A few months ago Leigh, Bailey and I were invited to spend a couple of days and a night in Penzance. Until this point, we hadn't really ventured into Penzance all that much except for our annual trip to Penzance Post Office to renew our international driver's licences (It's the only post office in Cornwall that does it). Always keen to check out new places we packed our bags and headed down the A30 with 'Chapel House' plugged into our sat navs.
We had just got back from spending some time in Spain visiting my parents and had found out a few days earlier that I was pregnant with our first child. We were also halfway through our house renovation project and had just hit a massive problem about an hour before we left the house. Admittedly I arrived, a little distracted, feeling nauseous and not very well researched for our stay. Cardinal blogger sins! I remember thinking on the drive down that this isn't really what I needed on that particular weekend. I was craving some switch off time to relax (my mind was doing cartwheels) and I guess I wasn't really expecting a weekend in a large town, large by Cornwall's standards anyway, to be all that relaxing.
I'm also not usually a fan of minimal decor and pretty much all I knew about Chapel house was that it had minimal decor. To do minimal well the finish of everything has to be perfect and it's rare that people have the money or attention to detail to achieve that. They usually cut corners on materials and tradesmen and the finished result, if you look closely, is a bit, well, boring and tatty. Not so in the case of Chapel House.
Susan, the Proprietor, is not only a woman of vision but she is evidently in possession of the rare yet necessary skills required to manifest this 17th Century Georgian admirals home, into the elegant boutique townhouse hotel that it is today. She worked closely with local Architect Keith Bell to ensure that every corner of the project was completed to the highest standards and her passion and perseverance show, making it a joy to walk through the doors.
In the past, I've likened walking through hallways that have been completely whitewashed as like wading through yoghurt. However, Susan's eye for detail and passion for curiosities gave my eye something to connect with at every corner, wall or twist of the staircase, just piquing my interest enough without over stimulating my senses.Everything on view was carefully selected to draw you into a deeper connection with the building's legacy. Originally built in 1790 by Admiral Samuel Hood Linzee, the placement of each of the windows had been carefully considered to give the best views of the ocean that made him famous. Coupled with nautical charts, books, vintage lanterns and a whole host of other curiosities, there's no denying this building's link to the Ocean and the harbour that can be viewed through the sash windows. Fast forward a few years on from 1790 and the townhouse operated as an arts club (1993-2011) for Penzance's bustling art scene. Now the walls, mantle pieces and console tables all double up as exhibition spaces for the Newlyn School of art which when combined with the mid-century furniture from Susan's previous home in Stockwell London, it gives the hotel a satisfying boutique, mid-century style.
We were lucky enough to have a look around at a few of the rooms and Susan has worked hard to give each room a standout bathroom feature. Whether it be a free-standing bathtub tucked away into the corner of the room or a bifold window/ ceiling feature offering you the choice of an open-air spa experience from 3 stories up whilst shadowed by the giant church steeples. Even the rooms without bathtubs have insane shower features where alternating settings pour water onto you like your stood beneath some Hawaiian waterfall. Each room is special is its own unique way and everything from the cleverly lit beams and shadow gaps work together to give the rooms a cosy get luxury experience.
One thing that comes with travelling a lot and staying in lots of hotels is an acute awareness of what lets them down and makes your stay there not as comfortable as it could be. For me, it's things like there only being one plug socket and it's in the furthest corner of the room behind a wardrobe or chest of drawers. Another example is when hotels place a mirror on one side of the room at higher than head height and then place the plug socket on the other side of the room, meaning that doing your hair before a night out becomes a circuit training experience of running between hair dryer and mirror whilst having to step up onto piled suitcases in order to catch a glimpse of your reflection (as you can probably tell I'm sharing a very specific hotel experience I've had not too recently). There were no such concerns here and Susan had even gone the extra mile by providing an ipad mini in each room to replace those tatty plastic wallets full of info on the local area. Instead everything was well researched and easy to find on your own tablet.
The gardens had of course been given as much consideration as the internals of the building and were landscaped to typical Cornish subtropical theme. Full of Cornish Palms, Phormiums, Seedums and Succulents the garden space was a little oasis with a backdrop of harbour noises.
