Literary Travel / Travel

A dreamy getaway at Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay Hotel

Ever since I first read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier a little over ten years ago, I’ve wanted to go back to Cornwall. A place I visited with my family as a young girl, my memories are of faded summer days, melting ice-creams and building sandcastles on the beach; but it’s been a place I’ve longed to return to, to immerse myself in the backdrop that so inspired my very favourite author.

A hub for authors, artists, and creatives alike, the county located on England’s rugged southwestern tip has long been a go-to for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city-life to be inspired by the wild, romantic, dramatic landscape that Cornwall is best known for. From its literary festivals to the wealth of beautiful bookstores dotted around pretty port towns, to the endless authors who have called Cornwall home, it’s easy to see why so many book lovers make literary pilgrimages to Cornwall each year. And as soon as I booked a trip home to Europe for my first post-Covid summer, I knew Cornwall would be top of my literary wish-list, so I would finally get to see more of the place that Daphne Du Maurier once called home.

Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay Review

The UK is in the middle of a heatwave on the Sunday we drive the four-hour route from the Berkshire countryside to just north of bustling Newquay. England’s rolling green hills are parched – thanks to what has been the hottest summer on record since 1935 – and many of the grassy fields we pass through are straw-like and brown; the water levels of once-flowing rivers lie low.

As we cross the Devon-Cornwall border, however, something starts to happen to the sky that could have been right out of a Du Maurier novel. We pass a sign to Jamaica Inn on the left, and soon after the clouds start to darken and a looming mist rolls over the hills; if we wanted an evocative approach to our Cornish getaway, we couldn’t have planned it better if we’d tried.

By the time we approach the sloping hills that surround Watergate Bay, sunbeams are breaking through the clouds, and while there’s still a chill in the air, there’s a balmy summer glow on the horizon. We’re staying in one of Watergate Bay’s beautiful beach lofts – so sought after that when The Times hailed Watergate Bay as the second most beautiful beach in the south-west of England, they warned readers that there was zero chance of seeing the inside of those coveted boltholes.

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With just seven beach lofts available – each of which features floor to ceiling windows overlooking the beach – next to the entrance you’ll find a well-stocked honesty bar and a tuck shop packed with sticky home-made cakes, olives, milks, a selection of teas, freshly brewed coffee, pastries and cereals – perfect for a post-morning swim or a mid-afternoon snack.

Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay is perched overlooking a two-mile stretch of golden sand with views of the Atlantic. Surrounded by sloping grassy hills, it’s the only hotel on this stunning slice of Cornish coastline, and the views are as mesmerising as they are expansive. Quintessentially British, the hotel boasts beachy interiors that fuse laid-back luxury with the sort of apres-ski vibe you might find in an alpine lodge.

Watergate Bay

The two days we spent at Watergate Bay were heaven-sent; from the surf lesson with wave hunters (even if I did wind up with a fat lip), to the decadent breakfasts that we ate in our room, poring over our favourite Sunday supplements. We went on coastal walks and beach rambles, marvelling at the ever-changing and iridescent views of the water. Of an evening we’d enjoy pre-dinner sun-down drinks in our room watching the late afternoon sun dapple over the water, as the ocean breeze skittered through the floor to ceiling windows, and spent two glorious days soaking up the crème de la crème of an unforgettable Cornish getaway.

Watergate Bay literary links

As bookish getaways go, Watergate Bay is up there with the best of them. From the stylish hotel library – that boasts sweeping views of the sandy stretch of beach – to the carefully curated selection of Cornish-inspired books; to the perfectly positioned, sun-drenched outdoor decking, and the oversized sofas overlooking the sea, there are cosy spots and book nooks a-plenty for your endless reading pleasure.

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What to read at Watergate Bay

Cornwall is a place synonymous with literary history, and while there are countless books to choose from that would make the perfect reading companion while holidaying here, a book by Rosamunde Pilcher or Daphne Du Maurier would be my top recommendation. One of the best-known authors whose roots lay in Cornwall, Du Maurier’s family first bought a holiday home here – Ferryside, at Bodinnick – in the 1920s. The house soon became one of the author’s favourite places, and she soon after published her first novel, The Loving Spirit, in 1931.

There’s not a single book by Daphne Du Maurier that I haven’t adored, but if you’re looking for some literature evocative of Cornwall’s striking landscape, try Rebecca or Jamaica Inn. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more light-hearted, however, opt for The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. A beautifully written family saga that spans two time-frames and isset against wonderfully British backdrops of Cornwall’s beautiful beaches, bustling London and the solitude of the Cotswolds, it’s one of my all-time favourite books.

Padstow Books

Near-by bookshops

For me, my favourite place to buy books are local, independent bookstores that have pretty facades, lovely locations, and a great selection of books. And while you’ll need a car to get to my two favourite bookshops in Cornwall, they’re well worth the drive. First up is Padstow Books. Located in the lovely harbour town of Padstow, Padstow Books has a gorgeous green exterior – complete with an eye-catching window display – friendly staff and a tempting mix of both classic and contemporary tomes. Slightly further afield is Shrew Books. Nestled in the heart of Fowey – a pretty port town known for its links to Daphne Du Maurier – Shrew Books is a beautiful bookstore selling new releases, nature writing and children’s books.

 Useful information about Watergate Bay 

Set on a spectacular, two-mile surfing beach on the North Cornwall coast, Watergate Bay Hotel is the perfect destination for a contemporary beach holiday. 

Address: Watergate Bay Hotel On The Beach, Trevarrian Hill, Newquay TR8 4AA,

Website: Book direct on their website.

Price: Watergate Bay costs from £250 a night.

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