Our property expert for Cornish Cottage Holidays, Janine Woods, shares her many years of expertise and knowledge about buying...
Sunset House and Seascape are two of our most popular holiday cottages in the far West town of St Just, Cornwall, and it is not hard to see why. I have managed to get an interview with the owner, Karl Callighan, to ask him some questions about his holiday letting journey.
“In 2019 I purchased the land and have built the properties myself. The initial idea was to have one to live in and the other as a holiday let. Once built, I decided I wanted to let both of them out for guests to enjoy.”
“Prior to holiday letting, I owned and let a property in Penzance on a long term lease. I decided to try holiday letting and realised how lucrative it could be – my property was soon sold out!” Having decided Penzance as an area was not super busy, he started to look at other areas such as St Just.
“Top quality. Every part of both properties has been fully considered and are very detailed; created using the top quality materials.” Karl does not skimp on anything. He believes the properties should look good, be practical and last. To this end, all the windows and doors have been specially made and strengthened so they can withstand the weather without any squeaks or creaks. Every fixture and fitting has been hand-made while the floors are concrete polished and stain protected.
The properties are built on land belonging to Lord Falmouth’s. Sitting on an AONB site, Karl decided to use a lot of reclaimed granite as the properties had to be in keeping with the area. All the stone has been reclaimed from across Cornwall and many from properties over 300 years ago. As example, Karl used the mullion style sill from a manor house around the window. All the old granite has been reused and pieced into the houses. All this helps to keep the properties authentically old in style but are in fact brand new.
Karl has brought his experience working around the world back to Sunset House and Seascape. He enjoys working closely with the architects to make sure the properties are built for purpose. This ensures they are both practical and appealing.
Karl has taken a lot of his design influences from his travels in Bali, South of France and Morocco. He has brought back styles to the garden to include a wall of tree trunks he sourced in France.
Sunset House has lots of French furniture including the beds and cabinets, whilst Seascape has influences from Bali, with the furniture and decor giving a nod to this region. The bright colours, geometric print rug and even the tropical palms in the garden make you feel like you’re in an oasis a long distance away from the UK.
One feature piece Karl mentioned was the dining room tables in both properties, which have been made from 300-400 year old trees. This ancient, large timber is then used to create the stunning tables you find in the properties, still with the original knots and authenticity you only find with genuine aged wood.
Including feature pieces such as Venetian plaster and ‘crocodile skin’ plaster, Karl is keen for his properties to break free for the norm and contain something different.
He has a good sense of pride about his holiday properties and rightly so. He informed me that “The people who come here deserve to get the best. To have everything they touch to be of excellent quality as what’s in the house also matters.”
“What sticks in my mind is when I was building Viola Sea and Sea Glass (two other properties which were also let by Cornish Cottage Holidays). I have since sold Seaglass but still own Viola Sea. I had the properties made from reclaimed granite from an old hospital in Cornwall. Most of this was old hand carved granite. While building the properties storm Ciara (2019) was brewing. I had all the sides up ready for the roof to be added. Sunday came and brought the storm. The whole property fell down and was completely demolished. If it had happened two days later, it wouldn’t have been an issue. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I was having a Sunday roast lunch when I got the call to say the property had collapsed. Luckily the properties were insured but I had to wait a long time for the claim to be settled. I had to clean up the rubble and it looked like an earthquake had hit. Even the hand-carved granite had become rubble. All I could do was start again and rather than getting annoyed or upset I just got on with it. Looking back now, I question; How did I not get annoyed by the situation?”
Since letting Sunset House and Seascape, Karl has received many lovely comments about them being created and maintained to a high standard. This has encouraged Karl to keep building and developing.
“A little while ago, I had to visit Seascape during a guest stay. They told me they felt as though they were in another country and were mind-blown by the details I had put in. The fact they had taken note of all this was one of the biggest compliments I could get. I often get comments about the secret details I have put into the build.”
“My perfect day is walking from St Just to Porthcurno. The route takes you past Lands End point and is one of the best walks of my life and, in my mind, one of the best hidden secrets of Cornwall. I will never get bored of seeing the area with lots of little coves.”
Is it true that scenes of Poldark were filmed outside Sunset House and Seascape? Can you please tell me more information about this? “ Filming happened right in front of Seascape and Sunset House. When they were filming, the whole field was full of people and became the main campsite. Levant Mine near the house is one of the main mines. People from the local pub also appear in some episodes as extras. The landlord of Pendeen, John ‘The North Inn’ featured and has many photos up around the pub of the filming.”
“Cornish Cottage Holidays have been great. When I started, Tara made it work and put in a lot of 1-2-1 work and has become like family. Without her, I probably wouldn’t have become as involved. When Viola Sea wasn’t booking as much as I would have liked, she suggested discounts and made sure it worked and now with her advice, all have loads of bookings!”
“I would always advise to give your guests good value for money. If you have a property in a good location, make sure you are also decking out the inside as well. Give a good welcome pack. We like to provide clotted cream, scones, eggs, butter, jam, fresh bread and an Avery House coffee machine is available to use. We also supply each guest with a full pack of coffee pods. I could easily do it cheaper in the quieter months, but it wouldn’t be right. Look after the winter months as well as your summer months. If you do, then word of mouth will spread and you will have happy repeat bookings.”
Watch this space Karl says he has a few new stunning properties in the pipeline, two of which are at Sennen Cove. Another over looks St Michael’s Mount and the sea. Keep your eyes peeled for the latest developments!