writer DH Lawrence came to Zennor, south-west Cornwall, in 1915 with his German wife Frieda to escape the Teutophobia sweeping the United Kingdom following the outbreak of the First World War. (Ironically, the local villagers believed the couple to be enemy spies and they were moved on by the police after a two-year stay.)
While he was here, he penned the following observation: “At Zennor one sees infinite Atlantic, all peacock-mingled colours, and the gorse is sunshine itself. Zennor is a most beautiful place: a tiny granite village nestling under high shaggy moor-hills and a big sweep of lovely sea beyond, such a lovely sea, lovelier even than the Mediterranean… It is the best place I have been in, I think.”
It’s easy to see why he fell in love with Zennor – and he didn’t even have the benefit of staying at the utterly fabulous Carn Cobba. Zennor is on the north Cornwall coast, some four miles south-east of St Ives and a few miles north of Penzance. Don’t come here to party, though, the village consists of one pub, The Tinner’s Arms (where Dave and Frieda stayed until they found a cottage to rent), and a 13th-century church.
What draws a constant snake of ramblers here is the view; a V-shaped, bracken-and-heather-clad gorge frames and enhances quite simply one of the most beautiful views of any sea anywhere in the world. At the mouth of the gorge, rocky cliffs, up to 300ft high, butt into the Atlantic to form a secluded cove with virgin, seldom-visited beach and turquoise-crystal waters.
You can climb down on paths hacked through the scrub and gorse to reach the beach. It is a pretty walk, crossing a bridge over the stream that trickles down from the hillsides which offers breathtaking views both inland and out across the Celtic Sea – but be warned, it’s not an easy trek to undertake. That said, the dividends once you reach the private beach are munificent beyond all proportion.
The house itself is like the kind of homestead which might be featured on Grand Designs but, thankfully, without Kevin McCloud’s pontifications.
It was built in 1938 by the Brooks family, who made their fortune from the leather bicycle saddle that bears their name and is still beloved of aficionados to this day. The design was somewhat ahead of its time, with a plethora of pitched roofs – albeit in the 1930s style, which means squared at the top rather than coming to an apex – that call to mind the Valley of the Pyramids (if it’s sunset, you’re squinting and you’ve had a few strong aperitifs).
Beautifully renovated, Carn Cobba shows a perfect, Holy Trinity-like, fusion of landscape, architecture and design. As well as the views (did I mention the views?), the house has landscaped gardens, including ponds, wooden bridges and downhill lawns that have been fashioned from the slopes of the gorge before it falls away and gives way to a stream.
The house itself is a thing of beauty and wonderment exploiting the strengths of its setting and content to play second fiddle to nature, cognisant of the fact you don’t try to upstage a diva. A balcony or sun terrace has been sympathetically introduced wherever the house’s aspect offers a vista.
The present owners (the Bones, as I discovered after snooping through the visitors’ book) clearly have a love of yachting and that nautical aesthetic pervades. Lots of cool, muted colours – cream, baby blue and sage, and, naturally, more decking than the Titanic. (Not literally, obviously.)
But the only ice you’ll bump up against is that in your glass of g’n’t as you make the most of the sun-trap terraces. Inside, no expense has been spared when it comes to fixtures and fittings; there is an abundance of Miele kitchen appliances, Grohe showers and taps and Villeroy & Boch washbasins and baths. Naturally, Molton Brown unguents have been thoughtfully placed wherever water springs forth.
Meanwhile, my daughter, Evie, 6, and a couple of her little pals were in hog heaven – the mezzanine level comprises a games den with huge flatscreen TV, and a twin room with en-suite bathroom. And downstairs are two further children’s bunk-bedrooms – this in addition to the four fabulous king-sized rooms, two complete with en-suite bath facilities and all enjoying those staggering views across the world heritage site where the house stands.
The point of Carn Cobba is its wild, secluded and rugged beauty. But if you do feel the need to rejoin society while you’re here, you have two options. The first is to walk back up the private road that will have led you here from Zennor (there is parking for up to six cars) and spend an evening at the Tinner’s Arms. It’s a traditional Cornish pub with stone-flagged flooring and decent gastro-pub menu, it also has a good range of local ales and live folk music on Thursday nights.
Or you can head into St Ives for the bustle and bright lights of the metropolis. For that is how this smugglers’ village will appear to you, such is the isolation of Carn Cobba. Cobbled streets with interesting boutique shops and lots of pubs. If you want to eat, head for the Harbour Fish & Chips Restaurant, overlooking the harbour, funnily enough, on Wharf Road. The best fish and chips I have ever had. Ever. Delights include battered scallops – though the coating is more akin to the lightest golden Thai tempura rather than the stodgy beer batter served in so many outlets these days. And don’t miss the battered seabass fillet. Leah Trevorrow and her bevy of helpful fellow waitresses will look after you and your party royally. And the restaurant serves decent beers and wine.
You can book Carn Cobba through the Cornish Gems website, along with any concierge services that you might require. You’d better be quick off the mark, though. Evie might just beat you to it, when she’s grown bored of the CBBC site…
Carn Cobba costs from £1,995 per week in low season and sleeps up to ten adults and six children. To book: 0844 800 2813; cornishgems.com