Be­side the sea­side

Su­san Kuro­sawa dis­cov­ers the gen­tle green joys of Corn­wall’s Rose­land Penin­sula around the charm­ing port of St Mawes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

The view from the ter­race level of the re­stored Tre­san­ton Ho­tel OU can sense the prom­ise in the name Rose­land . . . botan­i­cal ram­bles, fra­grance and soft green­ery. It’s the sort of evoca­tive la­bel loved by de­vel­op­ers of shop­ping malls, nurs­ing homes and apart­ment blocks. But it has a more nat­u­ral home on the south coast of Corn­wall, where the Rose­land Penin­sula tips into the sea. Here it’s all head­lands and hills, seag­ulls and semitrop­i­cal plants.

Two lines of an­ces­tors on my pa­ter­nal side, the Tre­vithicks and the Candys, are from this neck of Bri­tain. I even spy a speck of a town named Tre­vithick in my AA Road At­las but it barely stands out amid all the other towns with that ubiq­ui­tous Tre pre­fix, which means set­tle­ment. The lo­cals cor­rect my pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Tre­vithick, grad­u­ally com­press­ing the ‘‘ e’’ un­til it all but dis­ap­pears.

My des­ti­na­tion is not of the Tre va­ri­ety but the charm­ing port of St Mawes perched at the ex­trem­ity of the Rose­land, which plunges south from Truro, where Thomas Tre­vithick and El­iz­a­beth Ran­dal Candy tied the knot in the mid-19th cen­tury and promptly sailed off to Aus­tralia. One of their twin daugh­ters, Emma, was my great grand­mother.

Even more specif­i­cally, I am­bound for the Tre­san­ton Ho­tel, the much-ad­mired sea­side re­treat owned by de­signer Olga Polizzi, sis­ter of hote­lier Rocco Forte and mother of Alex Polizzi, the un­flinch­ing fixer-up­per of Fox­tel Life­Style Chan­nel’s

Olga bought Tre­san­ton in 1997 and set to work restor­ing its white­washed build­ings ranged over steep ter­races like so many jum­bled su­gar cubes. It had been a yacht­ing club in the 1940s and a fam­ily-style ho­tel there­after; Olga’s vi­sion was a bou­tique get­away with a touch of Mediter­ranean flair, a def­i­nite nau­ti­cal char­ac­ter and bags of class.

There are 29 rooms, all with sea views; sizes and con­fig­u­ra­tions vary con­sid­er­ably, some have ter­races, two are in the Nook next door and sev­eral are tucked up be­hind the main build­ing in a fam­ily wing sur­rounded by sub­trop­i­cal palms and plant­ings. One must be pre­pared to climb here, from the al­most­con­cealed en­trance on Lower Cas­tle Road up to the sun ter­race set with steamer chairs and pub­lic ar­eas and then up and up again to the gue­strooms. And fur­ther up, be­hind and be­side Tre­san­ton, are the steep Lamor­ran House Gar­dens, which could be trans­planted from the French Riviera, such is the pro­fu­sion of or­na­men­tal cit­rus trees, palms, aca­cias, agaves and aloes, linked by balustraded ter­races.

The decor through­out Tre­san­ton is crisp and quirky, with bowls of rinsed-blue and white hy­drangeas, nau­ti­cal touches such as or­na­men­tal lighthouses and ships’ bells, tongue-and-groove painted tim­ber and a colour scheme that speaks of sea and sand. In the bar, two navy blue chairs by the fire have but­ton backs that sug­gest a dou­ble-breasted ad­mi­ral’s jacket.

My small room, No 21, is al­most folded un­der the eaves, with slop­ing walls and navy-and-white decor, like an old-fash­ioned bathing box. At night I leave the case­ment win­dows open; the air is cold but the room is snug, the bed piled with feather pil­lows and a throw rug. Ev­ery­where is a clever re­gard for de­tail, from al­gae ex­tract bath salts and sea­weed soap to the re­cur­ring pat­tern of the ho­tel’s light­house logo.

This is one of the cheapest rooms at Tre­san­ton and I couldn’t be hap­pier; it feels like pitch­ing up in an Enid Bly­ton novel, with the prospect of smug­glers ahoy. Rugged-up strolls take me past flat-tothe-street vil­lage houses with names such as Cap­tain’s Cot­tage and Tav­ern Rocks. There are cosied-up cats on win­dowsills, bright blue shut­ters and striped urchin shells for sale from street bar­rows.

But the food alone at Tre­san­ton is worth a me­an­der down the Rose­land. Con­sider, say, a green-and-yel­low lunch of as­para­gus and spinach soup, broad bean and as­para­gus risotto with pea shoots and vanilla and lemon pan­na­cotta with fresh rasp­ber­ries.

