Although not the oldest, the Headland Hotel is certainly one of the most impressive and was designed by the architect Silvanus Trevail, who went on to become County Architect. What makes the ”’Headland Hotel”’ different from his other designs is not to be found in the building itself, but in the significant effect it had on the people of Newquay.
The Headland Riots that occurred during its construction have gone down in history. For generations, local fishermen had dried their nets and grazed their sheep on this headland, but in the late eighteen hundreds change was in the air. Parts of Newquay were being snapped-up by property speculators and this headland was no exception. Following the coming of the railway, well-to-do visitors were on the increase and they demanded high-class hotels in which to stay. Seeing this new trend as a way of increasing their wealth, a group of businessmen commissioned Silvanus Trevail to design the prestigious Headland Hotel on this prime location. The locals saw Trevail’s plan to build yet another hotel as an unwelcome invasion on their common land. They saw it also as a serious threat to their livelihoods.
The building was finally completed in 1900. In 1911 Edward Prince of Wales stayed at the hotel whilst convalescing from a bout of the Measles. This and other royal patronage to the Headland Hotel ensured that Newquay developed into a thriving holiday resort.
During excavations to the hotel’s foundations, rubbish heaps, known as kjokken moddens or kitchen middens, were discovered. These domestic rubbish heaps were filled with thousands of shells and are believed to be part of an ancient settlement.
The cliffs below the hotel lead to Little Fistral Beach and contain sandrock formed from sand, glued together by calcium-rich fluids derived from dissolved shells. This stone was used in the construction of many of our towns buildings, it was even used in the construction of Waterloo Bridge in London. In 1989 toe-bones of an extinct Giant Elk were found in the cliff face. If you look closely you may be lucky and discover a fossil for yourself. Can you see where the sea has eroded the rocks and formed hollow tubes, some several metres across? Local folklore has it that these tubes are the home to some of the Cornish fairy folk known as Piskeys. As all cliff edges are dangerous places please take care and do not allow children or dogs to venture too close to the edge.
Fistral Beach, to the left of the hotel, has the reputation of being one of the finest surfing beaches in Europe and every day of the year you can watch surfers pit their skill against the power of the ocean. It is a favourite location for film makers too. In 1990 The Witches was filmed in the hotel, whilst in 1967 The Beatles, who stayed at the Atlantic Hotel filmed part of their Magical Mystery Tour here. If you are lucky enough to be here at sunset you will understand why this is such a magical place.