Tresco, Isles of Scilly

Chapel House, Penzance

If I owned a hotel I would want it to look like Chapel House. This beautiful, restored townhouse is on the corner of Chapel Street, one of Penzance’s most picturesque roads. With views overlooking the sea and St Michael’s Mount it is in an enviable position, but after years of neglect the building had fallen into disrepair. Previously the home of the Penzance Arts Club, new owner Susan Stuart saw an opportunity to renovate and refresh this grand historic building.

I have been visiting Cornwall frequently since I was a child and have always felt disappointed that the accommodation options don’t match the appeal of the destination, but Chapel House has changed the hospitality offering dramatically. Susan arrived in Cornwall in 2013 hoping for a change of lifestyle and profession. Almost by accident she came across this wondrous building and with her ambitious vision, a big budget and a team of local craftsmen she transformed the place.

After a scenic five hour ride on the blissfully easy Great Western Railway train from London Paddington we arrived at the last stop, Penzance, just a short walk away from Chapel House. The boutique luxury hotel has six double bedrooms to choose from, each one is light and thoughtfully designed; a mix of modern luxuries and characterful original details. We were in room six, on the top floor, with lovely views of the town. The bespoke beds were handmade locally, a unique elevated platform made from smooth soft oak wood. Reclaimed 1930s office lamps add vintage charm to the bedsides and fresh flowers add a fresh pop of colour. For convenience, each room comes with its own mini iPad, which guests can use to FaceTime for service or to look up tips on local things to do. Of the other rooms, room two was my favourite, with an Ashton & Bentley bath tub in the main room and lovely antique furniture.

The bathrooms are state of the art; contemporary and minimalist. Wherever possible Susan has installed an indulgent bathtub, or in the smaller room a walk-in rain shower. Natural light is given priority, and in our rooftop room the entire slanting bathroom roof opened to offer the option of a semi-outdoor bath. Toiletries are provided by Penzance beauty brand, Pure Nuff Stuff.

In the communal areas Susan displays artwork from the nearby Newlyn School of Art. It is a reminder of the building’s previous use, and adds colour and style to the crisp white walls.

Susan is an illustrious, thoughtful and hard-working host and when she’s not welcoming guests or locals through the door, she is found in the kitchen whipping up a seasonal dinner. The beautiful basement kitchen and communal dining table offers a homely place to eat. Susan concentrates her culinary talents on the finest local fish and seafood, picking up produce at the market that day for the evening meal. For just £22 you can enjoy a three course meal with an aperitif – I recommend the Cornish gin with tonic.

Our lazy Sunday breakfast was glorious, sitting in the sun-drenched kitchen, sipping caffetiere coffee and quaffing butcher bacon and eggs, whilst chatting away to the other guests. I could have sat there with a newspaper for a lot longer than we did, but the whole of Penzance was waiting to be seen.

Chapel House is reason alone to visit Penzance, the perfect place to escape London for a few blissful days by the sea.

More information and book a stay at Chapel House here.

Advance single fares between Paddington and Penzance are available from £29 each way. For the best tickets and offers buy before you board at or telephone 03457 000125.

***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***

Hotel du Vin, Brighton

Each time I visit Brighton I wonder why I don’t come more often. As the nearest seaside town to London (just an hour’s train ride) it is the perfect place to go for a weekend away, or even just a day trip to see the sea.

I’ve always admired the Du Vin brand which has strong character continuity throughout its branches and approachable and affordable luxury that should suit just about anyone. The Brighton branch is one of the most pleasant I’ve visited, moments away from the world famous pier and a short walk from the main train station.

Our double ‘Durius’ room was located on the top floor, blissfully quiet and impressively spacious. Though simple, the rich colours and bold detailing made the room feel grand and lavish. Particularly opulent was the prominent king-size bed complete with a chaise longue at the foot. An abundance of red velvet pillows added further comfort. Other furniture occupied some of the expansive floor space: a desk, armchairs, wardrobe and TV.

The bathroom was easily my favourite thing. Immaculately designed and pristine clean, I thought perhaps we were the first guests to use it. I always appreciate plenty of light and here it illuminates the wonderful features of the Hotel Du Vin rooms. The bathroom had a walk-in monsoon shower, arguably the best I have ever tried, and a freestanding roll top bath. Toiletries are provided by British stalwart Miller Harris.

There are two dining options available, fully-fledged French brasserie style Bistro Du Vin, and the more rowdy, Pub Du Vin. We enjoyed dinner and breakfast in the bistro, and it was easy to understand why this venue is such a popular neighbourhood restaurant. Wreaths of ivy frame the long windows and wine bottles decorate the room. With the lights dimmed, candles lit and tables full, the atmosphere was charming and cosy.

The menu features a mix of British and French cuisine, ideas are combined to create dishes that are both comforting and sophisticated. To start, roasted figs with blue cheese and prosciutto was the hit, oozing sweet and salty goodness. For main, lamb chops were tender but lacked flavour and the steak was good but not special. Sides excelled, extra crispy chips and creamy mash were nice accompaniments. Skipping dessert, I hoped our waiter would bring chocolates with my fresh mint tea… a trio of truffles arrived, exactly what I had silently wished for.

The next morning I was amazed by the spread of continental delights. I got my hands sticky squeezing myself the freshest, sweetest orange juice, and absolutely loved the thick and fruity French toast.

With few other luxury options in town, Hotel du Vin Brighton is without doubt the best choice for a special weekend away by the sea.

More information and book here: