18 June 2013

Eat, Play, Dream

Written by Published in Health & Beauty

Sitting on sun-bleached decking, my toes are immersed in the mirror-still, natural pool outside Cornwall’s Scarlet Hotel. Pinks, purples and oranges merge like watercolours as the once dramatic sunset fades into calm and the only sounds audible are the faint clinks of glasses from the terrace above and the occasional honk from a seagull flying overhead


This hotel, nestled in the gorgeous Cornish village of Mawgan Porth, offers unbridled luxury – from its artfully devised architecture to the 37 spectacularly spacious rooms and delicious, seasonal and locally-sourced menu – but yet is so much more than a five-star retreat.

The Scarlet also happens to be one of the country’s most thoughtfully-devised eco destinations, with every aspect considered in terms of its environmental impact and a clear passion for sustainability.

Perched atop a stunning stretch of National Trust protected coastline, The Scarlet was designed by architects Harrison Sutton and builders Bauwerk. Their brief was to create something which enhanced the spot, taking advantage of the sea views to capture a sense of light and space, and the rooms do exactly this, not set around a formulaic grid of corridors but a tantalising web of spaces, some even curved and moulded to the cliff side.


The Scarlet’s eco-credentials were worked into the design from day one. The hotel has a biomass boiler, fired by the recycled waste wood chips from a local company, which produces the hot water for bathrooms, kitchens and hotel. It also makes use of grey water harvesting, taking the waste water from guest showers and baths and recycling it to flush toilets. Rain water is also collected and used to top up the natural pool, irrigate the sea thrift roofing, clean cars and to provide washing facilities for wetsuits and other outdoor kit. The hotel’s beautiful indoor pool is heated using an evacuated tube solar water heating system – thermal solar panels – and mineral wool insulation made from a mix of recycled steel slag and basalt rock is used for insulation.


The Scarlet’s motto is ‘cherish our world’ and this comes through, subtly and organically, into guests’ experience of staying there. The outdoor pool, for example, makes for an even more special experience because swimming in it means gliding not through a worrying concoction of cleaning chemicals but past the living reed bed. As well as looking beautiful, with their tips framing the calm pool and pointing toward the sun, this is used as a filtration system – microorganisms and plants balance the chemistry of the water and encourage biodiversity. The Scarlet’s roof is planted with sea thrift, a plant which occurs naturally along north Cornwall’s cliff tops and which provides perfect homes for insects and butterflies.

Before the hotel was built in 2009, the team undertook a careful search of the site, taking the Cornish hedges and walls apart and stone-by-stone and removing the reptile population. In that time they caught nearly 120 slow worms, lizards and two small adders, all of which were re-homed in one of the director’s gardens.

scarletWhile you can meander along the cliff-tops, covered in swathes of pink, yellow, purple and blue flowers or ideally watch the surfers from the sand dunes below the hotel, relaxing diversions are two a penny within the hotel site too. There are outdoor, log-fired hot tubs and an Ayurvedic inspired spa which has wellbeing at its heart, much more about ‘embracing life with a smile’ than any throwaway current beauty trend.

The Scarlet is important because it achieves a delicate balance between its vision and the guest experience – providing a blueprint for hotel’s with similarly sustainable visions. While sticking firmly to its environmental intentions, The Scarlet has managed to sacrifice nothing in the way of luxury. In fact, staying in a place which is in such easy harmony with its environs makes it all the more enjoyable. After a weekend at The Scarlet – lucky to catch the first heatwave of 2013 – I left thoroughly fed, happy and refreshed – and with more than a few sustainable design ideas to take home too.


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