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Review: Coastal Retreat, St Michaels Resort, Falmouth

Get your mind and body fit on land and sea at St Michaels Resort in Falmouth. Muddy road tested the expert-led coastal wellbeing breaks in Cornwall - but which one will you choose?

WHAT? WHERE?

Cornwall’s south coastal town of Falmouth has four main beaches: Castle Beach, Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth. Sitting just above the sandy Blue Flag Gylly beach, above, you’ll find St Michaels Resort – and yet, just the other way, a mere moments walk from the bustling and thriving town centre full of indie shops and cafes.

This award winning resort complex, complete with both hotel style rooms, self-catering suites, sea view dining, spa and state of the art health club, has recently launched a series of Coastal Retreats. Intrigued, Muddy headed over to road test the options.

Essentially a series of four day breaks, with an emphasis on coastal wellness activities, guests choose between the Paddle boarding, Yoga, Pilates, Wild Swimming and a Live Well / Reboot Fitness option, with spa and health club access included. Each retreat is expert led, with inspirational instructors joining the resort team to give guidance and tuition, with the retreats combining the restorative benefits of exercise with nourishing food.

THE LOWDOWN

The original building dates from the 1920s, with current owner Nigel Carpenter picking up the reins in 2001, when it was significantly run-down. Investment from the BH Group in 2017 meant that St Michaels Resort was relaunched in 2018 with 92 bedrooms and an award winning spa and health club, alongside the St Michaels Resort Liner Beach Residences – a seafront development of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments overlooking Gylly Beach, independently owned but managed by St Michaels.

THE VIBE

As with many of Cornwall’s hotels, St Michaels Resort has successfully reinvented itself from a more old-fashioned hotel into a stylish, relaxed, deluxe resort with an emphasis on beach-side living, fusing outdoor activities with state-of-the-art spa and gym facilities open to both local residents as well as hotel guests.

Laid back and welcoming, St Michaels Resort has a New England coastal vibe, with lots of moody blues and greys, panelling and calming interior schemes. The beach-chic styling is firmly rooted in the Cornish landscape – these are not the north-coast cliff top views, but instead more gentle south coast sub-tropical gardens, with palm trees and beautiful plantings.

SCOFF AND QUAFF

The two restaurants, the Garden Kitchen and Brasserie on the Bay (above) both serve seasonal and locally focused food, with the Garden Kitchen a more informal relaxed plant filled space, and the Brasserie a slightly more grown-up restaurant.

As you would expect from a resort offering health and wellbeing retreats, there were vegetarian, vegan and plant-based options on both menus, as well as plenty of higher-end but not fine dining Cornish dishes including lobster, scallops, and steak.

Drinks included cocktails and a crowd-pleasing wine list, with by the glass options as well as Cornish whites and sparklers. Our party included two non-drinkers, also well catered for, with mocktails, smoothies, juices and tea.

We ate at both restaurants during our two day stay; our party had the full gamut of dietary requirements (vegan, gluten-free, plant heavy and pescatarian), which were not just tolerated but actively catered for by the staff (who incidentally were knowledgeable and friendly, mostly locals living in Falmouth).

STAY

We stayed in the contemporary blue and white Cornish style Beach House, adjacent to the 13,000 sq ft Health Club which is home to Cornwall’s largest hotel gym. My balcony had a sea-view and lying in bed at night I could hear the waves on Gylly beach (unusual for Falmouth, as usually this beach is as sheltered and flat as they come).

All 32 rooms in the Beach House have floating beds, canopy lighting and both a sofa and a desk, perfect for catching up on reading (or, our party’s case, essential work), with broadband included and plenty of well thought out sockets – a welcome change from dragging an extension cord across the room for a phone charger.

ACTIVITIES

We were there to road test the activities, and my goodness did we do that. We started in the health club’s impressive gym, which alongside an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and several fitness studios offers 100 instructor-led classes including spinning and Gig rowing classes, all of which are included in the stay.

The spinning class was up first and was very much in the Soul Cycle model – if you do this kind of thing in London (or elsewhere) you’ll be right at home. For those that are new to it, I’d recommend the back row where you can hide in the dark, and enjoy the disco lights, and cycling along in time to the music, under the care of a supremely motivating instructor. This class had it all and if I only lived in Falmouth I would go every week.

The next morning, after a sun-rise dawn yoga session on the beach out the front (I’ll spare you the snaps, of course we looked just as sprightly as the photo above) we then moved on to Wild Swimming, led by guru and expert coach Salim Ahmed, in partnership with Swim Lab. If Salim isn’t an advert for the benefits of cold water swimming, I’m not sure who is. By the end of the sessions, which included theory, pool and then the sea itself, even those who hadn’t swum front crawl since school were all happily swimming under Salim’s guidance.

As we were only doing a taster of each of the retreats sadly for me there was no time to fit in the walk to Swanpool and 850m swim back, but if you’re in to sea swimming, it sounded like an awesome but achievable way to bring the retreat to an end.

Paddleboarding with Brendon Prince of Long Paddle, who has paddled every inch of the British coast including circumnavigating the entire UK, was next on the agenda. Had the weather been on our side we would have been out discovering secret beaches and hidden Cornish coves – instead after lessons in technique and safety, we all had a go in the waves and tried out the boards. All that hard work made it all that more relaxing when we took our tired glutes to the spa to recover – gotta review it all, right.

THE SPA

St Michaels Spa [entirely separate from the health club] is an award winning Elemis Spa, and open to non-residents too (book ahead as they were so popular we couldn’t get any last min treatments at all). Super peaceful, it includes the largest hydrotherapy pool in the south-west (above) as well as the world’s first Cornish Sea Salt steam room. As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a tropical rainforest steam room, glass-fronted bio-sauna, heated poolside loungers, a mud rhassoul, three experience showers and a deep relaxation room to keep you occupied and out of trouble.

Making the most of the Cornish air, outside on the deck is a Swedish Cedar Hot Tub and Barrel Sauna from which you can enjoy sea views across the sub-tropical gardens and down to the beach.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Anyone in search of beach-side accommodation with an emphasis on fitness activities will be right at home. The coastal retreats offer a great combination of expert-led tuition combined with health club and spa facilities, plus the option for individual choices such as coastal walks literally outside the door. Dawn beach-yoga and sea swimming / paddleboarding without having to travel was just perfect.

Not for: In common with a lot of places in Cornwall, the unpretentious and contemporary vibe is not formal. This is somewhere where you get stuck into the activities, wash out your own wetsuit, and bring your gym gear.

The damage:  Not bad at all, considering what is included. Stays at St Michaels start from £139 per room per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis.

Three-night Cold Water Swimming retreats at St Michaels Resort will take place from 20-23 May 2022, 22-25 September and 29 October – 1 November, starting from £595 per person based on bed & breakfast basis in a Classic King room, inclusive of a 3-course dinner at The Brasserie on the Bay on one-night, full Cornish breakfast daily, expert sea swimming tuition, a yoga session, Gyllyngvase SUP experience or a hydrothermal spa experience and complimentary Health Club swim & gym access.

stmichaelsresort.com

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