The history of Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay Hotel


Built in 1900, Watergate Bay Hotel was originally intended to serve as a railway terminus hotel for a proposed Newquay to Padstow branch line, but the railway never came. During the Second World War, it became an RAF Officers Mess and was later converted into married quarters, but fell into disrepair during the 1960s.

John and Mary Ashworth bought the Watergate Bay Hotel in 1967, initially running it as self-catering flats. The Ashworths converted the premises back to a 55 bedroom hotel in 1971, adding an extension to include a living area and restaurant. It was successfully run as a seasonal family hotel for the traditional bucket-and-spade holiday for many years.

Also in the 1970s one of the UK’s first skate parks opened at Watergate Bay. The concrete bowl was popular among skateboarders of the era including Nigel Semmens.

The Beach Hut & Extreme Academy

In 1999, John and Mary’s middle son, Henry Ashworth, developed the hire shop into The Beach Hut restaurant and Extreme Academy sports school. His vision was to create a ‘ski resort on a beach’, to make Watergate Bay a place where people could get active amongst the elements one minute and then relax and eat good food the next. Somewhere to hang out.

Extreme Academy’s sports schools transformed the beach into a mixture of classroom, playground and the wild outdoors, all year round when before people only came to the beach in the summer. Offering lessons to those who wanted to try new sports or improve their skills in a range of activities including: surfing, waveski, traction kiting, kitesurfing, standup paddlesurfing and hand planing. 2010 saw Extreme Academy sports school completely rebuilt to include heated changing facilities with hot showers, and a new booking and equipment hire office.

Located right next to the sand, The Beach Hut has stunning views across Watergate Bay from both the indoor tables and from the decked balcony that runs around the restaurant. Open 365 days a year, the menu runs from breakfast to mid morning coffees, lazy lunches and afternoon cakes, through to dinner. Daily specials reflect the best of Cornish seasonal produce and the iconic Extreme Hot Chocolates are worth a visit by themselves.

Over the years The Beach Hut has been transformed from a single story building into a two stories. In 2006 Fifteen Cornwall moved into upstairs and The Beach Hut became one level once again. The storm of March 2008 played havoc with Watergate Bay and the restaurant found itself underwater. Since then we’ve build a new sea wall and The Beach Hut got a whole new look.




The Living Space & Swim Club

In 2004 Will Ashworth took over the running of the hotel from his parents, John and Mary. The same year, the hotel embarked upon a four phase redevelopment, which transformed the hotel over the course of the next eight years. The regeneration of Watergate Bay Hotel created the Living Space which opened in 2005 and Swim Club which opened in 2012.

Only accessible to hotel guests and members Swim Club offers exclusive use of the lower-ground of The Living Space. The Ocean Room has commanding views of the Atlantic and serves coffees and cocktails, beer, wine, spirits and patisserie from the café bar. The ethos is aprés ski by the beach.



Fifteen Cornwall

May 2006 saw the addition of Fifteen Cornwall to Watergate Bay, transforming the second floor of The Beach Hut into the second Fifteen restaurant in the UK. The restaurant has achieved huge success and has trained over 140 apprentices to date.



We are now in 2013 and developing some even bigger and better plans for the hotel. Stay tuned for our dining room project!

14 thoughts on “The history of Watergate Bay

  1. Mr G A Townsend

    Between 1978 and 1986 we spent our family holidays there in the bucked and spade days as you call it, they were great holidays and I guess to me the best days of the hotel.

    Regards Gordon Townsend.

  2. Brian Halling

    Lovely to see the history written down of the Bay and Hotel. On my part I have been visiting since, let’s keep this bit quite, since 1963.
    Possibly at least once every single year since and all seasons at the hotel, camping, self catering and owning a property there. I love it and all my family have been brought up visiting and enjoying the sea surfing and the sand and now my first grandchild as both stayed still the hotel and self catered and at 6 months loved it as we all still do.
    We look with interest and pride at how things have changed and developed and admire how the quality remains high and the people and visitors or otherwise great and interesting.
    Winter is a special time both Christmas and the New Year parties are just great I love them.
    The weather changes and I have burnt in the sun and enjoyed the driving wind and the rain on the beach walks. I watch the sands come and go and the rocks rise and fall. I have seen the various sports rise and wane, my surf board grow and shrink!
    My sons and daughter surf and kite surf while I stand in the rain and shout encouragement
    I have holidays and visited a very large part of the world with my friends and family but I still visit each year many times take the same pictures of the beach and cliffs that I did 50 years ago look for the changes in the hotel whilst having my beer looking at the view whether as a guest or visitor
    For me Watergate Bay is just a very special place and part of my history
    Thank you
    Brian Halling

    1. Watergate Bay

      Hello Brian,

      We’d like to thank you for leaving us such a lovely comment. It’s great to hear how you and your family have spent many happy years at the hotel and on the beach.

