Hotel that offers the best of both worlds
THE CORNWALL Hotel manages to pull off the trick of being close to everywhere but seeming far away from it all.
It is on the outskirts of St Austell, but you can only see the town from the tennis courts.
The estate is near to blockbuster attractions such as the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the pretty coastal villages of Charlestown, Mevagissey and Gorran Haven.
The four-star hotel is only about an hour from Plymouth and guests can hear the purr of the traffic on the nearby A390.
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But many rooms, thanks in no small part to landscaping to hide the car parks, command a view almost entirely of greenery.
Guests may be able to hear the road, but they are also greeted by birdsong in the morning.
With a little effort you can obviously stay in a far more secluded guesthouse in the Duchy, but it is rarely on the doorstep of so many attractions.
And not many out-of-the-way places have a spa and a pool a few metres away.
The estate is not by the seaside. But this allows the buildings to have a more natural setting rather than plonking them on a beach.
There are plenty of beaches within a few miles, including our favourite at Gorran Haven.
The new rooms, spa and holiday homes are cleverly designed not to overwhelm the original 1834 house which used to command the estate.
The hotel was opened in 2010, after the buildings and grounds had lain empty for several decades.
Visitors don't feel they are entering a holiday complex when they turn off the main road – the different aspects of the estate reveal themselves gradually.
The modern reception is tucked away behind the house and access roads wind their way between mature trees.
The new rooms, in two wings stretching behind the house and reception, all have balconies.
Thoughtful design goes into everything down to the fixtures and fittings, with striking wallpaper in the rooms.
The house, which accommodates the main restaurant and several rooms, also boasts several Lenkiewicz paintings.
Very little is off-the-peg. Our room had three stern-looking women staring out of pictures.
The strangest feature about some of the modern rooms is they are largely open-plan, with the bath, shower and sink in a tiled area behind the bed in the centre of the room. The toilet and a second sink are mercifully tucked away in a second room.
It means one person can be trying to have a lie-in but they are disturbed by someone having a shower. You have to be comfortable in your own skin in full view of your fellow guest.
But it does give a lovely view from the shower out into the grounds.
And the management say they will switch your room if you do not want to have bed and bath in the same space.
The old manor house provides a more traditional home for the main restaurant and bars, with comfy chairs and books lining the walls. It is a very cosy and intimate space, even with the doleful gaze of those Lenkiewicz subjects.
The Arboretum Restaurant, with two AA rosettes, boasts a good selection of well-cooked and mostly locally-sourced fare. The waiting staff were friendly.
There is also a more modern breakfast restaurant offering a buffet and a la carte option.
The estate also has an infinity pool, offering dramatic views on to a walled garden.
It its part of The Clearing Spa, offering a huge array of health and relaxation treatments.
Guests may feel they are relaxed but they reach new levels of tranquillity after aromatherapy and a massage with the added bonus of not being kicked out when your appointment ends.
You can go to a relaxation room and enjoy complementary tea and coffee or a cold drink. It is a buffer zone before you join the real world.
There is also a well-equipped gym – though a run through the surrounding countryside is also a good alternative.
And a cycle hire company delivers bikes adjusted to your height right to the hotel reception.
For families, larger parties and frequent visitors, The Cornwall also has 22 detached woodland homes and planning permission to build 38 more.
The two-bedroom and three-bedroom homes are skilfully built to fit into their settings as much as possible and laid out so as not to crowd on one another.
They each offer two bathrooms, one en-suite, balconies, parking spaces and outside storage.
The homes are for sale, with buyers using them exclusively themselves – though they cannot be a main residence – or renting them out the whole year.
The hotel handles the upkeep of the homes and their surroundings and deals with the bookings, so visitors can book several homes at a time for big events such as weddings and Christmas. Buyers enjoy full access to all the estate's facilities.
Almost all of the existing homes have been sold. The remainder will cost you between about £240,000 and £340,000.
But the hotel does offer a guaranteed six per cent return on that price regardless of how often your house is rented out – better than you can get at the bank.