As Valentine’s Day approaches, what better way to express your love than by sharing a couple of days immersed in the British seaside? Words: Nicola Smith and Madeleine Barber
FOR A SECRET HIDEAWAY
The Dairy, Roseland, Cornwall
This plush converted 1930s barn on Cornwall’s dreamy Roseland peninsula combines Scandinavian-esque creams and whites with oak flooring and exposed beams, creating a homely haven that also boasts far reaching sea views. Explore the beautiful coast path on your doorstep, or hop on the ferry to bustling Falmouth to browse its shops and galleries, before treating yourselves to a meal at Olga Polizzi’s renowned Tresanton in nearby St Mawes, tucking into the catch of the day as St Anthony’s lighthouse, across the bay, lights up the water. The Dairy is available to rent from £435 per week (cornishgems.com).
FOR A BUCOLIC CABIN
Kittiwake, Isle of Mull, Argyll
Made entirely from Mull wood cut on site by wood-sculptor and owner Matthew, this rustic hill-top cabin is refreshingly authentic. The roof is topped by an old workaday wooden rowing boat – a tribute to the Hebridean island’s rich maritime heritage. The cabin is set in peaceful woodland that hides secret sculpture trails and arty finds within. These are part of the host’s art centre, named ‘Art in Nature’, which lies 200 metres away and offers creative courses and exhibitions. The cabin rooms are tastefully decorated with seashore hues and pops of bright colour. The brass bed and wooden furniture are kept cosy by a wood-burning stove, and artistic touches can be found throughout. A sandy stretch with turquoise waters sits just 300 metres away. Or take a peek into Tobermory port with its picturesque painted houses, which isn’t very far. From £90 for two people to stay the night (canopyandstars.co.uk).
FOR RUSTIC CHIC
The Gallivant, Camber Sands, East Sussex
Hang your hat just 300 metres from the beach in this California-inspired restaurant with rooms, where as much attention to detail has gone into the thread count of the linen sheets as the decadent Larder of Guilty Pleasures, which hides such treats as the delectable Goupie chocolate, made just down the road. Spend the day ambling around the nearby ancient hilltop town of Rye, with its cobbled streets and eclectic shops, before returning for some good local fayre: 95 per cent of the ingredients at The Gallivant are sourced from within 10 miles, and the chefs’ CVs include Buckingham Palace and The Dorchester. ‘Bigger rooms’ start at £140 per night. There is a minimum two-night stay at weekends (thegallivant.co.uk).
FOR BOUTIQUE BEACH HUTS
Beach Cove Coastal Retreat, Ilfracombe, Devon
Beach huts by name, but not by nature, Beach Cove’s roomy clapboard pads are set into the cliffside at Hele Bay, near Ilfracombe on Devon’s north coast. Book the Cairnwood Premier Sea View and relax in your private hot tub as the waves dance beneath you. Cycle the Tarka Trail, a 30-mile traffic-free route running between Braunton and Meeth, and finish the day with dinner at The Quay restaurant, Damien Hirst’s eatery on Ilfracombe harbour. The Cairnwood Premier Sea View is available to rent from £370 for three nights (darwinescapes.co.uk).
FOR SEASIDE STYLE
The Retreat, Sandsend, North Yorks
You expect a property to have style when it’s the former home of a Vogue editor, and this 17th-century two-bedroom hideaway doesn’t disappoint, combining cosiness with a pastoral elegance. Sitting a few miles from Whitby, and a short walk from the village of Sandsend, the Retreat even has views of the North Yorkshire coast from the master bedroom. Take the steam train over the North Yorkshire Moors, enjoying a glass of winter Pimms before you dine in the classic Pullman carriage. The Retreat is available to rent for a minimum of two days from £650 (gorgeouscottages.com).
FOR A COSMOPOLITAN ESCAPE
Drakes, Brighton, Sussex
This seafront hotel smacks of all the good things in life – sea views, bespoke cocktails, craft beers and a restaurant which has been awarded the highest score of all Brighton restaurants in The Good Food Guide 2016. Check into the Signature Room, with views over Brighton Pier from the chaise longue and the freestanding bath, before splashing out on the VIP Champagne experience on the Big Wheel, sipping bubbly from the capsule as you soar above Brighton Beach. The Signature Room at Drakes starts at £300 per night for a room only (drakesofbrighton.com).
FOR GRAND COUNTRY STYLE
Rathmullan House, County Donegal, Ireland
Step back in time when you check into this grand country house in County Donegal, with wide-reaching views over Lough Swilly. Take a beach trek on horseback before returning for a pre-dinner dip in the indoor pool. The food, served in the hotel’s Cook & Gardner restaurant, is locally sourced – in part from its own walled garden. Book one of the hotel’s Superior Rooms, complete with Lough Swilly views, and snuggle into the king-size bed – but not before a cheeky night cap in the Library. A Superior Room starts at €100 (£70) per person B&B (rathmullanhouse.com).