      As much as we are a part of your history, you are a part of ours.

      We would love to see the photo’s you’ve taken over the years and share them on our blog if you would be happy for us to do so, we would credit you of course. If you would like to email us please use [email protected]

      Thank you again

      Best wishes

      Watergate Bay Hotel

  3. Clare MacLennan

    My daughter now works in the Kids Zone at the hotel having also worked at the Beach Hut so this is my connection. We came down to visit her two years ago and had a lovely few days in the hotel. I have posted a photograph of an advert for the hotel on your Facebook page dating from a 1933 guide book to Newquay that I found and kept when clearing out my parents’ house some years ago. I love that the phone number back then was Newquay 25!

  4. maureen collins

    I had 3 great stays at Watergate Bay hotel in the 60’s.I was about 6 years-8years old then. We travelled overnight to get there , having bacon cooked on a primus stove on Dartmoor early morning. Then we waited for the first glimpse of the hotel as we came over the hill, it was always so exciting. I revisited 2 years ago with our grandchildren and had a day on the beach – still rock pools and loads of fun!!!

  5. Mark Stevenson

    My dad was a navigator in the RAF during the war in 502 Squadron. He was stationed at St Eval from November 1942 to May 1943. He took some photos of the hotel from the beach and one of the view from his window.

    I’ll have to come and follow in his footsteps one day and bring the photos.

    1. sarah

      Hi Mark, we love hearing people’s stories about Watergate Bay, and old photos of the hotel and Bay are some of our most treasured possessions! We hope you can make it here one day to retrace your father’s footsteps. If you’d like get in touch before then feel free to email us at [email protected]. Thanks again,

  6. Jeremy Hinton

    Dear Watergate Team, as a previous owner of a place just up the coast in Mawgan Porth, I am delighted to see that you are buying your electricity from us through Piclo. I have spent many happy summers at Watergate and I think you guys are the very spirit of the holidays I remember there. We make solar power and it couldn’t be going to a better user!

    1. sarah

      Hi Jeremy, thanks for getting in touch. We really like working with Piclo – it means we can source all of our electricity locally and know exactly where it’s coming from, because we choose it. Best wishes team WGB.

  7. Wendy Maurice (née Tidd)

    I recall visiting for a summer holiday once or maybe twice as an Air Force brat with my mother and maybe grandmother in the late 1940s or early 50s when I was around six, in the RAF married quarters days. As I recently imparted to the staff in an email, I loved to get up early in the mirning and go down to the beach, alone I might add (imagine!), to look for mussels in the rock pools. I would take them in to the dining room kitchen where they obliged me by cooking them for my bfast.

    I have a picture in my mind’s eye of being in that dining room, and of the rock pools on the beach. My family has taken camping holidays regularly for over 30 years in an Ontario Provincial park in Canada where I have lived for 50 years, so I can imagine how regular holidays in Watergate Bay would create for the family such special memories.

    I don’t recall my father being with us, he may have been away, or it may have been after he died in 1950. He went on a tour of duty to Iraq in the spring of 1950, never to return, sadly.

    My best friend from school and I visited in the fall of 1997, for old time’s sake, but I cannot say it was familiar. No wonder with all the changes!

    I have enjoyed reading more of the history, clarifying its stories for me, and the comments here. Keep up the good work!

    1. sarah

      Hi Wendy, Thank you so much for your comment – we love hearing everyone’s tales of Watergate Bay. The Hotel, RAF and buildings may have changed over the years but the beach still remains the same. We hope you can visit us again one day soon. Team WGB


    I spent every year at watergate bay hotel it has special childhood memories including swimming and sandcastle competitions as well as the treasure hint and not forgetting ken Stratton band every other night. I plan to visit for my 50th birthday in 3 years time

    Ian geddes

    1. heidi

      Hi Ian,
      Thank you for your message and for sharing your memories. We hope to see you again for your birthday celebrations.
      Team WGB

      1. IAN A GEDDES

        O I will do in 2020 for my 50th birthday have a collection of family photographs taken in the hotel including an.old brochure probably early 1980s with my sister and I in


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