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10 most beautiful stays in Cornwall

 (Carbis Bay)
(Carbis Bay)

Cornwall’s wildflower-carpeted cliffs that tip abruptly into frothy, turquoise bays, its surf-magnet beaches and spanking fresh seafood are popular with the summer staycation crowd for good reason.

The salt-infused county’s world-class food scene lures in the gastronomes, who tuck under tables to observe the bay’s comings-and-goings beyond platters of Porthilly oysters and crab linguine.

Walkers are in their element, with 400 miles of twinkling coastline to scale, dotted with sun-bleached taverns, where barnacled smugglers once took refuge, and rustic huts grilling that day’s coastal plunder or scooping sinfully thick and creamy ice cream.

Cornwall’s gems are by no means confined to the coast. Inland is a treasure trove of waterfalls shrouded in Pagan myth, botanical gardens, vineyards and cream tea pit stops.

With this in mind, an annual bun fight for Cornwall’s most beautiful hotels and stays typically ensues around this time of year. So whether it’s a rambling Poldarkian pile for the extended family or a clipped, Riviera-style perch where genteel rhythms still hold sway, time is of the essence – Cornish summers wait for no man.

Chapel House, Penzance (Chapel House)
Chapel House, Penzance (Chapel House)

Chapel House, Penzance

For: a stylish coastal home from home

Ex-banker Susan Stuart’s decision to cut ties with the corporate world was a boon for Penzance. Here, amid the seagull soundtrack and glittering morning light, Susan unleashed a long frustrated zest for cooking and interior design on a Georgian beauty that lords over the harbour. Once an admiral’s home, 6-bed Chapel House is steeped in maritime history, with mahogany dressers, four posters and hefty marble fireplaces referencing its grandiose past. These are cleverly combined with a fresh, whitewashed coat, smattering of contemporary art (much from Cornwall’s Newlyn School) and reverential techy touches, such as a retracting glass roof over the bath of the attic room, slowly peeling back a star-studded night sky.

The sensibility of a smart but unprecious family home pervades – perhaps Cornwall’s best spin on Bridgerton with a piano forte for afternoon recitals, elegant sofas to gossip on and light-filled, comfortable rooms to hide away in with a book and some homemade brownies. Susan whips up Ottolenghi-style plates using Cornwall’s finest produce on the bottom (flagstone covered) floor – configured as a large kitchen with a main farmhouse dining table and a few smaller tables and chairs. Soggy wetsuits can be hung up outside, brunches roll on until midday, and Penzance’s warren of antiques shops and galleries lie waiting just outside the front door.

Chapel house is from £180 bed & breakfast; chapelhousepz.co.uk

Carbis Bay, St Ives (Carbis Bay)
Carbis Bay, St Ives (Carbis Bay)

Carbis Bay, St Ives

For: a bay you can’t believe belongs to the UK

Smug in its perch overlooking an exquisite turquoise bay and its own sandy beach, Carbis Bay is a Cornish classic with a solid bunch of loyalists returning year after year for their sun-doused Riviera summer. Ensconced in 125 acres of gardens and wooded valley, Carbis Bay offers both a velvety green country stay with beachy afternoons and jaunts along the Coastal Path to scenic Cornish fishing villages such as nearby St. Ives. The hotel’s grounds host The Gannet Inn, as well as various self catering cottages, or coastal-contemporary style lodges benefiting from the hotel’s slick service and sea views. The main house nods to its grand, maritime past, though the antiques and chandeliers are paired with an unpretentious sensibility that runs throughout the entire estate tapestry. Any coastal hikes or brisk swims in the bay are rewarded in the C Bay Spa, where a hydrotherapy pool, steaming outdoor swimming pool and a tempting list of treatments awaits.

Read our full review of Carbis Bay here.

Doubles from £280; carbisbayhotel.co.uk

The Pig, Harlyn Bay (Abha Shah)
The Pig, Harlyn Bay (Abha Shah)

The Pig, Harlyn Bay

For: Cornish country for the urban palate

Deep in candle-lit Poldark country, where waves crash against pixie-green cliffs, natural turquoise pools form in the rocks and blustery walks are rewarded with Atlantic Martinis and Pig-Cantés, lies The Pig’s Cornish iteration. Encircling this weathered cliff top hotel, like beady-eyed seagulls, are summertime Londoners, keeping eyes peeled for kitchen gardens, roaming piglets and free fire pit seats before the sun dips. They typically make the motorway shlep here for the Pig’s laid-back and lovely 25-mile menu and its renowned cocktails-and-croquet gloss on country living. A warren of dimly lit rooms, flagstone floors and Suffolk gate latches revealing secret dining nooks, lend this Haryln Bay old-timer a sense of Dickensian authenticity amid all the interior design-led spruce. Dotted with cut flowers and sun-kissed guests, a pared down dining room is where the magic happens. Tables are soon filled with crispy breaded Cornish brie, Tim Marshall’s Porthilly Mussels and garden mizuna pesto pappardelle with shaved Cornish kern – all bouji spins on home-spun country fare. As the house opens its Georgian windows and doors for summer, guests spill into the gardens for Camel Valley Sparkling Wine, with views across the Camel Estuary and easy access to surfer-peppered Harlyn Bay below.

