The Old Coastguard

Mousehole, Cornwall, United Kingdom Book from £135

Reviewed by Abi Dare
All you need from a seaside getaway: excellent food, comfy rooms, a warm welcome, and a stunning setting by one of Cornwall’s prettiest harbours
This is a hotel with soul. Standing watch on the edge of Mousehole, the breezy blue and white building was once a lookout station for the local coastguard. It’s now owned by brothers Charles and Edmund Inkin, the duo behind the nearby Gurnards Head and the Brecon Beacons’ Felin Fach Griffin, who have brought their well-tested formula to this blissful corner of western Cornwall: a laid-back vibe, simple comforts and some seriously good grub.

Downstairs is a friendly restaurant, where Cornish meat, delicious veg and straight-from-the-sea treats are served up on delightfully mismatched tables. Dotted around the jumble of floors above are 14 cheery rooms, all stocked with books, bathrobes and biscuits to help you feel at home. Children are welcome, as are muddy paws and sandy toes, and you’ll often find locals propping up the bar or chatting over Sunday lunch. There’s also a sunny lounge fronted by huge windows that gaze out to sea, and lawns that tumble down towards the water’s edge. Lingering here, watching seagulls wheel overhead and yachts bob about on the waves, is the perfect way to while away the day. If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins frolicking in the spray.

Highs

  • A wonderful escape in any season - in summer, sip wine under the palm trees; in winter, curl up with the papers and listen to waves crashing over the rocks outside
  • Mousehole itself - a lovely little fishing village on the Penwith Peninsula, packed with galleries, cafés and delis, and within easy reach of some of Cornwall’s best beaches
  • Most rooms have sea views, and some face St Michael’s Mount across the bay. Many have private balconies or terraces, too
  • Superb food - nothing fancy or pretentious, just local ingredients cooked exceptionally well. The dinner, bed and breakfast rates are great value, too
  • This is a place for everyone: we saw couples relaxing on the terrace, dogs dozing by the bar, and children toddling around the garden

Lows

  • The interior design feels rather dated, particularly in the communal hallways
  • Some rooms are a little rough around the edges (broken shower screens, old tile grout, stained windows), though a rolling refurbishment is gradually fixing any minor niggles
  • No in-room WiFi or TVs (with views like these, who needs them?), but you do get retro Roberts radios
  • Breakfast is only served until 10am, and some might find the morning radio choice in the restaurant (a local chat show when we stayed) a bit annoying

Best time to go

Summer is idyllic here - the garden blooms with hydrangeas, and on sunny days the nearby beaches are as beautiful as any in the Med. But don’t rule out winter visits, either: the bar, restaurant and lounge are wonderfully cosy, the rugged coastline is perfect for invigorating walks, and Mousehole puts on a famous display of festive lights in the run-up to Christmas. Bear in mind that local roads and towns are often jam-packed with tourists during school holidays, and you’ll need to book well ahead for weekend stays at any time.

Our top tips

Guests often spot marine wildlife from The Old Coastguard, but to increase your chances of a sighting book a catamaran trip with Marine Discovery Penzance (available from March to November). You’ll take to the waves in search of dolphins, porpoises, sunfish and grey seals, and you might even come across minke whales, basking sharks and leatherback turtles.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 14
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Board games
  • Books to borrow
Room: Room 6

Rooms

The 14 rooms blend tongue-and-groove panelling, checked fabrics and the odd antique with jolly shades of mustard yellow, brick red and sky blue. They’re not exactly stylish, but they are extremely comfortable and packed with homely touches: bathrobes, blankets, Roberts radios, White Company toiletries, tea- and coffee-making kit, homemade biscuits, even books to browse.

Most have sea views, and many come with outdoor space - it’s certainly worth grabbing both if you can. We stayed in Island View, which overlooks craggy St Clement’s Isle just offshore. It’s one of the largest rooms, with armchairs, a huge bathroom with a spa tub, and patio doors opening onto a long balcony. We slept very well despite leaving the curtains open to make the most of the setting, dozing off to moonlight glinting off the sea and waking to the rosy glow of dawn above the waves.

Similarly spoiling is Coastguard’s Watch, perched at the top of the hotel. It has an in-room tub where you can stare out over the harbour as you soak, plus a shower room and a terrace with views all around. Other good bets are The Lookout (also on the top floor with a balcony) and The Four Poster, which, as the name suggests, is a favourite with romantics. St Clement's is a handy option for families, as it has 2 adjoining bedrooms (a double and a double/twin). The cheaper Smaller Doubles and Terrace Doubles are definitely cosy, but most offer glimpses of the water and the latter have terraces with pretty picket fences.

