Mention Cornwall and a few things spring to mind: rugged cliffs, long sandy beaches and – thanks to its location on England’s southwest tip – plenty of sunshine. So, when we embarked on the grueling five-and-a-half-hour drive from London on a particularly icy morning in December, we wondered whether a winter break in the county would live up to expectations.
We needn’t have worried. Strolling along the golden shores of Mawgan Porth beach later that afternoon, with the wind buffeting around us and just a handful of wetsuit-clad surfers in sight, it seemed like the perfect time to visit. Gone were the throngs of tourists, picnic blankets and parasols. Rather, it felt as if we had stumbled on one of Cornwall’s best kept secrets.
Above us, tucked into the grassy clifftops lay Scarlet – the self-proclaimed ‘eco-sanctuary’ we had come to visit. The hotel is located within the village at the end of a sleepy residential road overlooking the beach. Sitting squarely in the middle of Padstow and Newquay, you can opt to fly into the airport (which is less than 10 minutes down the road) or brave the drive.
Scarlet is strictly adults-only – and it shows. Within moments of arriving, a friendly member of staff appeared with two glasses of champagne. There’s no reception desk or formal check-in process. Instead, we were whisked straight to our room. The message was clear: Now it’s time to relax.
Scarlet is home to just 37 rooms and suites, divided into five categories ranging from ‘Just Right’ all the way up to ‘Indulgent’, which boast its own private lounge areas and balconies. If you’re hoping to bring your dog, you’re in luck; call ahead and the hotel can prepare your room with a bowl and treats.
As you would expect, the accommodation has been designed with the location in mind, letting the sea views take center stage. Our ‘Just Right’ room featured floor-to-ceiling glass doors that opened directly onto a coastal path running high above the beach.
The rooms themselves are cozy and laid-back, with a color palette inspired by the coastal tones of the surrounding landscape. Bathrooms are generously sized and stocked with eco-friendly toiletries (the open plan shower/ toilet won’t be for everyone, but you can request different layouts).
It’s also worth mentioning there’s no coffee machine in the room which is part and parcel of Scarlet’s efforts to minimize its environmental impact wherever possible. You won’t have to worry about skipping your morning coffee, though. Call down to reception and the team is on-hand to bring hot drinks to your room at any time.
When it comes to dining, you’re in for a real treat at Scarlet. With its killer sea views, the restaurant is a popular spot with guests and non-residents alike so be sure to call ahead and book a table.
Jack Clayton recently took over the kitchen and has crafted a beautiful seven-course tasting menu that showcases his love of foraging. The talented chef cut his teeth at some of East Midland’s most prestigious restaurants, scooping three AA rosettes, two Michelin Bib Gourmand awards and the coveted Nottingham Head Chef of the Year prize.
Now, Clayton has his sights firmly on winning a Green Michelin Star. Sustainably sourced fish features heavily on the ever-changing menu, alongside an array of organic produce from the local area. We kicked things off with delicate slices of cured monkfish dotted with fennel, coastal herbs, pickled chili and burnt ginger before diving into the succulent Newlyn Hake smothered in a creamy tartare sauce and finished with herring caviar and samphire.
There’s also a plant-based menu for veggies which is equally as inventive, featuring the likes of miso onion tarte tatin with black truffle and pickled walnut; and smoked chili confit aubergine on a white bean puree with charred sprouting broccoli.
As for drinks, there’s an impeccable wine list with a sommelier on-hand to make expert recommendations. We took his advice and tried the Litmus Orange Bacchus – a pale golden-hued wine produced in Surrey that was an excellent match for the fish.
If you can resist a lie in, it’s well worth returning to the restaurant for breakfast. The continental offering is especially impressive with a collection of little jars filled with greek yogurt, compote, fresh fruit and granola, and you can’t go wrong with the whole Cornish smoked kipper with poached eggs and chives.
The expansive spa is the ideal setting to warm up after a bracing walk along the beach. Inspired by Ayurveda (an Indian holistic healing system), it features a bromine-filtered indoor pool, restorative steam room, relaxation room dotted with suspended canvas pods and meditation room lit by a softly glowing Himalayan salt lamp.
Consider booking the hotel’s signature ‘Solo Journey’ to help you fully relax and unwind. During the four-hour experience, you’ll have a consultation with a personal therapist followed by a softening bathing ritual in a copper tub, guided meditation session and bespoke therapeutic treatment.
The real draw, however, is outside. Here, you’ll find a natural reed pool, clifftop cedar wood sauna and hot tub (make sure you book a slot) – the best place to take in the stunning ocean views. You can also walk to Scarlet’s sister property, Bedruthan, on the same stretch of coastline, to visit the hotel’s thermal pool and sensory spa garden.
Scarlet has taken every effort to reduce its impact on the environment. The hotel itself is crafted from reclaimed materials; the roof is lined with sea thrift while the wooden posts dotted around the gardens are made from Plymouth Harbour’s old coastal erosion barriers.
As well as ensuring the ingredients in the restaurant are sustainably sourced, Scarlet has put in place a range of eco-friendly initiatives including generating heat through a biomass boiler, using wastewater from the showers to flush the toilets, introducing low energy LED lighting and adding Tesla electric car charging points for guests.
In a sign of its commitment to supporting the local community, with every booking the hotel makes a donation to Surfers Against Sewage, a grassroots environmental charity working to protect the UK’s coastline, and CoaST One Planet Tourism Network, which promotes sustainable travel in Cornwall.
When you can bring yourself to leave Scarlet, there is plenty to see. Directly below the hotel lies Mawgan Porth beach – a wonderful spot for swimming, surfing, and exploring the intricate network of rock pools and caves.
Slightly further afield, around a 30-minute walk along the scenic clifftop, you’ll find the Bedruthan Steps (a majestic rock formation said to be used as stepping stones by a fabled Cornish giant). Thanks to the minimal light pollution, this is the perfect setting to star gaze on a cloudless night.
It’s also well worth visiting Padstow – around a 20-minute drive away – where you’ll find a collection of gourmet restaurants including Rick Stein’s café and the Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at No.6. And if you’re keen to explore Cornwall’s south coast, consider a day trip to Falmouth – a bustling coastal town filled with boutique shops, bars and galleries.