Doubles from £150; thepighotel.com

Atlanta Trevone (John Hersey)
Atlanta Trevone (John Hersey)

Atlanta Trevone, Trevone Bay

For: hotel-grade interiors with the privacy of a coastal bolthole

Conceived by the previous owners of Harlyn Bay (now the Pig), Atlanta Trevone is a series of tastefully dressed and designed grand Victorian terraces perched dramatically over Trevone Bay. Not far from Padstow’s foodie trove, and with sandy Borthmissen Bay and its rockier neighbour, Newtrain just outside the front door, Atlanta comprises a collection of five designed-to-the-nines properties, spanning an eight-person penthouse to a cosy loft. While decked in good-looking Neptune kitchens, Victoriana roll-top baths and grand fireplaces, an unprecious home-from-home feel pervades, with smores ready in a bag to roast on the beach, comfy sofas for board games and afternoon tea, a boot room for sandy shoes and muddy wellies. Beds are lined with that crisp, hotel-grade linen and bathrooms are well-stocked with gentle Land and Water soaps and creams, with soft robes hanging on the door. Walks along the coast here are remarkably pretty, with arable fields one side and either a calm, turquoise mass or an angry, frothing indigo blue on the other.

Read our full review of Atlanta Trevone here.

Doubles from £1,400 per week in Atlantic View; atlantatrevonebay.com

Dolphin House (Dolphin House Tresco)
Dolphin House (Dolphin House Tresco)

Dolphin House, Tresco

For: Britain’s best shot at the Caribbean

It seems only fitting for the King of England to plonk his staycation spot on the closest thing the UK will ever get to the Caribbean. Framed by a tropical tangle of gardens, with fine views over an impossibly turquoise sea (by British standards) and towards Round Island Lighthouse, Tresco island’s symmetrical granite old rectory, Dolphin House, enjoys both whimsical views and regal ownership. Now rentable to the public, the light-filled, airy rooms are animated by contemporary paintings of the island, and a vast dining room sets a kingly tone for family suppers. Views from the bedrooms (particularly the playful attic room) are eye-wateringly pretty – Tresco’s daisy-strewn fields and an unpredictable sea clambering over the rocks with frothy resolve. It’s the stuff of children’s story books. The house is perfectly-placed for discovering the island’s various hidden treasures, from wind-swept walks to Pentle Bay for a dip in the calm waters to visiting weather-beaten forts lining the north-east coast, steeped in English Civil War legend. If home cooking feels out of kilter with the very notion of a holiday, the recently spruced up maritime drinking hole The New Inn serves up solid, seaside pub grub, and the Ruin Beach Café, brings hipster-surf to Tresco with wood-fired pizzas and hearty pasta dishes right on the beach – and both a scenic saunter back to base.

From: £4,865 per week; tresco.co.uk

Hotel Tresanton, St Mawes (Hotel Tresanton)
Hotel Tresanton, St Mawes (Hotel Tresanton)

Hotel Tresanton, St Mawes

For: Mediterranean-meets-British Riviera

Far from stuffy, gloomy Cornwall of yore, Hotel Tresanton riffs on a fresh Riviera traditionalism, with Olga Polizzi (of the Rocco Forte hotelier dynasty) casting her hallmark new-meets-old spell on this cluster of seafront houses and cottages on the fringes of St. Mawes. An alluringly understated aesthetic has been meticulously choreographed with beautifully-framed Cornish art, thick patterned curtains framing views out to St Antony’s Lighthouse and fabrics, prints and textures that mirror the mix of coastal scape and tangle of botanical gardens outside. All 30 rooms differ, as they would in a family home – some with larger balconies or terraces – though the common thread is this comforting dose of English Riviera living, without the clinical whites and blues of some coastal hotels. Italian menus leverage Cornwall’s coastal and countryside treasures, giving Cornish suppliers their due and guests a refreshing (and elevated) alternative to the British seaside classics. The Italian influence can also be found on the hotel’s own racing yacht, Pinuccia – a beautifully lithe creature that can be chartered for Mediterranean-style sojourns over summer.

