Star Castle

St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

You can take tea on the ramparts or imbibe history along with a St Agnes gin in the Dungeon Bar at the Francis family’s hotel, occupying an Elizabethan artillery castle within star-shaped fortress walls. More

Good Hotel Guide Review

You can take tea on the ramparts or imbibe history along with a St Agnes gin in the Dungeon Bar at the Francis family’s hotel, occupying an Elizabethan artillery castle within star-shaped fortress walls. ‘Back from ten idyllic days – just blissful,’ writes a trusted reader. There is a wide choice of bedrooms, including characterful singles and beamed superior sea-view doubles with a half-tester bed. Dog-friendly rooms and suites in a garden annexe, some recently refurbished, have a private entrance, a veranda or private lawn area. The styling is neutral and contemporary, with seaside colours, some with impressive sea views. From March, guests can dine under a vine in the conservatory, or in a stone-walled dining room. ‘Four-course dinners were stupendous. Quite small portions, but they all added up to a super meal, with lots of fish and meat, venison especially good, and most ingredients from the Islands.’ With notice they will adapt dishes for vegans. ‘Residents have access to the golf course, and the driver will drop you somewhere on the island for you to walk home if you fancy.’ (Abigail Kirby-Harris, and others)

Hotel details

Address

The Garrison
St Mary's
Isles of Scilly
TR21 0JA
England

Telephone

01720 422317

Bedrooms

38. 27 in 2 garden wings.

Open

all year, B&B only Nov–early Mar, closed Christmas and New Year.

Facilities

lounge, bar, 2 restaurants, in-room TV (Freeview), civil wedding licence, sun deck, 2-acre gardens, covered swimming pool (12 by 4 metres), tennis, EV charging, unsuitable for disabled.

Background music

none.

Children

all ages welcomed, no charge for extra beds, under-5s must eat before 6.30 pm.

Dogs

allowed in garden rooms (£15 a night), lounge, bar, not in restaurants.

Credit cards

Amex, MC, Visa.

Prices

B&B doubles from £153, singles from £89. Set-price menu £37–£45. 1-night bookings usually refused (but call to check).

