When we arrived at the Lugger on a stormy January day, half of Cornwall was under water and the picturesque cove it overlooks had been transformed into a froth of raging grey-brown waves.
Needless to say, clifftop walking was out – and rather gleefully, we settled down in our elegant, sea-facing room for a pot of tea and homemade lemon biscuits. Because the Lugger, a 17th century smuggler’s inn, is charming whatever the weather. Perched on the edge of the Roseland Peninsula with dramatic cliff views all around, it couldn’t be closer to the sea and come winter, it’s a wild and romantic spot. We ventured out for a quick, rain-swept foray into the tiny village of Portloe and admired the rugged clifftops and postcard-perfect harbour that lies in front of the hotel before retreating within for a cognac by the living room log fire.
There are so many subtle, cosy touches here that it feels more like a fantasy home than a hotel. For a start, its small - there are just 22 rooms spread over two buildings - and the staff go out of their way to be helpful. When we were there, they were at pains to help a car-less guest with local bus times and taxi quotes (the Lugger is in a fairly isolated spot about 13 miles from Truro, the nearest train station).
The interior design is sleek and intimate without being overdone. Quirky reads litter the bookshelf in the lounge and there are neat piles of logs here and there, in-between a scattering of lamps, mirrors and inviting sofas. The original wooden beams overhead complete the effect.
The bedrooms have a chic seaside feel, with whitewash walls, cute shutters and retro-style alarm clocks. Again, it’s the little things that make it work: there’s a healthy supply of cushions on a window ledge overlooking the sea and high-end magazines decorate the bedside tables. If you pop out during the day, there’s a high chance you’ll come back to an offering of freshly made biscuits or brownies. One highlight for me was the turndown service, which came with hot chocolate for two, hot water bottles placed in your bed and a printout of a short story (nothing too saccharine – ours seem to gear around late-night drinking and cross-dressing).
And of course, there’s the Lugger’s restaurant, which is worth the visit alone. Food here is seasonal and very fresh; it’s a set menu that changes daily and uses fish likely to have been sourced in the harbour, just yards from where you eat it. We feasted on deliciously smooth crab salad with soft hen’s egg and a sprinkling of bacon lardons and crostini. Then there was the mackerel, crisp and tender on a bed of watermelon and apples, and a beautifully presented Megrim sole with garlic potatoes. The only slight snag is the lack of vegetarian dishes; but there’s usually one option on either the starter or main menu and breakfast has a full vegetarian option, with hash browns and soy sausages.
In fact, the entire breakfast buffet is a delight especially for a non-morning person like me, who needs to be persuaded to get up for it. Not only does it run until the relaxed time of 10.30am, it also features satisfyingly large chunks Cornish cheddar, along with pastries and berry compotes.
Another great thing about dining at the Lugger is the cosy ceremony of it all. I really liked the way that, at dinner, we got to mull over the menu with a fireside drink in the lounge before being taken through to eat in the restaurant, to the sound of the crashing waves outside. And the sound of the sea really is omnipresent, strange at first and then lulling you into a kind of chilled, seaside daze.
Of course, being so close to the sea would make it a travesty not to have a wander. The South West Coastal Path, which meanders through several areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is just yards from the Lugger’s doorstep. When the gales finally cleared, we set out to Carne Beach, a two and a half hour walk with sweeping views of the Atlantic and remote, windswept beaches on the way. The footpath was fairly deserted, with only the odd walker and lots of mud and sheep en-route, along with beautiful snapshots of Nare Head, Gull Rock and the house where 1992 TV series The Camomile Lawn was filmed.
The Lugger Hotel, Portloe, Cornwall (0843 178 7155; bespokehotels.com/thelugger). Doubles from £130 per night and deluxe double from £205 per night based on two people sharing and B&B