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  • Jane Egginton

Would You Swap Your Car for a Bottle of Wine?

‘You travelled by train?’ Anthony, the friendly waiter at Bedruthan Hotel’s Wild Café asks, with real interest. ‘That means we give you a free bottle of wine. Would you like red or white?’

Anyone travelling to the hotel in Cornwall by any method other than car qualifies for this gift. Why don’t more hotels offer incentives like this? The term ‘eco hotel’ rarely translates into something tangible for the visitor, let alone something they can actually contribute to and be part of.

I am delighted - at my present but also by the view and to be greeted with such apparently genuine friendliness. I then congratulate myself, and not for the first time, on my decision to take the train.

Not having a car is not really a hardship here. There really is no need to drive either to get here or after arriving at the Bedruthan or its sister hotel, the Scarlet. The train station is just around the corner and a sandy beach is on the doorstep, with seaside walks and year-round surfing. If the weather falters, which of course it does sometimes in this part of the world, there are some very decent restaurants with views of the scenic Cornish sky.

The best eco hotels are not only rooted in their environment, but also source local ingredients in their restaurants. The Bedruthan’s Wild Café and Herring restaurant boast a sustainable approach. They have won ‘Best in Cornwall’ awards, holding their own against local offerings from TV stars such as Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver.

Bryony, the young student waitress at the Herring restaurant is highly informed about its eco credentials. ‘The Helford estuary’s hand-dived scallops come from one of the few guys in Cornwall to use this method, which means the life on the riverbed is not damaged.’ She patiently tells me that the fisherman couldn’t get red mullet today so its silver mullet instead, which is very similar but less meaty. ‘Is that ok?’

Bryony, just like Anthony, seemed to genuinely want to know about my day and to really love working at this hotel which attracts locals and visitors alike. Neil, the regular barman has been at the hotel for 40 years. He cheerfully makes a ‘Buttercup’ cocktail, a sweet meringue lemoncello drink that is rather too retro retro for me while explaining they use local Cornish ingredients wherever possible.

The adults-only Scarlet is the Bedruthan’s younger and more stylish sister. It struck me as rather serious, but the light-filled building is impressive and its eco credentials cannot be criticised. Guests love the eco pool filtered by reedbeds and frequented by hummingbirds, which was a real challenge to install.

The three sisters,who own the Scarlet still pay homage to their mother. When she furnished the Bedruthan with Danish furniture and created one of the first hydrotherapy pools in the country 40 years ago, she was way ahead of her time. Its contemporary incarnation, the Scarlet follows in its footsteps. It had one of the UK’s first green, living roofs as the owners were determined to continue to create something sustainable to pass onto their own children.

I make the short walk back from the Scarlet to the Bedruthan to my waiting bottle of wine. Watching the pale winter sun disappear behind the beach, I contemplate my small contribution to saving the planet.

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