Cornwall, England

England is known for its gloomy weather. Gray skies, wellies and umbrellas, and constant chance-of-rain forecasts. So it’s a bit of a surprising decision for a beach vacation. But Cornwall–the southwestern tip of England–is known for having the mildest and the sunniest climate in the country. Add cute fishing villages, windswept beaches, and dramatic cliffs for a picturesque retreat. The only problem: where to stay on the peninsula?

Photo: Hotel Tresanton
Photo: Hotel Tresanton

Foodies should head to the tiny fishing town of St. Mawes on the southern coast. A former yacht club–and the surrounding buildings–have been turned into Hotel Tresanton. The rooms have a nautical decor, Cornish artwork, and panoramic views. St. Anthony’s Lighthouse is in the distance. Watch boats bob in the calm harbor or the waves get bigger as storm clouds roll in. Fill up on West Country yogurt, Welsh rabbit, or smoked haddock for breakfast. Borrow nets and go crabbing with bits of pancetta. Board the Pinuccia–Tresanton’s yacht–to sail around Falmouth Bay, the Helford Estuary, and the River Fal. And walk along the two-mile coastal path by St. Mawes Castle–built by Henry VIII–and the 13th century St. Just in Roseland Church. Return to the hotel in time for dinner. Begin with a glass of Pinot Blanc on the terrace. Move to the dining room for Caesar salad with Tresanton squid and half of a St. Mawes lobster. It’s all about the seafood in St. Mawes.

Photo: Scarlet Hotel
Photo: Scarlet Hotel

If you prefer to spend your time at the spa, opt for the clifftop Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth on the north shore. Start the day by taking a Hatha yoga class. Move to the calm spa, which has tented rooms, softly lit lanterns, and cocoon-like relaxation pods. Book a seaweed bath–it’s not as slimy as it sounds–followed by a hot poultice massage. After your treatments, relax in the natural pool on the rooftop. It overlooks the wild Celtic Sea. The view is so engrossing that you decide to have lunch–Cornish hake and a glass of white wine from Cornwall’s Knightor Winery–on the rooftop lounge. The wind changes quickly though, so bring a light sweater. If you can tear yourself away, take surfing lessons or go horseback riding on the beach. And book a facial for the next morning.

St. Ives, Cornwall, England

Real beach lovers–the ones who don’t need a distraction from the sun–should follow A30 toward St. Ives on the western end of the peninsula. The small town’s population swells during the summer. People come for the galleries and the craft shops tucked along winding streets, the breathtaking cliffs, and the gorgeous beaches. Spend the day on the golden sand of Carbis Bay Beach. You’ll forget you’re in England staring at the calm, turquoise water. Or head to popular Porthminster Beach, which overlooks Godrevy Lighthouse. And when the sun finally starts to go down, follow the shaded footpath to the Salt House. The bed and breakfast only has two rooms, but they’re perfect. Goose down duvets, complimentary mini bars, soaking tubs, and enormous windows with views of St. Ives Bay. Tea and Cornish bacon with poached eggs are delivered to your terrace in the morning. Early enough for you to eat and head to the beach before the crowd arrives.

It may not have been the first place that came to your mind for a beach vacation, but Cornwall, England seems to have plenty of options for a great trip. Now if you could just ensure that the rain stays out of the forecast.

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