Retreat to a fantasy pad in northern Cornwall

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Susan Riley
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Acting editor Susan Riley is one of the first to stay at the UK’s newest – and possibly coolest – self-catering bolthole

When I’m looking to stay somewhere for the weekend, I do not want a home away from home. Uh-uh. I want the opposite: somewhere I would never be able to afford to live, so as to truly dip my toe into how I might spend my days should I ever win the lottery or one of those silly TV game shows for which I will never apply.

And spending your days at Barford Beach House is very much fantasy territory. It’s the hen do house of dreams and cosy bolthole all wrapped up in one. A place for all your friends to hire and run around shrieking with delight at how jammy you are to have booked it. I am already planning a birthday here and hell, it needn’t be mine.

Having just opened for its first summer season (there’s something wonderful about staying somewhere hardly anyone else has yet), Barford is a short walk from Widemouth Bay on the north Cornwall coast. The site used to house an old bungalow until Ken and Illona Aylmer – the couple behind Tregulland & Co whose flagship property is 20-minutes inland – spent a good few years honing their vision until what was left became a Grand Designs project of impeccable taste and fun.  

Larch-clad and glass on the outside; full of industrial furniture and dramatic copper-covered walls on the inside, Barford is chic, yes, but the best thing about staying here is the sense of humour bubbling beneath the surface. All six ensuite bedrooms have floor-to-ceiling glass doors; two of which are connected by an interlinking Narnia-style wardrobe (hilarious when drunk presumably) and a master that you’ll want to draw straws or fight to the death for: a 50 sqm behemoth of a room with its own fireplace, kitchen and gold roll-top bath complete with porthole from which you can see the sea.

Don’t manage to claim it? Bad luck. But don’t feel too miffed. In the basement sits a sauna, cinema room and secret bar kitted out with pool table, pinball machine and retro arcade games. Take it from me: some will never want to leave this windowless room of joy. Outside, adjacent to a reclaimed fishing boat, is a very inviting wood-fired hot tub. Beyond that, the secluded beach of Wanson Mouth, where you can watch the locals paddling in the surf or take a dip yourself if you dare. Do NOT forget your swimsuit. It would be a foolish move.   

Other than that, cobweb-blowing walks are the order of the day (in eight minutes you can reach the local pub if that’s the level of rambling you’re after) or there’s loads to do a short drive away. The seaside town of Bude is 20 minutes in one direction and Boscastle 20 in the other, which has a brilliant witchcraft museum.  Picturesque Port Isaac (where Doc Martin is filmed) isn’t far either, where Nathan Outlaw has both a restaurant and more casual Fish Kitchen ( Or for other elevated eats there’s St Tudy Inn in St Tudy – a village not far from the 17-mile Camel Trail (a cyclist’s paradise). There’s also the very real possibility you will not want to move from the fantasy house though. And if that happens, I implore you to just go with it. The real world can wait. 

Holiday rental rates at Barford start at £2,014 for three nights or £4,800 for seven nights (low season). To book go to or 01566 770 880. For 20% off booking rates in 2017, quote Stylist20 by 31 August