Hotel review: Natural Retreats, St Austell, Cornwall
If you're searching for self-catering holiday in Cornwall, then check out the properties offered by Natural Retreats - you'll find some pretty special offerings. Well placed for the whole family to enjoy a holiday, these beautifully kept properties are nestled in a valley of farmland between St Austell golf course and the beach at Pentewan sands.
First impressions Just two miles from St Austell station and surrounded by natural woodland are 31 timber-clad, New England-style three- and four-bedroom villas, and three two-bedroom stone-fronted cottages. Inside, each is modern, spacious, uncluttered and clean. As you enter the property you'll find a bowl of fresh fruit and a hamper filled with ground coffee, bread, eggs and Cornish biscuits, as well as milk, orange juice, yoghurts, Cornish butter and award-winning Cornish cheese and a bottle of wine in the fridge to tide you over.
This place is perfect if you...
...are a fan of nature, peace and quiet. When we visited in early July, most of these luxury self-catering residences were occupied, but I hardly saw another soul and was struck by the quietness; waking up to birdsong was bliss. It's also a perfect base from which to explore the rest of Cornwall since nowhere in the county is more than an hour's drive away.
Best rooms in the house Ask for one of the villas next to the meadows or woodland. For instance, 17 and 23 have views over meadows, although families might prefer 15 with extra garden space for children to play.If you need your fix of technology, all residences come with a flatscreen TV, DVD library, CD player, iPod docking station and free wifi.
Where to eat
Nearby Fowey has some smart fish restaurants. Better still, head for pretty St Mawes and book a table with a harbour view at Hotel Tresanton (www.tresanton.com) for outstanding food and service. Also recommended is Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Cornwall (www.fifteencornwall.co.uk) in Watergate Bay on the north coast; book a table with a view over the impressive expanse of sandy beach and enjoy local and seasonal fare with a clean conscience – Fifteen is a charity that runs a unique apprentice scheme to train disadvantaged young people to be chefs. Or stay put and Natural Retreats can arrange for a chef to cook for you in your residence, using local and seasonal produce where possible.
Things to do, places to see...
There are plenty of local walks to enjoy – see the card in your residence for details of long and short treks. The traditional fishing village of Mevagissey is a 15-minute drive away. Also nearby are the Eden Project (www.edenproject.com; 10 per cent off entry when booked through Natural Retreats), and the more sedate Lost Gardens of Heligan (www.heligan.com) with its superb farm shop, Lobbs (www.lobbsfarmshop.com; a voucher for 10 per cent off is in your hamper).
Top tip? Take advantage of the concierge service. Natural Retreats works closely with local people and can arrange activities including bike hire (£12 per day), horse-riding, car hire, taxis and boat rides (thrill-seekers will relish the high-speed inflatable boat ride around St Mawes harbour). For sheer indulgence, ask for a beautician, masseur or hairdresser to visit your residence, all at good rates. Families can ask for a free beach pack, which includes a picnic rug, cool bag, beach tent, windbreak, buckets and spades, beach bats, skittles, cricket set, body boards, fins, goggles and snorkels.For a small charge, groceries can be bought and delivered to your residence. The refreshing can-do mentality means if you want something, such as a birthday cake and champagne, it can probably be arranged.
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Details Natural Retreats – Cornwall, Trewhiddle Park, Pentewan Road, St Austell, Cornwall PL26 7AD. Visit naturalretreats.com.