As first impressions go, walking into The Scarlet is pretty hard to top. Standing in the lobby and gazing through the floor-to-ceiling windows, all I can see are sky and sea. Lots of it. Light floods the airy space and the surf is breaking virtually under my nose.
When it comes to location, location, location, this hotel has it sussed. Its cliff-top site overlooks Mawgan Porth, a quiet, sandy beach close to buzzy Newquay on Cornwall’s north coast. All that separates the hotel from the seashore is a perilous, rocky drop. Anyone who thinks that Australia has the copyright on show-off surf views needs to check in here.
Stunning though the scenery is, it’s not the only thing that makes The Scarlet such a special spot. The hotel, which opened in August, claims to be Britain’s most eco-friendly, going so far as to boast 101 different ways in which it is sustainable. But if you think being eco means you can’t be luxurious, think again. The Scarlet may have nerdy-sounding “grey water harvesting”, “sea thrift roofing” (a Cornish plant) and a macerator to dry out food waste but it combines its greenness with a serious dose of glamour – a world-class spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and bedrooms so comfortable you won’t want to leave.
But back to that show-stopping lobby. As well as maximising every centimetre of view with huge windows, the interior reveals the owners’ love of art and design. Sofas are upholstered in bright Missoni fabrics and quirky pieces of Cornish sculpture and paintings are everywhere. The scattered newspapers and books encourage you to sit back and enjoy – on seeing one guest quietly dozing in a sunny corner, owner Debbie Stratton (one of three sisters behind the project) positively grinned with delight.
The bedrooms are just as conducive to zoning out. Lying on my bed watching a perfect sunset unfold in front of me, I feel hypnotised. The accompanying soundtrack of crashing waves only adds to the mood. Rooms are categorised as “Just right”, “Generous”, “Unique”, “Spacious” and “Indulgent” and even the smallest “Just right” ones are roomy and sun-drenched. My “Spacious” space, is, as you’d imagine, on the large side. From my enormous bed, perfectly positioned to gaze out to sea across a wide balcony, I take in views of surf, beach and craggy cliff-top greenery. In keeping with the “101” eco efficiencies, there is no in-room mini bar, minimising “the use of ozone depleting substances” and all of the towels and robes are made of organic cotton. Even the guest soap (locally handmade, of course) could be taken home in a fair-trade bag or left for the hotel to recycle as stain rub.
It’s this attention to sustainable detail that makes The Scarlet unique. Most luxury establishments are hardly models of green behaviour, so this hotel really does set itself apart. From the biomass boiler that produces all the hot water and heating, to the thermal solar panels, ecotricity supply (100 per cent of the electricity used is generated through renewable sources), rainwater harvesting and recycling policy, it takes its eco responsibilities very seriously.
Not that it impedes on the five-star experience. If anything, it enhances it. It’s certainly not many hotels that can boast a chemical-free fresh water outdoor pool, filtered by reeds and dotted with floating water lilies and hovering dragonflies. Or two log-fired hot tubs perched on the edge of a cliff. The blend of natural assets, stunning views and pampering luxury is remarkable.
For the ultimate taste of how well The Scarlet looks after its guests, book yourself a spa “journey”. While many hotels – even those that are plush enough to know better – fob you off with a “spa” that is little more than a couple of treatment rooms in the basement, The Scarlet offers the real deal, with an extensive sprawl of treatment rooms, relaxation spaces, steam rooms, hammams and pools (the outdoor fresh water one and an indoor one, too).
The therapies offered are a blend of Ayurvedic and more conventional, with the four-hour journeys at the heart of the experience. These begin with a hammam body scrub using organic seaweed and sea salt, followed by a massage and relaxation. This last part takes place in a dark, silent room, filled with hanging cushioned “pods” into which you climb to doze off. And I mean really doze off. The combination of gentle rocking, massage-induced relaxation and subdued, moody lighting sent me into a deep slumber.
A visit to the “light therapy” room comes next. Overlooking the outdoor pool and the ocean beyond, this sunny area offers drowsy guests a choice of loungers or bean bags in which to slump. I also make the most of the warm weather by heading outside to snooze in a rocking chair while the sun warms my face and the lifeguards on the beach below yell into their loud speakers to warn swimmers of the treacherous surf. Bondi, eat your heart out.
With plans for an outdoor sauna this year, this spot will be unbeatable.
A final word of praise for The Scarlet’s food. Think organic, local and pretension-free. If you’re in search of Michelin-starred foams and tricksy flavour combinations, look elsewhere. As you’d expect from the seaside location, fish lovers are spoilt for choice and most of the produce is home-grown – even the breakfast apple juice comes from a tree in one of the owner’s garden. And if you do fancy a change of scene, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is a cliff-top walk away in neighbouring Watergate Bay.
That’s if you can drag yourself away from The Scarlet. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it.
The writer was a guest of The Scarlet.
WHERE The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, phone +44 1637 861 800 +44 1637 861 800, see scarlethotel.co.uk.
HOW MUCH Low season B&B rates start at £180 ($324) a night for a “Just right” room.
TOP MARKS The Scarlet is a “grown-ups only” hotel, so blissfully free of screaming kids. Perfect for anyone — including frazzled parents — who wants a peaceful getaway. Families can book into the next-door Bedruthan Steps Hotel, which has the same owners.
BLACK MARK The main dining room is gorgeous but avoid the secondary, smaller one that feels hidden away and forgotten.
DON’T MISS A four-hour spa journey followed by a cliff-top walk to see the spectacular Bedruthan Steps.
Source: The Sun-Herald