Why book The Idle Rocks?
Proudly jutting out at the end of St Mawes’ high street, this white-walled, grey-roofed hotel sits as serenely as its name suggests. With interiors as soothing as the sound of waves gently lapping against its stone walls, sundowner cocktails on the terrace, hikes around the Roseland Peninsula and a new spa treatment room, this is the ultimate British weekender.
Set the scene
If you’ve arrived by train, hop in a cab and ask to follow the scenic route from Truro to St Mawes, taking you along shady, tree-covered lanes and across the forest-bordered waters of the River Fal via the King Harry Ferry. St Mawes is a pretty little village; its streets are lined with delis and cafes, kids hyper from ice cream and pasties tear down cobbled alleys and couples with takeaway fish and chips huddle on the bustling harbour to watch the boats come and go. Recent guests at the Idle Rocks have included Made in Chelsea‘s Oliver Proudlock and Emma Louise Connolly on their honeymoon, which will undoubtedly cement the hotel’s reputation among influencers seeking a Cornish weekend away. Experienced travellers, however, book rooms during the week for a more calming, laid-back atmosphere – and to have Summers Beach all to themselves.
Ever since St Mawes was advertised in The Times in the mid 20th century as a ‘British edition of St Tropez on the Riviera’, rumours of the hotel’s sunny, European feel slowly spread around the UK. People began travelling from far and wide to hike around the Roseland Peninsula and take a dip in the Fal estuary. In 2010, David and Karen Richards bought the hotel and gave it a much-needed refresh. Now, The Idle Rocks has a holiday aura that feels more Mediterranean than English Channel, although roaring log fires, wicker baskets and bookshelves laden with thick vintage tomes add a touch of British rusticity. Keen to create a home-from-home atmosphere, Karen designed the interiors herself. Rooms are peppered with antiques and treasures collected from hidden corners on her travels, from marble busts and Berber rugs to family photographs and ceramics.
Bedrooms are a continuation of the relaxed, breezy aesthetic of the downstairs living area, and are the perfect spot for a post-swim snooze or indulgent soak. In our first-floor bedroom, we loved the window seat draped in furs and cushions for cosying up and dipping into one of the provided Daphne du Maurier books (the author lived in Cornwall for most of her life). A blue-and-white colour scheme mirrors the lapping waves outside, and nautical touches include thick, coral-covered curtains and a box clad with mother-of-pearl in the bathroom. A free-standing roll-top bath has the same waterfront view as the bedroom, plus the deeply soothing scent of Aromatherapy Associates products.
Food and drink
In the morning, the light-filled dining room has tables facing out across the waves. Baskets brimming with freshly baked pastries and a bowl of homemade granola and yogurt are ready and waiting. A cooked breakfast is also available, with choices including eggs Benedict, smashed avocado and poached eggs on sourdough, grilled Cornish kipper and Scottish smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. Take lunch on the south-facing terrace – order twice-baked Cornish crab and Gouda soufflé; citrus-cured wild sea bass with blood orange and Exmoor caviar; and local lamb with asparagus, Parmesan and anchovy gnocchi. In the afternoon, soak up the views across the harbour and River Percuil over a cocktail – try one The Idle Rocks’ take on a classic G&T, from a St Mawes gin with harbour rock samphire and lemon to a Cornish twist with The Wrecking Coast Clotted Cream gin with cinnamon and strawberries.
Come evening, book a table at The Idle Rocks or pootle down to sister hotel St Mawes for a change of scene. Shelves of mismatched pots, model boats, shells, sculptures and piles of books create an endearingly eclectic style inside but nab a table on the balcony for pink-tinged sunset views across the harbour. Start with a zingy sea-bass ceviche with chilli and coriander or lamb chops with polenta and pea salsa before trying a main of hand-cut squid-ink linguine with datterini tomatoes, clams and pangrattato or perfectly pink slices of bavette steak with charred onions and smoked cascabel beans.
As wild and wonderful as Cornwall is in colder months, The Idle Rocks comes into its own in the summertime. Steps from the hotel lead down to waves hemmed with white horses for refreshing morning swims, with rewards in the form of cinnamon buns and steaming mugs of coffee at nearby bakery Da Bara. Naturally, coastal walks are the best way to explore the Cornish landscape, particularly across the Roseland. Take the ferry to Place Creek to stumble upon vine-covered churches, cliffs tumbling down to secluded beaches with no noise but the crashing waves and distant echoes of a lighthouse horn. Hike across the peninsula to The Hidden Hut for tubs of spicy lentil dal, creamy tomato soup or veggie chilli with sweeping beach views. For a buzzy meal out, get the ferry into Falmouth for supper at Restaurant Mine, one of our favourite restaurants in Cornwall. Choose between a lively open-kitchen vibe inside or courtyard dining outside, where the town’s younger crowds gather for cocktails and dancing at the Chintz Symposium.
Staff are eager to help – ask for tips about the best walks and shops nearby.
Head chef Dorian Janmaat sources most of the restaurant’s produce from local growers and suppliers, using Cornish fishing boats and farmers to support local businesses and reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint. Similarly, the team has sourced alcohol from local distilleries including Trevethan, Tarquin’s, St Mawes Gin and award-winning Cornwall vineyard Trevibban Mill. The hotel uses a recycled electric milk float to collect waste and offers guests an electric-car-charging station in the car park.
Accessibility for those with mobility impairments
The downstairs living and dining area is wheelchair accessible, and there are two ground-floor bedrooms in the adjoining cottage.
Anything left to mention?
There’s a new therapy room, the Reef Knot Retreat, on the first floor. Book in for a wellness escape and aromatherapy experience that includes a consultation to figure out what essential oils best suit your emotional and physical needs. Choose between a destressing blend of lavender, rosemary and ginger, a mix for inner strength made up of sage and frankincense or a deeply relaxing combination of camomile and sandalwood. The Swedish and neuromuscular massage techniques make use of Aromatherapy Associate oils to relieve tension, aid lymphatic drainage and ease stress. This is the ultimate way to soothe muscles after a day spent hiking along the Cornish coast.
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