The Scarlet, Cornwall

“A green hotel overlooking the blue Atlantic”

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 21st February 2010.

Why Scarlet? "We just liked the name," says Emma Stratton, one of three sisters who conceived this exceptional new hotel. "The Scarlet: a green hotel overlooking the blue Atlantic, that's how we think of it."

Green the Scarlet most definitely is. But though the superbly designed construction may harbour a biomass boiler fuelled by local wood chippings, as well as grass roofs, solar panels, reed-bed filtration and grey-water recycling, there's no sense of a hair-shirt approach. In fact, once inside the airy, multilevel building, the feeling is one of sybaritic relaxation. The rather tacky bungalows that cluster around the hotel are forgotten and the stunning view, of romantic Mawgan Porth beach and the Atlantic, takes hold.

Most hotels these days are used as bases from which to explore the area; at the Scarlet it's difficult to tear oneself away, even to stroll along the coast path at the end of the garden, or across the golden sands of the beach below.

The owners are also the owners of Bedruthan Steps, a large family-friendly hotel higher up the same hill. When they decided to build a new hotel, they came up with the concept of an eco-friendly, adult-only environment with a calming spa and good food.

It's a hard thing to pull off, but it works. Not that the interior decoration helps, reminding me more of a design hotel in Frankfurt than a seaside hotel in Cornwall, with lots of geometric patterns and bruised, moody colours in the dining room. But the architecture works. Built to harmonise with the view and the surroundings, the airy, multilevel construction has flat roofs covered in sea thrift, rocks and reclaimed groynes to resemble cliff tops and beaches, and infinity pools that seem to reach to the sea. The reed-fringed, rock-strewn outdoor pool extends from the indoor one, punctuated by two wood-fired hot tubs between boulders overlooking the sea.

Downstairs is the womblike spa, specialising in Ayurvedic "journeys", with tented treatment rooms and pods suspended in the dark for "deep relaxation" (weird whooshing plumbing noises, but they are being sorted out) and an all-glass sea-facing room for "light relaxation".

Just when the whole thing looks as if it's edging dangerously close to a holistic retreat, with people padding about the hotel in towelling robes (they don't, thank goodness, but they could if they wanted), comes the very decent wine list (Europe only, for green reasons, but well balanced) and the accomplished cooking of Ben Tunnicliffe, who held a Michelin star at his previous restaurant.

The 37 bedrooms, arranged in clusters, are decorated more naturally than the public rooms and include five types, from the smallest "Just Right" rooms to the huge "Indulgent" rooms. They all have excellent showers and tubs, beds and lighting, and sea and sunset views. Don't miss the sunset, whatever you do.

Tredagon Road, Mawgan Porth (01637 861800; scarlethotel.co.uk) Double b & b from £180 in low season, £270 high season. Excellent rooms for guests with disabilities. More reviews by Fiona Duncan at thehotelguru.com

The Hotel Guru verdict

Rooms
4 out of 5

Five types, all cool and practical, with excellent facilities

Service
4 out of 5

Mainly staffed by people who've chosen Cornwall and are being trained on the job; no reception

Character
5 out of 5

Innovative building; genuinely calming

Food and drink
4 out of 5

Quality helps make the hotel special

Value for money
4 out of 5

Not cheap, but the chance to relax is worth the bill

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