A Very British Holiday with a Difference
The time of year is upon us when we cast our eye forward to the Promised Land of the holiday season.
I thought therefore that I would take a break of my own from being scathing about governments, banks, psychiatry and other criminal organisations that have contributed so much to taking all the fun out of life and turn my hand instead to a bit of travel writing.
I don’t usually do travel writing for the very good reason that I don’t often go anywhere worth writing about. Tesco in Horley and the mall in Crawley are, with all due respect, hardly suitable raw material for engaging prose.
Be all that as it may, it just so happens that last week I did in fact go somewhere interesting, which I thought the good people of Sussex, and especially those with an interest in art, might like to know about as they search for a suitable destination for their Easter or Summer break.
For business reasons involving a new book project, I packed a toothbrush (or in my case some Steradent and a tube of Polygrip) saddled up my trusty Astra and rode on down to Tintagel in Cornwall, by way of highways and byways bearing such legendary names as the M5, B3314 and A39.
If you like spectacular scenery, a bit of romantic history and picturesque English villages, if you hanker for England they way it should be rather than what the demented Utopian planners and tinkerers who advise our dull-witted government have made it, then Tintagel and its surrounding villages is the place to go.
And if you like four-poster beds, a bit of English quality, good art and a liberal dose of pure magic, then I recommend the Camelot Castle Hotel that sits enthroned on a coastal promontory at the edge of the village.
The hotel is aptly named. What else are you going to call an imposing granite-built edifice complete with turrets and crenulations that sits majestically on the windy cliff tops overlooking the ruins of Tintagel Castle, legendary home of Merlin and King Arthur, against a backdrop of the millennial Atlantic?
The Hotel’s stalwart ramparts, granite-hewn with the Cornish elements in mind, look capable of withstanding an offshore bombardment by the US Navy, should the American government ever get around to attacking England once it has finished beating up the rest of the planet. That very stalwartness conveys a sense of immovability in the face of the world’s fickle vicissitudes, the sense that within resides a civilised oasis as safe from the ravages of our Twenty First Century barbarism as King Arthur’s Camelot had once stood, a bastion of hope inured to the slings and arrows of the Dark Ages.
And so it proved to be. A warm cloak of hospitality imbues Camelot, while both the wind and the modern world buffet its outer ramparts with equal futility. It is without doubt one of the kindest and most tranquil places I have stayed.
You may think that I am waxing over-lyrical but I invite you to sample the place for yourself. You will discover as I did that here is something different. It somehow contrives to be more than just another hotel, for its owners, John Mappin, his wife Irina Mappin and the celebrated English artist Ted Stourton, inspired in no small measure by the ancient Arthurian legend, have created at Camelot something quite unique and almost magical.
If you are looking simply for a very good hotel and a restful place to stay and unwind with excellent service, superb food crafted by chefs brought in from posh hotels in Bahrain, a sense of fine quality and stunning scenery, then I recommend Camelot to you.
If you are an artist or have an interest in the arts, then I think a stay at Camelot will recharge your batteries and leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.
The hotel, located where Tennyson once wrote Idyll of the King, Elgar composed his Second Symphony and Turner painted masterpieces, has since its beginnings been a place sought out by artists. Its visitors’ book reads like a Who’s Who of the Twentieth Century world of the arts, with actors Nicholas Cage and Richard Harris and the occasional billionaire being among its Twenty First Century list of VIP guests.
Camelot was bought by the Mappins and Stourton twelve years ago and lovingly restored to its former glory with the dream in mind of turning it into not just a first class hotel but a haven and retreat for artists and thinkers, where they can come together in a safe environment, be inspired and share ideas.
It is a dream partly inspired by the legend of Merlin and Arthur’s Round Table – indeed, the main lounge boasts a magnificent oaken round table that was once owned by King Henry XIII – and in part by the legend of Al Raschid, who brought thinkers and artists together in his court at Baghdad and, by getting them to share their ideas, sparked a renaissance across the Arab World.
Camelot’s resident artist, Ted Stourton, who has been hailed as one of the country’s greatest living painters, plays a warm and genial host. While his magnificent works adorn the walls of the hotel’s rooms and corridors, he gives you a tour of his extensive studios and workshops, devoting a great deal of his personal energy to inspiring and encouraging fellow artists to get out there, bring beauty to this somewhat jaded world of ours and pursue their dreams.
As a man who has pursued his own dream with such success that collectors from all over the world are now beating a path to his door to buy works that are steadily rising in value, he is a man whose pleasant company is worth keeping and whose kind words of encouragement are worth heeding.
As I mentioned earlier, I was in Cornwall on business. I had not set out to have a good time but after my stay at the Camelot Castle Hotel, I felt like I had had a holiday. I most certainly felt refreshed as an artist and full of the sense of artistic purpose: that we artists, in whatever medium we create, can make or renew this culture’s dreams and bring some beauty and magic to it. And living itself is an art, is it not? And that makes all of us artists one way or another.
There is something almost magical happening at Camelot so whether an artist, entrepreneur or artisan, clerk, cook or carpet fitter, if you seek a little sanctuary from the world and some inspiration for the business of living, saddle up and ride on down to Camelot.
In the photo above, Ted Stourton is the handsome one and I am the one who looks like he had a stroke whilst receiving the award for "Most Un-photogenic Man in the Universe."
Stephen Cook’s website is at http://ablecopywriting.blogspot.com/