How the royals do Cornwall

There was arguably no better advocate for a holiday in Britain than Queen Elizabeth II. Her Royal Highness loved to spend her summers in Scotland, having visited Balmoral every August since she was a child. But could the next generation of royals prefer the warmer climes of Cornwall to chilly Scotland? It certainly seems so.

After Charles became king, William inherited the Duchy of Cornwall estate from his father. Not only is he now responsible for the Duchy’s extensive portfolio of Cornish property and farmland, but he is also inheriting the 500-year-old Restormel Manor in the heart of Cornwall. A few kilometers from the house that inspired Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca, It has frequently played host to King Charles and the Queen Consort during their annual tour of the region. The mansion is rented out to vacationers most of the year, which is no surprise given its location. It’s just a short stroll down the river to the colorful yachting town of Fowey, whose cobbled streets and pastel townhouses make it popular with tourists.

Fowey, Cornwall [iStock]

Perhaps because he knew he would one day inherit the duchy, William has been keen on holidaying in Cornwall in recent years. He stayed twice with the Princess of Wales and her children in the Isles of Scilly, where the Duchy of Cornwall owns most of the houses. When the family visited the island of Tresco in the summer of 2021, they are said to have enjoyed it so much that they returned with their children in October of the same year. With its turquoise waters, tropical gardens and sparkling quartz beaches, the allure of Tresco, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall but leased to the Dorrien-Smith family, is easy to see. It’s as close to a vacation abroad as you can get in the British Isles.

But its beauty comes at a price. The Helicopter from Land’s End is just under £300 return and the luxury beach houses and cottages that line Tresco’s seafront start at £1,500 for the week.

Tresco Island and beyond [iStock]

There’s another often-overlooked part of Cornwall that’s been a firm royal favorite over the years. And the good news is that it’s a bit more accessible. The remote Roseland Peninsula is often overlooked in favor of the more popular northern resorts of St Ives and Polzeath. Equally beautiful but less well known, it was a favorite destination for both the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret.

Rishi Sunak may have shelved plans for a new royal yacht, but in the heyday of Britannia, the sleepy fishing village of St Mawes was a frequent stopover for the Queen and her sister. Penolva’s seafront property, which has a private slipway, provided them with the perfect spot to come ashore from the yacht away from prying eyes. Princess Diana is also said to have stayed there after her separation from Charles.

Said to be Britain’s answer to the Côte d’Azur and situated at the mouth of the River Fal, St Mawes is much busier today than it was in Queen’s day. Average property prices in the village rose a staggering 48 per cent during the lockdown as demand for seafront hideaways skyrocketed. In fact, it has seen the biggest rise of any UK seaside town and is now one of the top ten most expensive seaside towns. It seems the royals have done a good thing.

St Mawes is a boater’s and holidaymaker’s paradise in the summer, but you can easily find your own privacy elsewhere on the beautiful Roseland Peninsula. Its dramatic coastline of smugglers’ coves and whitewashed fishing villages embodies everything that makes Cornwall so popular.

The seafront at St Mawes [iStock]

It’s worth escaping the hustle and bustle of St Mawes and heading to Carne Bay, tucked away on the other side of the headland. At the end of a winding country lane just a few miles from Portloe, Carne Beach is something very special in Cornwall – a wide stretch of golden sand that never seems to get crowded. Just above the beach is The Nare – a seaside hotel with a country house vibe that’s certainly fit for a king. In fact, the Countess of Wessex stopped here in 2003 to celebrate the Cornish tourism industry. While St Mawes is tucked away on an estuary, The Nare offers panoramic sea views and direct beach access, with waves breaking just meters from the hotel suites. It’s a Cornish treasure to know about.

The Nare is a family-run affair, and as such feels a far cry from the kind of corporate sycophancy found in many chain hotels elsewhere. Afternoon tea with Cornish scones (jam followed by cream, of course) is served to guests every day, and the Queen would be happy to hear that dogs are spoiled. Much of the interior design was done by the owner’s wife, Toby Ashworth, and the result is rooms that feel less like a hotel and more like your country hideaway.

Prince William and Harry’s love of Polzeath helped put North Cornwall on the tourist map. But this quieter corner of the county offers the same rugged beauty without the crowds. You can still experience all of the charms that made it so popular with the royals. My advice is to go and enjoy it before everyone else discovers it too.

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