My husband and I recently celebrated our 20-year anniversary with a two-week trip to Europe. The goal was to relax, eat, and spend time learning about the cities we visited. We spent time in Paris, then the French Riviera cities of Cap Ferret, Nice, and Monte Carlo. We then traveled to London, ending our trip with quiet time in Cornwall.
The county of Cornwall is only a 45-minute flight from London, and located on the southwestern tip of England. Cornwall is a peninsula that encompasses wild moorland, hundreds of sandy beaches, and is home to picturesque harbor villages and towering cliffs. I am a fan of both Poldark and Doc Martin, which are both filmed in Cornwall County.
We flew into Newquay airport, on the northern coast and were picked up by a car service to drive us to our hotel in St. Mawes. The tiny airport was very reminiscent of the airport in Monterey, California. There could not have been more than 50 seats in the airport waiting area. Our driver was very talkative and heavy on the gas pedal. Let us just say that driving through one-lane highways and hair-raising turns, surrounded by tall hedgerows, was both exciting and a relief that we decided to rely on an expert driver from the area, instead of renting a car. The driver mentioned that the area also has a good public transportation system of buses, trains, and ferries.
The city of St. Mawes is a small fishing village nestled at the end of the Roseland peninsula. It is surrounded by the sea and gentle hills. We visited in the fall, when many of the summer tourists had left, and loved having the village to ourselves. St. Mawes is known for its mild climate. Temperatures reach that of the Mediterranean in the summer. Though the town is small, there were plenty of dining options that offered typical faire of the area such as fish and chips (accompanied with the customary tiny wooden fork), pasties (a baked pastry with traditional fillings of beef, sliced or diced potato is regarded as the national dish in Cornwall), and strong tea with scones, clotted cream and jam.
The Idle Rocks (a Relais & Chateaux property) sits idyllically on the harbor side of St. Mawes, perched on the rocks. Home to only 19 rooms – it feels like a luxurious family run beach resort. The rooms are individually decorated and each one has its own style and charm. One of my favorite activities was to watch the tide go out and come back each morning, perched from our seafront room. The staff was always personable, asking if we were enjoying our trip, and what we were doing next. Our concierge was especially helpful. She was informative in providing places for us to visit and helpful in arranging a car service to Port Isaac. We found the property to be elegant and yet very cozy and a comfortable place to stay.
One of our favorite walks was from the St. Mawes Castle, which is among the best-preserved of Henry VIII’s coastal artillery fortresses, to the idyllic St. Just in Roseland Church, which is one of the most beautiful in England. The Church dates back to 1261 and has lovely paths that wind through the terraced churchyard. There are seats along the paths for enjoying the peaceful surroundings and the quiet stream.
The footpath up the Percuil River to the bluebell woods of Bosloggas and along the fields of Tregear Vean to the church was the most fun. The fields of Tregear Vean is where you go through a series of gates, making sure to close each gate, which are often in someone’s backyard, to avoid sheep from escaping. This walk, along with our stay in St. Mawes was a tranquil experience. Though we both wore watches, we only seemed to notice when the sun came up and when the sky turned into night. This area really took my breath away.
Most of our meals were at The Idle Rocks. They offered an extensive breakfast buffet each morning, plenty of simple lunch options, an afternoon tea, and dinners that featured fish and seafood. We splurged on our final night by ordering their tasting menu. Our waiter explained the process in which the dishes were being prepared and what to expect. He was friendly and spent time asking about our trip and where we traveled from, but he equally left to give us time to spend with one another.
Check out was bittersweet. Time seemed to have passed so quickly. We were amazed and saddened when we reached the lobby. The entire staff came to see us off, including the general manager who helped with our luggage, to shake our hands, and to thank us for staying with them. Looking at each person who had either served us our morning coffee, or who had helped us find our way around town, and then remembered the stories they shared about their lives made it even harder to leave, but we will never forget the staff at The Idle Rocks and we will never forget the beauty of Cornwell.