Words by Bethany Allen
Many of us will witness catastrophe in our lifetime, but it’s how we choose to overcome it that will define us.
In June 2019, at the start of what promised to be a busy summer season, The Old Coastguard hotel in Mousehole suffered a life-changing blow when its kitchen went up in flames. Although the heat and fire damage was contained within the kitchen area, smoke engulfed the rest of the hotel; tainting the bedrooms, ruining the notable red carpet and ultimately resulting in the difficult decision to close the hotel for refurbishment.
Situated in the iconic fishing village of Mousehole on Cornwall’s west coast, The Old Coastguard hotel was once, as its name suggests, part of the local coastguard and acted as a lookout station for a number of years. It therefore has a significant place in the village’s history as a building that is deeply connected to the local area and Mousehole’s rich seafaring past. The first known mention of the village of Mousehole was recorded in 1283, and records show that pilchards were exported to France from as early as 1302. It is a quintessential Cornish fishing village that emulates everything that Cornwall stands for; its fishing heritage, its connection to the ocean and its sense of community.
The Old Coastguard building shares part of that history and what once was the lookout area has since been transformed into a reception area, allowing guests to access a building that would have had a huge role within the community at the time. It was therefore without question that the hotel’s Managing Directors, Charles and Edmund Inkin, did everything in their power to bring the hotel back to life. Like a phoenix it has risen from the ashes, stronger and better than ever.
With the renovations involving the usual range of challenges, including the exposure of asbestos to last year’s awful autumnal weather, the support of the hotel’s insurers NFU Mutual (contents and loss of business) and Allianz (the building) has been integral to the completion of the project, allowing the interior to be renovated, with help from decorator Coralie Rogers of Room in Hay, and the team to be maintained broadly as it was at the time of the fire.
“Our initial concern when we’re notified of a claim is the extent of the damage and caring for our client during a distressing time,” says Ellie Williams, the NFU Mutual agent who insured The Old Coastguard. “But a responsible insurer is aware of the knock-on effects a major incident can have. We were delighted to help and look forward to seeing the hotel go from strength to strength.”
After seven long months of renovations, as bad luck would have it, the hotel was set to re-open on 20th March – the same day that the UK was placed under lockdown. However, thanks to a continually devoted and patient team, as restrictions were slowly lifted and establishments gradually allowed to re-open, this historic Cornish hotel was eventually able, once again, to throw open its doors.
The renovations have restored The Old Coastguard to its former glory, thanks to the dedication of staff and the support of NFU Mutual and Allianz. “This project has been a huge one and we must particularly thank NFU Mutual,” says Charles Inkin. “You are never prepared for the aftermath of a fire, so their calmness has been critical in allowing us to bring the building back to life.”
With fourteen bedrooms, nearly all looking out over glistening Cornish waters and featuring views out to St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard peninsula beyond, The Old Coastguard is a valuable asset to the accommodation market in west Cornwall. Allowing visitors to access the area’s beaches and gardens, the Minack Theatre and the artists’ studios of Newlyn, Penzance and St Ives, as well as the wild and beautiful landscape of the Penwith Heritage Coast. There are so many wonderful places to visit in this area, from the breathtaking track of the South West Coast Path that wraps around the county, to the crystal-clear waters of beaches made from the white sand of crushed sea shells. It really is a spectacular destination and, within current guidelines, The Old Coastguard team is pleased to once again be welcoming visitors to Mousehole, providing a relaxing and comfortable base from which to explore this wildly beautiful area of Cornwall.
“We thank our guests for being unstintingly supportive throughout the process even when our plans have been uncertain,” says Edmund Inkin.
Winner of ‘Seaside Hotel of the Year’ in the 2020 Good Hotel Guide and the IWC ‘UK Wine List of the Year’, the Old Coastguard provides an award-winning service to guests. The hotel is part of EATDRINKSLEEP – a small group of inns run by Charles and Edmund Inkin. Each with their own unique character but all sticking to the duo’s core values of traditional and welcoming inns with great quality local food and a warm atmosphere.
Other inns under the EATDRINKSLEEP umbrella include The Gurnard’s Head near Zennor and The Felin Fach Griffin in Wales. The Gurnard’s Head is just a hop across the west Penwith moors from The Old Coastguard, and is a wonderfully remote inn whose sunshine yellow exterior draws visitors from far and wide to enjoy the delights of its cosy interior, acclaimed food and refreshing local beer. Time spent in this part of the world will help you unwind as you enjoy one of the country’s most dramatic coastlines, one that has inspired artists and walkers for centuries.
Then you have The Felin Fach Griffin, between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains in Wales; it’s the kind of inn that pulls you in, envelops you in a big cuddle and sends you to bed with a smile on your face. The Old Coastguard therefore completes a trio of beautiful, historic buildings, each possessing their own charm; each providing a warm and welcoming place of refuge for the modern traveller.
It is Charles and Edmund’s hope that the Old Coastguard will remain at the centre of the Mousehole community following its renovation and once again become a place where guests can relax and enjoy the local surroundings. To be able to survive catastrophe and emerge from it stronger than ever stands as a testament to the resilience of the hotel and its staff. In a time where resilience, patience and standing together in the face of adversity are values that are more important than ever, it’s nice to come across a success story like that of The Old Coastguard.