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Great escapes C

Cornwall writ large

ornwall: it’s English, yet Celtic and rugged, with a snarling coastline and the kind of surfing beach culture you’d

expect to find in Australia or California. The postcard-grade seaside towns,

however, belong unmistakably to this unique South-West peninsula. Tourism may be a major industry here, but the fishing day boats and lobstermen are still busy; these ports are far from being museums. In order to sample the myriad charms

of the northern coast, we based ourselves at the St Moritz Hotel in Trebetherick, overlooking the Camel Estuary, which flows into Padstow Bay on Cornwall’s north coast. Actually, lose the word ‘hotel’; in the best possible sense, St Moritz is a mini-resort, and pretty much a destination itself. Dominating the headland, between

the towns of Rock and Polzeath, the St Moritz emanates a neo-Art Deco cool. There’s a predictable, but nonetheless pleasing, profligacy of nautical stuff: lots of ocean liner glass and brass whatnots, portholes and gunwales, decks and terraces from where you can sweep your binoculars across the horizon and gaze out across the estuary to the Atlantic Ocean. If the unthinkable happens, and the

Port Isaac. Someone should really film a TV series here

sun proves too recalcitrant for you to make use of the outdoor pool with its sun-loungers and hammocks, you can always gravitate to the Cowshed Spa; somehow they’ve resisted the temptation to rebrand it the Camelshed. In the same building you’ll find

the excellent St Moritz restaurant, offering locally-sourced fish served with imaginative twists; there’s an arty- looking bar right next to it, perfect for cocktails and getting up to no good. It attracts a well-heeled bunch of couples and families; you’ve never seen so much Boden in one room in your life. Staff are uniformly pleasant and helpful; in fact we’d go so far as to say that we’ve never encountered a more can-do team. Salary bonuses all round, please, overlords. But hey, you don’t come to Cornwall just to quaff cocktails or dine high on the

hog; you can do that quite successfully at Archangel. You come for bracing walks on the cliff top, or strolls along beaches which seem to go on for ever and ever, where the sea is big and angry, and the air tastes of salt. Actually, the beach doesn’t go on

forever. It only goes as far as Padstow, where you can take the Black Tor ferry across the Camel Estuary to the town. En route along the beach you’ll pass shallow inlets, rock pools, sandy alleys, cave- riddled rocks and expanses of sand that wouldn’t disgrace the Gobi Desert. Padstow is a world fish & chip super-

power, as well as having more than its fair share of top dining opportunities, most notably Rick Stein’s seafood gaff; you can also rent out boats, yachts, and gear for paddle-boarding (a cross between punting and surfing). Head in the other direction, and

Cornish coves don’t get more smugglery, historic or twisty-turny than those of Port Isaac. The old inns are mainly Georgian, while the sea wall dates back to Henry VIII; it’s so picturesque it’s a wonder they don’t set some prime- time TV series here. About a brilliant vascular surgeon, maybe, whose latent haemophobia leads him to up sticks and become a GP in a sleepy seaside resort. Starring Martin Clunes, perhaps. Just a thought. A mini-break in North Cornwall

allows you to be as active or indolent as you wish to be. You can hike, surf, amble, pony trek, explore or merely station yourself with a view of the sea and a good book. Most importantly, you’ll achieve the main objective of any holiday: the kind of cobweb-blowing, battery-recharging experience that allows you to return to the nine-to-five a nicer, happier person. FL

Hotel file

Travel information Our very spacious suite, with bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen and balcony with sea views cost £325 per night, including breakfast

St Moritz Hotel, Trebetherick, Wadebridge, Cornwall, PL27 6SD; 01208 862242 Frome Life 41

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