Words by Hannah Tapping
Visiting a Cornish estate that is alive with history and whose heart beats to a sustainable rhythm.
Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Cornwall’s coastal towns, Boconnoc House and Estate has played host to many a luminary, royal and famous personality, and has been the home of no less than three Prime Minsiters. Purchased with the proceeds of the famous Pitt Diamond in 1717, Boconnoc is a veritable hidden gem. Turn to modern times and its current owners, the Fortescue family who bought the estate in 2000, have undertaken an ambitious renovation project to restore the main house to its former glory, while ensuring that the estate has both a contemporary feel but also still nods to its venerable past.
Today, the estate offers stays, weddings and retreats, all within the most beautiful private grounds. There are three charming cottages available for rent on the estate: the Dairy House, the Groom’s House, and Head Groom’s House. In addition, The Stewardry and Boconnoc House itself complete the stay proposition. All have undergone extensive renovations and now boast beautiful interiors, styled to reflect the history of each property.
The Groom’s House (sleeping six) has rural views over the parkland and its light and bright interiors take reference from its natural surroundings, creating a calming retreat. The Head Groom’s House (sleeping four) is a rustic retreat in a courtyard position, where luxurious materials and deep colours work effortlessly with the stonework, original beams and carefully chosen furniture. The sleep-eight Dairy House is the ultimate in boutique country hideaways. Laid back and furnished with artefacts from across the Duchy, as well as from around the world, the Dairy House is as unique as it is eclectic.
For larger groups, The Stewardry is an exquisite 18th century manor where up to 14 people can gather in opulent surroundings. The interiors, designed by Sarah Fortescue, take their inspiration from Boconnoc’s wonderful gardens, affording guests an away-from-it-all stay in unrivalled surroundings. Finally, the Grade-II listed Boconnoc House sleeps 19 in ultimate Cornish luxury. You can imagine yourself as lord or lady of the manor here. Original features abound and have been tastefully brought into the 21st century.
Guests are free to explore the estate, where you can immerse yourself in nature, wander through ancient woodlands, and marvel at the beautiful gardens. The secluded location offers a sense of tranquillity and the opportunity to disconnect from the outside world. The estate is also licensed for nuptials. The wedding couple and party can enjoy exclusive access to the entire estate, including the accommodations and the house. There are a number of incredible locations for wedding ceremonies across the estate. The 800-year-old Boconnoc church is a spectacular setting for traditional ceremonies, while the Dorothy Garden, the Pinetum or the beautiful glade near the Stewardry appeal to those who want to say ‘I do’ while connecting with nature. The wedding team at Boconnoc is always open to accommodating any unique preferences and pride themselves in creating unforgettable wedding experiences.
In addition to weddings, Boconnoc organise a range of events and workshops on the estate, collaborating with local craftspeople and artisans to offer enriching experiences to guests. For instance, a recent flower workshop was led by Rebecca from the Garden Gate Flower Company, a local florist and one of their recommended suppliers for weddings. The estate also supports local musicians and artists, as well as engaging with nearby schools for community initiatives. During the winter months last year, they hosted a warm hub for local residents, particularly elderly individuals and those seeking companionship. This initiative allowed them to come together for a few hours, enjoy hot drinks, and engage in meaningful conversations together.
As well as taking a community approach, the estate team have also recently turned their attention to the matter of sustainability, implementing various approaches within the accommodations. While taking a gentle stroll around the estate, guests can witness Boconnoc’s commitment to recycling and composting. Organic waste is composted and used in the kitchen garden, where they grow an array of fresh vegetables. Here they are currently experimenting with a no-dig gardening approach. In fact, they have invited Charles Dowding, a renowned advocate for soil health and the inventor of the no-dig method, to conduct a workshop in September. This exciting event will showcase the benefits of this gardening approach. Guests are welcomed and encouraged to visit the farms on the estate where they can learn about soil health and sustainable farming practices; they are even able to take part in sheep shearing and scanning.
The team is continuously striving to integrate sustainable practices into every aspect of the business. An example of which is that Boconnoc House and The Dairy House are heated by their own biomass boiler using woodchip from trees felled on the estate and there is an electric car charging point on site for guests. They are also actively exploring ways to make weddings at the estate more sustainable, as they are aware that significant waste can be generated by such events. The produce from the kitchen garden is primarily used for weddings and events held on the estate; food miles don’t exist here! This passion for provenance also extends to working with likeminded suppliers. The FEGO Food Co is a case in point; FEGO are passionate about food provenance, sourcing local and creating delicious food with meaning. The Garden Gate Flower Company has set up as an alternative to shop-bought, imported, chemically treated flowers, favouring freshly picked, scented blooms from local certified organic land.
Dairy produce such as milk and yoghurt come from Trewithen Dairy who are located next to the estate. Bread is bought from Cornish baker, Vicky’s Bread who only uses organic flour. Liddicoat, the butcher in Lostwithiel provides sausages and bacon – all their meat is sourced from Cornwall, including venison which comes from the estate. They even stock Cornish produce in the bar, including Lantic Gin which is distilled on the estate and contains foraged plants from the estate and south coast shores. It is this combination of small, but hugely important, initiatives that are the estate’s way of nodding towards their values and promoting sustainability, and which together make a big difference.
The very nature of a Cornish estate means that timber in the woodlands is always lost. As the Deer Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), all fallen trees are left to allow the natural process of tree rotting. In other areas of woodland, a certain percentage is let while the rest is collected. Logs are cut onsite by Martin Cloak and delivered direct to clients who have ordered them. Good timber is stored in racks at the estate’s own water-powered sawmill, one of the last working water-powered saw mills in the country, and then anything else is stacked for use in the biomass boiler. On-site furniture maker, Mena Woodwork is currently drying timber from the estate to make his incredible outdoor furniture.
Boconnoc is a many-faceted estate, connected by a desire to not only celebrate its past, but to ensure its future is one that treads lightly on the earth, all while welcoming guests to enjoy its unique hidden location.