Hotel Tresanton sits at the quiet end of the postcard-pretty fishing village of St. Mawes in the Cornwall region of England. It was created in the late 1940s by a yachtsman and businessman as a place for his sailing friends to stay and became one of the best-known and best-loved hotels in Cornwall. Olga Polizzi, renowned interior designer and sister of famed hotelier Rocco Forte, bought the property in 1997 and completely redesigned and restored it.
Tresanton truly is a gem. The idyllic setting with breathtaking views over the water, the understated elegance of the decor, the attentive but not overbearing service, the fabulous food and its location near St. Mawes’ small beach all combine to make it the perfect package for families. It’s one of those rare hotels that guests want to go back to again and again.
Polizzi’s Italian influence is immediately noticeable. Guests feel like they’ve been transported to a seaside village by the Mediterranean rather than in England. The 30 rooms and suites are located in five cliffside houses, so perfectly integrated into the scenery that passersby are scarcely aware that there’s a hotel at all.
We stayed in Room 32, a two-bedroom family suite with a large private terrace, wonderful sea views and a wood-burning stove for chilly evenings. The suite had lovely touches everywhere, from the beach bags in the bedrooms to the selection of organic herbal teas in our fully equipped kitchen.
After a busy day of sightseeing, it was wonderful to relax and enjoy a fabulous dinner at Tresanton. Once the sun went down, it was a bit chilly on the terrace, but the staff offered us blankets and our server wheeled over a heat lamp. Children over 6 are welcome at the restaurant; with advance notice, the staff is happy to arrange babysitting for families with younger children.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A wonderful continental breakfast buffet, followed by an a la carte cooked menu served on the terrace, was the perfect way to start the day.
Every Sunday in high season, there is a fabulous barbecue on the terrace if the weather cooperates. It reminded us of a New England clambake on Martha’s Vineyard, but with a Mediterranean twist. The food was amazing and there were so many choices. Make a reservation, as it typically sells out.
For guests wanting to explore the area, celebrity chef Rick Stein has a few restaurants in nearby Padstow. His fish-and-chips takeaway cafe is perfect for families. And taking the short walk into St. Mawes for ice cream is a must.
Wellingtons (rain boots) are available for guests to borrow. Fortunately, we didn’t need them, but it was nice to know they were there.
The children’s playroom had a large selection of toys, a DVD library, a PlayStation and a foosball table. Our kids’ favorite was the St. Mawes edition of Monopoly — one of our best memories is retiring to our suite at the end of the day and playing Monopoly before bed. We even bought a copy of the game to take home with us.
Pinuccia is Tresanton’s magnificent 8-meter classic yacht. Built in 1939 to race for Italy at an international competition, she’s the most beautiful boat in St. Mawes’ harbor, with her slender line and tall wooden mast. From Easter to September, guests can arrange for a cruise with the Tresanton skipper and crew. We went for a sunset cruise on Falmouth Bay, complete with a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine for Mom and Dad.
A day trip to Porthcurno to visit Minnack Theater, one of the 10 oldest open-air theaters in the world, is quite an experience. The almost two-hour drive is beautiful, but part of the route is on very narrow country roads, making for an adventurous journey. Check the theater’s schedule and order tickets in advance.
On our trip to Minnack Theater, we stopped at a lovely pub near Mousehole for lunch and took a walk on one of the many public paths with spectacular views. Lunch at the Hidden Hut on Porthcurnik beach, just outside the seaside village of Portscatho, was another highlight.
Families can take the ferry to Place Island from the St. Mawes dock and walk the footpath to St. Anthony’s Lighthouse. Be sure to save time to shop at Onda, a boutique owned by Olga Polizzi’s daughter, or one of the many shops and galleries in St. Mawes.
From London, it’s a four-hour high-speed train ride to St. Austell. The hotel will pick up guests at the train station and then have a rental car delivered to the hotel. A car is a must, but driving here is not for the faint of heart. An alternative is to take the train from London to Truro and pick up a rental car there, then drive 45 minutes to St. Mawes, including a 10-minute ferry ride. Although getting to Hotel Tresanton is a bit of a journey, it is a little slice of heaven once you arrive.
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Editor’s Note: Sandy was provided a media rate to review the property for Ciao Bambino. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Sandy Pappas.
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