Beach huts: Fortnum and Mason Watergate Bay latest in trendy eating and sleeping venues - but at what cost?
Beach huts can be rented or bought in seaside resorts all across the UK - and they are the latest must-have accommodation
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Two of the greatest treats are dining out and staying somewhere special overnight. If you can book in to eat or stay somewhere exclusive, unique, quirky, or somewhere that is only available for a limited amount of time, then it’s even better.
One of the most popular venues for an alternative dining or snoozing experience is a beach hut. Think of the cute little wooden huts lined across the top of the beach, sometimes painted in pastel colours, offering stunning views out across the sea, a private escape away from other seaside visitors and comfort which far exceeds that provided by a deck chair.
It’s no wonder then that luxury brand Fortnum and Mason decided to combine this sought-after environment with some of their famous, and also highly sought after, food products. The three beach huts, located on Watergate Bay, Newquay, Cornwall, were specifically designed to offer people what the brand called “the ultimate summer experience”, featuring a celebratory menu of picnic feasts created by acclaimed chef, author and restaurateur Emily Scott.
The huts offer parties of two or four people a chance to visit the huts for two and a half hours and enjoy one of two picnic menus made up of local Cornish produce and a few of Scott’s picnic favourites from our Piccadilly Food Hall. The cost for this experience, which also includes “very best of Fortnum’s tableware and picnicware”, is between £195 and £395.
The huts opened on 25 July and were due to be open until 10 September, but unfortunately the huts have been closed temporarily as “significant but cosmetic” damage has been caused to them by Storm Antoni. The brand have, however, said that they aim to re-open the huts to the public, called Fortnum and Mason On Sea, as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for Fortnum and Mason said: “Due to an unexpected storm during high tide at Watergate Bay, the platform surrounding our Fortnum’s beach huts has sustained significant but cosmetic damage. We are now completing additional checks on the structure and working to correct cosmetic damage.
“Before launch, all health and safety measures were approved by an accredited body that has since ensured that the base platform remains structurally intact. And because we’re determined that nothing should get in the way of our customers enjoying a wonderful summer beach hut experience, we are now completing additional checks on the structure and working to correct the cosmetic damage before reopening to the public as soon as we can.”
“Beach huts have become really trendy”
Fortnum and Mason may have been offering people a short-term food based experience in a beach hut, but there are some people who want to be able to visit a hut in their favourite UK coastal resort whenever they like - so they’ve bought their own.
But, relaxing in your own quiet place by the sea comes at a cost. Last year the price of the UK’s average beach hut soared to over £49,000, a 43 percent increase year on year, according to data from Moverly, a digital information platform for homebuyers.
Ed Molyneux, a co-founder of Moverly, a digital information platform for homebuyers, told The Times that he believes the desire to have a beach hut boom is influenced by the increasing lack of affordability of coastal property combined with the aspiration of living a luxury lifestyle. “Many of the UK’s affluent coastal towns are now quite unaffordable to buy property, but with a beach hut you can still get a slice of that lifestyle. And it’s not seen as lesser; it’s a cute and cool thing to do,” he said.
It’s also possible that people are looking for somewhere trendy and different to post about on their social media pages, such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and X. Jodie Granger-Brown, the founder of The Happy Huts, a beach hut hire firm in Wells, Norfolk, told The Times that Instagram has played a huge part in the reason people book her huts. She said: “Beach huts have become really trendy. People want beach huts that look good on their social media pages.” Within a few months of launching her business in 2020 she found influencers were booking her huts in their search for the perfect photogenic backdrops to share with their thousands of followers, and that is continuing today.
One influencer who bought a beach hut back in 2020 was Erica Davis, who purchased the hut in Essex just before the Covid-19 pandemic began and then spent lockdown renovating it. She now films videos inside the hut to share with her followers.
Beach huts have also been featured in TV programmes, making them even more popular. In one episode of Netflx’s Interior Design Masters, for example, contestants were asked to makeover beach huts in Eastbourne.
There’s an estimated 20,000 beach huts available in the UK. Some are privately owned for personal use but many, such as Granger-Brown’s can be rented for a short period of time. Some, like Fortnum and Mason’s are only available to be used during the day, but some are available to be slept in overnight too. A search on rental website AirBnB by NationalWorld showed several beach huts which can be booked for overnight stays.
One hut located in Bournemouth, which costs a minimum of £102 a night, describes the hut as having “small proportions” but states that its “garden” - also known as the beach - means that it never feels cramped, plus it’s “30 seconds” away from the sea. Most beach huts are normally around six by three feet in diameter, but it would seem that the small dimensions are all part of their charm.
So, it seems we do really love to be beside the sea - but we’d prefer to do it in luxurious comfort and it will be pretty costly.