by Sherelle Jacobs, The Telegraph, April 12, 2019
'Close your eyes, and focus on your nidra breathing,' my yoga teacher gently reprimanded. She had caught me once again with my mouth hanging open like a dull-witted labrador, as I stared at the sea swirling below.
This time I obeyed, swapping the turquoise of the Atlantic Ocean for the darkness behind my eyelids. But I could still hear the heaving ocean.
Usually in my yoga classes I hold my breath like someone trying to cure themselves of hiccups, or a six-year-old learning to swim. But as I moved through various yoga poses with my teacher, Kali, I found myself breathing to the same rhythm as the lapping waves beyond the studio’s sea-facing glass walls. The sunshine was pouring in, warming my steadily awakening limbs. For once, yoga felt refreshingly effortless.
I was having a private lesson as part of the yoga retreat at The Scarlet in Cornwall, a luxury, adults-only hotel. I am a yoga fanatic of the mid-league, virtue-signalling variety (mat rolled under my office desk; dedicated drawers at home stuffed with Crayola-coloured leggings). But there’s a difference between going through the motions at the gym and a one-on-one session with the likes of Kali – for the obvious reason that, when there aren’t 19 wobbling bodies in the room, there is nowhere to hide. Kali, with her laserlike observation skills, picked up on all my bad habits – every sneaky, belly-floppish chaturanga and every shoulder-hunched downward dog was teased and twisted into Instagram-perfect shape.
Still, after an hour of practising yoga to the sound of whispering waves, and Kali’s soothing contralto-toned voice, I felt like a new woman. The Scarlet’s retreat ties in nicely with one of this year’s biggest trends - eco-yoga, which is about taking your practise outside and reconnecting with nature. Lessons can be held on the spa deck or the beach below the hotel in summer; even though it was a bit nippy during my stay, I did brave it down to Mawgan Porth beach for my own sunrise session. Watching the sky turn golden and feeling the wind whipping through your hair does take some of the tedium out of working on your cobra.
The Scarlet is predominantly a spa hotel, and this is where I spent most of my time when I wasn’t perfecting my warrior pose. The pièce de résistance is the clifftop hot tub, positioned on a precipice that juts over Mawgan Porth. Book at sunset and order a glass of champagne whatever the weather; even on a drizzly spring evening, watching the smoky skies slowly darken while immersed in the steaming bubbles is rather lovely. The outdoor sauna comes in a close second, with windows looking out to the ocean. There is also a glass-walled indoor pool that looks straight out to sea, so you can almost pretend you are swimming in the Atlantic, and a steam room.
It’s worth booking a treatment, just for the privilege of languishing, spaced out, in The Scarlet’s other-worldly pitch-black relaxation room, with striking white tepees hanging from the ceiling, in which guests can snuggle up. The calibre of treatments is outstanding (no soft, slovenly massages or therapists gabbing about their conservatory extensions during your facial here).
My 'Scarlet Journey' started with a salt scrub in the hotel’s hammam, a room that is authentic to the point of intimidating with its slippery (but thankfully heated) granite treatment slab; followed by a guided meditation to "empty my mind of extraneous thoughts" and a deep-tissue massage.
Guests come to here to decompress rather than gorge on food, but the restaurant is nonetheless very good, with plenty of options for health-conscious yogis; dinner might bring a light but cheering crab and dill risotto lying on a yellow meadow of crispy corn fritters, or halibut confettied with wild mushrooms.
It is almost regretful that so many guests at The Scarlet spend their time in a yoga-doped, spa-sozzled daze, because it’s a gloriously beautiful place. Not just due to the Atlantic banging its watery fists on the magnificent, fossil-etched Bedruthan steps. The public rooms are graced with coastal scenes by local artists, modern art sculptures, and attention-grabbing installations. Everywhere you look there is loose use of colour - so yoga leggings will blend right in.
Advanced warning that The Scarlet isn’t without its eccentricities. Some of the rooms have open showers and tubs artfully, if indiscreetly, plonked at the foot of the bed – not ideal if you happen to be sharing your room with a friend. And for some reason, a 'herbal' tea is a pot of hot water with wedges of lemon and ginger lobbed in. Arguably, though, it’s all part of the hotel’s 'free spirit' personality; whether you’re a yogi, ageing hippy or of a flamboyant disposition – you will fit right in.
A three-night yoga break is £1,749 based on two sharing, including breakfast and dinner.
Read the full review: The Scarlet