The Perfect English Seaside Escape at Caerhays Castle, Cornwall
March 11, 2019
The silver shimmery beaches of Cornwall set sparkling by the morning light bade us farewell on our last day. With muddy black Labradors happily bounding across the flat sand and a thin river trickling into the crashing waves of the Atlantic on Porthluney Beach, the setting was reminiscent of a Virginia Woolf book or perhaps a Nicholas Sparks saga.
My boyfriend and I decided we were in much need of a long relaxing weekend away from the bustle of our London lives so we set our sights on the beachside county of Cornwall. I have only visited Cornwall once before by plane and, as we got up at 7am to embark on a 4.5 hour train journey, I suggest to all my fellow travellers to take a plane in future; especially as now Heathrow will be offering 4 flights a day in April.
Caerhays Estate is a 20 minute drive from St. Austell station overlooking the southern Cornish coastline. The estate is run by avid horticultural expert Charles Williams whom owns and oversees the Castle, tea room, many holiday houses, and the sprawling floral life in the English Heritage listed Grade II 140 acre gardens filled with Camellias, Magnolias and Rhododendrons which are open to the public mid-February to mid-June. The Williams family run this gorgeous natural property as a business – profiting off the £10K per day shooting excursions, 12 property rentals found here filming (most recognizably with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), sales of mail order plants, cattle, pheasants, weddings and event hospitality.
The history of the castle is interesting as the first family to have owned it from 1370-1840- The Trevanion family, lost it due to overspending on construction, gambling and lack of male heirs. Supposedly the only hope of a lucrative marriage arrangement was thwarted by the Williams’ dog biting the feet of one of the American heiress’s footman. After the Trevanonions fled to Paris in debt, Michael Williams of Burncoose and Scorrier bought it and restored it in 1840, whilst the grandson John Charles planted and cultivated the gardens much later.
We had the pleasure of talking to current owner Charles Williams and learning about his family history. With their passion as plant hunters; his ancestors traversed as far as Yunnan and Szechwan China in the 1900’s to locate the stunning plans which would be bred into hybrid flowered trees dotted all over the herbaceous hillside. Most notably, the Williams family developed the x williamsii camellias and hold the NCCPG National Magnolia and Padocarpus Collection; winning 25 gold medals at the competitive RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The grounds boast more than 450 pink, purple, white and red magnolias, and they have been lauded with numerous accolades. Visitors can request private tours.
We had a wonderful stay at the country house on the estate – the Vean, but if you fancy something cosier like a smaller barn conversion or perhaps a small retreat on the edge of the sea, there are several delightful options: The Fish Shed, The Engine House, The Rabbit Warren, the Parc-An-Bounder, the Boat House, the Lime Kiln, the Old Village Hall, the Old Cart House, the Percuil View, the Bottom Lodge, and Burncoose House.
The marketing manager and our weekend hostess Lucinda Rimmington kindly picked us up at the station and drove us to The Vean, a gorgeous 5-star Georgian country house. With 8 en-suite bedrooms and the peaceful privacy of having this home to ourselves for the weekend, we arrived with 1 bag in tow and relaxed by the fire with home made scones, freshly clotted Cornish cream, jam and a cup of English Breakfast tea.
Our private chef for the weekend was the friendly Nicky who taught at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and provided us with a spectacular dinner that night of warm canapés of mini scotch eggs and salmon on puff pastry, a starter of white crab meat on bruschetta, our main – a gorgeously cooked steak with pink peppercorn sauce and brandy, and a divine vanilla panna cotta dessert with pine nut crumble and poached pear in red wine.
The first morning waking up at The Vean, we were driven to the The Lost Gardens Of Heligan for a fantastic roast lunch with roast pork, greens, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and an enormous slice of freshly baked chocolate cake.
A garden estate originally bought by Sampson Tremayne in 1560, the gardens were only developed approximately 200 years later in the mid-1700’s and 1800’s by Henry Hawkins and John Hearle Tremayne. After being used as a convalescence home by British soldiers during World War I then being used as an American army base during World War II, the gardens were left neglected. The Tremayne’s descendants Tim Smit and John Willis re-discovered the Heligan Gardens in 1990 and the restoration began.
Today, the Lost Gardens of Heligan can be visited in its gorgeous rebirth.
After a wonderful lunch and peak within the gift shop, we went back to The Vean for an afternoon nap by the fire.
The evening was relaxing and picturesque as we spent a lovely night at the hyperlink this Sharksfin Restaurant in a little fisherman’s village called Mevagissey where many small candlelit pubs were dotted with locals.
With a seaside view of the fishing boats and sat by a glassed fire, we ate barbeque prawns, popcorn shrimp (fried shrimps with coriander, sweet chilli and lime aioli) and pork belly burgers with huge helpings of pork belly sandwiched in between two beef patties. Excessive yet delicious, we ended our meal with a sweet grand finale of the dark and stormy sticky toffee sundae with vanilla ice cream and hot butterscotch sauce as well as an indulgently rich chocolate brownie.
We enjoyed our deep sleep caused perhaps by our overly indulgent feast at the Sharksfin and we curled up into our bed at The Vean for our last night. In the crisp morning, we walked the short walk down to the beach for a quiet pause before taking afternoon tea and scones at the Magnolia Tea Room at the castle.
The scenic towns, fresh food, breath-taking views and generous hospitality of the Caerhays Castle team made our Cornish weekend away the perfect break.
The Sharksfin Restaurant
A: The Quay, Mevagissey, Cornwall, PL26 6QU
W: The Sharksfin
T: 01726 842 969
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Written by Jessica Patterson for Luxuria Lifestyle International