A focus on Cornish tradition, a “five bubble” spa… and a passion for its canine guests makes The Headland Hotel and Spa in Newquay, Cornwall, a Victorian seaside landmark that no visitor to South West England should miss. But despite its grandeur, The Headland is also an entirely welcoming environment for families with young children, with plenty to do on and off the beach. Here are a few reasons to visit The Headland Hotel with your family, starting with my favourite: a Hollywood connection!
FILMING LOCATION OF ‘THE WITCHES’
In 1990, The Headland was the star of the show in Nicolas Roeg’s film The Witches, based on the book by Roald Dahl. The head witch was played by Angelica Houston, who was dating Jack Nicholson at the time. According to an information leaflet in the guest information binder, Nicholson would phone Houston every night, and send enormous bouquets of roses to the hotel.
The hotel manager in The Witches was played by Rowan Atkinson, who most of us most know as Mr Bean. During the filming, he stayed at the hotel too, and it’s reported that one night he fell asleep in the bath, flooding the room and the floor below! Oh, Mr Bean!
But it’s not only witches that like the Headland…
Opened at the turn of the 20th century as a luxurious seaside escape, The Headland Hotel was only 40 years old when it was requisitioned as a military hospital during the second world war. A bright and windy location, the grand hotel must have been a bittersweet place to convalesce…and so it has become a great place for ghosts.
Strangely, all the ghosts here are kind maids and nurses – and some of them, it is said, can only be seen by children! According to the staff at the Headland, children have reported seeing a lady who “walked through their bedroom without using doors, wearing a long dark coat without arms and a funny small white hat on her head”. There has also been a recent sighting of a maid, walking through the Ladies’ Powder Room, in a spot where there used to be a door.
But the ghosts don’t keep guests away. In the summertime, visitors still flock to the hotel for a bit of seaside luxury, far from the maddening crowds of Newquay itself. And in the shorter winter days, The Headland Hotel provides a peaceful escape for Newquay residents who stop in to the restaurant, bar or lounge for a traditional Cornish cream tea, or an evening drink.
EVERYTHING LOOKS AMAZING IN CORNISH LIGHT
The Headland isn’t just a place to stay, it’s one of those places with which you develop a relationship, and many guests and staff have formed a special connection to the Headland over the years.
In first floor foyer, there is an impressive replica of the hotel built in LEGO, constructed by “Mr Sims, a hotel guest”. At the hotel’s front door there is a framed display of postcards depicting the Headland through the decade, with an inscription that reads “with thanks to Andy Coe, our Maintenance Foreman, who has collected these postcards over many years.”
I also have a special connection with The Headland. A decade ago, my brother-in-law was married there. This was my first introduction to my would-be husband’s family: dancing the night away in the Headland’s famous ballroom floor (the ballroom’s maple floorboards are supported by 2,500 coil springs that can be tightened or loosened to adjust the amount of bounce.)
After my own wedding a few years later, my husband and I snuck away to the Headland for one honeymoon night. In the morning, we walked to the historic Huer’s Hut, a restored 14th-century fisherman’s lookout, and that afternoon, enjoyed a traditional Cornish cream tea in the Terrace Restaurant. Even in March, the intense blue Cornish sunlight that inspires so many artists, streamed through the windows, sending reflections off my shiny new wedding band. Everything looks better in Cornish light.
The Headland Hotel was a finalist in the 2016 South West Wedding Awards for Best Cornwall Wedding Venue. Even if you’re already married with kids, and like me, you just love snooping at other people’s wedding photos, The Headland’s website has tons of eye-candy here!
PEDICURES AND COCKTAILS…FOR THE KIDS!
You would think that a hotel like this would be a “no kids” zone, but when we visited with our two children this summer, we discovered an old-fashioned sense of service that makes it perfect for families with children.
The family rooms have clever bunk beds that fold out of the wall, Murphy-style, and outside, there is a large outdoor playground and an outdoor pool. Both are only steps away from Fistral Beach, where you will find sand, sun and plenty of places to eat and drink, including Rick Stein’s famous fish n’ chip restaurant, Fistral.
Back at the hotel, The 2 AA Rosette Samphire Restaurant offers a first-class dining experience. My daughter’s favourite dish was from the Macaroni and Cheese with Cornish Yarg from the kids’ menu, although she nearly changed her mind when we explained that Yarg is a type of cheese wrapped in nettles!
The next morning, there was a unique children’s activity – a Kids’ Mixology course at the hotel bar. Grooming my children toward alcoholism? Perhaps! But it was worth it to see my three-year-old rock the cocktail shaker, as he prepared his favourite mock-tail: The Perfect Pear.
A “FIVE-BUBBLE” SPA AND A SURF SCHOOL
The newest addition to the hotel is the “five bubble” rated spa, including a Cornish salt steam room. Children are welcome in the spa under parents’ supervision at certain times of the day. Try the “Little Miss” manicure or pedicure.
And if you want to hit the beach during your stay, the stunning surf-mecca that is Fistral beach is quite literally on the Headland’s doorstep. For surfing, try the Headland’s in-house surf school, Surf Sanctuary which provides a slightly more personal service that the large group lessons that are offered elsewhere on Fistral.
…AND FINALLY, SPECIAL ATTENTION FOR YOUR POOCH
As well as being welcoming to your tots, The Headland is incredibly dog-friendly, even offering a dog-sitting service, for when Mum and Dad are in the restaurant or spa. There are statues of dogs in several places in the hotel. Look closely, and you will notice that some of the staff have dog-themed ties, pins and scarves. The photo below shows exactly what dog-sitting looks like at the Headland, as a visiting King Charles Spaniel waits attentively for the phone to ring.
LUXURIOUS FAMILY FUN IN NEWQUAY IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK!
The Headland offers 96 rooms and suites and 39 self-catering cottages and has particularly good deals in the off-season (September – June). To get to Newquay from London, you can spend a day driving, or take the Cornish Riviera train service from London Paddington station – this 4-5 hour journey is incredibly beautiful. Newquay Airport is also accessible from many major hubs in England and Ireland, including London Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, Birmingham and Dublin.
Helen Earley is a Halifax-based writer. She was a guest of the Headland Hotel.