Other reviews

VisitEngland Four Star Country House Hotel

Comments about Star Castle

I recently wrote to James and Robert Francis to express our dissatisfaction and shock at the disgraceful standard of our accommodation during our September stay at Star Castle. I have not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement, despite sending a follow-up email after 5 days. Clearly, as family owner/managers, they are so arrogant that they feel no need to respond to the bitter disappointment of their guests. It is clear from the reviews, going back several years, that whilst some privileged customers receive excellent service, there are also many who, like us, are not deemed sufficiently important to merit even basic good manners. I really don't think that they should be allowed to continue taking advantage of visitors in this cavalier fashion and I hope that someone will challenge them. We had a 'Garden Room' for 2 nights from the 16th September. This was all that was available when we booked in May, but it sounded charming, and at £366 per night our expectations were high. We actually thought that Star Castle would be the high point of our 3-week tour of Devon and Cornwall, and were really looking forward to our stay. How wrong could we be? Of course, the location, setting and history are exceptional - and one expects to pay a premium for that. The food at breakfast and dinner was also excellent, and some of the waiting staff delightful, but we have been left with a very sour taste and feel like our money has been taken under false pretences. Garden Rooms are described as ‘Lovely bright country cottage style rooms with their very own private entrance. They have views over the castle gardens and are located a stone’s throw from the Conservatory restaurant and indoor pool.’ We found this description to be completely misleading. The rooms are very small and more like a Butlins chalet than a country cottage. The walls are thin. The doors to the 2 adjacent apartments are very close resulting in noise at every entrance and exit. The path runs immediately in front of the window – with constant traffic from staff and guests, who often stopped for a chat right outside. A baby’s pram was left there for a full day because the parents’ room was apparently too small to fit it in! So, there was no view because we had to keep the blinds closed for privacy. The bathroom was a disgrace – see attached photos of the state of cleanliness. The water did not get hot, and the toilet did not flush properly. The vaunted indoor pool and ‘jacuzzi’ were further examples of disingenuous marketing. The pool is housed in what can only be described as a greenhouse; tiles have fallen off and the grouting is mouldy. The jacuzzi is in fact just a small outside hot tub – which was closed up during our stay. As I said, the quality of food was very good, but the tables in both restaurants are far too close together. We would have found that to be the case even before Covid, but during a pandemic we were appalled that the greed of gaining more covers overcame caution – especially as numbers in the Scilly’s were rising and we were greeted by the hotel driver telling us that his children and parents both had the virus. Thankfully, we managed to get tables set aside from others – at our insistence and we were grateful to staff for accommodating us in this, but it really should not have been necessary. Similarly, this hotel was the only one on our recent tour that had a buffet offering at breakfast – the majority were still being very cautious. We found the Dungeon bar to be claustrophobic and noisy – with a very pervasive smell of damp. We could not get the correct glasses for gin or brandy. When we asked if our drinks could be served in the upstairs lounge instead, we were greeted with blank looks and ended up taking our own drinks up there rather than getting any service. The customer service provide by the receptionist was indeed ‘exceptional’, as described on the website. We have travelled all over the World and have never, ever, met a member of staff with so little interest in our enjoyment or comfort. On our first day, I asked if there was any possibility of changing rooms – even upgrading – as we were not happy with our room. The woman just smiled smugly and said ‘we’re fully booked through to October’. End of conversation. She did not ask what the problem was, or if there was anything she could do to help, or if I would like to speak to a manager. The message was very clear – ‘so long as we keep getting mugs like you to fill our rooms and pay our extortionate prices then why should we worry.’ On checkout, I asked the same lady who I could speak to about the things we had not been happy with. Again, the smug smile. ‘Just email reception and we’ll stick it in front of the boss’s nose’. Again, no enquiry as to what we had not been happy with, or expression of regret that we might not have enjoyed our stay. Absolutely breath-taking arrogance and complete lack of empathy. These encounters really rubbed salt into the wounds and certainly bore no relation to the kind of customer service one expects in a hotel like this. Many of the issues I am raising here have been mentioned in reviews going back several years, and yet clearly nothing has been done to address them. Hotels in this area have enjoyed a bumper couple of seasons with the recent ‘staycation’ vogue and yet the Francis family do not appear to have invested in improvements. For example, mosaic tiles from the pool had obviously not been replaced for years. When we travel abroad, we usually stay in 5* hotels or cruise with luxury lines. I say this simply to illustrate that we are not averse to paying for a luxury experience, and that we know what standard to expect. When travelling in UK we like to mix B&B with hotels and to offer a contrast, on this trip we stayed in a Plymouth seaside B&B that cost a fraction of the price and yet offered more privacy, comfort, cleanliness and space – plus an excellent breakfast. That exceeded our expectations, whereas Star Castle fell far short of them in many respects. I understand the law of supply and demand, but it is simply immoral to charge these prices and yet be uninterested in putting things right. If we had paid £150 per night for our room then I would still have been disappointed in the quality, but that would have been a much fairer price and I would not have felt like the victim of fraud. I therefore think that hotel owe us a refund of at least £300, but they have declined to comment or offer any reparation at all. I also understand that the hotel will have experienced many challenges during the pandemic, with closures and staff shortages, but that is no excuse for taking advantage of tourists in this way. Such complacency rarely ends well. The manager, James Francis', standard response to negative TripAdvisor reviews seems to be ‘contact me to discuss further’, but this is problematic. Prior to our stay, I had great difficulty getting any response to phone or email, and, as already explained, the receptionist refused to provide a direct email. I have now tried to contact him twice before resorting to review sites and social media, but I feel we have been left with no other options than to alert fellow travellers to the shoddy practices of this business. We don’t normally rush to TripAdvisor or other social media outlets, but this particular situation has left us feeling extremely aggrieved. - JULIE HUGHES - September 2021
James Francis and his long-standing team got a grip on the logistics needed to stay open under Corbid. We stayed in our favourite room in the castle. My friends loved their garden room. Gardens are in good heart, everything inside the can spam. The dinners were stupendous. A blissful holiday - Abigail Kirby-Harris - October 2020
A most enjoyable visit. Garden rooms like sheltered accommodation for the elderly. Ours was adequate and comfortable apart from a non-functioning shower. The food is the highlight, almost universally excellent. Splendid breakfast offerings. Fish dishes varied and delicious. A bit like a private members' club - many guests have been regulars for years. - Andrew Butterworth - July 2019
Wonderful comfy bedrooms with everything you could want / need, including an evening turn down.. Stupendous food at all mealtime,s and a friendly but super professional staff - Abigail and Bob Kirby-Harris - January 2017

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Last updated: October, 2019. Information from the 2020 Good Hotel Guide