If you’re looking to holiday in Devon this year, blissing out in this Babbacombe Bay bolthole is a brilliant shout. Words by Amanda Nicholls
“People seem to arrive here by accident – gravity simply brings them to us,” said the kind-faced fellow at the bar with a grin, waving two thoroughly windswept individuals in through The Cary Arms’ cosy entrance enclave.
Having arrived via rasping Ford Fiesta in the pitch dark, inching down a supremely steep coastal declivity towards what appeared quite possibly to be our doom – eight-foot sea spray illuminated by a mere few twinkles of human habitation – we could see what he meant. But it wasn’t the case with this most deliberate of expeditions.
It was a chic sofa in vibrant burnt-orange that had initially drawn us south to the Devonshire idyll’s beach hut collection – the centrepiece of the beautiful interior pictured below. A recent addition to the hotel’s offer, these are luxury digs, full of contemporary character: walk-in ‘waterfall’ shower, bold, striking artwork, giant chrome fan potentially borrowed from the bottom of a yacht, over-sized champagne cork serving as cute fireside stool. Sloe gin, resting in a decanter on a rough-cut log coaster, was the most welcome sight and savoured over the course of an evening, along with the snacky contents of the mini Smeg fridge – in matching tangerine – while Gregory Porter’s honeyed tones slunk through the smart TV to see off any residual stresses.Come the morning, we had the full benefit of Hut Five’s glass-fronted facade, flooding the seaside sanctuary with light and opening onto a sun deck. Visit in the summer, and you’d be a fool not to grab the rosé and sit and watch the sun set across Lyme Bay with the dog – yep, if you’ve a canine in your life, they can come too. As it was, Mother Nature was in the midst of an almighty moodswing during our visit so we used the space to video our wild Medusa hair as it whipped round our faces in the early-spring winds.
It’s often the little extras you do without at home that make a place feel ultra-sumptuous; for us, motion-sensing bathroom lights to stop us stumbling into something when we awoke in the night, and gently starting the day by simply poking a hand out from under the duvet and activating the multi-room wireless music system from our phones – bliss.A sports massage in the spa, from local health and wellness coach Paul Kilbride, started with a mobility test and continued with a meaty manipulation of each and every back muscle, aided by aromatic Polynesian oils and including a ‘flossing’ under the shoulder blades to address never-before-touched tendons. Brightened by Golden Age illustrations from hotel owner Lara de Savary’s personal collection, the somewhat hidden spa annexe is perched above the body of the boutique hotel. But discoverers are rewarded with bird’s-eye views of the waves crashing against the prehistoric red-clay cliffs of the dramatic Jurassic Coast from the hydrotherapy pool, where water cascades down a mirrored back wall. Sent away with Paul’s prescription of exercises for the office-bound, we figured the sauna and steam room was the natural next step in the campaign to clean out the toxins.
Getting to the beach is nothing short of easy peasy, and there are complimentary fishing rods by the back door at The Cary in case you fancy catching yourself some mackerel. Babbacombe Cliff Lift, the 1920s funicular railway five minutes’ walk away, takes you up the steep incline from Oddicombe Beach – where the rocks are 300-million-year-old breccias of Permian age – to Babbacombe Downs, from which the views are yet more spectacular.After a chess-and-cocktails sesh in the lounge, whose Oasis-for-piano soundtrack felt spookily bespoke, we had dinner in the Wheel House alcove within the restaurant – all log fires and live ivory-tinkling complemented by craggy stone and brass maritime memorabilia. Honey-roasted parsnip soup of the day was divine, soaked up by fresh bread slathered in spiced plum butter, but completely overshadowed by the River Fowey mussels with shallot and garlic cream sauce – a simple dish showing off the prowess of the kitchen.
One mild and meaty main event – a toothsome hunk of baked hake – was paired with crushed new potatoes, saline samphire, fresh leeks and dill sauce, while perfectly cooked venison, across the table, elicited audible, almost x-rated signs of enjoyment. At the finish line, a hotly anticipated white chocolate and cherry creme brûlée with dream-worthy shortbread was just bested by a slither of rich dark chocolate and amaretto torte with zingy raspberry coulis and a fat dollop of clotted cream which would conclude our stay in delightful Devonshire style.
We rather feared for the fatigued Fiesta and its journey back up the hill to reality – forgetting our designated Cary Arms caregiver, Yuri, had conveniently moved it to a secure car park higher up – so we were as relieved to see hotel transport arrive to return us to said vehicle, as we were glum to be leaving.
Next time you’re considering a spot of ultimate R&R in that there neck of the woods, let gravity do you a good deed – promise it’ll be the happiest of accidents.
• Deluxe rooms start from £245; beach huts from £375 per night B&B; caryarms.co.uk