Tree House: the Scarlet hotel

31st March 2010 (Last Updated March 31st, 2010 18:30)

The Scarlet in Cornwall, an environmentally friendly hotel from the ground up, is stylish, sexy, guilt-free and glamorous. Christopher Kanal pays a visit.

Tree House: the Scarlet hotel

The UK’s first new-build hotel, designed from the start to be environmentally friendly could not have a more dramatic location, situated on the wild northern coast of Cornwall, or more unique beginnings. Three sisters, the Strattons, decided to create a smaller luxury spa hotel below their hilltop Bedruthan Steps hotel, closer to the wide sandy Mawgan Porth beach, part enclosed by a burnished black cliff that reaches out west into the Atlantic. The 37-room multi-level Scarlet, now a member of Design Hotels, is beautifully designed with modern, simple aesthetics.

The architecture, which mixes sinuous curves and sharp lines, fits seamlessly into the wild and sparse local landscape with its roofs covered in rocks and salvaged groynes, green oxidised copper walls and infinity pools that stretch out to the sea.

Inside, large floor-to-ceiling windows and airy spaces take maximum advantage of the light and the impressive vistas. Interior spaces are vibrantly brought to life by some very nice pieces of art and sculptures by locally based artists.

The Scarlet has a stylishly realised green ethos yet there is not a tie-dye T-shirt to be seen. The property is heated by a biomass boiler fuelled by wood chippings and grey water is recycled. The construction incorporates grass roofs and solar panels. Any extra power not generated onsite is wind-generated from a local grid.

While the Scarlet certainly operates at its own relaxed pace, it’s also a fresh, fun, sexy place. Genuinely friendly staff members are decked out in oriental-style brown fishermen’s trousers and skirts.

“The architecture, which mixes sinuous curves and sharp lines, fits seamlessly into the wild and sparse local landscape.”

Rooms

There are five types of rooms from the smallest, ‘Just Right’, to ‘Generous’, ‘Spacious’ and ‘Indulgent’. Ours was tastefully designed in soft light wood with stylish furnishings and retro geometric textiles, and had a big, comfy bed and mood lighting. The large bathroom was equipped with a walk-in shower and a floor-to- main room had a bath tub big enough for two, while the balcony overlooking the sea was perfect for sunbathing by day and star gazing at night (the skies are crystal clear) and you can fall asleep to the constant sound of the Atlantic surf crashing against the shore.

The ayurvedic spa

At the heart of the Scarlet is an ayurvedic spa, complete with tented treatment rooms and pods suspended in a unisex darkened room for deep relaxation. Holistic treatments use organic seaweed recipes from Voya and Tri-Dosha’s sustainably sourced ayurvedic lotions.

The spa has its own spacious couple’s suite with two beds and a bath, and a wet treatment room, hammam and a rasul. I chose the ‘Unlock’ journey, and after discovering my dosha in a brief consultation, had a divine 45-minute massage and left invigorated. The spa has private cubicles with showers to change, or you can head into a sea-facing wooden floored chill-out room, where you can relax on soft loungers or in a sunken cushioned pit wearing your soft grey organic cotton bathrobes.

Attached to the spa is a stunning indoor pool (heated by solar panels, of course), big enough for laps, and there is a small eucalyptus-infused steam room. Outside is a natural pool that is self cleaned by reeds, or the less brave can take a bath in one of the two wood-fired hot tubs that overlook the sea.

The Scarlet restaurant

Locally sourced produce is central to the cuisine of the Scarlet’s restaurant, where head chef Ben Tunnicliffe who held a Michelin star at his previous abode, the Abbey in Penzance, serves up contemporary European-inspired dishes with a twist; from handdived St Austell scallops, onion puree and peppered satsumas to charred rib of St Ives beef with caramelised shallots, salsa verde and griddled polenta.

Cornish location

The cosy, friendly atmosphere and relaxing-adult-only facilities make it hard to leave the Scarlet. Relaxation spaces are dotted throughout the hotel, from the quirky library and courtyard garden to the residents-only ‘Retreat’ lounge and rooftop. If you manage to tear yourself away, you can explore the stunning coastline around you. A coastal path at the end of the garden, just down from the hot tubs, will lead you onto the windswept beach of Mawgan Porth, where you can wander up onto the cliffs, take in the hidden bays below and the wide blue ocean horizon ahead.