Escape to the British coast as Steve Pill selects five of the best sea view stays, from a lighthouse overlooking the Irish Sea to a château in a fairytale setting.
While the Irish Sea technically begins a few miles further down the coast, only a pedant would complain about this fairytale venue’s waterfront views across the Menai Strait to the Snowdonia National Park beyond. Sir John Hay Williams, the 2nd Baronet of Bodelwyddan, commissioned the 1849 dower house for his wife, Lady Sarah. Her influence is evident throughout. The architecture was based upon her sketches of houses made during holidays in France’s Loire Valley and, when the Grade II-listed property underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment to re-open as a hotel in 2012, her original diaries were used as a reference. Couple that charming backstory with stylish suites and a private jetty and this is the perfect romantic seaside getaway.
Sat across the Carrick Roads bay from Falmouth, the quaint coastal village of St Mawes has been a popular retreat for the royal family in recent years. It is easy to see why with the Tudor-era castle, lush Lamorran House Gardens and secluded beaches – once optimistically sold as a “British edition of St Tropez” – all helping to charm visitors.Idle Rocks was built on the harbourside site of an old bakery in 1913 and refurbished in time for the hotel’s centenary by current owners, David and Karen Richards. Several of the 19 rooms feature freestanding baths with views out to sea and the proximity to the water means the seafood is incredibly fresh – look out for the impressive oyster menu.
A stately seaside locale with literary links, Fowey Hall was frequented by The Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame back when it was a private residence (Toad Hall, the iconic home of the book’s dashing Mr Toad, is thought to be based upon it). The house was built on a bluff overlooking the Polperro Heritage Coast in 1899 by Sir Charles Hanson, a local businessman who would later become Lord Mayor of London. A hotel since 1968, it has largely retained the same layout downstairs with wood-panelled rooms and velvet sofas creating an intimate atmosphere. Interconnecting rooms also make this an ideal destination for larger young families. Whether you spend much time indoors is debatable though, thanks to that spectacular view from the hotel terrace.
“The sea is everything,” wrote Jules Verne. “It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.” As the waves crash against the rocky outcrop upon which this lighthouse perches, it is impossible not to concur with the French author – a stay at this Stranraer hotel will invigorate the senses and lift the spirits. The lighthouse itself was built in 1815 and remains in operation, but visitors can still access the gallery for panoramic views across the Irish Sea – on a clear day one can spot the Isle of Arran and even Ireland’s north coast. The accommodation is housed in adjacent buildings and includes several suites with sea views, while the hotel’s 20 acres of private land is ideal for a morning stroll or spot of fishing.
Warmed by the last vestiges of the Gulf Stream and blessed with more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the UK, the Isle of Wight is already a balmy destination. The town of Ventnor is particularly sheltered, however, thanks to the peak of the nearby National Trust-maintained St Boniface Down. Further down the steep incline to the sea, The Hambrough is a gorgeous little boutique bed-and-breakfast with all bar one of the seven bedrooms overlooking the water. While you can’t go far wrong for accommodation on an island accustomed to catering for world-class sailing regattas, the homely décor and delicious buffet breakfasts make this particular spot something of a class apart.