Name: Watergate Bay Hotel
Owner: Will Ashworth
Watergate Bay Hotel is situated in one of the most idyllic locations on the North coast of Cornwall. Perched on a cliffside just 15 minutes outside of Newquay, the hotel overlooks a two-mile stretch of sandy beach. But its charm is much more than a seaside spectacle. Our relationship with the Watergate spans over a decade and from the beginning it was clear that this hotel was special. Their commitment to progression is inspiring and they are continually innovating, adding new features to their venues and finding different ways to add value to their customers.
With five restaurants showcasing the very best in local produce, beautifully styled contemporary rooms and a swim club that includes an infinity pool with floor-to-ceiling glass walls - once you arrive you won’t want to leave. We spoke to them recently about their history, approach to food and how coffee fits into their offering.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Watergate Bay Hotel, could you describe it to us in a bit more detail?
You can’t get to Watergate Bay Hotel without going through a sea view. The roads and coast paths sweep down to the hotel and the heart of the Bay, the two-mile beach. The vision, from our owner Will Ashworth, is to give our guests a ski-resort on the beach: an experience defined by its sense of place and something we call ‘active relaxation’. Getting among the elements, surfing, eating and drinking well, treatments in Swim Club – our take on a spa, having a good time.
Where does coffee fit into your offering?
In a word, everywhere. Coffee is one of those touches that will always make up part of life for us and our guests. In the same way that food, location and people are so important, coffee is one of the signatures of an active relaxation lifestyle. In the evenings, Watchful Mary, The Living Space and The Beach Hut are all places to watch the evening light come through the Bay. In the mornings, you’ll see people filtering into those same places, settling down with a coffee and bringing in the day.
You have been in business for over 50 years which is an incredible achievement, what has changed since you first opened?
The hotel itself dates back to 1900, so there have been hundreds of changes (we don’t need stables anymore). It was used for the RAF during the Second World War, then John and Mary Ashworth converted it back into a hotel in 1971. Since then we’ve added restaurants, sea-facing rooms, Swim Club and more recently a new bar. We’ve always worked with fantastic people to stay progressive, with everything from interior design to technology. But the concept is still the same – to give guests a way to experience the place, Watergate Bay itself.
With Newquay being heavily influenced by the tourism in the summer, how do you adapt to cope with the quieter winter months?
We have a two-way conversation with our guests all through the year, sharing in their stories and memories of past holidays. And we know how highly our audience values the sensory experience of a holiday in Cornwall, from the taste of local seafood to the sights and sounds at sunset. So we’re very active on social media and we give our audience opportunities to be involved, whether that’s by sharing in their stories or running music and food events throughout the year. We’re also not quiet about winter being one of the best times to be in Cornwall, which you can see if you find our #Cornwallinwinter competition on Instagram.
You have five restaurants down at the beach, how are they different?
Zacry’s, the main hotel restaurant, has a daily-changing menu from local, seasonal ingredients and a great selection of wine. It’s also where you’ll find open-pantry breakfast. The Living Space has a menu of rustic dishes and sharing boards, an extensive gin list, coffee and sea-view sofas. The Beach Hut, down on the beach, is where you’ll find a big breakfast, seafood and burgers. The crab spaghetti is a favourite. Watchful Mary, our new bar on the sea wall, is much more focussed towards drink, with small plates and bites. Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall, separate to the hotel, serves fresh handmade pasta and a menu made up of seasonal ingredients from around Cornwall and Italy.
You recently opened Watchful Mary, a stunning location right on the beach front. What would you recommend we select from the menu next time we visit?
You might start with our ‘Mojito on the day’ or a ‘Watchful Mary’ – cocktails which change based on the ingredients and the seasons - then order some small plates or pickings. If you come earlier in the day, have a coffee or a local cordial, then choose from the day’s pastries on the counter. There’s no time limit at Watchful Mary. The doors are wide open to the horizon, the drinks all come with stories and the food is designed to keep the conversation flowing.
In 2015 you purchased a beautiful hotel in the Lake District called Another Place. What were your thoughts behind expanding your operations outside of Cornwall?
At Watergate Bay we’ve developed our ‘active relaxation’ offering around our guests; people who want to take as much or as little as they can from a place; to get physically out there or just enjoy the sense of it. Whether that’s surfing, eating and drinking well or having a treatment. That concept has a very distinct atmosphere in Cornwall and we wanted to see how it could live in other parts of the country. After a lot of research, we found that the north lakes – Ullswater in particular – had a similar feeling.
Another Place is a separate company created by the team behind Watergate Bay Hotel. It's a new collection where each hotel makes the most of its location. In the case of Another Place, The Lake, that's Ullswater.
Watergate Bay Hotel & Another Place are open all year round and are the perfect getaway.