Review of The Old Coastguard and the Gurnard’s Head.
The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
We had a choice: a whole week in a too-small holiday “cottage”, cooking our own meals or just two nights of comfort and cooked food at an EatSleepDrink hotel in the far west of Cornwall with breakfast and dinner included.
Well of course I didn’t choose the cottage! As soon as my husband, we’ll call him H, came up with this particular bright idea I pounced on it. The only problem was getting a room: as usual we had left it to the last minute and to our surprise a lot of other people had found these two hotels first. But, undaunted, we scrabbled around and with a bit of help from two very friendly receptionists, managed to bag a room at one of each, on consecutive nights. We would at least get to compare the two hotels, only a short and heart-touchingly beautiful drive separates them.
We had struck lucky with some golden Midsummer weather. Our car’s broken air-conditioning was unable to spoil our pleasure as we trundled the length of the West Country Peninsula, stopping to picnic near Dozemary Pool on the high windy back of Bodmin Moor and eat icecream at the nearly-deserted Restormel Castle. (Will Self is wrong! Here is one English Heritage site where you can wander at will and drink in the quiet atmosphere…midweek only of course…).
The Old Coastguard Inn looks like a very ordinary hotel, white and black paint, hard to pick out from the other buildings at that end of Mousehole. But round at the back modern luxury takes over; a fancy Roundhouse and sun lounge welcomed us as we stumbled hot and stiff-legged from the car. The staff were all friendly, and helpful (no, my request for a carton of goats milk to be stored in the fridge for my breakfast was not in the least annoying, faddy or sad! They were all kindness.) We had booked late but our room was not a cubbyhole looking onto the car park. No, we had a lovely attic suite, (Room 6, St Clements, they list the rooms on the website, though without photos). A square window gave us a picture view of St Clements Rocks and the sea, and two little windows behind the bed gave us a peep of the harbour and village. Our room was pretty and comfortable and the attached children’s room gave a nice reminder that we were free of childcare duties now and only a momentary twinge of sadness. We had only ourselves to indulge and we did just that, starting with tea on the terrace overlooking a lovely green garden shaded by palm trees, with a view right across the bay to the Lizard – glorious and mesmerising. This hotel (unlike the Gurnards Head) has good mobile reception which means our kids can phone to delight and annoy us, so our peace was not quite complete. OK, I confess, it was me who phoned my daughter, then my mother just to “share” the experience. Both were delightful and put up with my blatant gloating, so I have no complaints at all.
Once I’d managed to put my phone down for five minutes I attempted to get into Cornwall’s arty spirit.
Dinner was served with a view. The restaurant is in the hotel bar, which has a traditional, but good, pub décor with wooden tables and floor. The real fire was not needed today but I could just imagine wanting it on a grey cold day. We were given a big table facing the sea and sat side by side watching our own big real-life screen of slowly darkening blue, flickering sea; little boats pottered back and forth and the Scillonian steamed past returning to Penzance from the Scilly Isles. It is a view that draws you in: the sun behind to the West lowered and lit up the houses on the opposite side of the bay to show a white row of houses above Prussia cove. A relaxed evening guaranteed.
I’ll skip the full restaurant review thing (I think you can find one online anyway), but must mention a delicious salty sherry, very good with light and crunchy pork crackling strips dipped in a cider mayonnaise. Oh, and the scallops. The food complemented the view wonderfully.
One other really good thing about both hotels is that you can do some really fantastic walks from the front and back doors: not just good scenery, some of the best anywhere. After dinner we strolled down through the garden and took the steps down to the sea shore. It’s rocky, but there’s an easy path, and we took the path into Mousehole. The famous harbour is just a few yards away and this evening a group of young surfers in wetsuits (no big waves today) were amusing themselves, and us, by jumping off the high end of the quay into deep water. It was high! Some were doing Olympic-style dives and spins which were impressive but a little scary. I checked from the peephole window in our bedroom later and a few stragglers were still jumping – no ambulance in sight, phew! I also checked all the windows several times before sleeping just to get a bit more of those lovely views.
Our bed was comfortable (as promised on the website, plenty of reading material provided and all very freshly and prettily decorated. Tea things were hidden in the wardrobe for some reason, but I got them out very quickly (I drink a lot of tea). Only one problem with our room was that we had to keep the side windows shut to keep out the smell of cooking from the kitchen downstairs.
Breakfast was in the bar, but at the sun lounge end so it didn’t feel pubby. Breakfast food was good, not the big range you might get in a bigger place but good quality: nice breads! Do they make their own yoghurts? The compotes/jams were homemade, definitely.
Afterwards we wanted to do another walk straight from the hotel. Could we leave our car in the hotel car park for a few hours? No trouble at all! So, car all packed up, off we set on foot, from the front door this time, along the harbour front and through the narrow pretty streets of Mousehole to find the coast path to the West.
We were walking to Lamorna (“only an hour!” said the girl on Reception). It took us nearer two; I am slow on the uphill bits and there are plenty of ups and downs. Can you complain about too much sun? We did, but then we are ungrateful, and I had forgotten the sun cream and we got very hot on the uphill bits. But we didn’t complain the whole way. We watched Mounts Bay and the Lizard slowly slide out of sight as we rounded the corner. This is the soft Southern side of the Penwith Peninsula: plenty of craggy cliffs and stark tumbling rocks, but in between are hidden sandy beaches, picturesque coves and steep, sheltered valleys crammed with dense woods and tropical plants.
As we rounded the final headland, Lamorna Cove was a welcome sight, but with a surprise this time; the damage from last winter’s storms was shockingly apparent. The old granite seawall had been warped and torn; one big chunk lies stranded in the water looking, from a distance, like a broken Lego construction. If you visit Lamorna, and you should because this is a powerful sight, walk up to the headland to the South: from there you can see the seawall fully in all it’s solid fragility.
(Lamorna: If you missed this bit of news in the winter storms then have a look at this:
I also found this on trip advisor (someone with uncanny forsight):
Lamorna has a lovely harbour-side café and on a sunny day its outdoor terrace, perched up above the harbour is not to be missed (there’s an undercover bit for wet windy days). If it’s quiet you can sit and enjoy the peace and beauty with coffee and a book, as I did while I waited for H who had gamely offered to walk back and fetch the car from Mousehole. You can also try a nice seafood lunch or early cream tea (I’m afraid we tried both).
If you want to walk back to Mousehole, there’s a nice (flatter) walk across the fields. Here’s a local history lesson: my grandmother as a child says it was a tradition for the children to walk this path, walking all the way from Penzance to Lamorna, on Good Friday, and as children we were duly sent out to do it. There were always lot of people I remember so it must have been a real tradition, but maybe she just wanted a bit of peace and quiet for the morning.
Main Things about this hotel:
-It markets itself as rooms over a pub/restaurant and manages to keep the feel fairly casual, though pretty up-market. No sticky carpets or loud music here. The main draw of course is the food and drink and it is good. We would definitely come back.
-Well situated. At the right end of Mousehole so you don’t have to drive through the nightmare narrow streets to get to it. Shops, pubs, restaurants and pretty fishing harbour just round the corner.
– Car park is small but next door is the public car park.
-Pleasant sitting area with comfy sofas as well as veranda and garden.
– Hotel part is rambling with lots of stairs.
-Definitely the “soft southern” cousin to the Gurnards Head.
Contact details for the Old Coastguard: