If you’re looking for perfect self-catering in South Cornwall, you need look no further than Boutique Retreats (the clue’s in the name).
Every property has that attention to detail that I wish I had the time, money and energy to put into our own London pad – it’s all about the Smeg fridges, Roberts radios, Dualit toasters and White Company linen. You know, the kind of place where they’ve inevitably shot an uber stylish magazine feature about, “Tilly, an interior designer who runs her own business from home, looks like a supermodel and had two impossibly cool daughters called Juno and Matilde.”
Mr B and I have stayed in three of their delights in Mousehole, Cornwall – including our honeymoon and our first holiday with Mini B in tow – so you can guess that we weren’t in the market for any old boring dive to crash out in at the end of a long day of overeating, I wanted somewhere truly gorgeous but equally homely and cosy to indulge in for a week of escapism in my favourite county.
The Loft is a cute and compact one bed hideaway, perfect for couples to use as base by daytime and to snuggle up on the sofa under one of the giant blankets of an evening - exactly what our winter honeymoon called for.
The Old Stores followed a year later when I was mid-way pregnant with Mini B, luring me in with its roll-top bath in the bedroom upstairs, where I could be found daily under a mound of bubbles with a mug of hot chocolate (pining for Prosecco). Its location right next to the award-winning Fore Street restaurant was rather handy also to excuse us both from our poor home-cooking skills.
The favourite was Number 4 - our first proper family holiday as a three.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to drag a buggy up and down the steep, slippery, stone steps every day like we did unless you are training for some sort of Iron Man challenge – we quickly learnt to shuffle Mini B to and from without his wheels. The advantage of being up the mahoosive hill is the gorgeous view across the town to the bay and the little private garden in front of the cottage for sunny morning breakfasts. The cottage is roomier than the others and the kind of place where you instinctively feel comfy and familiar – like a pair of favourite pyjamas. It has a small kitchen separated from the living area where there’s a big contemporary sofa as well as dining table and chairs to eat home cuisine. All that was missing was a spare month in our diaries to move in for the whole summer.
Mousehole (it’s pronounced Mouz-all if you want to get in with the lingo) is an idyllic little harbour village four miles from Penzance. It’s best known for its annual Christmas lights spectacular, where locals and tourists alike flock from miles nightly between Christmas Eve and New Year to watch the big ‘switch-on’ take place at dusk. Some 7000 light bulbs make up this unique festive display on the beach and up into the hills above the village – it makes Oxford Street look like a trashy Vegas striptease in comparison because there’s such a quaint community buzz about it all that the bigwigs spoil in the Capital by turning it into a X Factor circus – all jazz hands but no substance.
Aside from visiting at Christmas to watch some pretty lights being turned on, Mousehole is also home to The Old Coastguard Hotel on the seafront– recently refurbished and a winner for a grown-up dinner with a view, as well as renowned local artists’ studios and many other cutesey local gift and tea shops. Parking is a bit of a pig - don’t volunteer to drive, if, like me, you have no concept of the width of a car or don’t enjoy reversing blindly around 4-inch-wide corners onto oncoming traffic, but it’s a great base from which to explore the neighbouring towns and must-sees – some of which are:
- National Maritime Museum, Falmouth - it's not just Mini B who loves it here - the whole B brigade have been visiting here for years. There's some really insightful and fun interactive displays about life at sea (for anyone who loves dressing up, I'll meet you by the RAF Search & Rescue helicopter dressed as a pilot). Enjoy a sarnie with a view beside Falmouth's dock. nmmc.co.uk
- Minack Theatre – a cliff-top outdoor theatre constructed solely by hand by the late, inspirational Rowena Cade and local craftsmen. Impressive. minack.com
- Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek – the national rescue centre for seals and sea lions- I love this place so much that my family all pretend to be deaf when I suggest yet another visit. visitsealife.com/gweek
- Sennen Cove – a beautiful stretch of long sandy beach with National Trust walks and the rather interesting Porthcurno Telegraph museum which has just reopened after a £2.5 million refurbishment. porthcurno.org.uk
- Lunch at The Honeypot café in Penzance. The café is ten years old this year and I’ve been visiting from the very off – it does the best homemade vegetable curry, chocolate ganache cake (not necessarily to be eaten at the same time) ever. thehoneypotpz.co.uk
- St Michael’s Mount – walk across the causeway at low tide and sunbathe in the grounds of this historic castle in the sea- the postcard for Cornish Tourism. nationaltrust.org.uk/st-michaels-mount
- Dine at Ben’s Cornish Kitchen in Marazion. Officially Mr B’s favourite restaurant in the whole wide world – and we’ve had a fair few properly posh Michelin dines in our time, so that’s saying something. The food is spectacularly delicious and inventive – each dish is a masterpiece to behold and so beautifully fresh you can bet it only made it from the sea to the saucepan a few hours earlier. No visit for us is ever complete unless we’ve been here. benscornishkitchen.com
Boutique Retreat’s portfolio of picture-perfect holiday cottages has recently expanded to Devon and Somerset as well all of their enviable properties in Cornwall – methinks this is a good excuse to book another jaunt away, all in the name of research purposes.