Arriving in St Mawes last Easter after a five-hour drive, a sat nav detour unexpectedly taking in the delights of the King Harry Ferry (and a half hour wait to board the two-minute service across the River Fal) the excitement when my boyfriend Bert and I finally caught a glimpse of the sea was palpable. The sun was shining brightly, and it felt more like late June than early April, and indeed St Mawes more like a Spanish fishing village, than an English one!
St Mawes is truly beautiful – picture postcard perfect – complete with bobbing fishing boats, azure water and chocolate box cottages. In pride of place lies The Idle Rocks, its name plastered across the front of the white washed building. This was to be our home for the next three days and we couldn’t believe our luck. It was perfect.
After a deep inhalation of sea air, and a very warm welcome by Sid the delightful concierge, our bags were taken up to our room and we were marched straight through the light-flooded nauticalesque-style restaurant, and out onto the vast south-facing terrace to enjoy the stunning views. The umbrellas were up, and it felt like we had been transported to Ibiza, as gentle house music played in the background. We sat in silence for a while and admired our vista.
The terrace at the Idle Rocks arguably boasts the best views in St Mawes, and on a clear day, like the one we were enjoying, you can see past St Anthony on your left, St Mawes' castle and beyond on your right, and all the way across the bay to Pendennis head in Falmouth.
We couldn’t bear to drag ourselves away so enjoyed a couple of Hendricks and tonics in an almost dream-like state, before it was time to discover our room. What a hardship. We ventured back through the restaurant and up two flights of stairs, inadvertently taking in a tour of the whole hotel, which is incredibly stylish but also seriously relaxed. The interiors are fun, and a play on the location – even when deep inside you know you’re harbourside.
A room with a view
Room 15, one of the Grand Sea View rooms, was to be our base for the next three nights, our names scrawled on a little chalkboard on the door. This was a lovely touch which made us both smile, and would also prove to be very useful later that night, after consuming a bit too much De Trafford Chenin Blanc.
We were beginning to suffer separation anxiety from the view and regretting our early departure from the terrace, but as we entered our room, happily we realised we would be enjoying the very same vista from our enormous bedroom windows. It felt like we were on a boat, peering out of the captain’s cabin (a vast one at that, with roll top bath in the bedroom and a separate dressing room). We opened the windows, letting the sea breeze flood in, tested the bed, hung up our clothes, made ourselves at home, and realised it was nearly cocktail time. A quick refresh and time to get stuck back in…
We were some of the first guests to stay after a complete renovation of the lower levels of the hotel. The storms of early 2014 had completely demolished the restaurant, kitchen, sitting room and reception area. Waves had smashed through the glass front, ruining everything on the ground floor. The whole team had worked tirelessly for an Easter re-launch, and we could feel the excitement from the staff – they were so happy to be back, and to finally have customers to serve again, and who could blame them. What a wonderful place to work. To be able to enjoy those views day-in day-out is certainly something I’d find inspiring.
After enjoying a passion fruit martini or two on the terrace, watching the sunset with a blanket to fight the evening chill, we made our way to the restaurant for supper. We sat on a table by one of the enormous windows, and watched St Mawes twinkle under a full moon. This place is just as magical at night. At this point we were feeling very content indeed, but things were about to get even better…
What a Guy
Head chef Guy Owen is exceptional. His fresh, locally sourced (and foraged where possible) ethos is one that works particularly well in Cornwall, a land so rich in natural resources. We enjoyed some of the most deliciously fresh and delicately cooked fare we’ve had the pleasure of eating. He immediately received massive thumbs up from us, and this quality continued throughout our stay, from the whole lobster – so fresh it was practically still walking – to the shredded ham hock terrine. We’re not alone in our praise of the restaurant at The Idle Rocks – it has been voted one of the 20 Best Places to Eat by the Sea by The Times and will undoubtedly receive yet more accolades in due course. It deserves them all!
After our knockout meal, we stumbled upstairs to our 'cabin', and very quickly sunk into the cosseting comfort of our king size bed. There is something about sea air exhausting you in a most satisfying way – we slept like babies. So much so, that when we opened our curtains to another mind-blowingly beautiful day over St Mawes, we decided to go for a run to consume it all totally. Now, for your information, we are not runners and this urge was so completely alien to us both, that it just had to be fulfilled.
So we donned our trainers and off we set, breathing in the spring air, sharp on our lungs and feeling quite heavy on our feet (partly due to the mountains of food we had consumed the previous night), and plodded our way up to St Mawes Castle. Embarrassingly we did not get much further, and vowed to return later in the day for a walk – which was much more our bag.
We got some strange looks when we returned to The Idle Rocks – I presume because we’d only been gone 15 minutes and we both looked like tomatoes – but we felt we’d earned our (spectacularly) cooked breakfast, so delved straight in again, and this is very much how our day continued. As the weather forecast for the next day was not great, we decided to make the most of the terrace while we could, and spent the day absorbing the rays, as well as the food and wine lists, and we couldn’t have been happier doing so. It was heaven.
Mawes than meets the eye
For supper, we visited Olga Polizzi’s exceptional The Tresanton, a five-minute walk through St Mawes. It is a complete contrast to The Idle Rocks but equally as enjoyable, and we delighted in yet another delicious dinner. The ratio of incredible hotels per square mile surely cannot be surpassed anywhere else in England. With the reopening of The St Mawes Hotel (sister to The Idle Rocks) looking just as monumental as The Idle Rocks, this small town now boasts three hotels that I would give my left hand to stay in. A destination indeed!
The next day we awoke to driving rain, and I was in agony; not only was I devastated by the lack of sunshine, the run had set off my shin splints and I could barely walk. I knew there was a reason I wasn’t a runner…it was definitely time for a massage. Despite it being Easter Sunday, Sid organised everything for us – we were to visit The Eden Project (note, do not do this if you are suffering from severe shin splints as there is a lot of walking involved!) and would return for exceptionally restorative massages in the late afternoon.
That evening we could have visited any number of wonderful restaurants locally – Sid recommended the Driftwood Hotel in Portscatho which has a Michlin star – but we didn’t feel like missing out on our last supper at the hands of Mark Apsey, so we settled down at our home away from home for yet another mind-blowing feast. This place really is so special. We were close to tears when, sun shining again the next morning, we had to say our goodbyes. We have vowed to return, and have recommended it to everyone who’ll listen. Next visit we’ll spend some time out on the water instead of just perched beside it, but honestly, we couldn’t find the time this stay. We were too happy at The Idle Rocks.