In the morning Leigh (my hubby) claims to have had one of the best typical English Breakfasts he's ever had, which was all made from local Cornish produce. I stuck with what was on offer on the breakfast bar and poured myself a green smoothie from one of the many freshly blended smoothie jugs on display and created myself a morning bowl from the jars of cereals.
The evening meal wasn't what I was expecting at all but it was made more memorable as a result. We arrived in the dining room and noticed that the table was laid out for 6 people. We had two other couples joining us for dinner and as we stood around the kitchen island whilst Susan served us drinks it felt more like we had turned up to a friends house for a dinner party (A posh friend, not your mate from uni). Both of the couples were much older than us, one from the States and one from Canada but it gave us such a lovely experience of being able to connect with people we wouldn't have otherwise connected with and we got to hear all their travelling tales and perspectives on Cornwall (all wildly positive except that they couldn't get over how narrow the roads are). We had all pre-ordered our food from a menu the day before and Susan had been out that morning to collect fresh fish from the harbour market and locally grown greens. She makes all the food herself, another thing she's a perfectionist in. Is there nothing this woman can't do.
As you can tell we had a wonderful stay with Susan at Chapel House and there is nothing we can fault about our stay there, except for maybe that we didn't stay long enough. If you're thinking of spending some time down in this part of Cornwall I can't recommend it enough. Find out more by clicking here Chapel House Penzance
Top 10 things to do in Penzance whilst you're there.
1) Jubilee Pool https://www.jubileepool.co.uk
An outdoor art deco lido filled with fresh sea water right on the edge of the sea. Open daily from 10.30am - 6pm (7pm in August), and on Tuesday evenings until 8pm. Their Café is open daily from 10am - 6pm (7pm in August), with late opening on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday until 9pm serving great food under cover.
2) Morrab Gardens http://www.morrabgardens.org
A subtropical oasis in the heart of Penzance filled with an extensive collection of sub-tropical plants that have been accumulated over many years. Great place to take a break from all the wandering around you will be doing or grab a take-out sandwich from one of the many cafes and grab a bench in the gardens and watch the world go by.
3) Penlee House https://www.penleehouse.org.uk
Built in 1865 as a gracious Victorian home, Penlee House has been converted to create a first-class gallery and museum set within an attractive park. It specialises in showing the area's unique cultural heritage. A walk around here will quickly connect you to Penzances rich history and make you aware of what has changed and all that has stayed the same.
4) Newlyn Art Exchange http://newlynartgallery.co.uk
Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange offers a wide and varied exhibition programme across their two sites, presenting contemporary work in all media by regional, national and international artists, with a supporting programme of events.
5) Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens http://www.tremenheere.co.uk
A beautiful sheltered valley in west Cornwall, surrounded by woods, streams and dramatic vista provides the perfect setting for this 22-acre exotic and sub-tropical garden. International renowned artists such as James Turrell and David Nash RA have interacted with the garden to create site-specific permanent works, all harmonising with their garden setting. The gardens are stunning and the cafe serves absolutely top-notch food. There's also a fab nursery selling every succulent under the sun so you can take a bit of Cornwall home with you.
6) Marine Discovery Penzance http://www.marinediscovery.co.uk
Join them on their sailing catamaran, Shearwater II, for a unique marine wildlife watching adventure. The diversity of the wildlife found in West Cornwall is what makes it special. Trips could encounter grey seals, various seabirds, or different species of dolphins and porpoises, enigmatic ocean sunfish or even giants such as minke whales, humpback whales, basking sharks and leatherback turtles! Sailing gives you the most special encounter possible, the quiet meaning you can hear the splashes of the gannets as they dive and the whistles of the dolphins as they bowride alongside you. It's also the most environmentally friendly way to view marine life from the ocean.
7) Shopping on Chapel Street https://no-56.com
Various vintage and antique stores along Chapel Street as well as galleries and tea rooms to explore. My favourite is no56.
8) Edge of the world bookstore https://edgeoftheworldbookshop.co.uk
You won't leave empty handed. The best bookstore in Cornwall.
9) Cornish Hen Deli https://www.lovepenzance.co.uk/search/the-cornish-hen-deli
Great deli to stop off at. serves great cakes and coffee.
10) St Michaels Mount https://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk
Catch a boat over or wait unitl low tide and walk. A far trek through the gardens up to the amount and heaps of history waits for you at the top along with winning views.
Enjoy your time in Penzance