Striking the perfect balance between accessible and remote, the main house of this boutique hotel has an incredible setting, high on a Cornish cliff with spectacular views over the bay and Driftwood Hotel's own private beach. From the outside it doesn’t look out of the ordinary, but the interior has been given a great deal of thought: the furnishings have a comfortable, homely feel, in blues and creams and natural woods – all very, very tasteful.
Fourteen rooms, and a private cabin overlooking the beach.
11am (but flexible); earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £180.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, newspaper and, in low season, dinner.
The kitchen will provide a picnic hamper on request.
Driftwood shuts up shop for a few weeks in December and January each year.
At the hotel
Private beach, terrace, seven acres of heritage coastline, TV room with DVD/video library, WiFi, parking. In rooms, DVD/video player, free broadband internet access, Ren bath products.
Our favourite rooms
In terms of both size and sea views, Room 10 wins hands-down: it’s the biggest room in the hotel, and boasts double aspect vistas and a snug little vantage spot. Room 11 (a Deck Room), has French windows opening onto a private deck overlooking the gardens and the sea beyond.
Frisbee, kite, binoculars.
In-room beauty treatments can be booked if you need some TLC. A minimum two-night stay is required at weekends (three nights on bank holidays) for rooms.
Welcome, but babies and small children are not allowed in the restaurant. There is a £15 charge for under-12s sharing their parents’ room (£20 for over-12s), including breakfast. The games room has, among other amusements, a PlayStation.
A corner table in the new extension, or table 6 in the conservatory, overlooking the sea.
Chino chic: deck shoes, panama hats and cable knits.
Chef Chris Eden was formerly at the Square, and uses fresh, local and organic ingredients when available to produce his Michelin-starred Modern European menu; highlights include wonderful fish and seafood and home-made bread. The exceptional spread means the restaurant, which is open for breakfast and dinner only, gets very busy; we strongly recommend booking a table in advance of your stay.
There’s a wee little bar next to the restaurant, serving all the usual tipples till midnight, but you could also take a glass of chilled wine onto the deck or the lawn and soak in that gorgeous view from a comfortable steamer chair.
Food: 9.30pm. Breakfast heartily from 8am until 10am every day of the week.
In Portloe, the restaurant at the Lugger Hotelserves seafood – fresh lobster and crab in particular – and has tables overlooking the picturesque harbour. Another seafood specialist, the wonderful restaurant and bar at Olga Polizzi-designed Hotel Tresanton has romantic views from the terrace over the bay of St Mawes, and delicious organic food.
Tucked away in the hamlet of Ruan Lanihorne, The Kings Head is a proper, good old-fashioned country pub: get there before 2pm for the perfect ploughman’s or a hearty lunch of locally caught fish or pheasant (mind the shot!). In the fishing village of Portscatho on the Roseland peninsula, 17th-century pub The Plume of Feathers is ideal for fish ’n’ chips and a pint after a walk along the cliffs, or a cosy evening drink. The Roseland Inn in Philleigh does fantastic Sunday lunches, worth booking ahead for.
I’m fairly certain that a man is not supposed to have feelings for a smoked mackerel, especially when that very chap is sharing a weekend with his significant other at a picturesque and remote boutique hotel in Cornwall. But I strongly believe that we shouldn’t deny our feelings, so, with apologies to Mrs Smith, I hereby confess that a smoked mackerel fillet with celeriac and apple remoulade, beetroot and banyuls vinegar has stolen my heart. Such a shame that I had to eat it.
In case you think that these are simply the ramblings of a wistful glutton, there is a link here. The beauty of that dish was its just-caught freshness: exactly the quality that makes Driftwood, and its setting on the south Cornwall coast, so special. For those who know Cornwall’s Atlantic shore – who have surfed at Newquay, or visited Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall at Watergate Bay – the south is its more modest sibling. Facing the Channel rather than the Atlantic, there are few big breakers here; the whole experience is quietly understated. The hamlet of Rosevine is almost defiantly difficult to get to (driving from the A30 takes the best part of an hour), but when you finally do arrive, you’re confronted with a craggy, stark beauty.
If sub-tropical, sand-hemmed south Cornwall is to your taste, then there are few better ways to enjoy it than at the simple-but-stylish Driftwood Hotel. You could hardly be closer to the sea: from the decking outside our room, the beach below was a five-minute walk, cutting steeply down through terraced gardens with pairs of chairs and hidden bothies for reading and thinking. It’s only once you’re down on the beach, maybe a hundred feet below, that you can look back up and see Driftwood as a whole. Like the landscape, it’s pleasingly unostentatious: the main, extended building is a grey-blue beach house draped languidly along the hilltop that could have been shipped straight from Cape Cod. In addition, halfway down the path to the beach is ‘The Cabin’, a weather-boarded, family-size hidey-hole tucked into the hillside for that faux-castaway sense of seclusion.
