British staycations: Most of eye-traveller’s favourite places to stay are on the coast – preferably right on the sea, a pebble’s throw from the beach (or so close you can smell the salt in the air). Our hot-list is big on Cornwall, but we’ve also included boltholes in Devon, Dorset and the Durham Coast among other places.
Boskerris Hotel, Carbis Bay, Cornwall
This is one of our go-to Cornwall escapes thanks to a winning combination of lush bedrooms (seaside colours and big comfy beds), amazing views (St Ives Bay, Godrevy Lighthouse), good food (almost worth a visit just to try the home-made granola) and welcoming owners (the hotel is family run). Another big plus is the huge decked terrace furnished with sofas and served by a tiny bar. Carbis Bay not only has a peach of a beach but it’s a station stop on the St Ives Bay branch-line (change at St Erth on the mainline route from Paddington). St Ives is close (20 minutes’ walk along the coast path) but far enough away to escape the crowds. One downside: Boskerris closes in winter and thanks to the pandemic it’s currently closed until March 2021.
Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of themed rooms, but the Zanzibar’s global travel theme is an exception. In a tall Regency townhouse right on the seafront (where Hastings meets St Leonards-on-Sea), this ‘international’ boutique hotel has seven rooms in all: we spent the night in Africa (a hot mix of tribal art, zebra print and a sea-view spa bath), thereby missing out on vast South America (old-school colonial vibe – pictured above), glamorous Manhattan (penthouse suite with sofas, tub-for-two and a juke box) and chilled Antarctica (steam-sauna and polar-bear throw). Downstairs there’s a dining room, bar and a Tiki-style garden. More info here.
Seaham Hall, County Durham
A Georgian mansion set in acres of wooded grounds overlooking the Durham coast, this seaside hotel has 20 gorgeous contemporary suites, two restaurants (the Byron and the pan-Asian Ozone) and an indulgent Serenity Spa. It’s a class act (honestly, one of the best places to stay in the UK) but I had to ask: what’s it doing here? Between Sunderland and Hartlepool, Seaham was part of an intensely industrial region, all collieries and coal slag (put it this way, nearby Blast Beach, took the role of a sinister alien planet in the opening scenes of the movie Alien 3). Still, a lot of money has been spent on regenerating the town’s harbour and cleaning the local beaches and the hotel is a destination in itself: the service is first class, the atmosphere is chilled (wander down to the spa in your fluffy bathrobe) and the rooms are a treat. More info here.
August 2020 update: Seaham Hall has just won bronze in the Small Hotels category of the Visit England Tourism awards.
Tolcarne Beach Cabins, Newquay, Cornwall
Love these babies – so much so we’ve been there twice. Part of Newquay’s family-owned Tolcarne Beach Village (bunk-bed surf shacks, posh holiday apartments, café, bar etcetera), the deluxe timber chalets are set in a row a step back from the beach. There’s room inside for a double bed, a mini bathroom and a flat-screen TV. What more do you need – apart from the terrace, two deck chairs and a pair of sunbeds (see footer picture)? Wake up to the sound of the waves, lie in bed and watch the surfers, open the door and step right out onto sandy Tolcarne beach. There is tea making kit in the cabin and you can head up to the Venus cafe for breakfast or the ‘Colonial’ for dinner.
