The Cary Arms Hotel and Spa: Review

Cary Arms & Spa

In a picturesque spot on the English Riviera, the Cary Arms Hotel and Spa is nothing less than idyllic, and its tranquil spa, beach hut suites and proximity to bustling Torquay, are just the icing on top of the cake

Words: Henrietta Easton

Hidden at the bottom of a winding road that leads down to the pretty Babbacombe Bay, surrounded by dramatic cliffs on both sides, and yet within ten minutes drive of the centre of Torquay, the Cary Arms hotel and spa occupies a quiet and enviable location on the English Riviera, with views out to sea that seemingly go on forever.

With all the amenities of a good English Inn, its the perfect place to stop for a cosy pint and a bowl of chips by the fire, whilst admiring the panoramic sea views. But, stay longer and you’ll find a quietly luxurious hotel that offers just the right amount of decadence, in a relaxed and homely setting.

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The view from a Beach Hut

”The Inn on the Beach”, as it is known, has 10 sea-facing rooms, many with their own private balconies, as well as eight deluxe beach huts and beach suites, and four restored fisherman’s cottages. Each is furnished elegantly and simply, with charming seaside touches here and there.

We stayed in one of the beautiful Beach Huts, and with its private patio and spacious living area, it would be the perfect place to laze around on a sunny Devonshire summer’s day. My favourite part was the pillow-level porthole with views out to sea – the perfect place to sip your morning coffee.

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A Beach Hut

Our stay was, unfortunately, haunted by a ferocious spring storm which made our private patio rather redundant. However, the hotel has plenty on offer worthy of a rainy day too. The spa is a must whilst you’re there, and there was something quite magical about soaking in the luxurious hydrotherapy pool, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, whilst watching a storm raging outside. Book yourself into one of the Gaia treatments too for a real indulgent treat.

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The Cary Arms Spa

We spent the rest of our stormy afternoon playing scrabble with a glass of red wine in the cosy hotel living room, although we probably would have been happy just gazing out to sea, trying to spot the friendly seal, Sammy, who can be seen most days in the waters of Babbacombe Bay. Outside on the terrace, where there are several tables to eat and drink in the summer, there is a bell to ring if you spot a pod of dolphins!

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A pint of prawns at the Captain’s Table

The hotel prides itself on its food, and rightly so. Breakfasts were hearty and fresh and for lunch we enjoyed generous, delicious, pub-style sandwiches, whilst gazing out to sea again, of course. An à la carte menu is served both for lunch and dinner, and we had two delicious dinners during our stay. The menu is local and seasonal, and, visiting in April, one of the highlights was a delicious wild garlic pesto served with fresh fish.

The menu has a gastro-pub feel to it, with a fine dining edge, and served in the relaxed surroundings of the inn which still holds its original Victorian charm, its a wonderful, cosy place to while away the evening, before retiring to the living room for a nightcap and another game of scrabble.

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The bar in the Cary Arms

Although we didn’t let the storm scupper our mood, it did mean we had to rearrange our planned guided coastal path walk with English Riviera Walking Tours – as we would have been swept away! Offering several different tours to suit your needs, we had planned to do the ‘Best of Babbacombe Walk’, learning the history of the bay and the stories connected to it, including Oscar Wilde’s infamous liaison and the story of the ‘man they couldn’t hang.’

Instead, the weather meant we ventured out the following day, and we joined the Agatha Christie walking tour of Torquay, learning the story of the Queen of Crime’s life in the town. Led by the funny, friendly and brilliant Graham, the tour is in a small group (ours was only five) and lasts about two hours, and it is a unique, and fun way to see the town.

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Torquay Harbour

For fans of Christie, this is a must-do whilst in the area. You really feel that you’re getting to know the author as you walk past the exact spot she got engaged, the beach where she used to sea-bathe and the promenade on which she spent many happy years roller-skating with friends. You’ll also learn the story of her famous 10-day disappearance, and how she created her most famous characters; Poirot and Miss Marple. There’s plenty of opportunity for ice cream stops too, and the chance to put your own detective skills to the test.

The Agatha Christie bust in Torquay harbour

English Riviera Walking Tours has several other tours on offer, covering the history of the town, admiring its best vistas and learning its best-kept secrets. Find out more here. 

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A view of the hotel from Babbacombe Bay. Credit: Bavin-Mytton

Heading back to the hotel for one last stroll on the beach and a glass of local Sharpham wine in the Cary Arms bar, whilst discussing our new-found love for the Duchess of Death, we both agreed one thing: we’d be back.

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