There’s something rather wonderful about staying in a beautiful historic property full of original features in a part of the world you adore. CLC Trenython Manor in Tywardreath, Cornwall is one such place. In its day job, it’s part of the portfolio of CLC World Resorts & Hotels, a resort developer selling holidays through property ownership – what you and I would call timeshare. Where there is spare capacity, it also sells rooms to regular visitors via online travel agents.
Trenython Manor is a few miles inland of the South Coast of Cornwall, just under half way down from the border with Devon to the Western-most tip of the county. It’s 3 miles away from Fowey and 6 miles from St Austell, both hugely popular with visitors. The area is predominantly rural, full of farmland fields and snatches of woodland; and the coast line offers some spectacular views, including a beautiful beach at Tywardreath that stretches around to Polkerris.
The wider area is absolutely full of places to visit too. On this trip we visited the magnificent Eden Project – my fourth time and it’s still just as impressive, and the Lost Gardens of Heligan – a first and love at first sight. And we took a drive up to Boscastle on the North coast – a long time favourite that we used to visit more regularly in the late 1990s. Also within easy driving distance of Trenython are the beautiful harbour town of Mevagissey, the charming fishing village of Polperro, and the historic charms of Lostwithiel – the capital of Cornwall several centuries ago. Bodmin – both the town and the moors – are also within easy reach. There are plenty of attractions to suit your interests – well-marked trails for those who like walking, historic castles, beautiful parks and gardens, boat excursions to explore the coast from a different vantage point, scenic railways, museums, wildlife parks and visitor centres, watersports clubs… you can even find out more about beer-making at the St Austell brewery.
More of that later, first, back to Trenython Manor.
A beautiful stately home, Trenython was built on the estate of Little Pinnock in 1872 by an Italian architect commissioned by Giuseppe Garibaldi, a famous Italian general, politician and nationalist. Garibaldi built the manor as a reward to Englishman John Whitehead Peard, who had served him loyally in several of his campaigns and was from nearby Penquite.
In 1891 the house was purchased by Bishop Gott, the third Bishop of Truro and it served as a Bishop’s Palace for 15 years.
For 50 years following the departure of the Gott family, Trenython was run as a convalescent home by Great Western Railway and indeed the current owners still welcome guests who remember visiting family members living in the home back in that era.
Today the main house offers a range of beautiful guest bedrooms – full of light from huge windows, and with plenty of original features; our room is one of the largest and the views out to sea are mesmerising. We have a huge double bed that we sleep blissfully well on, comfy sofas that are perfect for relaxing and reading a good book and a spacious bathroom with enormous bath and monsoon shower.
Free wi-fi is included, which is welcome news for those of us permanently tethered to the online world!
Downstairs is a spacious lobby open right up to the roof 2 floors up. From here, a grand staircase leads up to the first floor, with a balcony that looks downwards to the reception desk. To one side is the wood-panelled dining room and to the other a large bar area with plenty of comfy seating.
Also in the main building is Temple Spa, though you will need to pop outside to reach it via its own external entrance to the side of the house. The spa is also open to non-resident guests so if you are staying elsewhere in the local area, you can make a booking for a spa treatments or to use the swimming pool, spa pool, steam room and sauna. There’s even a fitness room for those who like to torture themselves while on holiday!
Pete and I both enjoyed our massage treatments immensely, and compared to London pricing, these are a good deal.
The expansive grounds also house a number of standalone lodges which offer self-catering accommodation with full access to the facilities in the main house. As per the CLC World model, many of these are privately owned – their owners using them for their own holidays throughout the year, and asking CLC World to rent them out to members for the rest of the year. CLC World is currently undertaking a refurbishment of the ones it owns directly; the one we were shown was well-furnished, comfortable and practical as a home-from-home.
One of the things that makes Trenython Manor perfect for a relaxing break is the onsite restaurant, housed within the magnificent panelled dining room. Breakfast and dinner are served here, with lunch and afternoon tea in the bar area to the other side of the lobby.
The dining room walls are lined with tens of mismatched but ornately carved oak panels some of which date back to the 16th century. These were ‘gathered’ by Bishop Gott in 1891 and came from as far afield as York Minster and Worcester Cathedral. For me, part of the charm is in the lack of cohesive design to these and yet together they create a really dramatic space. The ornate ceiling and lights contribute to that too.
