TUCKED DOWN beside Babbacombe Beach, below the red cliffs of Torbay, the Cary Arms is a fabulous hideaway at any time of year.
THE LOCATION: TORBAY, on the South Devon coast. Above is Babbacombe Downs with the eccentric Angels tearoom and the top of the restored Cliff Railway; below are Oddicombe and Babbacombe Beaches: at the bottom of a steep, windy lane. Tucked in below the dramatic red orestone cliffs that define this part of the coastline, next to Babbacombe Beach, is The Cary Arms, a recently relaunched gastropub-cum-boutique hotel.
The creation of the de Savarys (previous owners of Bovey Castle on Dartmoor and Skibo Castle in Scotland), The Cary Arms turns out to be the kind of place where you get to your bedroom, deposit the suitcase, stand up and let out a deep sigh because the time for relaxation has arrived. It’s a charming hideaway in the buzzing English Riviera. You enter through the pub to a warm welcome from manager Jen Podmore and her team, then are taken through to the residential areas, first into the nautical-themed lounge, the perfect place to sit and enjoy a Devon cream tea and enjoy the views out over the sea – right across Lyme Bay to Portland Bill on a clear day.
Beyond, the eight bedrooms also make the most of the views, with private terrace balconies to choose from – their style and comfort earning five stars. Or you can choose from three self-catering holiday cottages next to the inn, Shell Cottage for two people, Pebble Cottage for four, and Beach Cottage for eight.
Outside on the terraces by the sea is an outdoor barbecue for local Devon sausages, and a pizza oven. Inside the pub, with its rustic stonework, oak beams and crackling log fires in winter, there are fine wines and real ale to go with a daily changing pub menu, including proper British classics such as Devon Steak and Otter Ale Pie and fish and chips. And delicious, juicy scallops. In summer, try to grab the waterside Captain’s Table, out on the waterside terraces.
On another evening, if you
fancy more formal dining in a stylish restaurant, take a cab to
Torquay’s Elephant Restaurant, where Simon Hulstone offers The Room in
the Elephant on the first floor of the Regency terrace house with great
views over Torbay, and a Brasserie for more informal dining downstairs.
Simon is one of the top chefs that have turned around dining in the
West Country and brought Michelin stars to South Devon. Back
at The Cary Arms, after a lazy day on the beach or a clifftop walk along
the coast path, treat yourself to a massage or a facial in The Spa
Room. Therapist Jenny Hill, an expert at sorting out those aching shoulder
muscles, moved with the de Savarys from the luxurious spa at Bovey
Castle Hotel on Dartmoor.
The Cary Arms is an enjoyable escape at any time of year. In classic British style, we experienced changing seasons in the one weekend: blue skies and sunshine with a positively Mediterranean seaside feel on one day, and blustery weather and crashing waves the next (quite entertaining watched while curled up on the sofas in the cosy lounge). Queen Victoria obviously enjoyed the balmier conditions when she visited in 1846, writing in her journal, “It’s a beautiful spot… red cliffs and rocks with wooded hills like Italy and reminding one of a ballet or play where nymphs appear – such rocks and grottoes, with the deepest sea on which there was no ripple.”
The Cary Arms, Babbacombe Beach, South Devon TQ1 3LX; tel: (01803) 327110; www.caryarms.co.uk. B&B per room from £150; cottages from £750 a week and check the website for special offers.