Muddy Reviews: St. Mellion Estate, Nr Saltash
A hidden gem tucked away on Cornwall's south-east coast, St. Mellion Estate offers peaceful countryside self-catering holiday cottages, a beautifully situated contemporary hotel, and two championship golf courses. Muddy checked in.
St. Mellion Estate, on the Rame peninsular in the south-east corner of Cornwall, is tucked away on the edge of St. Mellion near Saltash, and feels a million miles from everything.
Yet, while the estate sprawls over 450 acres of peaceful Cornish countryside and includes not one but two championship golf courses, spa, sports and leisure facilities as well as a large contemporary hotel, self-catering holiday cottages and restaurants, it is actually super accessible to Plymouth and avoids the long drive down to the more famous west Cornwall.
St. Mellion Estate’s best kept secret is that in addition to the hotel they have 18 holidays cottages which sit nestled between the two golf courses. Having completed a £2m refurbishment project, the cottages are now ready and open for bookings, so Muddy headed over to check them out.
Think posh country club (without the stuffiness) and you’ve nailed it – the hotel and self-catering cottages are set within the two undulating Cornish golf courses and with views of manicured greens and fairways from the health club and restaurants, there’s no denying that St. Mellion is rightly proud of the two championship courses for which it is renowned (and for which a lot of the guests have come for specifically).
If you’re not a golfer though, don’t let that put you off – there is also a full on swanky health club, spa and gym, complete with not one but two swimming pools so no need to swing a club at all if it is not your thing. All the house keepers buzz around on the golf buggies as well, so you’ll see them all over the place, in fact, I’ve never seen so many buggies in one place before, it’s quite the sight seeing them all lined up at the end of the day!
St. Mellion is also famed for weddings, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of very formally dressed guests from time to time. There’s no dress code at the resort, by the way, so don’t be thinking you can’t wear jeans, or have to wear golf clothes. Anything goes – although you’ll want to pack your swim suit at the very least because the pool area is lovely.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
We didn’t check out the dedicated bar which doubles as the 19th hole opting to head instead to the restaurant next to the health club, enjoying instead the club house vibe and watching the PGA Championships on the TV while we ate a casual burger on the Friday evening; the burgers were cooked nicely and the drinks local.
As we were staying in the self-catering cottages we then headed back to put the kids to bed, and then used the kitchen in the cottage to prepare our own breakfast the next morning. We could however have headed back to the main hotel for breakfast if we had chosen. We did make space for the legendary Sunday roast the next lunchtime though, eating this time in the more formal of the restaurants (think table cloths and black leather chairs) where the roasts did not disappoint — and given Mr Muddy had been on the golf course all morning and I was in the pool with the kids, the hearty portions were very welcome.
We were staying in the newly renovated self-catering cottages which were beautifully quiet and had all the essentials for a great base from which to centre a trip. My son enjoyed watching the pheasants out of the window as much as he did watching the TV and there was plenty of space for us all to relax, as well as all the where with all to cook (and eat) meals.
We were in a two-bedroom cottage, with two bathrooms, and bunk beds for the kids. The Cornish coastal colour scheme extended through the bedrooms and bathrooms, which were heaven for minimalists; other than a couple of pieces of art and a lamp or two, the rooms were clear and clean (bordering on sparse, it could be said, particularly the bathrooms, which I thought could have done with some kind of shelf or table for toiletries, as there was a fair bit of unused space).
The quality of the beds can make or break a stay so I’m pleased to report these were extremely comfortable, with all white sheets, as well as plenty of Elemis toiletries and white towels included for everyone. Heaters were easily adjustable so it was a pleasant sleeping temperature so no stars knocked off for it being too hot. In fact, the only thing that disturbed my slumber was Mr Muddy getting up to make coffee (also included) before his 7am tee time.
With a family of golfers there was no way we were getting away with staying St. Mellion and not playing the course that was ‘voted the ‘Best Golf Course’ in the West of England, so he was heading out to play the Nicklaus course, named after Jack himself. Golf geek fact: St Mellion was Nicklaus’ first British design project.
Mr Muddy was soon out on the first tee – being the first off in the morning there was no-one in front, and he reported it a peaceful, if slightly eerie experience, as until the sun burnt it off he was hitting the ball into the early morning mist. The course was as promised by Golf Monthly, which rated it “undoubtedly one of the UK’s toughest inland tests”. Opened in 1988 with Jack’s signature attention to detail, it even has a replica of the famous ‘Amen Corner’ from Augusta. With the addition of the second ‘Kernow Course’ the combination of the two, plus driving range, will keep any golfers in the party fully occupied on stay & play golf break.
