WHAT’S THE SCOOP? Not many people know the UK is home to a sub-tropical island paradise but the Isles of Scilly – 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall – must be seen to be believed. Each of the five inhabited islands have their own appeal but for me, Karma St Martin’s is the reason I will return time and again. Why? Location, location, location.
This stunning 4* hotel – open eight months of the year – is one of the most recognisable landmarks on St Martin’s and the first thing you’ll see when approaching the island by boat. Take in the views across the Tean Sound, paddle in the crystal-clear water or stroll along the powdery white sand beach, just moments from the front door. It genuinely glitters – and no, I’m not making that up!
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Oh yes – the hotel is so dog-friendly, it has won several awards for it. The team at Karma St Martin’s love visiting pooches and your four-legged friend will be able to accompany you everywhere – even the restaurant.
From the moment you arrive, your pet will be treated like “top dog”. Ernie was welcomed with a treat, bowls and blankets and we were handed a VIP (Very Important Pet) form to fill out, telling staff all about him. A dogsitting service was available and we were also invited to order meals for Ernie from Karma’s Kanine Kitchen.
The dishes started from £3 and included Souffle’s Super Smoothie (yoghurt, mashed banana and peanut butter) and Pavlov’s Ice (vanilla ice cream with a dog biscuit) but Ernie was a big fan of A Royal Dog’s Dinner (see above) – a brown rice dish with steak, veg and low-sodium gravy.
During our stay, we also took advantage of the fantastic Creature Comforts service offered by the Isles of Scilly Vet Support Group. In exchange for a small donation, they will provide everything you need for the duration of your break, from dog beds to crates, poo bags and toys. Whether you’re arriving by plane or boat, it really is excellent – and sure saves a lot of space in your suitcase! We collected our bag of goodies from the waiting room at St Mary’s harbour and dropped it back off when we left. Simple.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Relax in one of the 27 beautifully-appointed rooms or three suites. Try to bag one with a gorgeous sea view – if the sun is shining, you’ll think you’re in the Caribbean!
We were lucky enough to stay in the luxurious Honeymoon Suite, which was almost bigger than my first flat. It had a private balcony and a spacious lounge/diner in soothing tones of pink and grey with lots of cosy corners to cuddle up in (see Ernie snoozing on the window seat below).The sleeping quarters were simply stunning with an enormous king-size bed, soft robes and decadent toiletries, plus a large window to help you enjoy those stunning views. Honestly, you’ll never tire of the ever-changing landscape – whether there are bright blue skies or a storm’s a-brewing, there’s always something new to see. The constant ebb and flow of the tide as it swallows the nearby jetty is addictive to watch, too. We could even watch the local ferry approaching.
The suite was located at the end of a corridor so felt quite separate and private from the rest of the hotel. It was also above the reading room so there was very little noise to disturb us and the in-house Karma Spa was just steps away. A massage here is a must – trust me.HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Fantastic. Because of its location, a lot of food on the Isles of Scilly is either grown locally, homemade or will have come from close by. As a result, most dishes are seasonal. A number of local residents have honesty boxes outside their homes where they sell homegrown produce, such as eggs or fresh veg. We even saw a few enterprising people selling handmade perfume and crafts.
During our stay at Karma St Martin’s, we enjoyed a lovely meal in the hotel’s Cloudesley Shovell restaurant, feasting on freshly-caught crab, Cornish steak and delicious Scilly ice cream. The hotel also does a mean afternoon tea and can even provide pasty picnics for the beach.
The restaurant, in case you’re wondering, is named after a wealthy 18th Century admiral who died when his ship ran aground off the Isles of Scilly. Legend has it that Shovell actually made it to land alive but was murdered by a local woman who then stole his emerald ring.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but you’ll meet plenty of dogs when you’re out and about – and there may well be other canine guests to greet. If your pooch is anything like Ernie, they will certainly enjoy looking out of the window, just in case (see below).
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? St Martin’s itself is great and will show you the pleasures of a far simpler lifestyle. The island is a mere two miles long so you can easily walk from end-to-end or between the three imaginatively-named villages – Lower Town, Middle Town and Higher Town – where you’ll find a handful of restaurants, tea rooms, shops and pubs.
Very few residents have cars so the roads are nice and safe and it’s not unusual to walk for hours without seeing another soul. The hike out to the famous red-and-white daymark – which is visible from the Cornish mainland – is a particularly nice one with a mix of beaches, grassland and rugged cliffs to traverse.
Unlike some of the other islands, the beaches on St Martin’s are dog-friendly all year round. The ferry also stops right outside the hotel, making island-hopping a breeze.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: The tasty homemade meals from Karma’s Kanine Kitchen, off-lead walks all over St Martin’s, the super beaches
WHAT I LOVED: The sheer beauty of the island, the massages at Karma spa, the food, the staff… everything!
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Prices for a Deluxe Room start from £150 per night on a B&B basis, while an Ocean View Room will set you back £190 a night. The 2018 season at Karma St Martin’s runs from March 28 – October 28. For more information or to book, click here or call 03333 232353.