End of the line: Build­ings cling to the hill­side at St Mawes

In bet­ter weather I would have taken off due right of the ho­tel on a walk past St Mawes Cas­tle, with its per­fect Tu­dor tre­foil. The fortress was built for king Henry VIII in the mid-1500s to keep those pesky Catholic rulers of Europe at bay. Then via a grassy foot­path be­side the River Fal to the 14th-cen­tury church of St Just in Rose­land and its slope of graves amid gun­nera and palms. Tre­san­ton has a cup­board of welling­ton boots for such out­doorsy pur­poses, the pairs di­vided into sizes and lined up like sol­diers.

But it’s cold and misty and, like other guests, I linger over break­fast in the sea-fac­ing din­ing room, with its creamy tim­ber walls, mo­saic floor and royal blue trim­mings. A long break­fast is no chore, ei­ther, with the likes of smoked had­dock and gruyere omelette on the menu. Olga is mar­ried to writer William Shawcross and ‘‘ if he’s here he rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck in, help­ing to serve break­fast’’ a reg­u­lar guest tells me with a wink.

In the fa­mously clear light of a Cor­nish sum­mer, there’s sail­ing on Fal­mouth Bay aboard Tre­san­ton’s 8m racing yacht Pin­uc­cia, built in Italy in 1938, or from Easter to Septem­ber hop aboard the ho­tel’s sleek speed­boat with ham­per to hand for a pic­nic across the bay. A ferry goes from St Mawes to Fal­mouth and the jour­ney takes about 20 min­utes; in sum­mer there’s also a small ferry from St Mawes to the head­land op­po­site, site of St An­thony’s light­house, the im­age used as Tre­san­ton’s logo.

A ho­tel that ap­pears this fright­fully posh could be up it­self but it’s not; there’s a friendly, fun at­mos­phere with no pres­sure to dine in the main restau­rant, to dress up or be proper. Chil­dren are en­cour­aged and catered for, with spe­cial menus and meal sit­tings and a games room and play­house; a staff mem­ber is avail­able to take lit­tle ones to the safe Tav­ern Beach in front of the ho­tel for crab­bing and pad­dling in sum­mer.

If the winds howl and the seag­ulls cough, it’s lovely to sit by the fire in the bar with beer-bat­tered hal­ibut and chips or lo­cal bangers and mash or suc­cumb to a Cor­nish tea with the creamy works be­tween 3.30pm and 5.30pm for a rea­son­able £8 ($16). There’s also a mas­sage room for all the usual rubs and scrubs.

If you are a keen gar­dener, Corn­wall is your green nir­vana. Tre­san­ton of­fers gar­den tours with Charles Fox, a mem­ber of the Fox fam­ily who cre­ated no­table Cor­nish gar­dens such as Glen­dur­gan on the Helford Pas­sage. With a rental car at your dis­posal, you are within strik­ing dis­tance here of such Gulf Stream gar­dens as the Vic­to­rian val­ley land­scapes of Tre­bath, the Lost Gar­dens of Heli­gan and the much-feted Eden Project. In Fe­bru­ary and March, there are mag­no­lias and camel­lias, April and May are the months for spring bulbs and gi­ant flow­er­ing rhodo­den­drons, June and July bring hy­drangeas and suc­cu­lents.

Dur­ing the course of my wan­der­ings it oc­curs I have not seen masses of roses, as the penin­sula ap­pears to pro­mote. Then I find ‘‘ ros’’ means heath or promon­tory and thus the name was born. Even without roses to stir ro­mance, maybe great-great grand­dad Thomas wooed El­iz­a­beth by the sea here and picked her a pretty lit­tle some­thing from a gar­den. At least I like to think he did. Su­san Kuro­sawa was a guest of Visit Bri­tain and Sin­ga­pore Air­lines.

Check­list

Train from Lon­don’s Padding­ton to St Austell takes four hours; taxi on­wards to St Mawes takes about 30 min­utes but it’s more stream­lined to drive from Lon­don (about five hours). The din­ing room is open to non-guests. Lunch is £25 ($52) for two cour­ses or £33 for three cour­ses; din­ner, £42 for three cour­ses. Rooms from £190 a dou­ble, de­pend­ing on the sea­son; break­fast and VAT in­cluded. Tre­san­ton also has a home­wares and cloth­ing shop, Onda, about five min­utes’ walk from the ho­tel, be­side the Victory Inn. More: www.tre­san­ton.com; www.ki­wicol­lec­tion.com/prop­erty/ho­tel-tre­san­ton. There is a light­house keeper’s cot­tage avail­able for hol­i­day rental at St An­thony’s. More: www.ru­ral­re­treats.co.uk. Tre­san­ton’s sis­ter prop­erty is Ho­tel End­sleigh on the edge of Dart­moor; it has a Sun­day-to-Thurs­day spe­cial of £140 a per­son a night, in­clu­sive of din­ner, bed and break­fast, twin-share. More: www.hote­lend­sleigh.com. www.visitbri­tain.com.au www.vis­it­corn­wall.com www.sin­ga­pore­air.com

Nau­ti­cal char­ac­ter and bags of class:

Cor­nish tasty: The din­ing room at Tre­san­ton

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