Beaches and cream
Curvy Carbis Bay
Get this when you book through us:
A bar of chocolate from Chocolarder
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (GBP116.67), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Beaches and cream
Curvy Carbis Bay
Get this when you book through us:
A bar of chocolate from Chocolarder
Seven, including one suite.
10.30am, but flexible, subject to availability. Check-in is possible between 3.30pm and 7pm – let the hotel know if you're likely to arrive later.
Double rooms from $149.17 (£117), excluding tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include breakfast (full English or Continental) and tax.
Grab a book and a drink, and slope off to the hammock in the gardens. The hotel can also arrange to have a gourmet picnic put together for you, with locally sourced treats, such as lobster, crab and champagne – a step up from soggy sandwiches.
Gardens, library, DVDs and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: beauty treatments and massages can be arranged, flatscreen TV, minibar, free bottled water, White Company products and goosedown duvets and pillows – hypo-allergenic bedding can be provided if requested in advance.
We love Porthminster for its bay window overlooking Godrevy lighthouse and the Bay, and Porthcurno for its characterful period fireplace. Snug little Mousehole has a romantic bathroom tucked away in a sunken loft space, with exposed stone walls, stripped wooden floorboards and a sloped ceiling.
Wetsuits and windcheaters.
Who can resist a freebie? Expect cake in the afternoon, and a glass of port or sherry when the night draws in.
You have to be 14 to stay at this beachside hotel. It's best suited to couples - leave the children at home.
Sit by the windows and admire the palm trees in the landscaped garden.
Bikinis and boardies. In the evenings, slip into post-surf casuals: cotton and corduroy.
The bright little conservatory, with its scattering of wicker chairs and white tables, is the backdrop for breakfast. There are bookshelves scattered with trinkets (vases, lanterns, and seashells) and a respectable selection of books and DVDs. This is a B&B affair, but don’t worry, there are plenty of tempting cafés and restaurants within easy walking distance. In the afternoon, you'll also be offered cake (past flavours include carrot, asparagus and chocolate – not all at once), and a tipple in the evenings.
There’s an honesty bar in the snug, stocked with wine and beer.
Breakfast is available between 8.45am and 9.30am.
Breakfast in bed is served with smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels or croissants with organic strawberry jam, smoothie shots and cafetiere-fresh coffee.
The hotel is a 45-minute drive from Newquay International airport. The airport has regular flights from Stansted with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com), Gatwick with British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and Manchester with BMI Baby (www.bmibaby.com). Cornwall also has its own airline, Air Southwest, which flies from Bristol, Manchester and Dublin, among others, from around £35 each way (www.newquay-airport.co.uk).
Carbis Bay is a three-minute walk from the hotel. There are services connecting to all major cities via London Paddington (www.nationalrail.co.uk).
St Ives is a five-minute drive; Penzance is 15 minutes. Each room comes with a private off-street parking space.
Go for a walk along Carbis Bay each morning to work up an appetite for breakfast. Tate St Ives by Porthmeor beach shows work by contemporary British artists (www.tate.org.uk/stives), but don’t miss its sister museum on Barnoon Hill, dedicated to Cornwall-dwelling modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth. The magnificent sculpture garden is laid according to her original plans. During the summer months, the open-air Minack Theatre, high on the cliffs near Porthcurno (and half an hour from the hotel), makes the most of its wild-seas backdrop (+44 (0)1736 810181; www.minack.com). Porthcurno beach is great for families, and has a stream at the top of the beach that children can paddle in. Go surfing, kayaking or paddleboarding; take a trek to admire Land’s End; and ask the hotel to arrange a seal-watching trip.
For most restaurants in the area, you'd be wise to make a reservation in advance between April and September. Set in the old lifeboat house on the wharf, the Alba (+44 (0)1736 797222) sparkles from a stylish refurbishment. The Modern British menu champions all things seasonal and local; eat downstairs, and you can watch the chefs through a large window. Carnivores will love Firehouse Bar & Grill (+44 (0)1736 799664) at 27 Fore Street. Survey St Ives harbour as you demolish perfectly cooked steak. Saltwater (+44 (0)1736 794928) is set in the artists’ quarter of St Ives, at the aptly named 14 Fish Street. The restaurant is family run, friendly and cosy as you like, with a small but tempting menu: scallops with garlic and cream; pork belly with caramelised apples and cider.
Porthminster Beach Café (+44 (0)1736 795352) serves succulent seafood with an Asian and Mediterranean spin. Home-made pastries, freshly ground Lavazza coffee, and impressive sea views are additional lures. Book ahead: the café is often fully booked four weeks in advance during summer. Alfresco (+44 (0)1736 793737) at Wharf Road has some dazzling flavour combinations up its sleeve: try curried parsnip and apple soup or mushroom tagliatelle with pistachio pesto and truffle oil. The dining rooms are styled with nautical simplicity: splashes of white and blue, bleached wood, and sea scenes on the walls.