From £270 per night; thepolizzicollection.com

The Scarlet (The Scarlet)
The Scarlet (The Scarlet)

The Scarlet, Mawgan Porth

For: pampering relaxation with serious views

Gazing down from its clifftop perch over Mawgan Porth’s golden sands and out to sea, this elemental-inspired eco-conscious Cornish retreat enjoys some of the most thrilling coastal views of any UK hotel. Woven into the rocks, the building alone is an architectural marvel, and inside, fresh, pared down interiors cleverly frame those mesmerising seaside vistas. Unfettered relaxation sits at the very top of the agenda here, with sun loungers dotted around the front of the property, a nature-first spa and log-fired hot tubs which guests stew in as the sun dips below the horizon. The pampering spa theme spills into the rooms where guests can wrap up in fluffy robes after an Aromatherapy bubble bath, then ease into beds draped in luxurious sheets to read a book, or send their thoughts out to sea. Rainy days are well spent in the steam room, floating in the photogenic indoor pool encased in glass or tucking into creative cooked local fare at the hotel restaurant.

Read our full review of The Scarlet here.

From £245 per night; scarlethotel.co.uk

Black Moon, St Ives (© Nick Isden. (www.nickisden.com))
Black Moon, St Ives (© Nick Isden. (www.nickisden.com))

Black Moon, St Ives

For: a romantic Celtic Sea cave retreat

This romantic St Ives bolthole inhales the salty air through shiplike doors opening up onto the Celtic Sea (one that comes in dramatically close in stormy weather). The feeling is that you are cave dwellers suspended right above the water – though this cave is decorated with fresh linens, woven cushions and orchids. A large, deep-mattress bed tempts long lie-ins and the bedroom’s sliding mirrored wall slides back for morning views out to sea. A brooding, dimly lit bathroom with dark, lava-like stone sets a spa-like tone, though it’s the sitting room’s smuggler-style trapdoor that wins in the novelty stakes, one that sends your child-like awe down into an actual cave, dressed in fur rugs and well-stocked with sparkling wine. Should cabin fever strike, Black Moon sits just above Bamaluz Beach and within St Ives’ warren of independent galleries, boutiques and restaurants.

From £275 per night (sleeps 2); sandandstoneescapes.com

Valencia House (Latitude 50)
Valencia House (Latitude 50)

Valencia House, Port Isaac

For: group gatherings in a spruced up merchant sea captain’s former home

Sleeping 10, Valencia House’s wisteria-coated grey stone and old Georgian windows belie its remarkably fresh interiors of layered creams, earthy coastal linens and modish twists on a Cornish farmhouse style. Positioned amid the cluster of Port Isaac’s houses that edge down towards the beach, this elegant Cornish hideaway can engulf large families and groups for weeks, with the harbour’s pocket-sized cafes and ice-cream parlours a skip down the snaking lanes. The top floor’s sweeping views over the wonky fishing village’s chimney pots and out to sea are perfectly Cornish, as is the cast iron bath tub, crafted from the merchant sea captain’s ship who built the property in the 1800s. A log burner, bursting at the seams library and ludicrously comfortable armchairs stave off any rainy day blues and when North Cornwall switches on the sunshine, a tiered patio dotted with sun loungers and a gas barbecue awaits.

From £49 per person, per night (Sleeps up to 10); latitude50.co.uk

Boconnoc Estate (Boconnoc)
Boconnoc Estate (Boconnoc)

Boconnoc Estate

For: a stately home-from-home

If a full extended family affair is on the cards, Boconnoc Estate offers five self-catered options (sleeping from 4-19 people), all of which appear to have sprung from the pages of a Jane Austin novel. With a two-mile drive, endless parkland to explore (including a lake and ancient woodlands) and a fresh, welcoming spin on ‘stately,’ Boconnoc embodies all rural Cornish idylls. There’s the whimsically pretty Stewardry Manor House (sleeps 14) recently dolled up by Sarah Fortesque (of the family seat), the noble Boconnoc House (sleeps 19), the charming country-classic Diary House (sleeps 8), and the two renovated cottages, the Groom’s House (sleeps 6) and the Head Groom’s House (sleeps 4) occupying the stableyard.

All properties benefit from the classic country pile pursuits: tennis courts, lawn games, wild swimming in the lake and creative arts and craft spaces. Guests can drop their bags for Cornish cream tea on arrival, sinking into the various properties’ deep comfy sofas before heading out for foraging workshops, a canter through the woods or a brisk bike ride through the estate. And for those looking for a kitchen-free holiday, private chefs can be easily organised by Boconnoc in advance, though the seasonal zero-mile kitchen garden delivery box may just persuade you to whip out your apron again.

From £546 for 3 nights; boconnoc.com