The Cary Arms, Babbacombe, South Devon, England
Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside. Especially when we’re eating delicious Devonshire food on a crisp winter weekend in front of an open fire.
Perched above pebbly Babbacombe beach, on the red and rugged South Devon coast, the Cary Arms is part of a collection of hotels by Peter and Lana de Savary, and it’s a little piece of coastal heaven.
There’s plenty to do, come rain or shine – sailing, scuba diving and fishing for the grown-ups, and rock pools aplenty for the children. The South West coast path runs right past the door, and nearby is the renovated Cliff Railway to shuttle you up the hillside. Or you can just curl up and chill out with a pint of Otter Ale or Bays Gold.
Ten guest rooms and suites have a cool New England vibe, with whitewashed walls and candy stripes, and private terraces looking out to sea. Three beautifully restored fisherman’s cottages provide ample family accommodation. All rooms have huge, comfy beds, crisp white linens, fluffy towels, waffle bathrobes and White Company toiletries. Dogs are even greeted with their own little bed and bowl. This year will see the arrival of two new self-catering cottages too.
I stayed in one of the six new beach huts on the hillside. A small living area and shower room are on the ground floor, and a double bed on the mezzanine, with terrace and porthole facing the sea. Greeting me on arrival was a decanter of sloe gin and lots of chocolate biscuits.
If I could change one thing it would be the addition of a bath tub. However, the new spa was right next door, so I shuffled over in my bathrobe and spent a blissful afternoon flitting between the pool, steam room and sauna before enjoying a Thalgo massage. I had the whole place to myself – utter heaven.
All of that exercise brings on a healthy appetite, and the food didn’t disappoint. Devon classics such as pan-seared scallops, fillet of West Country beef, venison haunch and Brixham plaice with crushed new potatoes and samphire are must-tries. There’s a separate menu for vegetarians and vegans, including wild mushroom pappardelle, grilled goat’s cheese with red onion jam and vegan sorbets from Yarde Farm. For breakfast there’s smoked kippers, poached eggs and brioche French toast.
Cocktails vary by the season, and I had a seriously good Christmas Refresher, which was a mix of vodka, Cointreau, Stone’s ginger wine and lemon. The wine list features the usual European and New World wines, but the whiskey, digestif and dessert wine selection was more impressive. I tried the 2011 Sauternes, but there was also Valveran Iced Cider Wine and a 2007 Vin Santo, as well as nightcap cocktails and many single malts to savour by the fire.
The space-age pods are a genius addition, so you can dine while watching the weather roll in, or cosy up in the hotel’s restaurant in front of the wood burner. In summer, the captain’s table outside overlooking the ocean is the one to book.
Even if you come for just one night, you’ll sleep like a baby, and feel like you’ve been away for a week. And that, as they say, is the sign of a jolly good break.
Address: The Cary Arms, Babbacombe Beach, South Devon (01803 327110; www.caryarms.co.uk).
Book here: Double rooms from £245 per night, including breakfast.
Foodie diversion: The Elephant (3&4 Beacon Terrace, Torquay. 01803 200044; www.elephantrestaurant.co.uk) is a Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking the marina in nearby Torquay.
Come here for: Seaside strolls, rock-pooling, cocktails, fresh seafood, open fires and real ales.
Images courtesy of The Cary Arms and Katie Monk