Eco-scape: Sustainable luxury at The Scarlet Hotel

Eco-scape: Sustainable luxury at The Scarlet Hotel

Elizabeth Finney heads to The Scarlet hotel in Cornwall to experience sustainable luxury at its peak.

Steam rises from warm waters into a faint mist of rain, billowing out and dissipating against the backdrop of ocean. Far below, treacherous waves hurry along the shore to crash against the rocks. The sky has relaxed from stark white via a kaleidoscope of blues, settling into a rich sapphire that blurs with the watery horizon in the moonlight. I sip Champagne in The Scarlet hotel’s wooden cliff-top hot tub, enjoying the rain on my face and the scent of warm cedar.

The Scarlet is a champion of moments like this. The lack of a phone signal in the small coastal village of Mawgan Porth in Cornwall is a blessing for those in search of a little respite from hectic London. “People generally come here for three main reasons: to rest and relax, to recover or to reconnect,” says general manager Ben Southgate. “A lot of our spaces are about reflection. To many, luxury means being able to sit somewhere where there’s no noise and no one bothering them, because they get so much of that in their normal life.”



Jul 4th 2019
Elizabeth Finney
Beyond London

Green living is threaded into every area of the experience – there is even a discount on your stay if you travel via rail, a reward for a reduced CO2 footprint. The new low-emission Intercity Express Trains courtesy of Great Western Rail soar through the English countryside to Cornwall in less than four hours. I stared out of the window in awe at the seascapes as the train track trails along the shore in Dawlish. At the hotel, there’s recycled leather for the menus, natural products in the spa and slippers made from recycled plastic bottles that guests can take home. There are too many eco innovations to name, but they range from the Tesla chauffeur service and organic towels to the sea thrift roofing and low-level LED lighting to minimise light pollution. “We just do what we’re proud of,” says Southgate humbly. “We want to share that knowledge. We’ve built a community around the ethos, working closely with small producers in the area so that we can develop Cornwall together.”

The founders, sisters Debbie Wakefield, Emma Stratton and Rebecca Whittington, are passionate about green living, especially since the equally innovative Bedruthan Hotel has been in the family for 60 years. “Living by the coast you become aware of man’s impact on the planet because you’re living in such a sensitive ecosystem,” says Stratton. “Our natural resources are precious and, regardless of what you think about climate change, we ought to minimise our use of them for future generations.” I leave the curtains open and wake up to dawn light reflecting off the ocean. After a morning yoga class, where I watch a storm brew outside from my tree pose, I pad over to the restaurant for some breakfast. I opt for a delicious full English, followed by a fluffy pumpkin, chocolate and hazelnut muffin with a cafetière of rich black coffee. “At least 80 per cent of our ingredients are sourced locally,” says Jon Page, The Scarlet’s sous chef. “We use a lot of small suppliers in the south west. Our fish supplier is from Bodmin and they provide Cornish and Devonshire fish as well as halibut from the Isle of Gigha in the Hebrides – it’s the most sustainably farmed fish in the UK.” Said halibut can also be found at the fish counter in Selfridges.


Dinner at The Scarlet is sublime. I’m welcomed with a glass of Camel Valley Cornwall Brut Reserve, which boasts a Royal Warrant and was served at Prince Harry’s wedding last year. I’m sat next to the floor-to-ceiling window and can just make out the cliffs through the rain. I start with the acclaimed smoked haddock chowder, complete with local fresh shellfish, saffron and sea herbs. The fish is delicately flavoured and beautifully flaky. Jim, The Scarlet’s sommelier, has paired this dish with the 2017 Vermentino, Rocca di Frassinello from Tuscany, which has an almost oily texture that complements the creamy chowder. I follow this with rump of veal with mashed potato, whisky-poached blackberries, shallots and chard, which is buttery and tender. Jim pairs it with a 2014 Clos de Sixte Lirac Rouge, saying: “If you could bottle those blackberries, I don’t think this wine would be far off.”

Finally, I indulge in an artful slice of ginger cake, complete with poached pear, caramel sauce and ginger ice cream, alongside a small glass of Helmut Lang Eiswein from Bergenland. “It’s almost cheating to serve this because it’s so good,” laughs Jim. He explains that the fruit is harvested at night in winter while it’s still frozen. Unsurprisingly, it’s delicious and goes wonderfully with the heat of the ginger cake. “Producers are scaling down and starting to treat their products with a lot more respect,” says Page. “We shouldn’t be sending something out if we don’t respect how it’s been produced and prepared.” A seasonal, nose-to-tail ethos is key. Complete with its own butchery and soon to be home to a bakery, wild garlic and sea herbs are foraged from the forest and beaches nearby. “We try where  possible to challenge ourselves to be creative,” says Page. “We get some fantastic produce, so that helps the menu write itself.”


The spa sprawls out around an ocean-facing relaxation lounge. The space is swaddled in a maze of tent-like treatment and relaxation rooms, all  peppered through with dancing candlelight and soothing music. I take a swim in the indoor pool before sweating it out in the adjacent steam room. I mosey outside to inspect the freshwater pool. Its border of  boulders, reeds and aquatic grasses makes it look incredibly inviting, even though the  waters are currently a biting 7°C. I remember that cold water swims provide great health benefits – it’s bracing, to say the very least. I launch myself back into the cool air and race towards a barrel sauna, which boasts a porthole overlooking Mawgan Porth. I sit and bake, heart racing, skin still goosepimpled but feeling totally exhilarated.

Once rendered sufficiently delirious from a circuit of chilly pool plunges and sauna sessions, I float inside to a beautiful treatment room for a True  Facial. I settle down amid fluffy towels atop a heated bed before my therapist applies a series of Natural Wisdom products, a cold-blended, organic and plastic-free ‘skin food’ range handmade on the Hampshire  coast. A zingy carrot oil and pomegranate cleanser is applied, followed by a vitamin C polish, a cooling aloe vera gel and an antioxidant treatment with restorative rosemary and basil. While my face tingles, she kneads my hands with a neroli, orange and cedarwood cream, before pressing a hot stone into each palm. To finish, my skin is buffed with a hyaluronic acid facial toner and a raw vitamin C moisturiser. My skin is silky soft and brighter as I drift back to my room – complete with a gift of poppy seed, mint and lemon lip balm – in a state of total relaxation.



Later that day, I scamper to the beach to stroll around the bottom of the cliffs, inspecting limpets and mussels and inching as close as I dare to a small but mighty waterfall. The teal waves seem to glint with hazel in the dwindling sunlight and the orchestral sounds of nature bring on an overwhelming sense of calm.

“We wanted to redefine luxury, to create somewhere beautiful and simple, where you’re cared for and there are those little touches that matter,” explains Stratton. While there are many people for whom luxury means gilded corridors, rambling golf courses or personal chefs, The Scarlet provides experiential indulgence that is truly nourishing. Beautiful scenery, an elegant spa, attentive staff, exceptional food and no phone signal – The Scarlet epitomises the true meaning of a luxury escape, revitalising guests and readying them for their return to reality.

The Scarlet, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ | 01637 861 800 |

All images courtesy of The Scarlet.


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