We'll admit that first glances at Bedruthan belie what's inside - the sprawling clifftop complex could be mistaken for a picturesquely placed office block - but the lack of presence works to the hotel's advantage. Blending into the surrounding landscape, this family-run stay puts the wave-swept Cornish beaches centre stage. You're here for the swell; the salty sea air; the ease of access to the UK's best surf spots. If you spend your days holed up inside the mid-century architecture of this shoreline stalwart, you're doing a Bedruthan holiday wrong.
Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows frame the dramatic vistas beyond, everywhere from the bedrooms and dining rooms to the spa. But don't expect airs and graces. Rather, you'll feel like you've landed at a big family home, ready to let loose with a Boden-clad extended clan for a few days. It's a summer holiday wrapped up in Seventies fabrics, with bucket-and-spade-touting broods pottering through the meandering halls, sandy-footed and sun-soaked kids zipped up in neoprene. Bar the spa, children are free to roam, so silent tranquillity is not on the cards. The buzz; the movement; the sense of adventure, though, is what makes this clifftop stay unique. Think of it as your very own summer camp.
First things first: ask for a sea view. The best of the 101 rooms come with ceiling-height picture windows overlooking the dramatic North Cornwall coastline. Airy, spacious and colourful, interiors feel suitably eclectic, in keeping with the hotel's character. Expect soft furnishings in Austin Powers-esque patterns and splashes of vivid colours throughout, with paintings on the walls by artists from up and down the coast. We want to say the vibe is craft-table cool, and we mean that in a nice way. It's fun, graphic and a little bit funky. In the bathrooms, you'll find Cornish-made toiletries that smell like the sea breeze, bottled.
What's for breakfast?
There's a buffet of locally sourced produce on offer at the low-key Wild Café - think chocolate and banana muffins, cereals and apple juice from down the road - but we opted for the kitchen's specials each morning. Eggs and bacon or a Cornish cheese charcuterie board? Yes, please. Head to this relaxed eatery when the weather gets stormy, too - our Cornish cream tea enjoyed while overlooking turbulent seas was a highlight.
How about lunch and dinner?
Make a reservation at The Herring for thoughtfully plated local fare with views across the Atlantic. Decked out with wooden flooring and heavy red curtains, and atmospherically lit, you'll want to take a window-side seat for front-row sunset views.
The menu is small, but purposeful. Expect locally caught seafood and produce sourced from farms down the road. We had colourful courgettes served with dollops of whipped goat's cheese and drizzled in wildflower honey one night; the next, crispy skinned hake precariously balanced over seasonal vegetables.
Lunches are the domain of The Wild Café, and lean heavily on fishermen's favourites - the likes of smoked haddock and mussel chowder. If you've got little ones in tow, the relaxed restaurant is great for early-evening meals. Bangers and mash will go down a treat.
Is there a bar?
Yes, with a banging Eighties soundtrack.
Let's talk about the spa. Tucked beneath the hotel proper, a little lower down the cliff, it's the place to spend an afternoon soaking and experiencing the foliage-filled sensory garden, all with uninterrupted Atlantic views. Wrap yourself in a fluffy bathrobe and head down to dip into the lavender caldarium and defuse stress with a eucalyptus steam room session. The spa's speciality is the garden experience: you'll be dry-scrubbing in the Cornish sea air with Himalayan salt paired with foraged herbs, then heading into a cedarwood sauna to sweat out your toxins. Take a dip in the outdoor hot tubs, then scrub down for a second time with a seaweed concoction and end the experience around the fire pit.
There's plenty to keep you busy elsewhere, too. There's the surf school, of course, and beach art sessions, but also plenty of non-weather-dependent activities. Indoors, you've got painting sessions, seasonal fairs featuring local artisans, storytelling workshops and candle-making classes. And, new for 2022, is the chance to get creative with the hotel's artist in residence.
Tucked down one of the never-ending hotel corridors, you'll find the gift shop. Head here for local ceramics, cute stationery and works by local artists.
How about their green credentials?
We couldn't find much on the website. Most of it pointed to the hotel's sister property.
What about accessibility?
The hotel has one adapted room and the restaurant, bar and spa are all accessible. Note that there are steps down to the beach, however.
Things I should know
Bedruthan is dog-friendly, so pooches can join you on your great Cornish escape, and kids are very much welcome. If sandy-toed kids aren't your vibe, you might want to check out the hotel's sister property, the adults-only Scarlet Hotel.
Within a short walk I can find
Windswept beaches, Cornwall's famous surf and long, blustery walks along pretty coastal paths. Lace up your boots and head out on the Bedruthan Steps circular walk to visit the rock stacks mythologised as giant's stepping stones, or jump in the car in search of Watergate Bay, Porthcothan, Treyarnon or Harlyn Bay beaches, surfboard strapped up top.