Cornwall’s tourism chiefs seem very proud of the fact it’s the only county in the UK not to have a single mile of motorway.
To most people that might sound like a disadvantage, but the good folk of Cornwall see it as a real selling point if the amount of times it crops up in tourist information leaflets is anything to go by.
Of course that makes getting there a bit of an ordeal. But if you’re prepared to leave Hampshire at the crack of dawn you can find yourself whizzing over the county border in a little over four hours. And once there, you’ll very rarely be disappointed.
We headed to Watergate Bay on the north east coast. This surfers’ paradise is just a few miles away from the bright lights of Newquay – but a world away in terms of atmosphere, attractions and visitor numbers.
Two miles of gloriously sandy beach await and the best thing about Watergate Bay is that everything you need for a week of relaxation and fun is within easy reach.
The recently renovated Watergate Bay Hotel sits proudly on the clifftop. Built in 1904 it’s undergone many transformations in recent years, with the latest addition being a £3m spa, complete with 25-metre infinity pool and a cafe-bar with the most breathtaking view.
It’s the final piece in the puzzle for the hotel’s owners who always longed to create a ski resort feel right next to the beach. The hotel also has its own surf school, the Extreme Academy, plus a separate beachside restaurant/bar, The Beach Hut.
Hotel rooms start from £105 a night but we stayed at the nearby Beach Retreats apartments. These self-contained flats are perfect for families who want to be close to the beach but with the added bonus of self-catering.
However, even if you’re not a Watergate Bay Hotel guest, you can still make the most of what’s on offer – including that swanky spa complex.
Pick up a day’s swim club pass and you can enjoy one of the spa’s 60-minute treatments plus full use of the pool, cliff terraces with hot tub, cardio room, studio and the Ocean Room cafe-bar.
And that’s how I found myself ensconced in a comfy chair, feet dipped in a bowl of warm, scented water, looking out across the Atlantic Ocean as someone set to work on my toes. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy the perfect pedicure, the hotel’s spa complex really does take some beating. An hour later, and with my feet well and truly tended to, it was time to sit back and enjoy a drink in the Ocean Room. With the whole beach spread out in front of you it’s possible to see those engaged in Watergate Bay’s more energetic pursuits – including the rest of my family, who’d booked in for a half-day surf lesson. For £30 the Extreme Academy will lend you a wetsuit and surf board and set about teaching you the basics.
After working up an appetite, lunch at The Beach Hut was in order. This place gets packed and with its reputation for good food combined with great views and a friendly, laid-back vibe, it’s not hard to see why. Tuck into seafood, burgers and other hearty fare as you watch the comings and goings on this ever-popular beach.
Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen takes up a nearby spot, making Watergate Bay a little bit of paradise right here in the UK.
With a lifeguard-patrolled beach during the summer season, stunning clifftop walks and a caravan site all within easy reach, it’s got something to suit all budgets, even those looking for a bit of luxury.
A day’s swim club pass at the Watergate Bay Hotel costs from £80 and includes a treatment plus full use of the spa’s facilities for the day.
The Extreme Academy offers half-day group surfing lessons, with wetsuit hire and instruction for beginners, from £30 per person.
To find out more about the Watergate Bay Hotel, Extreme Academy and The Beach Hut restaurant/bar log on to watergatebay.co.uk
The hotel hosts various events on the beach throughout the year, including a polo tournament and kitesurfing demonstrations.