Where is it?
On Tresco, one of the islands in Cornwall’s quietly lovely archipelago, The Scilly Isles. In summer, this car-free isle is the closest the UK can get to the Caribbean; think azure bays and milky sands. It is famed for its resplendent Abbey Gardens. The Princes and Princess of Wales escape here annually to enjoy its low-key character (the island is owned by the Duchy and leased as an estate to the Dorrien Smith family).
The New Inn is on fiercely protected land with a subtle choreography, rather than gimmicky resort uniformity — from its paint shades to artworks, upholstery, and soundtracks. It sits in a sheltered enclave with a sea view a few steps inland from New Grimsby harbour — a stellar spot for exploring Tresco, though you’re always under a mile from a beautiful beach.
Guests can cut across the island to the vibey Hamptons-eque Ruin Beach Café via a pretty church and trinkets boutique, or trudge north along the coastal path to the Cromwell and King Charles Castle ruins.
Rather than the somewhat ubiquitous cosmo-rustic aesthetic of many pubs across the UK, The New Inn is one of those rare recovery operations that kept the maritime, gnarled wooded and low-beamed soul firmly intact. Yes, it’s smart, and clearly the deft work of someone qualified in colour palettes and textiles, but amid all the duck egg blue panelling, the rose pink, burnt orange and lilac upholstery is an authentic island boozer, where walkers are rewarded with Cornish ales, and island loyalists (including the Prince of Wales) hunker down for catch-of-the-day suppers.
The boothed pub area ‘the Driftwood Bar’, replete with a pool table, Scilly relics and that dim flicker of a bygone, oil lamp era is separated from the residents lounge. The latter is a subdued, fire-lit extension to the pub, where ‘sleepers’ nurse ciders over a game of chess or coffee with the morning papers, and all is bathed in Cornish light which spills in through mullioned windows.
A dining space lies at the other end of the pub, with that distinctively Scillion shade of blue framed by the windows and the walls neatly adorned with island regalia, including old maps, an enormous model ship and amber lanterns. 16 bedrooms upstairs continue the muted hue and tasteful upholstery theme, with geometric dusty rose headboards suspended from a large Maritime-esque rail, thick herringbone carpets and lacquered blue cupboards and bathroom tiles.
Food & drink
You could feasibly work your way through the New Inn’s menu over the course of a week, without it losing its charm. With two young children, this was a happy accident as we admitted picnic defeat and traipsed back once more for seasonal pumpkin curry, meaty monkfish beetroot risotto and absurdly moreish sweet potato and feta fritters.
Crafted for hungry walkers, cyclists and swimmers, the hearty menu doesn’t stray too far from classic Cornish pub fare, though is confidently elevated to gastro levels with lobster rolls, braised leek fish cakes and velvety cottage pie. The fish and chips is particularly good - tender and flakey innards dressed in crunchy battered coats — but it’s worth scanning the specials boards for catches of the day or that espresso creme brûlée.
Unpretentiously large portions are washed down with well-rounded house reds and Cornish ales, and seasonal catches (shellfish in particular) sing with a glass of rosé during the summer months on the inn’s sun trap terrace. A lively team keep glasses full and diners bonnie as this Tresco institution fills up for drawn out lunches, or cosy fire-lit dinners to the clack of the snooker balls and that ruddy faced pub din you can only find on British soil.
A tightly curated breakfast menu (from full ‘Scillion’ to Mexican bean, avocado and poached eggs medley) backs up a pocket-sized buffet of Cornish yoghurt, granola and pasties.
On an island ‘estate’ brimming with top-drawer facilities, there’s little pressure for the pub to be anything more than a proper pub-with-rooms. Guests can reach the spa and gym complex in under ten minutes from the New Inn, where they’ll find a smart indoor pool for rainy days, a superb gym with everything one could need for a thorough workout, and treatment rooms where Ila-guided therapies get booked up fast.
Striking oil paintings line the walls throughout, and pop up in the most unexpected places — around the Ruin Beach café, the yoga studio above the Flying Boat, even the spa changing rooms. There’s a ‘come rain or shine’ theme on Tresco, with the New Inn offering keen ramblers a row of smart wellies and umbrellas to choose from, as well as board games and a blazing log burner for soggy returnees.
This is where Tresco really comes into its own. In summer, days can be spent lazing on the beach — though this isn’t sun lounger or beach club territory, more Enid Blyton-esque picnics and pootling off in boats on island adventures. Families scale the island on bikes, which can be rented from the island next to Tresco Stores (a smart, pocket-sized supermarket), with fresh bread strapped to their backs and waterproofs in case the weather flicks its switch.
Long a key Tresco attraction, the Abbey Gardens are well worth wandering through, with their Italianate terrace and fountains, shell mosaics, topiary and exotic plants that thrive in the Scilly’s balmy microclimate. They are the visionary work of the island’s owners, who have leased Tresco from the Duchy now for almost 200 years. Their love of art is evident throughout, from the beachy canvases hoiked above dining tables in the cafes, to the Monet-style water paintings lining Tresco Gallery — a visit here typically ends in a bubble wrapped canvas under arm.
When not hiking the rugged north via the castle ruins, or kicking off your walking boots for a dip in pancake-flat Pentle Bay, the spa beckons. The changing rooms and indoor pool have the white wicker chair and heavy dressing gown feel of a plummy country club, while Ila therapies tap into the island’s spiritual side — the chakra rebalancing massage certainly takes you to ‘strange places.’
All 16 rooms are cut from the same artisanal cloth, with the same dusty pink upholstery and duck egg blue panelling decking the resident’s lounge. Interiors are reminiscent of the Hamptons, just with a palpable loyalty to local art and craftsmanship. See the seascape canvases, framed dried island flowers and beautifully carved and lacquered wardrobes. Retreating here after walks for tea and delectably soft homemade shortbread feels wonderfully British; as does a long soak in the heritage style bathrooms before sauntering down for a fireside game of chess and a hearty pub supper.
An outdoorsy, subtly polished year-round escape for those au fait with field-meets-sand Cornwall. If you’re after cocktails and poolside lounge music, or a ‘scene’ of any sort, Tresco is not the island for you. The New Inn perfectly embodies the island’s low-key allure - albeit a tastefully zhuzhed up one with our future King known to swing in for a tipple.
Doubles from £210 per night. tresco.co.uk