The Idle Rocks Hotel succeeds in becoming a home by the sea on the Cornish coastline

Located on the western tip of the Roseland Peninsula, jutting slightly over the rocks below, sits luxury coastal hotel The Idle Rocks. The white brick building is the jewel of St. Mawes, a small fishing village which The Queen has even been known to frequent.

Inside The Idle Rocks, you’ll find a relaxed restaurant run by expert head chef Dorian Janmaat, 18 bedrooms, treatment rooms for facials and massages, and a richly stocked bar. But it is the sea views of the south facing hotel which sets it apart from the rest.

I’ll never forget the feeling of falling asleep and waking up to the gentle crashing of the tide against the rocks below, or the complete feeling of elation opening the curtains to that view.

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The hotel

The Edwardian waterfront hotel is steeped in romance and history, joining the community in 1913 and weaving through owners including a poet. These days, the hotel is quite contemporary, full of patterns, textures and primary colours as coordinated by owner and designer Karen Richards.

The Idle Rocks Restaurant led by executive chef Dorian Janmaat
The Idle Rocks Restaurant led by executive chef Dorian Janmaat

Inside feels modern and lively but with a penchant for comfort over any stuffiness, despite being part of the Relais and Chateaux hotel group and having been recognised in the 2022 Michelin Guide. Every room is dotted with small sculptures, most brought back by Karen from travels abroad which conforms to the “home by the sea” sentiment.

Nothing is too much for the staff, from rushing to open doors before you barely push them, to letting us leave our room key in reception during a kayaking trip, to remembering our names and greeting us with a smile at every interaction.

I stayed in a Grand Seaview Room which consisted of a large double bed fronted by a mineral blue sofa in front of a flatscreen TV which folded out from the wall, a roll top bath at the other end of the room and a separate dressing room with a large wardrobe. The bathroom had a large walk in shower complete with luxurious Aromatherapy Associates shampoo, conditioner and body wash.

We arrived late on a Friday night in the dark, tired and craving a good night’s sleep, so it was not until Saturday morning that we fully appreciated our location. I was awoken by the waves gently lapping the rocks outside.

Our view of the Roseland Peninsula out of our window on the Saturday morning
Our view of the Roseland Peninsula out of our window on the Saturday morning

We drew open the curtains, and could not believe our eyes. The view through our window looked like the front page of a glossy magazine, so beautiful and serene was the Percuil River flanked by St Mawes village.

Already, the small village was alive with action. Villagers were collecting bread from the bakery on the corner, and rowers were preparing vessels for a morning excursion.

The food

During our stay we ate both at Idle Rock’s in-house restaurant, and its slightly more laidback sister hotel, St Mawes Hotel, just down the road. Breakfasts consisted of a well stocked continental buffet as well as a menu to order a complimentary cooked breakfast from the kitchen.

At St Mawes hotel we both had pizzas. That might sound quite a basic choice, but they were woodfired, sourdough bases and my Diavolo had just the right amount of spice. We were also treated to scallops and crab to start, marking a gorgeous seafood welcome to a weekend of good food.

The night after we dined at The Idle Rocks restaurant. The menu consists of a three course set menu or a seven dish tasting menu curated by head chef Dorian Janmaat.

The burrata with blood orange from The Idle Rocks Restaurant
The burrata with blood orange from The Idle Rocks Restaurant

Janmaat previously worked at Le Manoir, a luxury restaurant in Oxfordshire, and the French influences were apparent throughout the choices. He came to greet us along with the other guests as we sat on the terrace sipping cocktails before eating.

Between us, we split pretzel bread, burrata with blood orange, radicchio and pistachio, butterflied mackerel with dashi, spring onion, yuzu, radish and cucumber relish, aged duck breast on a bed of pearl barley, kohlrabi, pak choi, ginger and tamarind, butter poached plaice on top of Cornish new potatoes, caviar and charred cucumber and petit fois to finish off.

Maybe we were caught up in the euphoria of being on holiday and next to the sea, but it was the brightest coloured food I have ever laid eyes on. Each taste was as delicious as it looked, and there were textures I had never put on my tongue before like the cucumber relish and the beautiful, aged duck.

The area

For such a small fishing village there is a surprising amount to do in St. Mawes. On Saturday morning, we wandered around the village, and it struck me how alike Port Isaac appears in Doc Marten.

Everyone said hi to everyone, the locals certainly all knew each other, and there were dogs everywhere. St Mawes is stocked with plenty of boutique souvenir shops, a Co-op, many a pub, and a bakery.

After wandering around for a while, we took a two man kayak out around the Roseland Peninsula. It cost just £25 between two for two hours, which we thought to be reasonable, and we were sent off with a mapped route.

A view of the Roseland Peninsula out of our window in The Idle Rocks Hotel
A view of the Roseland Peninsula out of our window in The Idle Rocks Hotel

After, we took the St Mawes Ferry to Falmouth to pick up a Cornish Pasty for lunch, which was £10 each for a return ticket and very smooth. Falmouth was much busier than St Mawes, and felt much more like a town.

Nobody said hi to you as you passed, and walking down the high street consisted of dodging cars and bikes. I am glad we went but it did not have a scrap on our lovely fishing village.

In the evening I enjoyed a facial at the Reef Knot Retreat with Aromatherapy Associates products, which is part of The Idle Rocks Hotel, then we drank cocktails and dined in The Idle Rocks Hotel.

Final thoughts

It was with heavy hearts but happy souls we checked out on Sunday morning. I always leave coastal holidays feeling inspired and full of life, and our weekend at The Idle Rocks felt no different.

I cannot express quite how observant the staff were, tending to every need without feeling overbearing, and how stylish but laidback the hotel is. It feels like a treat, but without any pretentiousness and judgement.

The Idle Rocks really was a home by the sea. You can book directly on The Idle Rocks website.