Just past Falmouth the main road leading to the most southerly parts of the south west of England quickly becomes wilder. After the first mile you twist and turn along narrow lanes: driving parallel to the coast, you can take in the salty sea air through opened car windows and slow down to catch the first glimpse of sea past Maenporth Cove. If you are not used to driving down single track country lanes, you may find the drive something of a breathtaking adventure as you creep slowly round sharp bends.
A close friend and I had been planning a relaxing getaway over a long weekend, and having far fewer opportunities to catch up with each other than we would like, we were keen to stay somewhere completely quiet. We had long been planning to explore the Helford Passage in Cornwall: our only wish was to stay somewhere peaceful, serving good food while we recharged our batteries and caught up on all our news.
Budock Vean Hotel is situated on the north side of the Helford Passage. It is an independent hotel, run by Martin and Amanda Barlow, a couple who live in the local area and who have owned the property since 2000. The hotel itself is situated on a 65 acre organically managed plot, which includes the hotel’s private golf course, and leads down through interesting sub-tropical gardens to its own private foreshore.
The Helford Passage is a tranquil, unspoiled river in southern Cornwall, whose course runs from the outer edge of Falmouth Bay up to Gweek, which was a once-thriving port. The main characteristics of the Helford Passage are its hidden creeks, rocky coves and sandy beaches. It is a destination for those seeking to escape from the modern world with some gentle walking, boat trips and even a swim in the quiet river streams.
We arrived at the hotel in the early evening, and as we walked into the hotel entrance the first impression was one of calm, stillness and space: all we could hear was the faint tinkle of evening aperitifs being served in the bar.
Budock Vean occupies a single building, reminiscent of a family, country home, and it is just two stories high. The entrance hall is very large, with a wide, carpeted staircase in front of you leading upstairs. The guest rooms are all allocated upstairs, and there are a number of large sitting and reception rooms downstairs, all of which face out onto the garden and a golf course.
Arriving on a gloriously sunny day, we swiftly deposited our luggage in our room, and headed outside onto the hotel terrace for pre-dinner drinks. Accommodation at the Budock Vean includes dinner in the hotel restaurant, which is served between 7pm and 9pm. Maureen Roberts, the restaurant manager, brings guests the menu to peruse whilst enjoying an aperitif in either one of the four drawing rooms, the bar, the conservatory or the terrace in our case.
Dinner is a reasonably formal affair at Budock Vean and a four course meal is served every evening. The menu is short and features four starters, four main courses and four desserts, with Cornish cheeses to finish if you can manage it. Not surprisingly fish and seafood feature heavily on the menu, and one whole page is taken up listing the many Cornwall-based suppliers the Head Chef, Darren Kelly uses for fish, meat and game, vegetables, fruit and dairy produce.
Highlights from our dinner were the starter of locally smoked Scottish salmon with handpicked St Ives bay crab and pan roasted supreme of Cornish wild turbot with spinach and a pancetta butter sauce. This is not the place to come looking for cutting edge cooking, but rather very enjoyable, unadulterated and locally sourced food served simply.
The dining room is a very striking part of the building, with beamed ceilings and large chandeliers. The décor is rather old-fashioned, and has a formal feel to it, but your attention lingers only briefly on the room itself, as guests are sat next to the huge glass windows at one end of the building, where you can enjoy a commanding view of the hotel grounds whilst dining. The room is quiet, with guests chatting, and a pianist playing a grand piano in the corner.
After dinner, guests move to the conservatory for coffee, where the atmosphere is livelier. Staff at Budock Vean are genuinely warm and welcoming, and take the opportunity to chat to the guests at the end of the evening. With all the fresh air and good food you will sleep soundly.
We shared a twin room, which was a good size with a garden view. The beds were comfortable, with good quality pillows and bed linen. The bathroom appeared to have been recently refurbished, with a powerful shower and Elemis products.
The next day started with a morning swim in the indoor pool, followed by smoked haddock, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast before heading out for the day. There is a great deal to see and do in the area: Pendennis Castle, St. Michael’s Mount, and St. Ives are all under twenty miles away. There are also a number of interesting gardens a short distance away, including Glendurgan Garden, which belongs to the National Trust, and Trebah sub-tropical garden. There are also many easy walks along the Helford Passage, starting from Budock Vean itself.
Returning to the hotel after a day out enjoying the sunshine, we investigated the Budock Vean spa. We each tried a relaxing Head in Heaven treatment with Speizia beauty products, handmade in Cornwall, using natural, ethically sourced ingredients.
For those keen to explore the local food scene, highlights for us included the Ferryboat Inn, positioned on the northern banks of the Helford, Providore, an independent café and tapas bar in Falmouth, and J.H. & M. Choaks of Falmouth, to sample the famous Cornish pasty, which holds the EU Protected Geographical indication status.
Budock Vean’s hard to get to location, peace and quiet and attractive surroundings do make you feel as though you are another world away from the frenetic pace of everyday life. Do not come here with any expectations of wireless internet connection or even a mobile telephone signal. Instead bring a good book, walking boots, a racket and a golf club, or just sit and enjoy the silence in comfort and stillness.
Budock Vean : www.budockvean.co.uk
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