Note that bed types (double, twin or kingsize) vary across rooms, as do bathroom set-ups (shower only or tub with overhead shower). For full descriptions, see Rates.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The focus here is simple, tasty food done well. The lunch and dinner menus change regularly but always feature an excellent selection of surf and turf, together with a few tempting veggie options. Ingredients are mostly local (meat and dairy from Cornish farms, fish straight from the boats in Newlyn) and always seasonal.

The relaxed atmosphere is ideal for long, lazy meals, and you can eat inside or out. We kicked off with Kir Royales and olives on the terrace as the sun sank into the sea, before moving to a cosy candlelit nook in the main restaurant. Everything we sampled was delicious: sweet scallops with pearl barley and pea purée, squid with chorizo and pickled cucumber, a perfectly cooked rib-eye steak with polenta chips, chargrilled courgettes sprinkled with mint, and a decadent dark chocolate and salted caramel torte.

Breakfast (included in the rates) was just as good - a buffet of fresh fruit, Cornish apple juice, cereal, still-warm soda bread, local honey and homemade marmalade, together with a choice of cooked options (the Full Cornish, kedgeree with soft-poached eggs, and more unusual dishes such as grilled field mushrooms topped with Welsh rarebit).

There are plenty of treats on offer from the bar, too: home-baked cakes, teas and cappuccinos, local ales, wines, a few carefully crafted cocktails - all best enjoyed in a fireside armchair or under the sun outside.

If you’re here for a few nights and want some variety, you’ll find a couple of good restaurants in the village, including the bistro-style 2 Fore Street. You can also drive out to The Old Coastguard’s sister property, The Gurnards Head, just across the moors - those on a dinner, bed and breakfast deal can transfer their table reservation at no extra cost.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Head through the gate at the bottom of the garden and go rock pooling in the shallows. You can also take a dip in the natural swimming pool that emerges from the waves at low tide
  • Wander along the shore to Mousehole harbour, lined with galleries, delis and cafés, and watch boats come and go. There's a small patch of beach, too
  • Follow the coastal path around the headland to rugged Lamorna Cove, where there's a shop selling starfish, shells and local crafts, plus a pretty little café
  • Head to the world-famous Minack Theatre (a 20-minute drive), hewn from the cliff above the Atlantic, for an open-air play. If there are no performances during your stay, you can tour the stage and visitors' centre
  • Swim and sunbathe at Porthcurno (just beneath Minack), where you’ll find sand so white and water so dazzlingly clear that you’ll struggle to believe you’re in England
  • Sennen Cove has a vast, sandy sweep with a café, board hire and a surf school
  • Stroll across the causeway from Marazion to St Michael’s Mount for sub-tropical gardens and the castle (home to the St Aubyn family since medieval times)
  • Explore Cornwall’s industrial heritage at the haunting remains of the Levant Mine and Beam Engine (30 minutes away); if you want to learn more, you can head underground at the Geevor Tin Mine next door. Afterwards, recover over lunch at The Gurnards Head, a couple of miles up the road
  • Gallery-hop your way around Penzance, Newlyn, St Just and St Ives, all within a short drive
  • Or just soak up the sunshine in the garden and watch the daily rhythm of life on the water

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Theatre
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, and the hotel’s relaxed, inclusive atmosphere is perfect for families. Parents can kick back with a drink while their kids play in the garden (separated from the waves by hedges and a gate), and the sea beyond is ripe for rock pooling. What's more, every Wednesday at 10.30am sees 'Storytelling by the Sea’, when Cornish tales are read to gathered little ones by the hotel staff (and sometimes even by the authors themselves).

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Most rooms have space for 1 or 2 rollaway beds or baby cots, and children under 5 stay for free (there’s a small charge for older kids). St Clement's is particularly useful for families, as it’s made up of 2 adjoining bedrooms (one double, the other a double or twin). Note that some rooms have showers only, so if you want a tub, request when booking

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • Highchairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The restaurant has special menus for little ones and slightly older kids. All children get a free glass of unsweetened Cornish apple juice with their meals

Kids Activities on site:

  • Storytelling (Wednesdays at 10.30am)
  • Board games
  • Books
  • Lawns to run around

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Rock pooling and crabbing
  • The open-air newly restored Jubilee Pool in Penzance
  • Sandy beaches (our favourite is Porthcurno)
  • Surf lessons at Sennon Cove (where there’s a lifeguard on duty)
  • Wildlife-spotting boat trips from Penzance (suitable for children aged 3+)
  • Castle to explore on St Michael’s Mount

Distances:

  • Airport : 1 hour (Newquay)
  • Hospital : 20 minutes (Penzance)
  • Shop: 2 minutes (Mousehole)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for The Old Coastguard