Qualified in Ayurvedic massage, Chavutti Thirumal (which is applied by the feet), Thai massage and Indian Head Massage, journalist, Kathryn Hudson, knows what she’s looking for when it comes to spas, so we sent her to St Ives Harbour Hotel to find out her expert opinion!
Sitting atop Porthminster Beach, the setting of St Ives Harbour Hotel is beyond stunning. Voted by TripAdvisor as the third best beach in the UK and ninth in Europe, Porthminster Beach represents the beaches of the north Cornish coast at their best: a sweeping bay, with golden sand and Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance. Get the angle right from the restaurant and you can also see the picturesque harbour – a favourite with artists.
It’s all about the view. The bar, restaurant, terrace, swimming pool and spa terrace all look out onto Porthminster Beach. Back at the restaurant, there are a couple of cosy lounges, with sofas in front of fires, ideal to curl up with a book or the newspaper … if you can tear yourself away from the view. Many of the Cornish coastal hotels have a bit of a beachy feel, but the décor at St Ives Harbour Hotel is more swish: dark colours, heavy curtains, velvet sofas and chairs, antiquey mirrored tables, chandeliers and flock wallpaper. Despite this, it’s not posh or stuffy.
The spa is compact: just four treatment rooms and four beds in the relaxation room. Additionally, there is a gym, steam room, sauna and hydrotherapy pool. I’ve been in colder hot tubs than the swimming pool; it was like swimming in a bath, and sometimes I had to stand up to cool off. So it’s more suitable for a relaxing post-treatment bob, than hardcore lengths. With stone clad walls and low lights, it has a bit of an enchanted grotto-esque feel. Again, you have the view, although the loungers aren’t angled to see it. There is a terrace which is perfect in warm weather.
I chose the ESPA Lifesaving Back Massage hoping the knots in my shoulders would be given a good pounding. However, it turned out to be more of a cosmetic experience, so I felt nicely buffed and polished by the end, emerging with a smooth back, having shed a few layers, but my knots had stood firm. If you like wraps, scrubs and polishes this is for you, if you want deeper work, opt for hot stones. It was a perishingly cold day when I visited and the treatment was very warming, as was the pool.
Serving fresh, local and seasonal food, the Harbour Restaurant uses interesting Cornish produce and fish landed at St Ives harbour. Set menus are offered at both lunch and dinner for those who have bought spa days. However, for a supplement, you can default to the fancier à la carte menu. From my experience, everything you have will be tasty. During the summer, the alfresco terrace is a popular hangout, offering simple food, such as fish and chips, burgers and mezzes, as well as an extensive cocktail menu. All with a view of the sea, natch.
St Ives can be difficult to navigate by car, but luckily the hotel is situated before the narrow streets, so access is easy and you won’t get lost. It’s a quick walk to both the beach and into St Ives itself. Parking is a nightmare, but if you drop your car in the loading bay opposite the hotel, a porter will park it in the car park for you – problem solved.
This is an excellent place to come as a couple or with a friend for a lightweight, fun spa experience and I didn’t feel at all conspicuous visiting on my own either, even at dinner. The views are so liberating that this is an excellent place to come to be creative, or to think about life and get your head straight. As the hotel has steps everywhere and there is a spiral staircase to negotiate to the spa, I wouldn’t recommend coming here if you have mobility problems.
– If you do opt to stay over, make sure you get a room with a view – you’d be disappointed if you didn’t. I spent an indulgent afternoon lying in bed, watching the waves.
– Consider coming by train. The hotel is right next to the station – don’t worry, it’s not noisy as it’s the end of the line. Hugging the coastline, the train journey from St Erth, which is on the mainline from London, has got to be one of the most scenic train rides you will ever experience. Well worth it, especially as once you are at the hotel you won’t need your car if you are going to stay in St Ives.
– Whatever time of year you come, make sure you allow enough time to pop to the beach too; whether it’s a bracing walk in winter, or an ice cream in the summer. Bring boots and a hat, or flip flops and sun block.
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