The Scarlet Hotel: A Cornish Getaway With A Strong Eco Ethos

Travel, wellness and lifestyle writer and consultant Eva Ramirez visits Cornwall’s spectacular Scarlet Hotel, and discovers a luxury spa hotel with an impressive list of sustainable credentials. 

As far as sustainable holiday options go, staycations are often a safe bet, primarily because they negate the use of air travel. I love a long train journey, especially when you have a good book to read and a few snacks to munch on. Earlier this month, my boyfriend and I boarded a train from London Paddington and set off for a weekend in Cornwall. After a  five hour journey we were collected from Bodmin Parkway in a Tesla – the champion of eco cars – and driven 40 minutes to The Scarlet, where we would be staying for the next two nights. Having opened ten years ago, this hotel has been a much-loved destination renowned for its stunning spa and praised for its eco-friendly ethos. 

I’ll admit, I’ve always been slightly indifferent to British beaches. Having been born in the Canary Islands and spending a lot of time in Sierra Leone, I never felt particularly inclined to explore the UK’s coastline. This trip completely changed my opinion, however, and I was blown away by the beauty and character of Cornish beaches.

The Scarlet overlooks Mawgan Porth beach and much of the hotel’s beauty can be attributed to these incredible views. The entrance area has an entire glass wall which invites the outside in, as well as plenty of light. The building, I learnt, was developed using sustainable and recyclable materials including cement made from waste clay material and roof covering made of Sea Thrift, a plant which comes from North Cornwall. The natural properties of the material reduces the heating and cooling of the building. We were led downstairs to our bedroom and were surprised to hear that there were only a total of 37 accommodations, despite there being space for over double the amount. This made the hotel feel spacious and tranquil. 

The room was perfectly simple; facing the sea and trapping the warm afternoon light which lit up the neutral tones that provided simple decoration. I loved the unbleached organic cotton towels in the bathroom, cosy robes and unique-looking slippers made from recycled plastic bottles. There was a note beside them which encouraged us to take them home after our stay which I thought was a nice touch. The bathroom products were the hotel’s own Oula brand which is all-natural and ethically sourced. It’s made locally in St Ives and the bar of soap was presented with a cloth bag which you could use to take it home in if you hadn’t got through the whole thing.

I also noticed that there was no fridge, minibar or kettle in the room, which was in order to reduce energy consumption and negate the presence of single-use food packaging. Instead we were told that tea, coffee and homemade snacks could be ordered free of charge – which we took full advantage of! Our room was however stocked with filtered tap water in reusable glass bottles. I took a big swig, thirsty after the long train journey, and stepped out onto our balcony which overlooked the beach below. I’d always associated desirable beaches with white sand and turquoise water, the elements I was used to, but looking out at 6pm as the sun was setting, I was in awe of the view. An amber-coloured sky, a thrashing, foamy sea and thick, salty mist which rolled off each wave and swept up over the cliff tops – it was all very dramatic.

We’d heard a lot about the spa at The Scarlet and were particularly excited to check it out. Like the rest of the hotel, the minimal design of the spa lends itself fully to nature, with a glass-fronted indoor pool to match the lobby upstairs. I’d booked in for a four part Ayurvedic treatment which included a one-on-one health and lifestyle consultation, a hammam bathing ritual which incorporated Cornish salt to scrub away dry skin and a mud mask to rehydrate, a little interval in the relaxation room to calm my mind and have a cup of tea, a guided meditation and a deeply relaxing massage using my choice of essential oils. After three and a half blissful hours I emerged with silky smooth skin, an unclenched jaw, relaxed shoulders and an overall feeling of calm. I met back up with my boyfriend in one of the spa’s napping pods, where we dozed for an hour or so. I loved that the entire treatment felt bespoke to my needs, thanks to the prior consultation. In keeping with their eco-friendly ethos, all of the products used were natural and locally sourced. I  was even given a little aftercare package, which included notes and advice from my therapist, nutrition and lifestyle tips according to my Ayurvedic dosha, and a handmade herb poultice to use at home.

We weren’t brave enough to try the chilly outdoor pool, but were intrigued to hear that it’s naturally-filtered by reeds and filled with filtered rainwater that is collected. We did make use of the outdoor sauna and eucalyptus steam room though, as well as the hotel’s renowned clifftop hot tubs which can be booked in advance. A biomass boiler which is fired on wood chips produces the hot water used for the hot tubs as well as the bathrooms, kitchens and general heating. We timed our soak perfectly with the sunset and were able to watch it with a glass of bubbly in hand. 

Food at The Scarlet champions nose-to-tail eating, seasonality and locality, which means it changes in accordance to the time of year and what’s in season. Chefs ensure there is very little wastage and the menu is simple and changes daily to reflect the ingredients which are in ample supply. At breakfast, I was initially perturbed by the absence of your typical breakfast buffet, but ended up really enjoying choosing dishes I may not usually go for – such as smoked kippers on freshly baked sourdough toast or chickpea scramble with homemade baked beans. It meant I ate slower and more mindfully too. Breakfast buffets can be wasteful, as you often pile your plate and end up leaving a lot of it but the daily changing options kept things exciting. There were no fancy, exotic ingredients like acai or chia, but simple, Cornish-grown fare like seasonal fruit – apples, pears and berries. The jams, marmalades and baked goods were all made in-house and at dinner, over half of the wine list was made up of fantastic sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards, all of which are in Europe, and many from the UK.

Throughout the weekend we were continually impressed by the sustainability practices we noticed, from the hotel’s use of solar energy to their encouragement of conscious consumption. The hospitality industry can often be so wasteful, but we felt actively inspired by The Scarlet to live more sustainably and reflect on the hurried pace which has become the default for so many of us living in busy cities. Relaxation, fresh air, and very little phone reception helped too!