The Med’s High-Style Sparkles in Torquay.
We could have been forgiven for thinking we were in Sveti Stefan (now an Aman Resort) – in Montenegro as we gazed out from our ‘deck’, glass of champagne in hand, across the sparkling bay. Sveti Stefan has always been fashionable with a guest list which included Sophia Loren, and when we saw the Cary Arms’ new so-called ‘beach Huts’ we just knew that there will be some notable guests. These potentially design award-winning pavilions are exceptional; they breathe 21st century style into what was formerly tired concept.
Look no further than the 22 lodges that set a standard of their own at the Bovey Castle hotel with which serial hotel developer Peter de Savary was so successful. The Cary Arms at Babbacombe near Torquay is a former superior seaman’s pub and tea rooms (patronised by Queen Victoria’s son, Edward the Prince of Wales; OK it is only a bit regal). Now it sets out to offer a different experience. A more relaxed casual atmosphere has been created where the buildings have almost literally been stitched into the rocky face along the shoreline, just out of reach of the waves. Remarkably, there are numerous small terraces and other spots to relax in private outside; plants and shrubs are in abundance providing a luscious scene, the redness of the rock adds to the colourful palate.
After descending one of the steepest roads that I have driven in the UK, the greeting on your arrival is not that of any ordinary pub with rooms; the attentiveness and approach of the staff say that. However, you pass through the long narrow bar which has a large conservatory annex, outside are numerous terraced seating areas before you reach the ‘residents only’ area.
At the furthest point in the curtilage of this very tight site, somehow, the architect has created a modern haven of four beach huts; they are on a larger scale than normal but faithful externally to the concept. Nevertheless, the access to each one has private steps and a spacious faux wooden deck. The balustrading is a very successful combination of glass and stainless steel, very smart and they do not obstruct the full-on sea views right across Lyme Bay and its Jurassic coast from either the decking or from inside the beach huts.
You enter through the fully glazed bi-fold doors; the immediate impression is of space, light and colour. The interior is very well thought out; a ‘beach towel’ striped carpet on the stairs leads the mezzanine floor where the double bed nestles under the pitched roof. The bed has a superb colourful mohair throw whilst the superb sea views again feature, as there is a glass balustrade and large round front window. The base of the bedside lamp is of glass in which sea shells are displayed; surely everyone will want to stow it in their luggage.
The white walls and floors are the blank canvases on which colourful furnishings are arranged, a large corner sofa is cleverly matched with a moulded glass table makes the seating area look even more spacious. Tucked away was a small red Smeg fridge reminiscent of a baby hippo, stacked full of lots of complimentary goodies including a delicious bottle of rosé. At the rear of the hut was an exceptionally spacious shower room, the controls of the shower need mastering if you were born in the 20th century!
We justify this rather lengthy description as it shows what can be done that is very much of today evolving from the romantic (rather than comfortable) beach hut of yesteryear. Everything is carefully thought through and very individual, but avoids that overall ‘designer’ look. You will be tempted to purchase not just the bedside lamp, Bonnie wanted not only the beautiful mohair throw, but also the gorgeous textured cushions.
The Cary Arms is much more than four of the planned six beach huts and new spa, which are currently under construction. Pia the delightful masseuse can’t wait to move into the spa with her new team. Two large new suites are even nearer the shore line, then there are rooms in the main building, all are very comfortably furnished, some with balconies and all with sea views. All around and above the Cary Arms are several self-contained cottages, again very well presented. As to the staff, there is the involvement and commitment of a yacht crew, which should be taken as a good compliment.
All in all, a stay in the unique and fantastic ‘beach huts’ or one of the other delightful rooms, will exceed your expectations and leave you feeling relaxed and revived after even a short stay. There is something for everyone, from families to courting couples. All are made to feel welcome.
The Cary Arms is presented in a way that it does not want to lose its historic roots of a pub despite its achievements on the accommodation front, it offers casual dining rather than fine dining as guests are invited to let their hair down. As it settles down following its big expansion, a fine dining option might well be irresistible.