As great a rep as seaside St Ives may have, Mrs Smith is expecting the worst.
Having grown up in Blackpool, she has experienced her fair share of drizzly summer days, dirty brown beaches and rides on the backs of depressed-looking donkeys, the prospect of a weekend stay in a B&B by a British seaside town hasn’t filled her with much enthusiasm. And as the man who suggested this trip in the first place I’m starting to feel the heat.
You can imagine my relief as l steer the rental car onto Headland Road, the sun finally peeking its way from behind the rainclouds that have battered us all journey, the cool glistening waters of Carbis Bay revealing themselves far below.
With its pale yellow sands, rocky coves and vast turquoise sea, Carbis Bay has the kind of beach that if it were located in more tropical climes would come complete with either an obnoxious block of family hotels or an eight-hour trek by rickshaw and fishing boat to find it. All we had to tackle was a slightly stony-faced drive from West London.
As we pull into the gravel driveway of Headland House we’re greeted by our landlord Mark. Bounding across the manicured lawn like a friendly Labrador, he’s enthusing instructions to come on in and make ourselves at home.
It doesn’t take long. Headland House is definitely at the boutique end of the B&B scale. Thanks to a strict no-kids policy its pale pastel shades and bleached-wood furnishings are pleasingly free of tiny fingerprints and they fit seamlessly with the Cornish coastal locale.
The walls are decorated with bright modern seascapes and giant pieces of coral, which Mark proudly tells us he picked up from a bric-a-brac shop in town, which he insists we visit. It’s not the only recommendation Mark will make. He’s positively evangelical about this small corner of Cornwall. He and his wife Fenella gave up the London grind six years ago to make this place their home and seem determined that their guests will leave with the same enthusiasm and passion that they share.
In the snug, a cosy communal space of leather sofas and animal-print throws, we’re welcomed with complimentary slices of homemade chocolate fudge cake and steaming cups of tea before Mark shows us up to our room.
The Porthmeor comes complete with king-size bed and a clean modern bathroom but what really grabs you is the view. The room is dominated by huge picture-frame windows that face out onto that stunning West Country bay.
I’d be quite happy to sit and gaze blankly for the entire weekend but Mrs Smith has an itinerary and time’s marching. Basically the plan seems to be to eat as many things as possible with the word Cornish in the title. And there are a lot more than you might think. Cornish pasties, Cornish ice-cream, Cornish fudge, a large selection of locally caught Cornish fish... It’s not going to be easy, but we’re up for the challenge.
We take a quick walk along the bay before heading into St Ives for round one. It’s a train ride into town from the station at the end of the road but fear not – this is as far removed from the commuter grind as you’re likely to get. Renowned ad-man Rory Sutherland once said that instead of spending £6 billlion to speed up journey times, Eurostar should have just hired supermodels to walk up and down the aisles handing out free Château Pétrus to passengers. ‘You’d still have 5 billion pounds in change and people would have asked for the trains to be slowed down.’
While there are no supermodels on board the tiny two carriages that shuffle along from Carbis Bay to St Ives, the spectacular coastal views do make you wish the journey would last a little longer. Three minutes is just not enough.
One pasty-fuelled trek through the hilly cobbled streets of St Ives later and we head back in preparation for the evening. Mrs Smith is happy to find White Company toiletries in the bathroom but not as pleased as I am to discover the complimentary sherry in the snug. There’s also an ‘honesty bar’ stocked with wines, spirits and a ‘lean over and help yourself’ beer tap. My 16-year-old self offers me a mental high-five just as Mrs Smith appears –showered, refreshed and with a steely look in her eye that tells me she’s spotted both the sherry and a box of Trivial Pursuit.
Thankfully our dinner reservations cut short the game before our competitive streaks turn the atmosphere ugly and we head down to the Porthminster Beach Café for Cornish monkfish curry, Cornish duck breast cooked three ways and even manage to wash it all down with a bottle of Camel Valley Bacchus, Cornwall’s answer to a sancerre.
With the sea air filling our lungs and a melange of Cornish delicacies filling our bellies we stumble back to the hotel and collapse into the king-size goosedown bed.
Breakfast the next morning is classic English with a touch of sparkle. Served in the crisp light of the conservatory, ramekins of yoghurt come with a homemade lavender syrup and while I opt for the full English, Mrs Smith seems pretty pleased with her fluffy scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. The portions are vast, and a good thing too. Mark has appeared to offer today’s list of recommended activities and top of the list is a trip to Godrevy for clifftop walks and a seal-spotting expedition. It sounds like we’re going to be busy.
And thankfully, for both Mrs Smith and myself, there’s not a depressed-looking donkey in sight.