Solo travel in Cornwall
As an experienced travel writer for The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the i paper and many more, Lottie has spent thousands of nights in hotel rooms over the last decade, many of which she spent alone. As a regular solo traveller, she really knows what those adventuring on their own really want and need, so her insights here will give you an idea of how going solo at Watergate Bay might look. Feeling welcome, included and safe – especially as a female traveller – with fair pricing, is balanced against adventure, unique experiences and time and space to do what you want to do.
Whether you’re a social solo traveller or prefer a little self-reflection time when you’re on holiday, Watergate Bay is a fantastic base for all types of solo adventures in Cornwall. The vast hotel, with its sea-view bedrooms and supremely chic beach lofts dug into the cliffs, sits directly above the flat, golden sprawl that is Watergate Bay beach.
Surrounded by jagged cliffs and blessed with a near-constant roll of white, frothing surf, the Atlantic here is so mesmerising, there’s really no need to bring friends along – on my wintry weekend here, I found myself drawn to all windows, transfixed by the continuity of the tides and unwilling to break my silence so I could listen to the power of ocean moving in and out as it does all day. It truly is a spellbinding place for a solo break.
But there’s much more to solo travel at Watergate Bay than just looking out to sea. Here’s why I love this place for a solo Cornish escape.
1. There’s ample opportunity for messing about on the water
Be it on a board or a boat, or even just in your swimmers, the ocean will draw you in at some point during your stay at Watergate Bay. Almost everyday you’ll see little black, wet-suit clad figures bobbing about in the sea catching the ever-reliable waves that crash on the shore here, and it’s almost impossible to resist the temptation yourself. Fortunately, you need not resist: local surf school Wavehunters have partnered with the hotel to run lessons for beginners and intermediate surfers, and they’ll provide all the gear to keep you warm while you’re at it.
There are group lessons – ideal if you want to meet fellow travellers – or private tutorials if you prefer one-to-one assistance. Or, if you’re an old hat, you can simply hire the wetsuits and boards and hit the waves solo.
2. The hiking is spectacular – and easy
I’m no stranger to a map and compass, but there’s something to be said for being able to just follow a footpath without the worry of getting lost. Especially when you’re out hiking alone. From Watergate Bay you can either head southward to Newquay, where the route continues to the headland above Fistral Beach for views back towards the hotel, or you can go north to the Mawgan Porth via the delightfully sheltered Beacon Cove (perfect for spotting wildlife from a stand-up paddleboard).
It’s the kind of scenery that’s begging to be captured and at every new turn is a new picture to take – so make sure you’ve got space on your camera roll. In summer, the coastal path is littered with wildflowers and lush green grasses, while in January it sings a bright yellow with flowering gorse and on frosty mornings it takes on a silvery sheen. A swim in the sea at Mawgan Porth is the ideal reward after a long walk.
3. You can keep fit – or keep calm
One of my favourite things about travelling solo is that I can keep up my exercise routine better than if I’m with friends or family. And at Watergate Bay you can even add new activities to your repertoire. Beach yoga and HIIT (high intensity interval training) with Wavehunters is on the cards if you’re feeling particularly energetic.
Of course, there’s no pressure to stay active at all, and the hotel’s outdoor terrace hot tub overlooking the beach is an idyllic place to avoid risk of overexertion. There’s a heated pool if swimming in the sea isn’t your bag, and treatments by massage therapists are a restorative way to end the day if you’ve been on the go or in the waves.
4. There’s fancy food and low-key lunches
You’re not short of places to eat at Watergate Bay, and most dishes here come with a side of yet more sea views. The Beach Hut, which predictably sits right on the beach, has uninterrupted views out to the ocean and hours could be spent here sipping coffee, scoffing burgers or drinking local beers while the surfers ride the waves. But there’s also The Living Space, a low-key restaurant in the main hotel with sofa seating and bar stools where you can have hearty dinners – I loved the beef shin ragu – or late afternoon G&Ts as the sun sets over the sea.
Solo travellers shouldn’t be afraid to don some glad rags and splash out at Zacry’s, too, the hotel’s upscale restaurant where fresh fish is the main event. Watch the chefs at work in the semi-open kitchen and try a few different wines – most of which are by the glass for solo-friendly drinking – to pair with your main. There’s no going hungry here.
5. The Beach Lofts were made for divine seclusion
Thanks to years of dog ownership I’m an irritatingly early riser, which can often be a pain in hotels where breakfast doesn’t start until 8am. My stomach has been known to rumble as early as 5.30, after all. At Watergate Bay, though, the beach lofts were my saviour. These secluded bedrooms are tucked away inside the cliffs with direct access to the beach and have dreamy features like bathtubs and swing seats right by those sea views. But best of all, for a hungry morning person like me, the onsite Pantry means you can get up at any time, nip along the corridor to the communal kitchen area and make a breakfast of cereal, tea and toast or fruit with fresh coffee, and then take it back to bed. After 7.30am a spread of pastries comes out and fresh batter is delivered for making your own waffles.
There’s an honesty bar, too – I recommend the canned negronis with a slice of orange – and throughout the day a range of cakes and fruit are rotated for any time snacks. Of course, for a full and trouser-busting breakfast, there’s always the hot buffet at Zacry’s.
6. In-room tech makes it feel like a home from home
One of the joys of solo travel is the freedom to do what you want, and sometimes – often for me – that’s nothing at all. Travelling with friends and family is all very well, but it can be exhausting – the pressure to get up and go, make the most of your time and be present in every situation. Sometimes, though, an evening spent watching a movie with a glass of wine or a mint tea is equally as rewarding, and as a solo traveller at Watergate Bay it’s a real joy. The bedrooms here are not just a place to sleep – they’re a place to hide away, to relax, to decompress and to slob around as much as you want. You’re on holiday after all.
You can laze about on the sofa or on your bed and play music on the bluetooth radios provided in each room, or sign into Netflix to binge a series – ideally with the windows open so you can hear the sounds of the sea, too.
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