For the wackier traveller wanting to break free from the mundane, any ordinary luxury hotel is probably just plain boring at this point. So when I recently spent the night at Talland Bay Hotel, in Cornwall, I was worried it would be just another posh establishment despite its reputation for uniqueness.
We arrived into Talland Bay in the early evening. Driving along the winding country roads towards Looe, we could see thunderstorms approaching in the distance illuminating the cliff’s edge. As we got closer, we were in awe at what a fantastic – yet secluded – location we found ourselves in – even if the weather wasn’t playing ball for an ideal getaway in this peaceful nook of the coast.
The Talland Bay Hotel is a real hidden gem nestled between the more popular Looe and Polperro, on the South Coast, and dog-friendly to boot. We took our four-legged roommate – and the staff laugh when they tell me they treat pets better than people. They’re telling the truth.
Set just off the South West Coast Path with uninterrupted views out over the bay, the hotel’s sub-tropical gardens are super quirky. It’s one of the first things we noticed. Adorned with unusual sculptures and animal figurines, the eccentric exterior gives a perfect glimpse into what you can expect from the rest of the boutique property. The inside was equally as colourful and eccentric.
There’s quite possibly no place like this, in terms of design direction, in Cornwall. Admittedly when I spotted the somewhat creepy features outside, I wasn’t sure what to think – but I knew I’d never been anywhere that compared. The website calls it “romantic poetry” and you’d struggle to disagree.
On arrival for our one night stay – large and excited dog in tow – we were given a brief tour of the property which is modest in size but boasts an array of different spaces separated by their differing designs. My dog was already being treated like royalty and we’d not long walked through the door.
Our room was located on the ground floor, taking sublime advantage of views stretching far across the bay. It also boasted a private outdoors seating area through large glass-fronted patio doors – the perfect addition for those travelling with pets.
The space also had an aspect of the hotel footpath and grounds. The interior had William Morris-esque design touches and gilded gold furniture. It felt like luxury with a difference. The bathroom door led to a modern and more neutral cocoon of a bathroom complete with waterfall shower and a huge tub – the room was plenty spacious for a couple and two dogs. The only issue was that it almost felt too special to even allow pets set foot inside.
Despite plenty of Cornish escapes offering dog-friendly stays, Talland Bay Hotel has a special charm about it where having plenty of dogs about doesn’t seem forced. We were greeted with a doggy bundle on the bed – complete with a blanket, towel, dog treats, and a water bowl.
Our dog received more fuss than we did – and was very well fed. Another bonus is there are no overbearing rules about what the dogs can and can’t do, and I found the expectations very reasonable. I imagine that if you’re not particularly a fan of dogs yourself, this time of year would not be the best to visit.
The staff are friendly and attentive without being overbearing. They would check in frequent enough but we didn’t feel like we didn’t have a moment to ourselves. It’s still fairly early in the season during our stay and the hotel is definitely not quiet but you get the impression that it’s never unbearably busy. Even a nervous dog could feel at home here.
It’s also a fantastic location for walkers. We enjoyed a 40-minute walk to the beach in the wind and rain – which admittedly is not for the faint hearted. It’s incredibly steep – and slippery on our chosen day.
As can be expected guests are asked to never leave their dog alone inside the hotel, but fortunately there is only one location off limits to those with pets in tow – and that’s the restaurant. Later that evening we sat down for dinner in the dog-friendly conservatory as an alternative, where we could still opt to eat the menu from the double-AA Rosette-awarded restaurant.
Here we were delighted with a three-course menu complete with breads to start, an amuse bouche and a pre-dessert. Dogs get a bowl of chicken – a welcome treat lapped up by the few four-legged friends across the room. It’s a nice touch. My dog, being allergic to chicken, was lucky enough to get a special ‘pupcake’ treat of choux pastry, mascarpone and watermelon.
The menu is a fine dining mix of seafood, game and some deliciously unique vegetarian options. The food, it’s fair to say, is exceptional. It’s no surprise that even local people regularly travel here simply to eat in the restaurant. After enjoying a warming ginger amuse bouche and an exquisite selection of homemade breads and butter, we opted for the goat’s cheese and caramelised onion, and the house cured salmon to start. This was followed by the Looe sea bass with crab and mango salsa and the goat’s cheese and aubergine tortellini. For dessert we had the hazelnut tart and the strawberry mille-feuille. Not a mouthful went unenjoyed.
Our night’s sleep was every bit on theme with the stay. The bed was exceptionally comfy and while I feared that our dog might be unsettled by the unfamiliar surroundings – you couldn’t hear a whisper outside of the hotel room. I particularly enjoyed the luxury bath products from The White Company – and the very welcome addition of a coffee machine and coffee pod selection. It’s those extra little touches that make a hotel stay so memorable.
Breakfast the following morning was every bit as impressive as dinner – with options from trendy avocado toast to a traditional full English. Or you could opt for the simpler continental buffet – an array of pastries, fruits, cereals and spreads. Again, the dog was overjoyed at the arrival of a bowl of locally sourced sausages. He lapped them up in seconds.
The entire experience of Talland Bay Hotel is indeed something special. It’s fair to say whatever impression you get on arriving and being greeted by an eccentric budgie-bench and multi-coloured beach huts – this hotel has far more to offer than maximalism. A stay here is certainly on the pricier side – with rooms from £330 per night with breakfast – but that will be just one of many reasons it will be a holiday you and your dogs won’t forget.