On the North coast of Cornwall less than 40 miles from Lands End is the beautiful small town (or village) of St. Ives. It is one of those popular tourist spots where visitors revel in the narrow streets and on the sea front overlooking the harbour with colourful fishing boats, and golden sand when the tide is out.
High up on the hill above the town is the Tregenna Castle Hotel which has become one of our favoured places to stay when we visit the county. We have just had our fourth break at this hotel, and we enjoyed it again.
Let’s begin my overview of this hotel by confirming that it is in no way a typical castle with a moat, drawbridge, or turrets. It is however a superb Grade 2 Listed building.
Built in 1774 it was the family home of a wealthy local man called Samuel Stephens. It began with just 12 bedrooms and sat in an estate of 72 acres overlooking the Bay of St. Ives. During the 19th century it was extended and eventually bought by another local family called the Bolithos.
This was the beginning of its life as a hotel, and as the decades have passed, it has grown further and now boasts 84 bedrooms, with an 18 hole golf course, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, and features delightful woodland walks.
The granite built building means bedrooms are large, and the sound insulation between rooms is really good. There is a choice of rooms, some with less than spectacular views, others with woodland views, and finally the top of the range sea-view ones.
Our first visit was many years ago when I returned to Cornwall for a reunion party for past workers at Goonhilly Earth Station. We had a quite basic room then, but were so impressed with what we got for our money, and the standard of service, that we came back again. Since then we have splashed out on a sea view room, and the extra cost is worth it for a chance to stare down over the golf course and woods to the town which is almost surrounded by the sea.
OK, to the nitty gritty.
As I said, the rooms are large with bathrooms that are enormous. Our bedroom was made up with twin beds, but they are flexible, and could have been moved into queen format to suit your preference. As a guide to the room size, there was in the region of five feet to either side of the bed, and more at the foot of the bed, with a settee and single armchair to relax and watch the large wall mounted television.
The wardrobe was a built in, and consisted of two double areas with serious amounts of space for clothing. To one side of the bed was a good sized dressing table that had the kettle and tea tray. On the other side of the bed were two almost floor to ceiling sash windows to make the most of the views.
Our bathroom had obviously been modernised recently with a bath long enough, and deep enough, to drown in. It had a large sink and perfectly adequate toilet.
There was an annexe next to the bathroom to hang coats and store suitcases.
The hotel bedrooms are spread over three floors, and there are wide staircases, and a lift between the floors. Because the building is old, the staircases are creaky, but I feel that is a part of the character expected of Grade 2 listed hotel.
If you want something a little different to the standard bedroom, the site has a number of smaller cottage style units, and large alpine style lodges that are available for self catering. Many of the lodges are privately owned and offered to the public when available. They are also currently building new lodges if you fancy a holiday home in Cornwall.
Turning now to exercise opportunities. Neither of us are golfers, and we have never used the large outside swimming pool as our visits have always been out of season, but the indoor pool has been used several times. It is adequately long enough to give your heart a bit of exercise, and it was usually quiet on our visits. The pool complex also has a steam room and sauna plus a reception desk where you can get towels (50p) for your swim, and the lockers in the changing rooms were free. There is also a spa/beauty salon for a those wanting a bit of pampering.
Of course it is good fun to include a walk down through the woods to the town for a look around. There are plenty of shops selling traditional Cornish Pasties, and tasty ice-cream. Even away from the main season there are tourist shops for a souvenir as well.
Just be careful of the sea-gulls. They are scavengers, so don’t feed them! They already attack visitors to grab ice-creams or other unguarded food.
Back at the hotel, apart from bedrooms, there is a long main corridor with reception, brasserie, lounge bar, lots of comfortable casual seating and two more formal restaurant areas. The smaller of these was not in use on this visit, but we took our breakfast in the large one. It is huge, and able to cater for a full hotel of guests. For those considering a venue, the hotel will perform weddings, and this room is perfect for receptions, or anyone wanting to host dances.
The breakfast choice was wide with a full range of cold and hot food. The majority is laid out as a buffet but some things could be ordered from the waiting staff, including porridge.
We also ate one evening in the brasserie, where the menu has steaks, burgers, pizzas, plus popular favourites and local fish dishes. The food was not cheap, but the quality was good, and the service efficient and friendly.
Outside, as well as the golf course, there are several perfect spots for wedding ceremonies and photo opportunities. Or you could just sit on the benches and make the most of the tranquillity and warm sunshine.
Ok, so there must be some bad points, but there are not many things that annoyed or upset me.
- The creaky stairs and bedroom floors will certainly upset some people.
- There is adequate parking, but it is a bit of a trek over rough areas to drag suitcases, and at night the external lighting isn’t brilliant.
- It is an old building, and one weakness is the plumbing with very low water pressure in the rooms we have been in. The huge bath took a long time to fill, but hot water was always available.
- The bedroom windows might be a little heavy for some people to open and close, and only allow a limited opening. This is a standard issue now with Health and Safety restrictions for hotel windows.
- And I wish they wouldn’t try to save money with cheap toilet paper.
These weaknesses are not serious, and overall I believe the Tregenna Castle is a really comfortable good quality hotel with lots of character.
So if you fancy something a bit special, rather than a standard corporate hotel chain, or bijou hotel, then I recommend the Tregenna Castle. As well as a superb location, it has a choice of large and comfortable bedrooms, good food, and lots of extras.
Finally a suggestion for anyone planning to go there. After you have checked prices or offers with online comparison sites, and with the hotel’s own web site, make a final phone call direct to the hotel and ask for a price. We have regularly got a better deal with the reception staff.
Of course, I must warn you that this revue is based on my personal views.
As accurate as I try to be, it may not always reflect the thoughts of other people, and actual experiences can be different from one occasion to another.