Tell anyone in the UK that you’re vacationing (or in their case, holidaying) in Cornwall and you’ll receive a familiar nod and a recollection of their most recent visit. With its turquoise waters, long sandy beaches and (comparatively) warm climate, the southwestern county is a staple in most Brits’ calendars – especially as Covid-19 continues to limit international travel.
But what about a luxury trip to Cornwall? For that type of request, a stay at the idyllic Idle Rocks hotel is a no-brainer. Tucked away in the picture-perfect harbor village of St. Mawes on the county’s south coast, Relais & Chateaux’s sole Cornish property is where the classic touches of a luxury hotel meet the laidback chic of a seaside bolthole. The result is a beautifully designed retreat with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
The only way to approach St. Mawes is by boat (not literally – you can drive if you prefer, but who does?) with The Idle Rocks being one of the first properties you’ll see as you draw closer to the tiny village via the Fal Estuary. While once a traditional fishing hub, St. Mawes is now a coveted destination for well-to-do travelers seeking a secluded retreat, paving the way for a series of upmarket restaurants, shops, hotels and galleries to find a home here.
What really sets The Idle Rocks above the rest, however, is the hotel’s commitment to proving that luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. The hotel implements a dedicated ‘Buy Local’ policy, which extends far further than the obvious food and drink; stationary, building materials and other consumables are all sourced from nearby suppliers, which not only limits the carbon impact of shipping but also ensures money is being fed back into the local community.
Water and energy consumption are also closely monitored, with the team aiming to lower usage year on year. While recycling should come as standard at a luxury hotel, The Idle Rocks takes things one step further by using an electric milk float to collect waste. The culmination of these efforts across the board is a hotel that is making a difference – and showing the rest of the industry how it should be done.
It is said that a day in the sea air guarantees a good night’s sleep, but just in case the wives’ tale doesn’t ring true, the luxurious handcrafted Hypnos beds featured in each of the Idle Rocks’ 19 bedrooms will certainly send you to dreamland sharpish. Combined with the lull of the waves outside your window and the invitingly crisp linen, we found that the Idle Rocks had perfected the recipe for a perfect sleep.
Each room is individually finished – and most have sea views – with a stylish blend between contemporary comfort and seaside charm delivered thanks to the design prowess of Karen Richards, who co-owns the hotel with her husband, David. Karen’s signature style is seen throughout every space in the hotel, with many of the unique trinkets, artworks and ornaments hand-selected by her.
However, the crème de la crème is undeniably The Idle Rocks’ Grand Sea View rooms. Perched at the top of the hotel, these are its largest rooms and, as you might imagine, each has vistas across the ocean, which never fail to amaze even on a gray day (of which you must understand that Cornwall has many).
Whether you opt to stay in Grand Seaview, a Village Hideaway or even a spacious Family Seaview, each Idle Rocks room comes with a plethora of in-room treats, including locally made iced teas, a Nespresso coffee machine, Aromatherapy Associates bath products and a selection of Cornish Tregothnan teas – without any single-use plastic in sight.
The Idle Rocks has garnered a reputation around Cornwall and indeed the rest of the UK for its impressive dining offering, thanks in no small part to its head chef (and Cornish native) Dorian Janmaat who assumed the helm in 2020, following an eight-year stint at Raymond Blanc’s illustrious Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
Janmaat’s menus celebrate the seemingly endless bounty of the Cornwall and Devon landscapes and continue the hotel’s commitment to sustainability. Close relationships have been developed with suppliers to ensure that not only does the hotel serve the freshest, finest quality ingredients, but also it is all procured responsibly, and farmers and fishermen are paid appropriately.
Every evening the hotel serves a three-course set menu in the ocean-front restaurant, but in reality, the experience is far larger, with mouthwatering treats set before you from the minute you sit down. In our case, we began with a pillow-soft pretzel loaf, carefully shaped into the Idle Rock’s signature reef knot emblem, followed by a scallop amuse-bouche.
The menu is refreshingly vegetable and fish heavy, with just one dish – an aged fillet of Josper grilled Cornish beef – offering meat as the centerpiece. As you’d imagine of a restaurant in such a location, seafood takes the center stage on Janmaat’s menu, with a selection of local line-caught fish, including turbot, plaice and trout, imaginatively cooked and presented.
On the dessert menu, the trio of West Country cheese, which included an excellent Cornish Yarg, was a particular highlight. After dessert comes a plate of homemade sweets, including marshmallows, jellies and fudge. All in all, Janmaat’s cooking is fresh, thoughtful and, most importantly, truly showcases his home county.
To accompany the sublime food menu is an equally impressive drinks selection, which includes fine wines, spirits and specialty cocktails. While international labels are available, a bottle of the hotel’s very own Lazy Lady white is a must. Produced in partnership with the nearby Trevibban Mill Vineyard, the Lazy Lady is a fresh and fruity number best enjoyed on The Idle Rock’s inviting terrace; this is as close as you’ll get to the Med in England.
Up until recently, the sense of calm that grows when you pass the Cornish border was all The Idle Rocks offered in terms of relaxation. However, earlier this year the hotel upped the ante with the revealing of its all-new Reef Knot Retreat treatment room.
The menu is small with just three treatments on offer, but once you arrive in the tranquil space you couldn’t want for more. Despite being in the heart of the hotel, the Reef Knot room is completely serene with zero outside disturbance, and the hotel’s resident therapists are both skilled and sensitive.
The flagship Ultimate Aromatherapy Experience begins with a consultation to assess your individual needs, following which your therapist will apply a variety of techniques in a full body massage, designed to relieve muscular tension, stimulate the nervous system and encourage healthy circulation, concluding with a gentle facial. Pure bliss.
The area surrounding St. Mawes is truly one of the most beautiful in Cornwall. Enjoy a short boat journey over to nearby Place, which is the ideal starting point for a gentle amble around the Roseland Peninsula, with stop-offs at its many secluded coves. As the area is quite remote and mostly only accessible by boat, you’ll find these beaches free from the tourist crowds that plague much of the county.
Watersports enthusiasts will also find plenty on offer in the area, from paddleboarding in the calm waters of the estuary to sailing further out in the open ocean, or even just a leisurely cruise along the Cornish coastline. If you’re a keen wild swimmer, the hotel has direct access to the beach for a pre-breakfast dip in the crystal waters.
If you want to travel further afield, the larger town of Falmouth, which is home to a number of boutique shops, bars and restaurants, is a twenty-minute boat ride away. For a longer day out, arrange a wine tasting and tour at Trevibban Mill Vineyard, found towards Cornwall’s northern coast. Tie the visit in with a trip to nearby Padstow, an upmarket seaside town with plenty of galleries, eateries and beaches.
On days when the weather isn’t on your side (as we said, this should be expected in the UK), make use of The Hidden Cinema, found in The Idle Rocks’ sister property, The St Mawes Hotel. The 25-seat cinema can be booked on an exclusive basis for your own private screening, with food and drink available to order directly to your seat.
The hotel team is impressively knowledgeable and will always be on hand to guide you through what to see and what to do, as well as make all the necessary arrangements to ensure each guest experiences the best of the mythical and magical county that is Cornwall.
Grand Seaview room summer rate from $721 per night, winter rate from $465, email@example.com, +44 132 627 0270