The shore thing
For the perfect second home, consider an up-and-coming coastal town that may not be on your radar, says Flora Watkins
Flora Watkins urges us to consider some lesser-known parts of our coast for a holiday property
ON a summer morning, when the sea in Mount’s Bay, Cornwall (above), is a cerulean blue of the intensity usually found only in the Peloponnese, it’s easy to see why the New York Times included Penzance in its must-see places of 2017, at 14 out of 52 on its list— ahead of Madagascar and Kyoto.
At first light, ‘the sea is often just like glass, a beautiful piece of flat water,’ enthuses Susan Stuart, who moved to elegant Georgian Chapel House in 2013 after a career in the City.
Chapel House, which Miss Stuart runs as a boutique hotel, ‘sits about 60ft above the harbour’. On a clear day, ‘you can see right across from St Michael’s Mount to the Lizard, all the way round to Mousehole. The quality of the light is astonishing’.
Despite its beauty, Penzance is often just a transit point for visitors on their way to the Scillies. That’s a mistake, believes Miss Stuart. With its granite-and-stucco Georgian houses (the most of any Cornish town), Art Deco saltwater lido and burgeoning foodie scene, ‘it has everything you’ve got at Padstow—except Rick Stein’. The famous open-air Minack Theatre, carved into a granite cliff overlooking Porthcurno Bay, is a 20-minute drive away.
Ian Lillicrap, of Cornish estate agent Lillicrap Chilcott (01872 273473), says Mount’s Bay is a clever choice for those seeking a second home who’ve been priced out of Padstow and Rock. He recently launched a house on the seafront at Marazion, a couple of miles east of Penzance, directly in front of the Mount, at offers over £1 million.
‘We agreed a sale comfortably in excess of the guide price, with many disappointed buyers in tow,’ he discloses. Two-bedroom apartments on the seafront with ‘stupendous views’ of the castle can, however, be found for less than £300,000 (see box).
When trying to pinpoint the ‘next Padstow’, a sure-fire sign that an area is on the up is the presence of national estate agents. Christopher Bailey, a partner at Knight Frank’s Exeter office, cites Mawgan Porth in north Cornwall and Croyde in Devon as his ‘headline destinations’. These are ‘not A-grade addresses by any stretch of the imagination, but I just know they will be’, he explains. Surfing there is some of the best in the country and The Scarlet eco-hotel in Mawgan Porth does excellent food.
Similarly, Kingswear and Brixham in Devon and Weymouth in Dorset are still ‘a bit daytripper-ish; the shops need to go through another iteration of being spruced up’—but provide the ‘same lovely lifestyle’ of, say, the vastly more expensive Salcombe and Dartmouth.
Mitch Tonks opened the fourth branch of his Rockfish restaurant
‘The New York Times included Penzance in its must-see places of 2017
in Brixham harbour in 2015 and Weymouth’s sandy beach has a delightfully old-fashioned feel, with donkey rides and a Punch-and-judy show.
On the other side of the country, Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, is also shedding its ‘kiss-me-quick-hat’ image, according to Daniel Money of Sowerbys (01328 711711). People who would once have looked at Blakeney and Burnham Market on the north Norfolk coast are increasingly turning to Wells, he discloses. This pretty, unspoilt little town still retains a few of the arcades and seaside shops ‘that add to its charm,’ he continues—but ‘Wells has really grown up, with superb bistros and galleries’.
During the summer, a miniature steam train takes holidaymakers from the port to the sweeping sandy beach that’s bordered by pine trees, dunes and colourful beach huts. Fishermen’s cottages can still be found for less than £400,000 and prices for Georgian town houses near The Buttlands, a green
ringed by trees, start at closer to £1 million.
In neighbouring Suffolk, Southwold and Aldeburgh command some of the highest coastal prices in the country. Hannah Cooper, a partner at Strutt & Parker in Ipswich (01473 214841), suggests looking further south—to Felixstowe. The Edwardian town has had a rather down-at-heel reputation (Wallis Simpson awaited her divorce there), but this is beginning to change.
Although Old Felixstowe, a couple of miles north of the town, is some way from reaching ‘the Southwold level of desirability, it is very picturesque,’ says Mrs Cooper. ‘Ferry Café does incredible seafood and it’s great for children,’ with crabbing and boat trips on the river. ‘We’re getting more and more buyers considering it for a second home,’ she reveals.
A Martello tower, recently on with Strutt & Parker, attracted ‘considerable interest’ at £750,000 and architect-designed houses with coastal views can command up to £700,000.