Looking at the big Chien Bleu map of properties a few weeks back, we realized we had an absence of hotels truly welcoming to dogs in the Cornwall area, a shame given the unbelievable coast surrounding this majestic county, not to mention the number of beaches that allow dogs year-round. As it seemed the rain would never end, we figured wet walks at the beach couldn’t be any worse than wet walks at home. Plus, sand is much easier than mud to clean off a wet dog. Reservations to road-test hotels were thus made for the week of July 23rd. How lucky we were, both with the hotels we stayed in and the weather that emerged.
Our first stop was the Gurnard’s Head, an unbelievably friendly pub inn set on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Coast. Arriving just after six in the evening, we hightailed it to the garden, whose views, like most of the rooms, look out to the sea. Blue and Portland delighted in the other dogs whilst Ray and I imbibed in some lovely drinks, myself a gorgeous Italian white wine I can’t for the life of me remember the name of and Ray a Harbour Brewing IPA, one of the great local beers on draught. (Tipples on offer are taken quite seriously here, with the Gurnard’s Head keen to serve that which you wouldn’t normally see in the shops but that which won’t cost you a fortune either.) With proper Cornish folk singers taking their place indoors, we headed in for a gorgeous and relaxed dinner of fresh seafood and some more cracking wines and ales. As Sally Shalam of the Guardian said “It’s so chilled I probably wouldn’t care if I only had a hammock upstairs.” Don’t worry, though, because no expense has been spared on the beds, a pleasure we did not have the fortune of enjoying as long as we would have liked thanks to the dogs, who woke us bright and early in anticipation of a walk along the South Coast path, which is just a stone’s throw from the Gurnard’s Head. As we were only there for one night, and thus one delightful breakfast, I overindulged in the freshly baked soda bread slathered in a fresh and homemade strawberry sauce (I don’t recommend stuffing one’s self with soda bread – thank goodness for the walk awaiting me) whilst Ray tucked into a lovely full English. Fully fed and caffeinated, we said our good-byes, sad to go but safe in the knowledge that we would be slumbering at another Eat Drink Sleep establishment, and set off to make the most of the area, although success was not to be entirely ours in this department today.
First things first, starting with the positives, the walks in the area are amazing and there is no shortage of dog-friendly beaches, with over 80 beaches allowing dogs year round. The South Coast path is unbelievable, with its jaw-dropping views atop cliffs, and there is plenty of walking inland should you be a bit water or height-phobic. Unfortunately, despite an amazing walk, the weather brought people out in droves, and all of the dog-friendly pubs encountered were packed to the brim. So, we settled for simple snacks picked up on the drive down at the M5’s Exeter Moto Services (a great stop for two legs and four before the final haul) and decided to see Land’s End. Apparently, so had the rest of Cornwall and some of the world. Warned that driving in was not recommended, we sought out a nearby beach from which we could walk in. With not a parking spot for miles, we decided the sea-facing garden of the Old Coastguard Inn was a trade-off well worth making given Land’s End wasn’t going anywhere.
So on to the Old Coastguard, a boutique bistro with fifteen sea-view rooms (although a small handful of these are glimpses rather than full-on views like most of the rooms). Perched on the water, this time on the western edge of the Land’s End Peninsula, the sea wall bounds the tropical garden, which is spread over a number of terraces. The weather was now in its prime, and people were fully enjoying it to the max. Armed with drinks, we took a seat at the end of the garden on one of the many benches. Not long thereafter, two lovely youngsters who also happened to be sisters glided down to our seat, gently asking if they could pet Portland and Blue. Within minutes, they had taken over the leads and were guiding them around the garden like show ponies, but it did give the boys an opportunity to graze on the lush grass without us trying to stop them. Summoned to dinner, the girls reluctantly handed them back and, drinks finished, we headed down to the beach for a pre-dinner walk followed by another fresh, local meal in the dining room whose views were out over the garden and sea beyond. Rising in the morning following a peaceful slumber on proper v-spring beds, we spent the time before check-out lingering in the room as much as possible. Endowed with a big deck overlooking the sea plus two cosy armchairs perched at the edge, we threw the doors wide open and lazed reading the paper, drinking coffee and just gazing at the views in the lovely warmth of the daylight. Blue and Portland, not accustomed to the heat, shifted between the sun-soaked terrace – where sounds could be appropriately explored and attended to – and the shade of the room.
Northward did we then head – these two Eat Drink Sleep properties being about as far south as you can get on the Cornish coast – with the gorgeous Headland Hotel in Newquay being our destination. On the way, we stopped at the beautiful Trebah Garden, an immensely dog-friendly “sub-tropical paradise with a stunning coastal back-drop”, not to mention a private, year-round dog-friendly private beach. It seemed as though half of the visitors had dogs, and I can’t tell you how nice it is to find a tourist attraction that promotes itself as being dog-friendly. Rated among the 80 finest gardens in the world, Trebah is also one of the Great Gardens of Cornwall, many of which are dog-friendly. Following a picturesque walk with the boys through giant gunneras and magnificent valleys of magnolias, along with a stop at the beach to cool off, we made our way to the four star Headland Hotel. Having absolutely anything and everything you could ever wish for in a luxury hotel on the beach, we opted for one of their even more decadent five star cottages. Whilst cottage guests are welcome to enjoy all of the amenities of the hotel – from an indoor and outdoor pool to tennis to surfing – the pull of the sunny warmth of our private garden overlooking the sea and the general comfort of our cottage made it hard for us to venture the one minute walk to partake in all that is on offer (although the same can definitely not be said when it comes to eating). Our favourite part of the day was the late afternoon. With the beach being open to dogs year round, there was nothing greater or more relaxing than the three minute walk to the vast sandy expanses, where every night we enjoyed a good swim in the ocean with the boys. On the second night, we wised up to the option of bringing a bottle of wine and some snacks from the local Sainsbury down with us. The hours between five and eight flew by as we enjoyed splashing, swimming and games of fetch in between sojourns on the rocks supping lovely wine and enjoying popcorn and wasabi rice crackers from a bag. Eventually, our rumbly tummies, particularly the dogs’, would beckon us back. For us, we had the pleasure of the two minute stroll over to the hotel for dinner, where both the fine dining option and the more informal bistro encourage casualness. Following such pleasures of the beach, who can be fussed to dress up for dinner – the Headland Hotel understands this, but ensures no compromise on the food.
After three glorious, blissful days of this, we had to say good-bye. Heading back up the A30 followed by the M5 on a sunny Saturday during school break was not something I ever cared to do again when in the moment. Yet, despite the frustration at sitting motionless on the motorway for no good reason countless times, we made it back home and decided we would do it all again if it meant re-living such a phenomenal trip. Dog-friendly Cornwall is alive and well, from year-round dog-friendly beaches to unbelievably brilliant properties for both two- and four-legged guests to wonderfully dog-friendly attractions, walks and pubs. How soon can we be back in the car?
– Erin, xx