Headland Hotel, Cornwall, UK, review: Blend of old-fashioned and modern chic

THE LOCATION

This historic pile is perched on the point of a dramatic cliff edge with sweeping views of the Cornish coast, overlooking both Newquay Bay and England's famous surfing mecca, Fistral Beach. Never a truer name was given to a hotel with wild Atlantic waves crashing on the shore so close to the building you can almost feel the spray come through the open window of your ocean-view room.

THE SPACE

Step through the entrance and back into the late 19th century. Think wide staircases, ornate balustrades, heavy curtains, patterned wallpaper, English country house furniture and a grand dining room with chandeliers and you get the Victorian idea. Two of the top rooms – with four-poster beds – are located in a tower and are reached by a private staircase. A bar and a drawing room complete with fireplace is a civilised spot for pre-dinner drinks, as is a reading room. 

Though fans of Country Living interiors glossies will be in heaven, the slightly old-fashioned vibe of the public spaces and upper floor accommodation is offset by an ultra-modern new spa space on the lower ground floor. Opened in 2013, the award-winning complex is now a magnet for girls' getaways and romantic retreats. Boasting an indoor heated pool with submerged lounges and spa jets, pebble-lined Cornish salt steam room, hot tubs, tanning suites and low-lit couples' treatment rooms. A terrace overlooking the ocean with sun loungers and adjoining cafe serving champagne puts off post-treatment re-entry a while longer.

THE ROOM

There are 12 suites and 84 rooms; mine, 206, faces the ocean, and feels delightfully warm and cosy while the storm rages outside. (Though the fierce wind did whistle its way through the window cracks at times during the night). Modern bathrooms with tubs, heated towel rails and posh bath products are a nice contrast to the bedroom's traditional decor. A table and chair under the window beckons, the perfect spot for a cuppa and to idly look out at the sea and passing walkers. Lots of large cupboard space suggests summer guests tend to stay a while. 

THE FOOD

Samphire Restaurant is rather formal – harking back to a bygone era with its high back chairs, white table cloths and wait staff in waistcoats. It's a meat lover's menu offering lamb, beef, pork chops, chuck steak and ox cheek rissoles, gammon steak and a beef roast for two. The casually chic Terrace has burgers, fish and chips and a beach house vibe. 

STEPPING OUT

Though Fistral Beach was closed during our midwinter stay thanks to huge waves and stormy weather, that didn't stop a couple of surfers going out there, nor keen hikers from taking on the spectacular cliff-top walk in front of the hotel. Surf shops and chef Rick Stein's famous fish and chip takeaway on the sand made it easy to see why families, surfers and couples flock to the hotel for summer getaways. Headland guests can book a spot at the learn-to-surf school here or arrange for private lessons. Kite surfing and stand-up paddle boarding is also available. The town of Newquay is just over one kilometre away – a flat, easy walk in good weather. Reward yourself with a Cornish Cream Tea – scones, jam and clotted cream – at one of the town's traditional tea rooms.

THE VERDICT

A very pleasant split personality experience, part Downton Abbey, part chic spa with a spectacular beach thrown in.

HIGHLIGHT

The ultra-modern spa with pools, hot tubs, mud and steam rooms and low-lit treatment suites that come with champagne.

LOWLIGHT

Shame about the view-intruding car park between some oceanview rooms and the spectacular seascape.

ESSENTIALS

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Overnight package of one night's accommodation, three-course dinner and breakfast for two, 90-minute spa treatment for two from $497. 

Angie Kelly was a guest of Visit Britain.

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