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Home from home amidst the grandeur

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: May 23, 2013

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THE Headland Hotel is imposing with its red-bricked Victorian demeanour but on the inside it is easy to get lost in its unpretentious charm, as well as suspect that it is tastefully edging towards five-star status.

While the 40 one, two and three-bedroom self-catering cottages have already sealed the top rating only awarded to luxury accommodation providers, you can't help but feel as though the main, Grade-II listed venue deserves more than the four stars it was awarded by the AA.

Staff and directors at the hotel were delighted to retain this standard in 2003, and rightly so, but with a multi-million pound overhaul which is nearing completion, an increase in tally would come as no surprise, as I'm sure fellow guests would agree.

A warm welcome awaited my wife and I from concierge Sarah on our arrival to the hotel on a surprisingly dry mid-week April afternoon. Its architectural grandeur is astonishing, as is the interior décor which features leather wing back chairs, open fireplaces, local artwork, hand-carved mahogany bannisters and a huge scale Lego model of the Headland made by a guest and which stands proudly on a plinth on the first floor landing.

Named simply 'best' and 'splendid', its superior rooms are furnished with four poster or canopy beds inside the largest and most luxurious space to relax in, while views over Fistral Beach and the Atlantic coastline can be taken in.

Our bathroom, with 'his and hers' showers and under-floor heating, was also huge and boasted similar views across the sea. Just remember to draw the blinds before jumping in the shower.

While sat at a table eating authentic Cornish fudge and strawberries with chocolate which was left on an occasional table ahead of our arrival, we were able to read about the origins of the hotel, while glancing down at the suffers riding the waves which lapped up at the shore only a stone's throw from the hotel.

The Headland really is steeped in class and history. It opened for business in 1900 after being built with the sole purpose of being the finest hotel in the South West and during the first decade of the century, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra stayed there on a number of occasions.

During the Second World War the hotel was requisitioned and it became an RAF hospital and, from time to time, its former patients and nurses return to check it is still standing. Some guests have also reported the harmless ghosts of men in uniforms walking the corridors late at night.

After our reception snack and during a tour by the concierge, I asked how much truth there was in the tales of hauntings and keen to maintain this mystery, she replied with a wry smile; 'you will have to let me know'.

We were shown rooms 205, 223 and 227 which will be familiar with Roald Dahl fans for being heavily featured in the movie, The Witches. Filming at the hotel in 1987 was an eventful time and Rowan Atkinson, who played the hotel manager, was claimed to have run a bath before going to bed without turning the taps off, with the flood reaching the ground floor from his second floor bedroom.

Anjelica Huston played the Grand at High Witch and her boyfriend at the time, Jack Nicholson, would regularly send large bouquets of flowers to the hotel and the girls on the switchboard would become very excited when he called to speak to her.

Around the corner from the ballroom, the location which was recreated in a studio for the scene which involved the combustion of dozens of witches in the film, is the terrace and bar area. It is decked with wooden floors, suede chairs and its enormous floor-to-ceiling windows allows the beach to provide the perfect backdrop while tucking into fresh, Cornish seafood, chargrilled cuts of meats, pasta dishes and imaginative salads with a cider, a cold beer – including a number of locally-brewed varieties – a fine wine, or even a cocktail.

Al fresco fizz can also be served on the recently-completed glass-fronted veranda which has extended the outdoor seating area of the Terrace to include an upper deck for dining.

But the stunning sea views which can be observed from almost every corner of the hotel can only be matched by the food served in the restaurant, which is open also open to non-residents.

Using fresh, locally sourced produce, such as Newquay Bay lobster or Carnanton Estate pheasant, each meal is freshly prepared to perfection and the hotel's knowledgeable staff will always look after their guests and are always keen to point out dolphins frolicking in the sea.

Dishes including carpaccio of smoked Cornish beef fillet and sautéed scallops florentine with crab tortellini can be expected from its a la carte menu.

During a mid-week stay in April and away from the busy holiday season, much to my wife Emma's delight, we had free reign of the first phase of the Wellness Area which was completed last spring and has a heated spa pool with a jet stream, bubble seats, a hot tub, a Cornish salt steam room, a Swedish sauna and aromatherapy showers.

The second and final phase of this project is expected to be complete this summer and will include a host of exciting features, including a gym, a robed-dining lounge, a relaxation lounge, a nail salon for manicures and pedicures, a Rhassoul St Tropez tanning room, a hydrotherapy bath and a suite of luxury rooms including a VIP suite which can be hired for exclusive use.

Needless to say, my wife expects a second visit.

For more details on the hotel visit: www.headlandhotel.co.uk or call 01637 872211 or email reception@headlandhotel.co.uk

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