Whatever they paid the marketing wizard who rebranded Torbay as the ‘English Riviera’ – where the Cary Arms & Spa resides – it wasn’t nearly enough.
The name evokes images of sun-beaten beaches lined with palm trees swaying in the hot afternoon sun. Of ice creams melting down sticky hands, thick paperbacks with broken spines placed face down on deckchairs next to scratched up sunglasses. The English Riviera. The very name of the place makes a promise. Leave your knotted handkerchiefs and wind breakers in the boot of your clapped out Fiat Panda, because from here on in it’s Mediterranean sophistication, idling Renault Clios and endless blue skies.
What if you go in late January?
Then yes, of course, it will probably be raining. Though the area’s noticably milder climate feels like it belongs to another country – like at any moment France might invade and justifiably claim that Torbay belongs to them – this is still, stubbornly, England. On leaving the Cary Arms & Spa our group became stranded during a rainstorm halfway along the South West Coastal Path, mired up to our ankles in thick red sandstone mud. This only made our eventual, dripping wet arrival at The Thatched Tavern and our disrobing in front of a fireplace with a pint of ale all the more rewarding. So sure, go here in January. I can recommend it.
The Cary Arms & Spa is a collection of idyllic seaside cottages, huts and rooms overlooking the impressive Babbacombe Bay, where the cliffs are red rather than white and meander off towards the horizon like a giant ribbon. Set over several levels, the hotel is maze-like and built right into the side of a hill, so that almost every window you pass, from the infinity pool hot tub at the spa to the bar and restaurant downstairs, looks out over this expansive view of the water.
There are beach huts available to rent (pictured below). These modern, loft-style rooms feel especially Mediterranean in their design, with slatted wooden terrace balconies, high, vaulted ceilings and mezzanine bedrooms. The cottages are more traditional in their decor, with a nautical theme tying the entire place together. It’s very dog-friendly too. Let the hosts know you’ve got a pooch in tow and they’ll roll out a dog bed and lay on a few welcome biscuits.
The gastropub restaurant at the Cary Arms & Spa attracts locals with a seafood-dominated menu that’s largely sourced from the waters outside. The catch of the day hails from Brixham, just 12 miles down the coastline, and like any decent coastal pub they’ll do you a pint of prawns. There’s a full vegetarian and vegan menu too.
There’s plenty of walking to be done. Once you’ve tackled the South West Coastal Path, which begins on the hotel’s doorstep, head to nearby Dartmoor and take a massive walk up to Haytor Rocks. What are they? They’re just very large, conspicuous rocks on top of a hill. Probably something to do with the ice age? The idea is they’re a thing to point yourself towards as you walk.
Cary Arms and Spa is a de Savary hotel. Rooms start at £265 B&B per night. To book visit caryarms.co.uk, email email@example.com or call 01803 327110