Our room though, was up top. French windows opened onto our own terrace with sea views beyond the gardens. Like people, some hotel rooms demand to be looked at and others are more modest. Spending too much time with a show-off can be grating, so you won’t find hot tubs, plasma screens or robotic toilets at Driftwood. Instead, the bedrooms are cosy, stylish and uncluttered: a battleship-sized bed takes precedence, and the ensuite is bathroom, not ballroom, sized. Lamps and mirrors are adorned with – unsurprisingly – driftwood, but that was as close as things got to frippery. Presumably, the owners reasoned that anyone wanting to cocoon themselves in a room with a DVD-library selection, when Gerrans Bay, the coastal path and the Eden Project (25 minutes away) are all close to hand, is in the wrong place anyway.
Bags unpacked, bed bounced on and free toiletries assessed (L’Occitane*, since you ask), we chose the coastal path for our first excursion. From the beach, you can meander east, or west. We headed west for St Mawes, on what we thought would be a quick morning pipe-clearer. We got nowhere near, but did make it to Portscatho, a fishing village that’s home to a couple of pubs, some craft shops and Ralph’s Local Stores’ cluster-bomb pasties. Back at the hotel, we sat out on the decking and gorged on our meat-packed fishermen’s fare.
Our mistake was not to have looked at the dinner menu before we did so, because Driftwood’s restaurant is as dramatic as its setting, and head chef Chris Eden’s menu is a set three courses (or seven diet-destroying broadsides if you go for the euphemistically titled ‘tasting’ option). The dining room overlooks the garden and has views out to sea – but we barely noticed. Our eyes were focused solely on the delights laid before us: monkfish, pollack, john dory and roasted Terras Farm duck, offset with thimblefuls of frothy amuse-bouches and a cheese board that practically insisted we order a couple more glasses of wine to do it justice. It was impeccable, high-end cuisine, served by knowledgeable, unpretentious staff. The food and service all reflected Driftwood’s appeal – high-quality local fare delivered with minimum fuss. The fact that residents are advised to book tables suggests that Driftwood is a fine-dining destination in its own right, but be warned: we’d booked a massage for the next day, but when it came to tempering the effects of Driftwood’s temptations, we’d have been better off with liposuction.
Breakfast revealed our fellow guests to be a pair of families (kids are catered for with ease), some couples, and Buffy**, the owners’ Lakeland Terrier – who was soon shooed out. And then, a drive to a fine pub (the Kings Head in Ruan Lanihorne) for lunch, before returning for a cat-nap and a read. Some people turn to chakra-balancing, hot-stone rub-downs or reiki for their relaxation. We discovered that slumping in steamer chairs looking out over the sea, with the sun slipping away behind the promontory, does it for us. If only my sweet, succulent mackerel could have been there to enjoy it with me.
*Now Ren bath products.
**Buffy is sadly no longer a resident at the hotel.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Driftwood Hotel’s Guestbook below.
The perfect setting – unbeatable views from a clifftop setting with the beach below. The amazing food – utterly delicious, seriously good.
Perfect service. The hotel let itself down both in the hotel and the restaurant. A distinct lack of attention to detail, endless delays and forgotten orders.
Stayed on 12 Sep 2019
We loved the hotel and its beautiful and peaceful setting. Our room was lovely with a great view of the sea. We found the service excellent – attentive but not intrusive and the staff were all aware of my food allergy and catered accordingly. We enjoyed a beautiful coastal path walk to Portscatho in the sunshine. We thoroughly enjoyed our three nights at The Driftwood.
Stayed on 23 Aug 2019
The food was amazing, and the attention to making us and our toddler feel welcome was really excellent. The beach was beautiful too – lovely colours in the evening.
Much nightlife – it's a place to get back to nature. As such, the lack of WiFi makes sense!
Stayed on 10 Jul 2019
The view from our room, the exceptional cleanliness, and of course, the amazing food.
The complimentary Cornish tea wasn't offered. A wine list that includes Chilean products at more reasonable prices.
Stayed on 7 May 2019
The position of the hotel which overlooks the sea. Beautiful gardens which lead down to the beach and coastal path. Breakfast was delicious but you need to be aware that this is a Michelin restaraunt that only serves a set meal at night. We will definitely return when we are looking to take a gourmet break.
Don't expect casual bar meals or a lunch menu, although afternoon tea is available.
Stayed on 8 Sep 2018
We had a wonderful few days at Driftwood. It was all we hoped for. The room was excellent: great views and well appointed. The food was simply exquisite. It certainly deserves its Michelin star.
Lively evenings, just fine dining in a beautiful restaurant with wonderful views.