The Headland Hotel, overlooking Newquay’s Fistral Beach, is a surprise on many levels. The heart sinks slightly driving up to the impressive but distinctly Victorian pile, much like those which sit atop cliffs all round the British coast. But inside, while resolutely Gothic in character, recalling the great age of the railway, the hotel is anything but faded.
It may be a grande dame, but it’s one whose owners have reinvested £25m in improving the Cornwall property over 30 years.
The Headland may have inspired the Newquay Riots among disapproving fishermen when construction was started in 1897. but the aim of building the finest hotel in the south-west was clearly achieved. Edward VII was a frequent visitor with Alexandra, Edward ViII and George VI found the hotel good enough for princely visits, and half a century later, the hotel caught David Bailey’s attention for a Vogue fashion shoot.
In the ballroom era, the BBC broadcast band music from the hotel regularly, and its conversion to an RAF hospital during World War II added a ghostly nurse or two to the slightly strange accoutrements, which include lobby sculptures of giant dogs and a massive horse’s head. In 1987 it became a location for the film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.
More recently, the current owners have installed an indoor pool and spa, resurfaced the tennis courts and upgraded the rooms, but the pride of the property is the adjacent Headland Cottages. Another surprise, given a slightly barracks-like exterior;
inside, these cottages are exquisitely furnished in contemporary seaside style. There looks to be much variation, with just a few cottages having sea views and others having small balconies rather than patios. We loved Waterside 5, with its vaulted ceilings, large sun deck and plenty of room for a family of four plus dog to lounge and dine inside and out.
The expansive sweep of Fistral Bay is just a couple of minutes’ walk, and Fifteen at
Watergate Bay, now liberated from Jamie Oliver but remaining the region’s finest
dining option, is a 15-minute drive. Dinner in the hotel itself is fairly decent, and the
option to walk in for a cooked breakfast – including imaginative options like eggs Benedict
and Florentine – is an option not available in your standard self-catering cottages. Ditto the daily maid service, which helps justify the fairly steep nightly rate.
These are five-star cottages in every sense of the word, and families seem to be taking full advantage. It’s worth noting that dogs can also be accommodated in the hotel itself, which runs a kid’s club at no extra charge, and also fields a surfing school.
2-bedrooms cottages from £109 per night