First impressions always count for a lot in my opinion, Simon and Louise certainly set the bar high when we stayed with them for three days at their lovely boutique Bed & Breakfast - Commonwood Manor - set on a hill in a riverside location overlooking the beautiful Cornish village of Looe. It's a fine balance to being attentive but still allowing you to have the freedom to do your own thing and our hosts managed this perfectly. Simon met us in reception on our arrival and gave us a tour of this stunning house that was originally built around 1890 as a Victorian family villa. The owner was a prosperous merchant trader of Italian and French heritage and it is thought to be the first house in Cornwall to be built of concrete.
From the piano underneath the staircase, where you could just imagine the Victorians gathered around to hear melodies fill the house, to the lounge and bar area where you could relax after a long day exploring the local area, through to the kitchen and dining area, Commonwood Manor has a unique charm.
We stayed in a room with a riverside aspect through the large triple windows. Elegantly presented with full en-suite facilities and complimentary toiletries, a flat screen television and tea/coffee making facilities (and tasty biscuits for an evening snack). We also had a pair of those fluffy white dressing gowns and Egyptian cotton bed linen for a perfect night's sleep.
As a photographer, light is always important to capture the style of image that I am looking for and Commonwood Manor was bathed in soft diffused light in all of the rooms.
After unpacking our luggage I decided to go for a stroll around the vast garden area to take in the external views. I was met by Louise who kindly gave me a tour, showing me the recently unearthed Italian water feature, the heated indoor swimming pool, the various plants that thrive in the Cornish climate and the views down to the centre of Looe, one of the few locations in Cornwall that we had never previously visited.
Breakfast was delicious with plentiful choices of fresh fruit, yoghurts, cereals, crosssants, choc au pains, full English and the legendary poached eggs that are Simon's speciality - cooked to perfection. The staff were all so kind and friendly and it was great to take some time to chat to Billy who looked after us at breakfast, to talk about his photography course that he is taking at Falmouth. We also met Alice, the owner's dog, although they wouldn't let us take her back home with us :-)
I was really excited to explore Looe and the surrounding area and it didn't fail to disappoint. You can walk to the town centre from Commonwood Manor in about 10 minutes and this suited myself fine, to be able to get up at sunrise with my camera whilst it was quiet and capture the images that I was looking for. Looe is situated on both sides of the River Looe, East and West Looe being joined by the iconic seven arched bridge that was built in 1853 that spans the river.
Lined by fishing boats along the harbour wall, it was a great place to photograph with so many reflections in the water and pretty pastel coloured buildings high up on the hills in the background. I also found time to stop and chat to a couple of the locals who were out for an early morning amble along the quayside. They are always so interesting to listen to, especially when they advise you of locations to photograph from.
Looe is also a perfect base to travel further afield from. We drove the short distance around the coast to Polperro where you step back in time at this unspoilt fishing village with beautiful cottages clinging to the steep hillside. You can just imagine the smugglers operating here all of those years ago. There are also several galleries selling work by local artists.
Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty is Fowey, where narrow streets lined with independent shops mix with harbour life which is a magnet for sailing fans. Bistros, cafes and restaurants will leave you spoilt for choice and the ice cream parlour serves delicious milkshakes.
Fowey's most famous resident was Daphne du Maurier, who lived and wrote some of her works here. Dawn French also lives at Point Neptune along the riverside.
We also paid our first visit to Charlestown, situated on the outskirts of St Austell, an unspoilt original Grade II listed harbour. Recently used as a location for the BBC drama series Poldark. The harbour is the home for a collection of old ships which are employed in television and film projects around the world.
A longer drive (approximately 45 minutes) took us to the west coast to visit Gwithian and Godrevy Lighthouse. The magnificent Gwithian beach was a colourful sight of windsurfers and kite flyers with a backdrop of natural sand dunes. The sea mist rolled in and then cleared to leave us with a beautiful sunny day to enjoy.
The National Trust operates the car park which is free all day to members and The Sunset Surf Beach Cafe served up a lovely cream tea. We walked along the cliffs all the way up to Godrevy lighthouse. The lighthouse was originally manned by a rotation of three keepers who would have lived, two at a time, in the adjoining cottage. In those days visitors would sometimes row themselves out to the island to visit the lighthouse and its keepers, however the cost of a manned lighthouse became untenable as shipping diminished and in the 1930s it became automatic.
After a day exploring there was plenty to return and relax to at Commonwood Manor. A library filled with hundreds of books and a large screen with a selection of DVDs to keep even the most selective visitor content.
A big thank you to Simon & Louise for having us to stay at Commonwood Manor. We would love to come back soon.
As always, all opinions are my own.