Beach huts at St Moritz by Chris Potter
Leaving the St Moritz Hotel on a cold, rain-lashed February morning was even harder than I'd anticipated.
The day before this art-deco inspired hotel which overlooks the Camel Estuary on the North Cornwall coast had shone out, a beacon of warmth and quiet luxury.
You might think that a place like this - the posh end of buckets and spades - would only work in the summer months, but you'd be wrong. In the heart of winter, there were plenty of guests taking refuge from the bad weather, safe in their insider knowledge that this is a hotel which celebrates its spectacular location throughout all the seasons.
The St Moritz hotel was built 5 years ago and it's clear how much thought has gone into its design. Two features stand out as being the priority - uber-comfort and glorifying the beach as a natural playground.
The rooms, apartment suites and villas are separate from the main hotel which houses the spa, restaurant and bar and have been designed to have stunning sea views.
The decor is cool but laid-back - scuffed and ripped leather armchairs in the ground floor and upstairs bar, the kind you sink into and then don't want to leave. It's contemporary but comfortable, somewhere you'll feel easy taking the kids but indulgent enough to merit a trip without them.
The hotel is on a small stretch of sand known as Greenaway Beach with views of neighbouring Daymer Bay. In summer there are waist deep rock pools and you can catch a boat over to Rock. Look at these primary coloured beach huts (main picture above) - the St Moritz has got childhood memories written all over it without being in the least bit contrived.
Clearly a magnet for families, to me the St Moritz works just as well for couples. Our suite was pretty heavenly - a vast bed with pillows like cloudbursts, a sitting room and small kitchen. There were two smaller rooms in the same wing, with a central door, the idea being that you could quite safely install older children in their own room.
But it would be tempting to come here for some much needed us-time (or what the hotel might well term adult fun.) Check out the Love Luxe break which includes a suite for 2 nights, dinner, lunch and a joint full body massage in the Cowshed spa and 'a very special 'adult' Luxe Love box. The St Moritz clearly puts a great deal of thought into its guests' requirements.
At the Spa - a spin-off of the Babington brand complete with white leather pedicure chairs and flat screen TVs - I had an incredible massage with essential oils. It was powerful to the point of being almost painful (which is what I'd asked for) but left me feeling both upbeat and intensely relaxed. More chilling out in the pool and steam room before hitting the bar.
Cocktails (the dacquiris come highly recommended) are the thing to have here though we settled for a glass of wine before heading to the (surprisingly full) restaurant.
This is a great room - a huge open kitchen - and lots of well spaced tables. The food was unfailingly sublime, really, every single course from lemon sole risotto to my off-piste choice of seared pigeon breast, pan-fried sea bream and a trio of crazily moreish puddings was perfect, the kind you groan over and refuse to share.
It was the same at breakfast - a table laden with granola, fruit salads, compotes, greek yoghurts, croissants and, my own personal benchmark - exceptional cappucinos.
There's a more casual seafood restaurant Seaside right on the beach which serves the kind of thing you want at lunch-time from prosciutto sandwiches to mussels with coconut and lemograss to full-on burgers. There are cocktails here too and an outdoor pool with sun loungers - a living the dream kind of vibe for when the sun shines.
There are so many great touches in this hotel - battered copies of Penguin novels, iPod docks and boardgames in the bedrooms, Wiis in the kids' rooms (and the option of surfing lessons), a generous helping of Cowshed products.
Winter or summer, it's somewhere to hibernate from life, a proper retreat.