The Cary Arms review | Hotel with treatments, Devon UK
Seaside hotel with treatments & dramatic views near Torquay
The Quick Read: This eight-bedroom pub-come-boutique-hotel is in a dramatic setting on the rocks above Babbacombe Beach near Torquay in South Devon. You can book pampering treatments using Parisian Yon-Ka products in a simple treatment room with Pia, the engaging resident therapist, and enjoy decent pub food with awesome ocean views on the staggered sea facing terraces. A spa with a hydrotherapy pool is due to open in May 2016.
Budget: ££- ££££
Who it’s best for: Couples, friends and families looking for a short break or indeed just a long lunch preceeded by a treatment. The hotel is child and dog-friendly too. Guests have their own terrace and lounge, and the place is closed to non-residents for an hour or so each late afternoon, but the pub can get busy and the extended local area is touristy, so this wouldn’t suit those looking for total retreat-like quiet and relaxation.
What you can do: Book a treatment with the young resident therapist Pia, who was polite, warm and had a pleasingly strong touch on our visit. There’s a decent range of fragrant, effective facials, massages, body treatments, manicures and pedicures that use the Parisian, family-owned brand Yon-Ka on offer, and treatments take place in a naturally lit, unassuming treatment room.
When it’s sunny, hang out on one of the terraces with a drink and a good book. When it’s not, watch the sea and sky from the window seats in the resident’s lounge or from your bed. Residents have access to a little upper terrace with a hammock and a glass pod with a sea view you can eat in, and a billiards room.
To get out and about, walk on the South Devon Coastal path, go swimming or paddle boarding in the bay, swim or crab off the pontoon or book scuba diving and waterskiing. Children will love watching the local seal who comes to the pontoon to bask regularly, and taking the old-fashioned cliff railway up and down to neighbouring Oddacombe beach. Like a lot of the local area, this beach gets packed in the summer and has all the trappings of a holiday hot spot complete with a touristy beach shop. The local model village is fun, and there’s a theatre at Babbacombe too.
Where you stay: There are eight hotel bedrooms with sea-facing terraces, and four well-equipped cottages set outside the hotel that you can rent on a self-catering basis. Nautical, New England-style bedrooms with striped curtains and cushions and white walls keep things simple and your attention turned to the sea, though our shower room (attached to Commander room) was under-whelming for the price point. There are flat screen TVs and DVD players, and White Company toiletries. Kids get fishing nets and buckets (and a tub of sugary sweets, parents beware) while dogs get a personalised bed and bowl. The sloe gin in a class decanter was a lovely touch, as were the pretty Leonardo Millefiori water glasses beside the bed.
How was it for us: I spent a pleasant two nights here with my husband and daughter in August, which began with a wonderfully relaxing and attentive deep tissue massage and hydrating Hydralessence facial with Pia in the simple treatment room – I’d be happy to book her again. We bought a little blue boat from the touristy shop at Oddacombe beach and swam our five year old around the bay in it for ages, checking out all the boats and having a laugh. She loved watching the seal bask near the pontoon, though my husband was less impressed by the local kids throwing plastic bottles into the sea and swearing prolifically, and I was dismayed that on each little walk outside the hotel we found quite a lot of rubbish littering our path. It was August, and the height of the summer, but we found it more relaxing just hanging out at the hotel, enjoying the views, playing games and catching up.
What we took home: A pair of unknotted shoulders, a taste for sloe gin and a determination to contact the local council to do something about the rubbish.
Would we go back: For a spa treatment followed by a lunch or supper and those views – sure I would. But I’d go out of season, and when the spa opens in May 2016, I’d have more of a reason to stay over.
People watch: Staff throughout the hotel were efficient, energetic, friendly and helpful and there was none of the grumpiness you can sometimes find in English hotels.
Food watch: The menu uses local ingredients wherever possible, including Devon crab, Brigham Scallops, West Country beef, Lyme Bay lobster and line caught fish. Each meal we tried was delicious – the Cajun chicken was especially tender. As with most other pub hotels in the UK, vegetarians and vegans will struggle with the limited options – on our visit, dishes without meat or fish were limited to a grilled goats cheese starter and (surprise!) a wild mushroom and spinach risotto. Sugar phobics beware – in the rooms, adults are plied with Kit Kat bars and Orange Club biscuits, whilst children get a tub of sugary sweets. We would have preferred something fresh and home made by the chef. If you’d prefer these to be removed, just ask ahead of your stay.
What’s lowly: In its heyday the English Riviera was a rather glamorous place to visit, but on our visit in August the local area felt rather noisy, touristy and littered instead – not especially conducive to a relaxing break. Go out of season for peace.
Insider tip: The Cary Arms is building a spa to open in May 2016 – check ahead if you want to book before then but don’t want to be bothered with building noise.
Price with a companion: Bedrooms from £195 to £395 a night including B&B based on two people sharing. Cottages from £375 to £495 a night room only, breakfast costs £17.50 per person extra.
Price going solo: As above, reduced by 20%.
Value for money: Not great right now – this is, after all, a pub with rooms, and at £195 a night or more, we felt it was rather over-priced, especially as our bathroom was underwhelming. Dogs cost £20 a night, an extra child bed costs £25.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
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