A delightful and overlooked patch of Cornwall keeps pulling Saska Graville back.
I'm about to let you in on a secret. I've found a patch of Cornish coast that is free from the crowds of holidaymakers that overrun much of this popular county. Not only that, it's home to quite possibly my favourite B&B and a beachside pub that has food to rival most swanky restaurants. And it's only three hours from London.
Actually, why am I telling you? The last thing I want is not to be able to book in to the three-bedroom Westcroft Guesthouse or get a table at the Devonport Inn because the rest of you have got there first.
Too late now, so here goes. Kingsand, on the south coast of Cornwall, is a small fishing village that has managed to remain untouched by the tacky Cornish pastie and fish-and-chip shops that blight so many of its seaside neighbours. In fact, most of the English holidaymakers who flock to Cornwall every summer drive straight past it on their way west to more well-known areas such as St Ives. More fool them. Kingsand is the bit of Cornwall where the Cornish themselves go on holiday.
Close to Plymouth, it sits on the Rame Peninsula, a stunning stretch of hilly, craggy coast just across the border from Devon. Take a fast train from London to Plymouth (about two hours), catch the tiny Cremyll Ferry from Plymouth to Mount Edgcumbe (seven minutes), hop in a taxi to Kingsand (about 15 minutes) and you're there. For Londoners like me, it's astonishing to be sitting outside a Cornish pub gazing out to sea, less than three hours after leaving Paddington station, but like I said, it's a well-kept secret.
Aside from its geographical prettiness, Kingsand is made all the more special by Westcroft Guesthouse. I was introduced to it by a fellow travel writer who reviews B&Bs for a living - she knows her stuff. Like her, I was immediately seduced by Westcroft's boutique mix of shabby chic decor and all-encompassing hospitality. Owners Sarah and Dylan (and their mother and son English pointer dogs Edie and Rufus) have created a unique home with a style hard to pinpoint but that is wonderful to spend time in.
It's the sort of environment that says relax ... have a glass of wine.
A bit rock'n'roll (prints of Marc Bolan on the walls, sheepskin rugs, oversize chrome floor lamps) meets chateau chic (antique French beds, ornately patterned wallpaper, clawfoot baths), it's the sort of environment that says sit back, relax, have a glass of wine. (The pair also own a gallery next door, filled with the work of local Cornish artists.)
My last stay (and I've made many a repeat visit) was up in the eaves in the Clocktower Suite. Romantic doesn't do it justice. The room is dominated by a painted grey antique French bed, made up with beautifully crisp white linen. You can lie back and listen to the sounds of the sea or venture a few steps to the daybed and watch a DVD.
The ensuite bathroom adds to the indulgence. With its candles, clawfoot bath, heated slate flooring and skylights to let you gaze at the stars as you soak, it's an unashamedly relaxing place to be. No surprise that the suite is popular with honeymooners, who take advantage of its self-contained privacy and lock themselves away from the world. I don't blame them.
Another option is to rent the four-poster bedroom and the adjacent sitting room on the first floor, thus ensuring a getaway from other guests. I love the Clocktower Suite but the appeal of a four-poster bed is hard to beat. Newly refurbished with decorative Colefax and Fowler wallpaper and dark reclaimed oak floorboards, this room is almost my favourite. That said, I've also stayed in the Penlee and its pretty wall mural, quaint furniture and brass bed create a lovely space.
In fact, since all three bedrooms come with their own en suites, it's hard to go wrong. I'm very happy to stay in any of them.
Bedrooms aside, one of the things I love about Westcroft is its location. You are literally 10 steps from the sea. There's something special about being able to take your breakfast cup of tea and head out of the front door to sit on a waterside bench and stare at the waves. From here, you can look left, across the entrance of Plymouth Sound, to the sloping green hills of the Devon coastline, and right to the fishermen's cottages of Kingsand and the densely wooded Rame Head. In front of you is a small pebbly beach and, behind, a row of candy-coloured Georgian houses that includes the Devonport Inn.
Ah, the Devonport. Any stay at Westcroft includes many a night spent in here. In fact, if you don't get there yourself, Edie and Rufus will drag you there - the dogs are favourites with everyone in the village and one of Edie's offspring is now owned by the pub's chef. The place is always packed with locals and holidaymakers - no surprise when you see the menu - home-made pasties, locally caught seafood (the mussels with coriander, lemongrass, ginger and garlic are out of this world) and treats such as sticky toffee pudding with Cornish clotted cream. I could eat there every night of the week.
Luckily, Edie and Rufus are also good for walking off a few Cornish kilos and there are some some stunning cliff-top pathways just moments from Westcroft's front door. Head east towards Plymouth Sound and stomp across grassy slopes towards the woods of the Edgcumbe Estate. Go west and you can follow the coastal path down Rame Head to the 14th-century chapel that sits at the very end of the headland, looking out to sea.
I've been to Kingsand in freezing winter and high summer and I've loved it every time. For a very British seaside getaway, it's hard to think of a nicer place - just don't tell too many other people about it.
How much Rooms from £90 ($140) B&B.
Top marks Boutique chic interiors, sea views and the perfect neighbourhood pub next door — an unbeatable combination.
Black mark The B&B is home to two English pointer dogs — adorable if you're a canine fan, not so good if you're not.
Don't miss Take the dogs for a long walk and then head to the Devonport Inn for a lunch of homemade Cornish pasties and locally caught seafood. Delicious.