Six evenings a week, the restaurant offers its regular menu featuring what I’d describe as gastro pub style food – good quality ingredients, freshly cooked with skill and nicely presented but more focused on pleasing customers than showing off. I mean that as a compliment – it’s not the kind of place that could be considered a destination restaurant but you are guaranteed tasty food served in a comfortable but grand setting, after which you can pause for a drink in the bar before heading off to bed for the evening. In the past, I’ve stayed in some charming bed and breakfasts but the need to head out, usually in the car, for dinner does make for a somewhat less chilled end to each day.
On Sundays, a Steak Night menu is offered instead.
Breakfast is also served in the dining room and is a help yourself affair laid out in an annex room attached to the main dining room. It’s a decent offering with the usual cooked breakfast items, a selection of fresh and preserved fruit, cereals and yoghurt and some really decent pastries.
After setting ourselves up for the day with a hearty breakfast, Pete and I headed out to visit some of the most popular local attractions.
Two huge steel-framed biomes (that look like giant bubble-shaped greenhouses) house a rainforest environment and a Mediterranean environment. Each one recreates the climate, landscapes, flora and even some of the insect and birdlife of the world’s tropical and warm temperate regions, respectively. The biomes are huge and an utterly immersive experience; in the rainforest one you can wind your way up the sloping paths, feelthe occasional water spray that keeps humidity levels suitably high, read about the varied plants and some of the traditions related to them around the world, and enjoy breathtaking views from the canopy walkway at the top. The Mediterranean biome recreates the sights and smells of its chosen regions so accurately, it’s hard not to imagine yourself in South Africa, California, Western Australia or the Med. We particularly loved the Med Terrace restaurant – our pick for lunch at Eden Project. Between the two biomes, you’ll also find the main Eden Kitchen restaurant which offers home-cooking style food that can cater for vegetarians, vegans, meat-eaters, gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
It’s not just the biomes themselves that are worth exploring. Once you’ve passed through the visitor centre (which also houses a shop and small garden centre) you will come out into the huge open gardens of Eden Project and choose one of the many windings paths that lead you gently up and down the slopes of the clay-pit. Not only is the planting gorgeous, there are beautiful sculptures throughout the gardens as well, a veritable outdoor art gallery. Also in the Eden Project are The Core, an educational hub where children can learn about everything from the biology of plants to ecosystems, from evolution to climate change. There is also a Stage and Arena space where relevant shows are held throughout the year. For adrenalin junkies, there’s now also a zip-wire experience too – you won’t be surprised to learn that I gave that a miss!
I have visited the Eden Project three times now and never fail to be impressed by just how much has been achieved here – it’s hard to fathom that it was only just over two decades ago the site was an economically unviable, barely-functioning clay pit.
The Eden Project was the vision of businessman Tim Smit. Before he dreamed up that project, he was involved in the rebirth of another popular local attraction, The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Did you know that the name comes from helygen, Cornish for willow tree?
Originally created by members of the Tremaybe family between the mid-18th century and the early 20th century, the gardens were (and still are) part of the family’s Heligan Estate. In their heyday the gardens were maintained by a team of 22 gardeners, but the first world war lead to the death of many of those men. In the 1920s, squire John ‘Jack’ Tremayne moved to Italy and leased out Heligan. It was occupied by tenants for most of the rest of the century, including the US Army during the second world war. During these decades of tenancy period the garden was completely neglected and lost to sight. With the death of Jack Tremayne, who had no children, ownership of the estate fell to several members of his extended family, and was run as an estate to their joint benefit. The house itself was sold off and redeveloped as private apartments in the 1970s but the rest of the land remained in trust. It was one of the trust beneficiaries, John Willis, who introduced Tim Smit to the neglected gardens and, with together with a group of local enthusiasts, they decided to restore the garden to its former glory.
The laborious but fascinating restoration process of the gardens in the 1990s, was televised on Channel 4.
The gardens have been hugely popular with delighted visitors ever since, and continue to contribute to the local economy by providing employment.
When we visited, the jungle and woodland areas were closed because of extreme winds – the tail end remnants of a hurricane that had hit North America a few days prior. But we were still able to enjoy beautiful walled kitchen gardens, glasshouses and frames, wonderful flower gardens and beds, open greens bound by rhododendron trees laden with flowers.
Of course, these are just two of the attractions in the immediate vicinity of the property – there is so much to see and do in this part of the world that you’ll not lack for attractions and activities for a week or even two. Here’s a 3 day Cornwall guide to give you some ideas.
For those interested, Trenython Manor also has a children’s playground and can organise a range of activities including croquet and petanque, educational woodland walks, archery and falconry. Both lodges and rooms within the manor building can be booked by the night; check booking.com or contact the property directly to enquire.
Kavey Eats visited Trenython Manor as guests of CLC World. CLC World also provided tickets for entry to Eden Project Cornwall.