Seaside Boarding House, West Dorset
This once geriatric hotel (the original bar looked like something out of Phoenix Nights) was taken over a few years ago by a team who used to run the Groucho Club in London; they turned it into this – a modern take on a traditional Edwardian guest house, the sort of place that smacks of leather suitcases, woolly rugs, standard lamps, books and nightcaps. One of the inspirations, they say, is ‘the Cape Cod paintings of Edward Hopper’ and it’s the light that’s special here. You are right on the Jurassic Coast, overlooking Hive beach and Lyme Bay (the views take in Golden Cap and the Isle of Portland). Add sunsets, candlelit dining, cream teas, cocktails and (since Covid) takeaway picnics. No televisions in the rooms but you can ask for one if you’re desperate. More here
Lewinnick Lodge, Newquay, Cornwall
With gob-smacking Atlantic views from a cliff-top perch on Pentire Head – a relatively quiet part of Newquay, beyond Fistral beach – this cool boutique hotel started as a surfy bar and brasserie, until the owners added a collection of romantic designer rooms above and below the restaurant. Sink into a king-size bed or relax in a luxury bath tub, wake up to waves crashing on the rocks below and enjoy a Cornish breakfast on Lewinnick’s brasserie sun deck. The cheaper rooms overlook the carpark, but in the premium option (luxury doubles) you get 180 degrees of sea and sky and the best sunsets (or sunrises) in town. Fistral or Crantock beaches are a 20-minute walk along the cliff path. Check it out here.
Midland Hotel, Morecambe, Lancashire
Designed by Oliver Hill for the London, Midland and Scottish railway in 1933, the Grade II* listed building overlooks Morecambe Bay from the west end of the Lancashire resort’s promenade. All cruise-ship decks and curves of glass, this is classic Streamline Moderne (Art Deco mated with sugar-cube modernism) and is best known for its spiral staircase, murals by Eric Gil and a roster of famous guests (hard to imagine Coco Chanel on the seafront at Morecambe, but she was there). After years of neglect, the hotel closed in 1998 and was in a sorry state of disrepair before its rescue and re-opening in 2008. There is a Sun Terrace restaurant, a glamorous Rotunda Bar, spacious contemporary rooms – not completely true to the originals, but nicely done in a clean, neo-Deco kind of way; most have spectacular sea views and some have balconies. Worth noting that a second Eden Project (as in Cornwall’s rainforest biomes), is on the cards for Morecambe: Covid permitting, Eden Project North is set to open in 2023. See English Lakes.
Highcliffe, Falmouth, Cornwall
Our favourite room is number 8 (stayed there twice), right at the top of the house with a huge bed, sunny yellow colours, a slipper tub in a gleaming bathroom which has a dangly chandelier and views of the harbour through an attic window. But all the rooms here are lovely (pocket-sprung mattresses, jazzy wallpapers, quality linen, power showers) and some rooms have views of Pendennis Castle. It’s on a fairly busy road, but Falmouth’s beaches, harbour and railway station are within easy walking distance, the owners are friendly and they are currently offering three Covid-friendly breakfast options (skip it, take it in your room or mosey on down to INDIdog, the Highcliffe’s own harbour restaurant. More info here.
Swain House, Watchet, North Somerset
Owners Jason and Annie Robinson fell in love with Watchet while searching the area for a wedding venue. They ended up buying a bolthole on the town’s High Street and then the shop next door. Eventually, they moved from London (they both worked for Disney) and turned the former junk shop into an adult-only boutique B&B. With its pewter-and-chocolate colour scheme, velvety sofas, roll-top tubs in snazzy bathrooms and walls of bold digital wallpaper (details from National Portrait Gallery masterpieces), Swain House has brought a whiff of urban cool to this time-warped harbour town (which, incidentally, claims to be the inspiration for Coleridge’s epic poem, The Ancient Mariner). The Quantocks, Porlock Bay and the Exmoor National Park are close. More info here or see Lesley’s review on i-escape.
Kaywana Hall, Kingswear, South Devon
It could have been teleported from California – or the Thunderbirds’ Tracy Island possibly – but this glamorous, modern pad is a re-make of an original 1960s ‘butterfly house’ designed by Devon architect Mervyn Seal (who populated the Torbay area with a small collection of similar houses). Current owners, Tony and Gordon, bought it with a view to restoration but they ended up having to demolish and rebuild, hiring an architect to replicate the original glass cube spaces, the carport and the dramatic inverted roof. Now their classy B&B, offers four luxury suites, woodland views, sunny terraces and a shimmering blue pool straight out of an early David Hockney. It’s not strictly speaking seaside, but Kingswear is a 10-minute walk (from there you can take the Dart River foot ferry to Dartmouth). Visit the website here.