The New-Wave ECO ESCAPE; in a Notoriously Wasteful Industry, Luxury Cornish Hotel the Scarlet Is Causing Quite a Stir. So How Have Its Sister Owners Made Sustainability Cool, Asks Jo Fairley; REDBOLD&GREEN

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 27, 2010 | Go to article overview

The New-Wave ECO ESCAPE; in a Notoriously Wasteful Industry, Luxury Cornish Hotel the Scarlet Is Causing Quite a Stir. So How Have Its Sister Owners Made Sustainability Cool, Asks Jo Fairley; REDBOLD&GREEN


Byline: Jo Fairley

I don't know what the words 'eco hotel' conjure for you, but the chances are that it isn't the Scarlet. Think gorgeous cliff-top location, overlooking a North Cornish cove at Mawgan Porth, near Newquay (where you can bubble away in a wood-fired hot tub). Think silky-soft gazillion thread-count sheets and squishy Luma towels. Think no eco warriors under 12 (Scarlet is adults-only, which minimises the risk of being disturbed as you float in the reed-filtered 'natural swimming pond'). Add fabulous seasonal food; a wine list that would surely delight the palate of YOU's own Amy De Vine (albeit sourced from Europe, to reduce booze miles), and a sublime spa. If this is saving the planet, it's no wonder that word of this new eco-destination is spreading so quickly.

The Scarlet is the brainchild of three fun-loving, green-living sisters - Debbie Wakefield, Emma Stratton and Rebecca Whittington - who have hotels in their blood. 'Our grandmother had hotels in Cornwall, and our parents opened Bedruthan Steps,' explains middle sister Emma. (The trio still owns and runs Bedruthan, a pebble's throw from the Scarlet.) Almost as soon as they were old enough to tuck in a sheet, the three sisters were enlisted to help at Bedruthan, which itself has been acknowledged as pioneering in hotel circles. Bedruthan had the first solar-heated outdoor pool in Cornwall, and its solar-heated greenhouses allowed the girls' parents to grow the kind of Italian vegetables they loved to serve to their guests, scooping several sustainability awards en route.

'The hotel industry consumes vast amounts of resources and is incredibly wasteful,' explains Emma (mother of three sons aged ten to 13), who has a marketing background and focuses on sustainability at Bedruthan - and now the Scarlet. 'We wanted to show that there is a different way.'

A breath of fresh Atlantic air blows through the Scarlet in more ways than one: the decor is bright, bold and perfect for the strong Cornish sunlight. And when that sun sinks into the sea, the view from the terrace (or from cosy seating behind vast, triple-glazed windows when it's cooler) is up there with sunset in Malibu or Waikiki.

'We wanted to create the kind of hotel that we'd like to stay in ourselves - and we decided that it's possible still to cherish the planet, while having a great deal of fun living on it,' says Rebecca. She's the youngest sister, mother to Josh, ten, and eight-year-old Raffy, and the project's design director (although her CV has 'venture capital' and 'MBA' splashed all over it). As for big sister Debbie (mother of two nearly grown-up sons, Oliver and Ben), she's the family foodie. Trained at Leith's, with stints at top London restaurants Tante Claire and Langan's, Debbie provides the Scarlet's kitchen with anything from beetroot to runner beans. She is also the people-person. 'The staff here is like a box of liquorice allsorts,' she says. 'But the liquorice at the centre is that we all get a kick out of looking after people.'

Just as well, given the price tag of this 37-bedroom project - a cool [pounds sterling]12.5 million. Quizzed about the cost, the three sisters chorus: 'It's really not about the money. It's about creating something we believe in and can be proud of.'

Right from the word go, when the Tredragon Hotel was demolished to make way for the Scarlet, the project's environmental impact was top priority. The tired old insulation, for instance, was removed and sent to help keep primates at the nearby monkey sanctuary toasty. Two lizards, two adders and 120 slow worms who had taken up residence around the former hotel's site were sensitively re-homed. Water-based eco paints have been used throughout, and there's not so much as a twig of timber that hasn't got a Forest Stewardship Council certificate to its name. There's a biomass boiler and bedroom temperature regulators so quiet that you can't even hear the heating whisper. …

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