UK / Europe

Journey to the West country

Feel the sand between your toes and breathe the salt in the air at Watergate Bay, where lounging about is the lifestyle of choice

Amy Hughes

A wide, sweeping beach stretches out before us as we arrive at Watergate Bay. It’s both a place, and a property comprising a hotel and beach house-style rentals nestled into the side of a hill overlooking the bay.

England isn’t the first one books in for a beach break, the West country, particularly Cornwall, about as far west as you can go, is worth it, despite the chill. In fact, Cornwall is at its best in the off-season. A spring, autumn or even winter visit will reward, with empty roads, restaurant availability and reasons to sit by a fire with a warming drink. And don’t worry about it feeling like a ghost town. Cornwall is never absent of people.

There are lots of hotels, but the real joy of Cornwall is renting a place by the beach with a group of friends or family. The first deliberately non-resort, resort, has come to the north coast, at Newquay, and has created a space so relaxed, and comfortable, it’s hard to leave.

Golden brown bliss: Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay sits above a golden brown beach book-ended with rocky cliffs sculptured from the land. It’s a beach made for long, aimless and endless walks, before returning to the hotel for a soak in the outdoor hot tub.

A hotel, restaurant, and spa with a swimming pool and a cozy lounge are found in the main house. Up the hill, are eco-friendly, side by side beach houses stacked to allow each unit views of the bay from wide, wooden decks.

We stayed in one of the houses, where guests can stock their larders in advance, through There are ready-made hampers, or you can choose from basics to Cornish specialties, like yarg and cheddar cheese, or scones and clotted cream. Deliveries are made before arrival, with perishables left in the fridge. Arriving at a house with a stocked cupboard and chiller felt like we’d had a butler.

The house, with it’s floor-to-ceiling, walled window looking out over the bay, was light, and well-decorated in that Ile-de-Re, Martha’s Vineyard, why-can’t-we-live-like-this-at-home look – lots of striped, linen fabrics in sandy, neutrals and blonde wood. And, of course, a fireplace and board games.

Amenities down the hill in the main building are worth checking out. Dinner at newly re-opened Zacry’s was the best meal of our trip. The brasserie-style atmosphere is buzzy, and serves local meat, fish and produce sourced within a few miles. You’ll remember the venison days after, and order the crab starter; hold the breadcrumbs, for the perfect surf and turf.

Beach break: Watergate Bay, North Cornwall

Hotel guests have access to the Swim Club, an impressive 25m indoor infinity pool, which kept me going for nearly a one-mile swim and looks out over the bay. The club is also home to a small café/bar, giving way to a chilled-out sitting area, more like a reading room, with a massive window facing the bay, making it the perfect place to watch the sun set.

The non-spa, spa is also at the Swim Club. I collapsed onto the table in the darkened room ready to hear a long list of dizzying treatment options, only to hear the facialist offer a bespoke combination of massage and cleansing. No decisions to make – just as it should be in a place meant for de-stressing. The best bit came at the end, when I was ready for the sales pitch and the warnings about how to save my face from looking my age. Again, a total break from traditional spa talk. “We don’t really sell face products. We’re really focused on making people feel good,” she said. Hallelujah, and she was successful at that.

It was a little more than ironic that this was the first time I actually WANTED to buy the stuff she’d used to make my skin feel feather-soft.

After all that lounging and downtime, I spent a morning at the Extreme Academy, a beachfront water sports school. For two and a half hours, eight of us, clad in our wetsuits, boards in hand, watched attentively as our surf instructor showed us, step-by-step, how to ride a wave. There were unfit folk, and personal trainers among us, and we all managed to ride a few. I even stood on the board, on a wave, for nearly two seconds. We all got personal attention, and never felt bored. In fact, it was so exhilarating; I wondered why I’d never tried it before. I’ve found my new favourite sport, and now just need to learn how to ride a wave for more than a few seconds.

Watergate Bay

Newquay, Cornwall TR8 4AA

United Kingdom

Image credits: Visit Cornwall, Adam Gibbard (left) Matt Jessop (right)

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