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Review of The Old Rectory, St Juliot, Boscastle, Cornwall

Posted by Florence Fortnam at 01:17 on Tuesday 19 November 2013

Florence Fortnam beds down for the night in the old stables at one of the UK's greenest B&Bs and is inspired by gorgeous gardens, tales of Thomas Hardy, and the magnificent 'Cornish Rocker' .

For availability and booking, see our full listing for The Old Rectory.

The double gabled Old Rectory. Photo: The Old RectoryThe double gabled Old Rectory. Photo: The Old RectoryThe Setting
The Old Rectory is a beautiful, double gabled Victorian house, the carved crosses at the apexes acting as reminders of its original role in the hamlet of St Juliot. On all sides the house is enveloped by grounds topping seven acres – Sally’s pride and joy: mature sloping gardens laced with intriguing pathways, hidden seating spots and viewpoints, a fabulous walled vegetable garden and orchard, plenty of happy hens and ducks waddling around the place, and rare-breed pigs and sheep in surrounding fields.

The cosy fireside. Photo: Florence FortnamThe cosy fireside. Photo: Florence Fortnam

The Rooms
I stayed in The Old Stables, located on the ground floor off the conservatory – great for those with dogs. It’s a spacious, long room with country cottage touches, plenty of pine, and red rugs on tiled floors. At the far end, the double bed is concealed on a raised area separating it from the living area with sofa and log-burner, which was roaring away when I arrived. Next to the bed sat a tray of Fair Trade teas and coffees and a jar of homemade biccies.

Three further bedrooms are found upstairs. All nod gently to their Victorian heritage with drapes at big sash windows, picture rails, antique furniture, and pastel colours on the walls. Mr Hardy’s Room, where the novelist used to stay whilst drawing up the restoration plans for nearby St Juliot’s Church, has a writing desk at the window – you can almost imagine him sitting here, drafting his ideas, whilst gazing across the fields to the church, which is still just about visible through the trees. It was at The Old Rectory that he met his future wife; across the corridor Emma’s Room, decorated in pale blue, overlooks the woodland garden.

The Old Stables. Photo: Florence FortnamThe Old Stables. Photo: Florence Fortnam

The Food
Very little will pass your lips that isn’t grown, reared or homemade at The Old Rectory. From the jams and the bacon at breakfast to the lamb and seasonal veg at dinner – and every biscuit and slice of cake in between – you can be sure that whatever you’re eating has notched up very few food miles along the way. Make sure you book in for dinner (£15 for two courses), which is a lively affair, eaten around the big polished dining table with the other guests. Wine is BYO (no corkage charge). My plate was a feast of Sally’s delicious lamb – from their own herd of rare-breed Jacob sheep – and a selection of autumn veggies plucked from the garden, including a Halloween special of pumpkin mash. Rhubarb crumble followed, with generous helpings of vanilla custard and local clotted cream (well, it would have been rude not to...).

Veggie heaven: Sally's pride and joy, the fabulous walled vegetable garden. Photo: The Old RectoryVeggie heaven: Sally's pride and joy, the fabulous walled vegetable garden. Photo: The Old Rectory

The next morning, the breakfast table was crammed with homemade and local goodies, including still-warm bread, fruit, Cornish Orchard apple juice and freshly squeezed orange juice. I started proceedings with a tangy bowl of stewed gooseberries and blackberries and a big dollop of organic yoghurt from Helsett Farm, a couple of miles away, followed by locally smoked salmon (4 miles away) and scrambled eggs (from their hens), with the sweetest cherry tomatoes I’ve had in a long time. If you want to go out for dinner, there are plenty of good options locally, such as the Napoleon Inn in Boscastle.

Locally smoked salmon and eggs from Sally's hens. Photo: Florence FortnamLocally smoked salmon and eggs from Sally's hens. Photo: Florence Fortnam

The Activities
There’s plenty to do here without the car, so why not leave it be for your stay and explore by foot or bike? For starters you’ve got pretty Boscastle a few miles away for pubs, tearooms and gift shops. Most guests come here to walk, and walk you must! There are lots of fantastic walks starting from the door. A particular favourite with guests is the Boscastle to Tintagel coastal walk, which is five miles and makes a perfect day’s trek, with plenty of fishing harbours, secluded sandy beaches and wildlife to spot along the way – catch the bus back if your legs aren’t up to the return as well. If it’s beach time you’re after, this part of North Cornwall doesn’t disappoint. Bude, Tintagel and Padstow are firm family favourites, but there are quieter beaches, such as Tregardock and Bossiney, nearby. The famous gardens of Lanhydrock and Heligan are an easy drive, as is the award-winning Eden Project.  

The Green
In the porch, a sign welcomes guests to “the greenest B&B in the UK” – spend just a night here and you will see for yourself the measures Sally and Chris are taking to curb their carbon emissions and lessen their impact on this pretty corner of Cornwall – Sally and Chris are holders of the prestigious Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award which recognises their efforts. The field of solar panels at the top of the land provide energy for hot water and electricity, which Chris has adapted to make even more productive – his ‘Cornish Rocker’ system allows them to track the seasons, making them 40% more efficient.

The rare-breed Jacob sheep with Chris' 'Cornish Rocker' solar panels in the background. Photo: The Old RectoryThe rare-breed Jacob sheep with Chris' 'Cornish Rocker' solar panels in the background. Photo: The Old Rectory

My trip coincided with the firing up of their latest energy saving measure – a biomass boiler, an investment that would see the house becoming completely oil-free the following week. Nothing goes to waste here: all usable waste is ploughed back into the land and house: eggshells from their hens are used as slug deterrents to protect the vegetables, old carpet is used to suppress weeds, fallen trees are used for the fires and wood-burners in the house. My circuit of the grounds with Sally revealed one exciting project after another: the tea plant that next year would be providing guests with home-grown leaves for their cuppa, the newly-dug wildlife pond behind the walled garden, the homemade cider press in the initial stages of construction, the recently felled oak whose stump was being carved into a pair of owls by a local sculptor – the energy they pour into this place is truly inspirational.

Getting to The Old Rectory by public transport
If you arrive by public transport, Sally will arrange to collect you from nearby bus stops for free. Take the train to Exeter St Davids, where you can jump on a bus to Camelford – Sally will pick you up from here. Alternatively, make your way to Bodmin Parkway and catch bus no. 555 to Wadebridge, then pick up the 594 to Boscastle.

"The Greenest B&B in the UK". Photo: Florence Fortnam"The Greenest B&B in the UK". Photo: Florence Fortnam

Top Tip
Leave your mobile devices at home. Thankfully, signal is not the best in this patch of Cornwall. Instead bring a pile of books and your walking boots and explore the gardens, woodland, valleys and beaches.

To call The Old Rectory just a B&B doesn’t really do this place justice: you don’t have to spend too long here to realise that this place is a way of life for Chris and Sally. Their investment in the future and in green initiatives, the focus on providing only home-produced or local food, their love of rearing rare-breed animals, the passion with which they host guests – as a guest it’s a privilege to get a glimpse into their special way of life.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for The Old Rectory.

The lovely gardens and conservatory. Photo: the Old RectoryThe lovely gardens and conservatory. Photo: the Old Rectory


Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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