SPA & HEALTH CLUB
The non-golfers in the party don’t need to look far to decide what to do with their time. There are three pools to choose from – one is for more dedicated lane swimming, the other (below) a leisure pool, and there’s actually a separate baby pool too. Those living locally benefit from the plethora of swimming lessons, classes and even parent/baby swim sessions and locals love the monthly membership options.
Had I been more organised I would have definitely booked in for a spin class in the fitness studio but these need to be booked. Instead, I enjoyed a workout in the gym, included in our stay, and with no need to book. With three rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and a lovely Cornish countryside view, this was a bright and airy room with plenty of space.
Alongside the ‘state-of-the-art matrix cardiovascular and resistance machines’ (read running machines and so on) there was a suite of free weights and kettle balls, dumb-bells and weight benches, where I lifted weights gently in peace. I’m still a gym novice really, faithfully following my PT’s list of exercises, but the other more buff types around me were super friendly and made space for me and my 5kg bicep curls.
Once Mr Muddy came off the golf course he took over kid duties and I headed to the Elemis Spa where I had the most relaxing Hot Mineral Body Boost Massage. The spa area itself is rather bijou and sort of a bit separate from the pool area, but the treatment far exceeded expectation and I totally agreed with the sentiments of the person before me, who declared “you’re in for a treat” as they departed the room. So much so that I fell asleep, which rather suggests it did the trick!
OUT AND ABOUT
This little corner of south-east Cornwall is some what perplexingly less well known than other parts of the Duchy and I am not really sure why, as it is just beautiful. Rame Head (above) is to the south of St. Mellion, and is frequently mentioned by those that I interview as one of their favourite views, or walks, and it’s not hard to see why. Clear water, dramatic cliffs, white beaches – some of which you can kayak from – all properly lovely.
Here you’ll also find the lovely villages of Cawsand and Kingsand, with pubs and super cute shop The Stores, which sells all sorts of deli and provisions. We picked up some lovely sandwiches, local beers and snacks and trotted two mins down the road to the beach below where we had a picnic (and could have had a swim) and waved to Muddy Devon across the water.
If you didn’t want to head quite so far away from St. Mellion you could head to the upper reaches of the Tamar where up near Calstock you’ll find the National Trust property at Cotehele, with its Tudor house and beautiful gardens. The house and gardens close around 5pm, but the quayside part remains open and makes a rather nice evening walk. I particularly loved the terraced gardens (below) but if you ask my son, he found the pond to be best, as it was absolutely teaming with tadpoles!
We also enjoyed a gorgeous walk around one of the Great Gardens of Cornwall at Antony Woodland Garden, with more gorgeous riverside views. It was just so peaceful, walking in the woodlands and meadows, home to over six hundred different varieties of camellias all growing in an idyllic setting, and at our visit in May, also thousands and thousands of bluebells. One of Cornwall’s least known gardens, there’s a good chance you won’t see very many people at all, yet there’s also a cafe where you can get a lovely garden setting cream tea too.
Don’t confuse it with the National Trust property of the almost same name; Antony is an 18th-Century house set within a magnificent landscape garden, still home to the Carew Pole family, and visible from Antony Woodland Garden, which form part of the wider Antony Estate. The NT house and gardens open Tues – Thursday as well as Sundays in the summer, as the family still live at the property. When we visited in May the place was closed for the weekend so we never did get to see the formal gardens which I understand to be very inspiring. Still, got to save something for next time.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Family trips with a decent all-round base with top of the range facilities on site. It goes without saying that golfers love the stay & play breaks, and locals the health club memberships, but it also offers a great place from which to take a self-catering holiday as St. Mellion is so well placed – you can easily access the city of Plymouth as well as the tiny villages of the Cornish coast. Or, a getaway from everything type holiday without having to go anywhere near any tourists or the hustle and bustle of other holiday makers.
Not for: St. Mellion is parkland, so there’s no sea view here, but it is beautifully quiet and spacious with acres of countryside in every direction. However, being a country club style estate, if you’re totally averse (or just uninterested) in sports, you may find you just won’t make the most of the available amenities, so a more straightforward self-catering cottage might suit you better.
The damage: Pretty reasonable considering everything that is included (health club, driving range, tennis courts, parking). The Cottage Collection is priced per cottage: 1 bed plus bunk room from £120 per night, 2 bed from £150 per night and the 3 bed from £180 per night.
Want to try it out for yourself? Head over to our Reader Treats where we are giving away a weekend stay.
St. Mellion Estate, St Mellion, Saltash Cornwall, PL12 6SD