Review: Dreamcatchers, St Mawes
Cornwall calling! Muddy hops over the border to St Mawes for a more'ish seaside stay and concierge service to boot.
Who doesn’t need to kick back and inject some luxury into their life from time to time? And who doesn’t love a panoramic view? Dreamcatchers in St Mawes is all the best bits about self-catering – the easy living, the freedom to come and go, the space to relax – with all the bad things taken out, thanks to a concierge service which means you can freelance out the day jobs.
No time to food-shop? Have it delivered beforehand. Want a break from the washing? Send it out to the laundry. Had enough of cooking but worried the kids will get scurvy (always), order home-cooked food from a fantastic cook. Leave the gubbins at home and bring more chiffon, everything you need is here – even the childcare.
This is the closest you can get to a villa abroad without going through security and language barriers. Though it’s Cornwall, St Mawes’ location on the far end of the Roseland Peninsula means it doesn’t get as crowded as St Ives and other Cornish honeypots (so we’re just going to have keep this between us, okay?)
You can tell its owned by a mum – Amanda Selby – who’s holidayed here with young kids many times herself. She’s thought of everything – parasols, badminton in the cupboard, Wii games, Ren toiletries in the guest loo. A wine fridge for you…
Amanda is really connected to the town and has everything on speed-dial; the local businesses take a sense of pride in where they live, are uber-friendly and keen for you to have a good time.
Perched on the hillside, 200 yards above sea level, this reverse-level house is found after a last downhill squeeze though tiny Cornish lanes. Park up and head down stone steps past subtropical plants, open the wooden door and it’s a real WOW moment – almost cinematic, like when you’re waiting in the dark at the flicks and the screen suddenly lights up.
What a view. Slide back the windows and enjoy your Beyoncé moment on the balcony, drinking in the scenery and a flute of fizz from the welcome bottle. Here’s 180 degrees of sea and river, sailing boats on the sparkly Carrick Roads and the unspoilt greenery of St Anthony’s headland opposite. Once a sleepy fishing village, now a yachtsman’s paradise.
It’s one of a number of self-catering properties owned by Amanda – St Mawes Retreats – a modern luxury home from home with five double bedrooms. It sleeps 10 but for just the four of us – Mr M and my two younger teens – it felt just right.
Luxe and contemporary, seagull-white walls jazzed up with patterned textiles and bold artwork. When the sun shines, peel back those glass doors and eat at a table big enough for ten; when it’s Cornish mizzle, light the Jotul wood-burner and hunker down on a giant sofa.
Everything is designed to max out the widescreen panorama and make you feel special. Light pours in and bounces off the sleek tiles, glass table and perspex chairs, or if you’re out on the balcony you feel part of the buzz, the boats and scenery.
The kitchen has more tech than Bill Gates – an in-built coffee machine and microwave, Neff oven, dishwasher, two fridge-freezers, wine chiller, washing machine and drier (though don’t forget the laundry service) and more than enough dishware to cater for a battalion, all hidden behind shimmering champagne-coloured cupboards.
Bathtime is pure joy – five bathrooms. Villeroy and Boch chrome, waterfall taps, free-standing roll-top baths in the two bedrooms for a sea view while you soak, and adjacent showers with cobbles under your feet.
It’s very put together but with homely touches: fresh roses on tables, quirky lampshades and in-built feel-good lighting inside and out, for chilled nights on the balcony.
Four double bedrooms with en-suite downstairs, a smaller double without upstairs. You can’t wait to hop two steps from the bed to draw back the curtains to see the morning view from your elegantly patterned headboard. Oh yes, and they’re Hypnos beds as favoured by Her Maj.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
Amanda can arrange for dinner to be left for you in the fridge by a local cook – ideal after a long journey when you don’t want to be dragging in bags of shopping along with your luggage.
Having devoured the easy instructions – pop in the oven for 50 mins – we tucked into a creamy fish pie, zinging with lemon, followed by a sweet gooey chocolate brownie, Cornish clotted cream and raspberries. Day 2 was pasties from from Mr Scorse deli – declared excellent by native Devonian and devoted pasty-fan Mr M – followed by fish and chips from The Watch House (meaning I got away without doing any cooking for a whole heavenly weekend!).
The USP has to be the concierge. Amanda and her team will organise shopping to be delivered, your laundry, baby-sitting or child-minding on the beach, boat-trips, picnic hampers, or have a personal chef come and cook – and clear up afterwards – for you. Fancy some me-time? Boot out the fam and book complementary therapist Sarah Greenhalgh to set up her spa in the living room for a relaxing hour of scented unguents. I road-tested the organic Inlight facial which comes with a divine hand massage and reiki, guaranteed to leave you with a blissful glow inside and out.
OUT AND ABOUT
St Mawes is small, friendly and welcoming, with shop-owners keen to know where we were staying – and impressed when we said where. The guest book comments are all raving with lots of cute ones from kids who love the four small beaches and rock pooling on your doorstep.
Two minutes down the hill is a small sandy beach, or a walk to St Mawes Castle. I wished we’d had time to book a water taxi to the popular 13th century eatery Pandora Inn, but there are a few good shops and galleries, including Grace and Favour with floaty clothes and jewellery. Take coffee or a G&T on the terrace at Olga Polizzi’s Hotel Tresanton (sister hotel to Devon’s Humphrey Repton landscape Hotel Endsleigh). The #royalgoss was Kate and Wills were here a couple of weeks before my visit.
Amanda can organise a boat trip with St Mawes Kayaks, on Mark Bower’s 9-seater rib. Storm Hannah was blowing through so we just took a pootle round the harbour – quite the adenaline kick, and kids will have a blast. If you prefer a paddle, Mark also hires out sit-on kayaks. Or take the St Mawes Ferry to Falmouth, just twenty minutes away.
Oh yes, with beds so big my 12 year-old slept sideways just for the fun of it. A decent-sized (gated) lawn beneath the terrace, and floor-to ceiling cupboard full with highchair, baby monitor, changing mat, play pen and dressing-up box complete with Gruffalo.
For older kids, there is a snug behind the main living space with a Wii console, built-in sound system and stacks of puzzles and games for rainy days. Oh and did I mention the TV over the bath in my daughter’s room? So, heaven even for moany teens and loads of insta-potential. My youngest said it made her feel happy, especially the ‘light up bath tub’. There was a real sense of excitement about the gorgeousness of the place.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Families with toddlers in need of a break from parenting duties; two fams sharing; big family get-togethers; weeks or weekends or even a two-week stay: there’s loads to do. Special occasions – as part of the concierge you can hire event planner and marquee. Relocaters – check out the tempting property porn in the estate agent windows.
Not for: Shabby-chic fans; scaredy drivers who don’t like narrow lanes and handbrake hill starts.
The damage: Low season £1500 per week; short break/3 night weekend £1050; 4 day midweek £1050. High season is £5450 per week. Christmas and New Year £5250.
stmawesretreats.co.uk Tel: 0800 088 66 22