this-storm-wasn’t-forecast coastal walk worthwhile. Slouch-in-me sofas cluster snugly around the log burner, and cocktails and craft ales sit alongside wines on the drinks menu. There's a sociable outdoor space too with swing chairs, table-tennis and an alfresco bar. Our pick of poison is the Cornish Rose Collins with white wine, rose syrup, mint, cucumber and tonic.
Breakfast is from 8am to 10.30am, lunch from 12 noon to 2.30pm from Friday to Sunday and dinner from 6pm to 9pm.
Anything and everything on the Clubhouse menu can be brought to your room, during restaurant hours.
Penzance is almost at the tip of Cornwall’s toe; Land’s End is a few miles down the road. The Artist Residence is in the most characterful part of town, amid boutique shops and colourful Regency-style houses on historic Chapel Street.
From London Heathrow, the Heathrow Express takes you straight from the airport to Paddington, where you can catch the Cornwall-bound train. You can also fly to and from the Isles of Scilly from Newquay, or Land’s End airport, which is 10 minutes’ away from the hotel by taxi.
Penzance is the final destination of the Great Western railway from London, via Exeter and Plymouth. The journey takes five-and-a-half hours, but it seems like less if you’ve got a window seat. From the station, it’s a short cab ride or a 10-minute walk across the wharf and up Chapel Street to the hotel.
Once you’re here, driving is the best way to explore Cornwall’s country charm and many isolated fishing villages, especially out-of-season when the winding lanes are all but empty. In high summer, the A30 can become something of a bottleneck, so avoid peak times if possible. The handiest car-hire places are at Penzance railway station and Newquay airport; at the hotel, drop your bags and then park up for free on the street, or in the car park five minutes’ walk away.
Penzance fits nicely with a trip to the Isles of Scilly: the Scillonian ferry departs from the harbour six days a week, from spring until autumn.
Worth getting out of bed for
Go for a wave-free splash in the saltwater Jubilee Pool, a restored art deco lido down by the sea. Cross the causeway to St Michael’s Mount for a cultural day out and inspiration for your next super-sandcastle. Or, follow the coastal path south to the postcard-pretty village of Mousehole and on to Lamorna Cove. The surf’s (almost always) up at Sennen Cove, and Cape Cornwall comes with all the bracing breeze and ocean views of Land’s End, but without the theme park and traffic jams. For evening entertainment with a helluva view, catch a show at the cliffside Minack Theatre.
The fishing port of Newlyn is almost within casting distance, so it’d be rude not to sample the local catch; the menu at The Shore varies depending on what came to market but is always fresh and flipping good. 2 Fore Street in Mousehole is another seafood specialist, and it makes an appetising reward at the end of the two-and-a-half mile walk. Some of the region’s finest fare is in St Ives, a 20-minute drive away on the north coast; the Porthminster Beach Café’s monkfish curry is well worth the trip, or keep it simple with the quite perfect posh fish and chips.
The Honey Pot is as cosy as they come; pop in for cuppa and a generous slice of home-made cake, or fill up with a hearty lunch or warming soup.
Swap a few pieces of eight for a tankard of ale under the bowed ceilings and creaking beams at the 17th-century Admiral Benbow, opposite the hotel; inside, it’s a treasure trove of shipwreck memorabilia from around the Cornish coast. The title of the oldest pub in town goes to the Turk’s Head – it has been watching pirates and smugglers come and go for over 750 years, although it’s only relatively recently that it started serving gastro pub grub.
I know I’m not the only Brit who’s guilty of seeking serenity overseas. It’s hard to resist the allure of a budget airline flight when it costs less than your commute, but the convenience of exploring on home turf is not to be underestimated.
So to Cornwall, home of the humble pasty, the Eden Project and Land’s End. The charming fishing port of Penzance might not have the artistic allure of St Ives or the surfable waves of Newquay, but it’s still a hit with serial staycationers, and it’s easy to see why. It’s your typically charming English coastal town, with fish and chip joints, congenial pubs and a historic high street to boot – it’s this charm that led Justin and Charlie Salisbury, the founders of the Artist Residence hotel group, to open their second outpost here.
Housed in a 16th-century Grade II-listed coach house, the hotel is akin to its sister spots in Brighton, Oxford and London, with its eccentric yet homey decor. True to its name, the space has been given the once-over by an army of British artists, and their creative prowess is evident from the moment you step inside. Artwork by Cornish painters lines the walls of the reception-cum-gallery – some of which are for sale – and the theme continues upstairs.
Our room, a Medium Arty Double, has been given a rainbow makeover courtesy of a Brighton-based artist whose head is seemingly stuck in the psychedelic 70s. It’s a stark contrast to the red seersucker stripe bed, tartan throw and distressed forest-green dresser – a bit like a teenager has been set loose with a paint brush – but it works. Beside the plug socket is his fuchsia tag ‘Pinky Vision’; and what a vision it is: bubblegum sailboats, cascading sun motifs and, behind the headboard, a dove in dappled pastel hues. It is mesmerising, but my trance is quickly broken when I spot Mr Smith tucking into the free Tunnock’s wafers without me. And so begins a weekend of gluttony.
If there’s one thing the Cornish are known for, it’s their many culinary treats, and I arrive armed with a list of things to eat: pasties (natch), clotted cream and saffron cake are high on the agenda. Happily, and in keeping with the Artist Residence philosophy, the hotel’s onsite restaurant, the Cornish Barn, likes to keep things local with meat from a Penzance butcher, fish from St. Ives, fruit and veg from Helston and bread from Redruth.
My dinner of barbecue pork-belly ribs with a side of mac-and-cheese turns out to be quite possibly the least Cornish thing I could have ordered, but it’s nice to know I’m supporting local producers nonetheless. Incidentally, should you also choose to order the ribs, you probably don’t need the equally delicious mac-and-cheese. The portions are generous and those with eyes bigger than their stomachs may struggle. Not that that stopped me ordering dessert, a delightfully bitter dark-chocolate mousse topped with honeycomb and zingy raspberry sorbet. Mr Smith, meanwhile, tucked into a slab of sirloin steak doused in peppercorn sauce, with a side of chips and a dessert of affogato, an attempt to ward off the inevitable but worthwhile food coma.
In the adjoining bar, Cornish ales are on tap and the roaring fire in the living room-style bolthole is all too tempting a prospect post-feast. Get there early to nab a spot – the locals come in their droves to take advantage of the 5 to 7pm Happy Hour (an Aperol Spritz and a pint for £6? We aren’t in London anymore, Toto). Breakfast is an equally gluttonous affair. It is not included – a personal pet peeve – but I wouldn’t miss the French toast: a cinnamon and raisin creation served with banana and honeycomb butter.
Sugar levels firmly stocked up (and then some), we venture outside. The Artist Residence is handily located on Chapel Street, a historic road with cobbled pavements, boutique shops and the somewhat bizarre Egyptian House, a decadent building from the 1800s that sticks out like a sore but striking thumb. In the opposite direction is the sea, Cornwall’s only promenade and the Jubilee Pool, an Art Deco lido. It being October, it’s closed, but I’m told of future plans to heat it using geothermal energy for the colder months.
There’s always the sea, I’m reminded, as I watch one brave gentleman don his wetsuit and wade into the choppy waves. Another time maybe; after all, Happy Hour has started.