Review by Fiona Duncan, published 22nd May 2011.
Bettye Gray was once to Cornish hotels what scones and jam are to Cornish clotted cream. Beginning in 1908 with a Newquay boarding house called Nagajanka, her family has been central to the Cornish hotel scene for the past century, and until her death earlier this year at the age of 94 (still taking a daily swim and only giving up her sports car in her late Eighties) she was its matriarch. Four generations on, various members still own Bedruthan Steps, The Scarlet, Watergate Bay, Headland, Sands and The Nare hotels.
The Nare was her retirement project. Aged 70, she saw a gap in the market and in 1988 launched The Nare hotel as Cornwall’s first luxury establishment.
An inauspicious Twenties building that rambles along beautiful Carne Beach, The Nare exudes a proudly resistant version of traditional luxury, one that could have been on offer in 1908, let alone 1988 and is lovingly maintained by Bettye’s grandson, Toby Ashworth, who has run the hotel for the past ten years.
Traditional? You bet. A no-nonsense nanny checks us in at reception and the head housekeeper soon pays a visit to make sure all is well. Sexy it ain’t (trouser presses are passion killers); sensible, comfortable and reassuring it most certainly is (Roberts radio, big refillable bottles of toiletries, unfussy bathroom fittings, good sheets on good beds, brown furniture, pretty country house fabrics, elaborate flowers). We have our own deck overlooking the shining sea and the sound of waves soothes the soul.
The more one lingers at The Nare, the more one admires and understands it, and why Toby, when deciding to write to guests who had stayed more than 20 times about the death of “Granny”, sent well over 400 letters. Any children present are usually part of multi-generational family gatherings. Dogs have their own à la carte menus. Guests who can no longer drive are offered a chauffeur service from their door, wherever that door may be. Those on their own are pampered and put up in homely, no-supplement single rooms.
No bothersome advance booking is required for the hotel’s activities: in fact Toby likes nothing better than to suggest a sail that day in his Cornish Crabber, picnic stowed, or to visit some of the many fine gardens in the area instead.
The days are brief at The Nare. Afternoon tea is a time for the Telegraph crossword and a snooze. But if the place was deserted by 10pm, dinner in the packed restaurant was a definite, buzzing high point.
Ah, tradition. Jackets are required. Ties are required. Waitresses dart about in black skirts, white pinnies and white gloves. If you haven’t seen an hors d’oeuvre trolley in a very long time, you’ll find one here, as well as a flambée trolley.
The two head nannies in black dicky bows, Barbara and Alex, are both benign yet commanding presences. Past retirement age they may be, but they are also “part of the family and here forever if they want,” according to Toby. How his Granny would approve.
There’s only one problem, and it’s not an inconsequential one. It would be wise to take out your hearing aid when you are told what your bill amounts to.
- Carne Beach, Veryan-in-Roseland (01872 501111; www.narehotel.co.uk). Doubles from £262 per night, including breakfast; singles from £136.
- Adapted room available for guests with disabilities. Trains to Truro: First Great Western (08457 000125; www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk)
WHAT TO DO
A good hike is to Nare Head and then on to the charming harbour and village at Portloe for lunch or tea, then back across fields and along typical Cornish lanes to Veryan. The hotel supplies a booklet of walks. Garden visiting is very much part of a stay at the Nare, and the hotel car is on hand to take guests to this part of Cornwall’s superb subtropical gardens, both public and open only by special appointment. Lamoran is recommended, as is St Just, a 13th-century church in a unique waterside semi-tropical garden setting.
Toby Ashworth is a lifelong sailor, having served in the Navy, and loves to take guests out in his Cornish Crabber to explore the rivers Fal and Helford.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Try the picturesque Smuggler’s Cottage café (coffees, lunches and teas in summer) on the Roseland (eastern) side of the Fal. During the Second World War, the cottage was requisitioned and the road and beach built as a D-Day embarkation point. The Smugglers is on the Tregothan Estate, home since 1335 to the Boscawen family. The Roseland Inn at Philleigh-in-Roseland (01872 580254;www.roselandinn.co.uk) is good, as are the Tolverne Tea Rooms (01872 520000; www.tregothnanshop.co.uk), Britain’s only tea plantation and largest botanical garden, a 15-minute drive from The Nare.