FOR REMOTE LUXURY
Jan de Groot, John O’Groats, Scotland
With views of the Pentland Firth, immerse yourselves in the remote North of Scotland while enjoying some rustic luxury. The one-bedroom Penthouse Suite, part of the Inn at John O’Groats, has numerous large windows that bring the dramatic outside in. Start the day with breakfast at the Inn’s Storehouse café, before hiring bikes and exploring the North Sea Cycle Route with views of the Orkney islands of Stroma and Hoy. Warm up with a tour of the Old Pultney Distillery, followed by a dram of whisky, before returning for sustenance from the welcome hamper of local food and wine. Jan de Groot is available to rent from £87 per night (naturalretreats.com).
FOR COSY COMFORTS
The Ship, Dunwich, Suffolk
Cuddled between Southwold and Aldeburgh, The Ship is a pub with rooms of the best kind, embodying the old-fashioned luxury that only comes with an open fireplace, iron bedsteads and duck-down duvets. Check into a Marsh View Best room, which spoils its occupants with enticing views over Dingle marshes towards Walberswick and away to the sea – without even having to get out of bed. After a trip to Southwold return to The Ship for its excellent fish and chips and some local ale in front of the roaring fire. The Marsh View Best room is £135 per night B&B (shipatdunwich.co.uk).
FOR FANCY FOOD
Fowey Hotel, Fowey, Cornwall
Perched with its toes in the sea, this seafront hotel dates back to 1882 and exudes grandeur, with its ornate Victorian lift, lofty ceilings and sea-view drawing room. Treat yourselves to the Fowey Hotel’s Romantic Retreat package, sharing homemade fudge and a bottle of Prosecco as you kick back in your large sea-view room, before enjoying a three-course meal in the 2 AA rosette Spinnakers Restaurant, where Looe Bay scallops vie for your attention with Cornish crab. But first, take a stroll to Readymoney Cove, or head to the Eden Project for a turn on its seasonal ice-skating rink. The Romantic Retreat is priced at £159 per night, based on two nights (thefoweyhotel.co.uk). To be in with winning a stay at the Fowey Hotel, click here.
FOR AN ISLAND RETREAT
The Broch, Borve, Isle of Harris
From the outside, The Broch looks like an ancient Roman watchtower, but from the inside, it’s an Art-Deco lovers’ paradise. Navigate the cylindrical build and climb the windblown beech tree and iron-woven staircase to the third floor bedroom, where you’ll find a four-poster bed and circular skylight, perfect for stargazing. Underfloor heating and two fireplaces keep visitors toasty warm and with views over the Sound of Taransay, the sea is never very far. Find golden sand at the mouth of Allt Borgh Beag river, which is nearby. For three nights in February, two people can stay here for £514 (borvelodge.com).
FOR A UNIQUE STAY
Clifftop Railway Carriage, Ceredigion, Wales
Charming and pleasingly original, this Edwardian railway carriage has been converted into a lavish seaside escape with breathtaking 180-degree views of the famed Cardigan Bay from its clifftop location. Spot cormorants and kestrels in the air and dolphins and seals in the sea from each passenger window before relaxing in front of the fire in the contemporary open-plan kitchen/dining/living room. The carriage also has French doors opening out on to a sun deck for a romantic breakfast on those crisp, sunny mornings. The sandy Blue Flag beach at Aberporth is just a couple of hundred metres away, and the Ceredigion Coast Path runs nearby. To rent the carriage for one week, prices start at £380. Sleeps two (welsh-cottages.co.uk).
FOR MODERN MOODS
The Coastguard Lookout, Dungeness, Kent
Isolated, stylish and quirky – this bolthole has it all. Sat in the middle of the pebbles on Dungeness’ quiet shores, this former coastguard’s lookout has been reborn by interior architecture firm Johnson Naylor. It’s retained the original 50s structure, while integrating quality furnishings such as limestone floors. The minimalist design calls for no doors – simply walls – and a metal staircase that oozes modernity. Not one for young children, this eccentric seaside escape is the perfect love nest where you can step out of the tower and on to the beach. Prices start from £536 (mulberrycottages.com). Photo: Visit Kent
FOR HISTORIC VIBES
The Pigsty, Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire
This Mediterranean-inspired sty was built in the nineteenth century by Squire Barry of Fyling Hall as a home for his pigs. Now, it’s a small but comfortable place to stay for those with a hankering for history. The sty embraces compact living on one floor, and although not palatial, its location – sandwiched between the North York Moors and the sea – is fit for a king. The Landmark Trust has lovingly restored and maintained the ancient property, including its iconic timber columns, so that the sty is better suited to a much higher breed of inhabitant. Enjoy views over the undulating Yorkshire hills towards the glistening horizon of Robin Hood’s Bay, which is within easy walking distance – approximately one mile. Once there, you’ll find a long stretch of golden sand to explore. Sleeping two, The Pigsty costs £260 for four nights (landmarktrust.org.uk). Photo: The Landmark Trust
For more holiday inspiration, take a look at our coastal guides or reviews of places to stay. Engaged? We've picked out the top 12 weddings by the sea. Also, keep up to date with our latest travel features in the magazine.