An intimate 19th-century country house hotel in North Cornwall, perched between the sea and Bodmin Moor. It rightfully prides itself on the quality of food and personal attention to guests.
Turn off the A395 that connects Cornwall’s two main artery roads (A30 and A39) into the drive of Pendragon House. Your nearest town is Camelford, and the Davidstow cheddar dairy is on your doorstep. From the orangery (where you take your meals), the view stretches out across the fields to where Bodmin moor meets Dartmoor. However, this is a base to explore rather than somewhere to sit back and soak up the view.
There are seven rooms of varying sizes, all done up in an Edwardian style with a mixture of antiques and reproduction pieces. There’s a room downstairs specifically for disabled access (which the hotel makes a point of promoting, and does a very good job of), and this room is also given to anyone who chooses to bring a dog. Beds are comfortable, there’s a TV and DVD in each room, and your tea and coffee facilities come with proper coffee, a cafetiere, and a selection of Cornish teas. There’s a carafe of English fortified wine in your room on arrival, along with a homemade cake or pastry to keep you going while you unpack. Bathrooms are small and functional, but underfloor heating keeps them cosy, whilst keeping the electricity bills down. There’s Ecover bathroom products in each one.
There are three communal rooms on the ground floor. The orangery, with floor to ceiling windows on three sides, is where meals are taken at shared tables for 8-10. It also has a powerful telescope for anyone hoping to get a site of the beast or any of Bodmin’s other fabled inhabitants. A comfortable sitting room adjoins, with faded leather sofas around a reconditioned fireplace using stone brought up from the cellar to make its surround. There’s a bar room with honesty bar, a huge range of board games, an even a green baize which you can lay over a gate-leg table if you fancy a game of cards. The ground floor is free of a rack of leaflets promoting local activities – but they can still be found – categorised and filed away in a pair of ring binders on the book shelves. In addition, there’s a proper pool table for guests in the basement, while those who like to take something home from their visits can visit Sharon’s tiny shop (really, a table in the corner by the stairs), for homemade jams, gifts and, in case you’ve forgotten yours, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Breakfast is a cut above – the menu makes a real point of its provenance, with an informative paragraph on each of the suppliers used for everything, from eggs to smoked kippers. There’s human touches too, like letting you know that it’s served from “8.30 till 10am-ish”, so no more last minute panics to get down to breakfast if you’ve had one too many the night before. They don’t serve lunch, but offer wicker picnic hampers with homemade sandwiches, crisps, a drink, and an iceblock and cooler.
There’s no choice of menu for dinner – Nigel chats with the guests over breakfast and agrees what the main meal will be, with a vegetarian option if need be. It’s proper fare too – people can book to come here for dinner, and with choices like herb-crusted rack of lamb or Cornish ham hock at prices well below what you pay at some of North Cornwall’s more celebrity-branded venues, it’s worth it. Everything’s fresh and mostly very local, and their approach keeps down on foodwaste too. Don’t ask for asparagus out of season (or blackberries, strawberries etc) – Nigel won’t serve it. He’ll offer you a wonderful local alternative instead.
The beach or the moors. Beaches are plentiful here – from Bude to Crackington Haven to Trebarwith Strand. If you’ve come without your car, not only will Nigel pick you up from Bodmin Parkway, he’ll drop you at the beach – for no extra charge – or plonk you at one point on the coastal path and pick you up when your legs give way. The car’s a Land Rover too, so he has space for your bikes if you’ve strayed too far. The moors are in sight of your bedroom, with all the mystery and desolate contemplation they offer. Or you could just curl up in a pub with a pint of bitter and a good book.
Further afield, many of Cornwall’s iconic tourist attractions, from the Eden Project to the Lost Garden of Heligan to Padstow and Newquay, are all less than an hour away. Wine lovers should head for nearby Camel Valley vineyards, whose guided tour is fascinating.
The first thing you see when you pull into the driveway are the two charging stations for electric cars. There are solar panels on the roof, an air source pump in the garden, rainwater harvesting from the gutters providing water for the lawns. All the cleaning is done with eco products, and all the food is local. They don’t ask guests to recycle, but separate all your rubbish for you. Likewise there’s no signs in the bedroom telling you to turn off the lights – their approach is very much softly softly, but they get the job done. They understand that you are here to have a holiday, after all.
How to get there by public transport
It’s about 25 minutes from Bodmin Parkway train station, and Nigel will pick you up for free. Or, if you are driving, it’s in between the A30 and A39.
The creameries of Davidstow may be on your doorstep, but with much of the cheese heading straight for supermarkets shelves, it can be tricky stuff to get your hands on. Thankfully, Pendragon has a license to sell the local cheese, and people come from far and wide on impromptu cheese tours. Whether it’s the rarebit for breakfast, a doorstep cheddar and pickle sandwich for lunch, or a moreish risotto for dinner, cheese lovers are in for a treat. There”ll even sell you a slab to go home with.
Passionate about getting it right, Nigel and Sharon are consummate hosts. Their food is top notch, their location superb. If North Cornwall’s your thing but you’d like to get away from the crowds in Padstow, Rock and Newquay, Pendragon’s a pretty good place to base yourself for a few days. And with food this good, you may never even get out the front door.
This review was originally published on Greentraveller. Visit the site to read a huge range of reviews of places you can visit by train from the UK.