The big trip

The Scarlet hotel review: a perfect tonic for tough times

Located at the secluded Mawgan Porth beach, this Cornish retreat is a staycation stunner

The Scarlet hotel in Cornwall

A disclaimer; having not left London since a few weeks before the first lockdown came into force, in March last year, a trip out of the capital in autumn was always going to be nothing short of momentous. Even when the train out of Paddington slowed to a grinding halt outside Reading, and an ominous announcement requested the train manager to urgently speak to the driver. Even when we found ourselves (my partner and I, a fresh-faced couple of just five months) merrily rolling backwards into Reading, delayed by five hours, unceremoniously dumped at Plymouth, and then spat out at Bodmin Parkway. Even then, with rain lashing at our faces, I still felt an unshakeable happiness to have escaped. Oh, the magnanimity that comes with mind-numbing months of lockdown. 

In that sense, this mini escape from a solitary, solo existence in a one-bedroom flat in Mile End to the huge skies and hazy horizons of Cornwall was always going to feel like an out-of-this-world, rare and exquisite treat. But that said, I can’t think of many more places I’d rather turn up to than the sublime and superior Scarlet hotel; truly the most stunning staycation for two bedraggled, drenched and delayed (yet determined!) travellers.

The Scarlet is perfectly perched above the spectacular beach of Mawgan Porth, on the north Cornish coast, sandwiched between pretty Padstow and non-stop Newquay. Upon entering, staff magically appear (there is no reception) to whisk bags away, and a roaring fire beckons. The hotel is both eco-friendly and adult-only. Time for a drink. 

The Scarlet hotel in Cornwall
Restful and care-free

The Scarlet has a self-effacing luxury, the walls dotted with tasteful local artists’ work on white walls, with colourful splashes of modern furniture and flowers in vases. The hotel feels bright, breezy and clean; quietly confident but not ostentatious. The rooms are beautiful, although often bizarrely arranged – with a bath tub in the middle of the room – for instance. In fact, the bathrooms are designed to keep the connection with the hotel’s show-stopping views. In most cases, this means the bath is open to the bedroom and the loo and shower are behind an opaque glass screen that is not quite floor-to-ceiling.

Perhaps The Scarlet’s location, almost immediately on the coast, with the option from some rooms, of walking straight out onto the coastal path, is one of the main draws. Of course Cornwall has so much to offer in the way of attractions, but if you’re after something more restful and care-free, walking one way down the coast from the hotel, and then back the other way the next day, over to the dramatic Bedruthan Steps, is a pretty unbeatable way to fill your time. 

Another welcome perk is the hotel’s generous offer of complimentary loose-leaf teas and coffees at any time of the day and night, which really is quite a lovely prospect after bracingly windy walks overlooking a sometimes tremendously stormy sea. The breakfast is also a very generous affair, with options such as scrambled eggs and chorizo, avocado on toast, fresh daily pastries, and hot toast with lashings of local Cornish butter. 

We ate a beautiful three-course meal on our first night – delicate, thoughtful plates such as ham hock and quail’s egg starter, and glazed native beef with fondant potato, carrots, crispy oyster and rainbow chard, and there were excellent fish and vegetarian alternatives, all to be washed down with fantastic Cornish wines. The two options for eating in Mawgan Porth – a small fish restaurant called The Catch, and a more pub-like, the Merrymoor Inn – both served excellent fresh, local fish and had wonderful service and atmosphere, just a ten-minute walk down from the hotel. They offered a nice alternative to the more formal hotel dining. 

The Scarlet hotel in Cornwall
Blissful experience

The hotel’s spa is for people who don’t really like spas – which I mean in the best possible sense. It was approachable, accessible and filled with light, rather than being tucked away in some gloomy cavern. The requirement of booking slots to use the pool, sauna and steam room meant the luxury of having the place to yourself, while the outdoor cliff top hot tubs really are something special, perfect for both stars and storms (book well in advance to avoid disappointment). And, although they do feel slightly made for the Instagram crowd, it really is a blissful experience to soak in a hot tub under the autumnal sun, with a cool sea breeze and some bubbles in a long, thin glass. The outdoor pool, meanwhile, is a naturally chemical-free pool, cleaned by reeds, ideal for any wild Wim Hof-types. 

With the excellent location, the gorgeous spa, lots of little nooks and crannies for curling up with a good book, and, not forgetting the thoughtful addition of a games room (complete with pool table and stacks of board games) the hotel feels entirely self-sufficient so that guests don’t need a car, or a long list of day trips to tick off. In that sense, it really is a retreat, in every sense of the word, the perfect tonic for a turbulent 2020-2021, and a reminder to take the tough times as they come, and try to create the good times as you go. 

Felicity Capon stayed at The Scarlet in October 2020. Prices start from £240 for bed and breakfast; scarlethotel.co.uk

The Scarlet hotel in Cornwall

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