Last Updated on January 1, 2020 by Fiona Maclean
The best in Cornish hospitality and an unbeatable seaside location
So close to the seaside that if you miss the front door you’ll end up in the sea, The Lugger Hotel sits right on the water’s edge in the heart of picturesque Portloe.
Quaint and quintessentially Cornish, the village hugs the hillside as the road slopes down towards the cove and the welcome sight of The Lugger, Cornwall’s only AA-rated Five Star Inn, and once The Sunday Times choice of “Best Seaside Hotel.”
While most people might think of Cornwall as a summer destination, winter offers up caravan-free roads and quiet, crowd-free attractions. If your preparations are well in hand and you have the time, a pre-Christmas break at The Lugger can put you in the festive mood early. You can, of course, choose to spend all your Christmas and New Year break here but a stay any time will be memorable for all the right reasons.
Out of season, you naturally take a chance on the weather (there’s a good reason why everywhere in Cornwall is so green…) but temperatures will be mild. When the clouds clear, the Portloe light is fantastic and you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate its crystal-like quality on a clear day.
Not far away from The Lugger are many of Cornwall’s most popular attractions, the Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Roseland Peninsula, one of the most picturesque and unspoilt parts of Britain at any time of year. The South West Coastal Path is literally on The Lugger’s doorstep.
But it will be hard to tear yourself away from The Lugger. The calming chintz-free, bright contemporary interior is a soothing white offset by softly seaside blues and greens. The low ceilings and beams remind you that this is actually a centuries-old inn but while it’s a bit Olde Worlde from the outside, inside it’s stylish and comfortably Moderne Worlde with the mod-est of mod cons.
In the lounge, in the dark winter months, the pretty Christmas tree, large sofas and log fire are enticing.
As is the bright and informal two AA Rosette restaurant, offering the best cooking from local produce from land and sea.
The Lugger’s menu is not one of those over-long pub food lists offering everything you can think of, it’s short and to the point. There’s an emphasis on fish, naturally enough, and the offering for each course changes daily according to availability of produce and the chef’s inspiration. Under Head Chef Carl Williams and his team, the cooking is absolutely excellent and great value at £37.50 for three courses – and you’ll want to have all three of them. Service is friendly and efficient.
As an example from our pre-Christmas stay, one evening offered mains of pan-fried sea trout, grilled plaice fillet (shown below), braised shin of beef, pork tenderloin and roasted vegetable crumble; the next day, rosemary roasted salmon, grilled pollack, pan-seared duck breast, caramelised pork belly and charred celeriac steak.
Stand-outs from the starters were the sea salt and treacle cured seatrout (below) and the clove buttered seabass.
Dessert highlights were the sticky toffee pudding and the mulled wine berry cheesecake (below). Everything we had was top-notch, tasty, perfectly cooked and presented.
The Lugger’s wine list is full of familiar names from the old and new worlds (whites like Chablis, Pouilly-Fume, reds Fleurie, Rioja, Malbec) but it also features some great local wines from the nearby Camel valley. These will be less well known but are well worth trying (such as the Camel Valley Bacchus Dry). The tasting notes for each wine are knowledgeably written and helpful.
Also worth trying are the Cornish gins, vodka and even whisky! For those with champagne tastes and real champagne money, there’s Dom Perignon; for those who don’t want a full bottle of wine, there are some well-priced classic wines and sparklers by the glass.
To sleep off any overindulgence The Lugger has 22 bedrooms, each beautifully and tastefully decorated, show home smart, spread over separate buildings around the main hotel.
A favourite is the wholly inappropriately numbered Room 101, possibly the hotel’s best situated, close to the water and where, from its own small terrace, you can almost reach out and touch the fishing boats drawn up on the slipway.
There’s three categories of room, Classic and Superior, looking out over Portloe village, and Deluxe with a sea or harbour view. The Junior Suite has a village view and enjoys its own lounge. Every bedroom comes with a large bed and luxurious bed linens, en suite bathroom, a lovely, deep bathtub and monsoon shower. In addition, three pretty cottages are available for those who want their own more private space.
The three-bedroom Cobb Cottage would suit those looking to self-cater, has room for six and offers an open plan lounge, diner and fully equipped kitchen. All its rooms have superb sea views, while the rear staircase leads to a garden and a fantastic panorama overlooking the harbour.
Middle Cottage and Beach Cottage sleep two guests each in smart, well-equipped and beautifully refurbished rooms; both have super vistas. There’s essential kit for making good coffee and a small fridge for milk and complimentary mineral water. Middle Cottage boasts a private terrace to give you a view over the harbour.
Beach Cottage sits a few short steps away from The Lugger’s main building. There’s a cosy sitting room (with TV), bedroom with a big, big bed (and another TV) and a fun and quirky slipper bath with a fab view over the harbour – telescope provided.
As the hotel is a listed building, there are no facilities specifically for the disabled, though one bedroom has level access from the car park. Dogs are welcomed. No family rooms as such are available, but cots and high chairs for babies can be provided if required.
Also provided are many little things, the thoughtful details which are the difference between an ordinary hotel and a great hotel. Such as spare wellies in reception, delicious cookies, a goodbye goodie bag on checkout, hot chocolate and a hot water bottle left by the evening turndown service.
After a great night’s sleep where the only noise you’ll hear is the rattling of rigging and the swish of the waves, breakfast is table served in the restaurant (or on the terrace in summer).
The views from the restaurant, bar and terrace are a constant reminder of The Lugger’s seaside location, as you watch the fishing boats push out from the harbour and the ever-changing seascape, millpond calm one day, all maelstrom fury the next.
As well as cereals, muesli, seasonal fruit and yoghurt with berry compote, there’s cooked options like scrambled eggs with a generous helping of Scottish smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, locally caught poached haddock and a full Cornish. Vegans and vegetarians are also very well catered for. And the coffee’s great.
While the restaurant feeds some of your senses, a beauty treatment, aromatic, deep tissue and muscle release massages from The Lugger’s on-site therapist will feed the others. After all that you’ll feel sensual and more than rejuvenated.
The Lugger is, therefore, a perfect place for couples to relax and it would be hard to find a more romantic or intimate place to fall in love. (Helpfully, The Lugger has a licence for civil marriage and partnership ceremonies and you can book out the whole hotel for just you, your friends and family to celebrate).
If you’re looking for something a bit more energetic, access to the South West Coastal Path from The Lugger is so easy, it really is hike-in, hike-out. The Lugger can provide you with a packed lunch to keep you going strong.
While there many good South West Coastal Path walks from Portloe, a good little leg-stretcher is the four-mile walk along the path to Carne Beach. It’s up and down in places but never boring. Carne Beach is a lovely broad sweep of sand and rock, and out of season, you won’t be sharing it with too many others.
Tel: 01872 501 322
Disclosure: We stayed as guests of The Lugger but all content is editorially given.
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