The Headland Hotel & Spa: the winter break you didn’t know you needed

30 October 2017 by
First published: 10 December 2017

The Headland Hotel & Spa: the winter break you didn’t know you needed

Pulling up to The Headland Hotel & Spa at night is like something out of The Hound of the Baskervilles. While there are no misty moors or mysterious canine creatures, the towering red-brick Victorian building, dotted with cosy squares of light against the dark Atlantic sea, is distinctly atmospheric. It’s cold outside, and now late, but someone is waiting to usher us in and take our bags. There’s a fire warming the reception room, an endearing statue of a dog laid next to it signals the hotel’s welcoming policy to pets. Staircases are wide, antique paintings hang on the walls and an air of grandeur lingers. We like it immediately.

Waking up the next morning to the not-so-distant echo of the Cornish sea, the landscape looks different. We’re on a headland, very close to the beach, with stretching views of Newquay’s rugged coastline from every window. The well-known surfing mecca that is Fistral Beach awaits below, and even in gloomy October, where the water is likely ice-cold and the wind is biting, more than a handful of Brits brave the surf. Our room is large and spacious, with a comfy bed, TV and wifi, but it’s the bathroom that makes a statement. With a large, free-standing bath, his-and-hers sinks and underfloor heating, luxury is of the essence here. We eat breakfast in the restaurant (eggs benedict and strong coffee) and watch rain slide down the floor-to-ceiling windows that would usually offer panoramic views of the Atlantic. Today is certainly a spa day.

The acquisition of The Headland’s high-end spa in late 2013 was an exciting step. The first ‘Five Bubble’ rated spa in the region, a whole day can easily be whiled away here. An extensive Elemis menu and expert staff make the spa efficient but unpretentious, and our 60-minute head massage is as glorious as it sounds. Post-treatment, we get comfy in the relaxation room, where soft lighting, wood cladding and oh-so-relaxing loungers make you feel like you’re in a chalet snug. If you can peel yourself away, head to the pool area, where a hot tub, sauna, steam room and decent sized swimming pool await for further pampering. It’s modern, clean and not too busy – and there’s no where we’d rather be on a gloomy winter’s day.

Newquay itself is lively, if a little grey, with many pubs and shops to explore. We check out Rick Stein’s Fistral restaurant that afternoon, the unassuming cafe that fuses fish and chips with Indian cuisine. It’s strange, but scrummy, and we eat overlooking the beach. Dogs run up and down the sand chasing soggy balls, families brave the weather for an alternative beach day. We don’t stay long: The Headland is calling.

That evening we make our way down to dinner at The Samphire restaurant, where executive chef Christopher Archambault serves up fresh, local food. Before dining, we soak up the cosiness of the lounges (there are many). With roaring open fires, warm lighting and cosy areas to sit – all set to the backdrop of the deep blue sea – sipping a G&T has never felt so glamorous. It’s no surprise. In the early 1900s, when the hotel was the height of luxury with lavishly decorated rooms, hot and cold running water and electric lights, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were the first of various royals to stay at the hotel. We eat crab and lobster ballotine and lemon sole expertly de-boned at our table, and retire to bed happy and full.

The next day we’re treated to sunshine. Although it’s still crisp, a walk along the clifftop and to the furthermost tip of the headland promises fantastic views and a good dose of sea salt air. The Headland Hotel has an on-site surf school for the hardy, while tennis courts, a state-of-the-art gym and a golf course provide further outdoor fun. The surfing paradise of Watergate Bay sits just around the corner to The Headland, making for a good lunch-stop before the journey home. We eat scones oozing with Cornish cream and jam. We haven’t done much to deserve them, but a weekend of pampering is just what we needed.

You might also like the best UK weekend getaways or our review of Tewkesbury Park.

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The Headland Hotel & Spa: the winter break you didn't know you needed
The towering red-brick Victorian building that is The Headland Hotel & Spa is distinctly atmospheric. The perfect winter weekend getaway.