Few hotels in Britain have such a steep drive down to reception as the Cary Arms in Babacombe Bay. Many taxi drivers will not take you all the way down to this serene Devon resort - and if you try walking down, your rolybag will definitely run away with you! So ask the hotel to make sure your driver if from one of those that goes all the way. It’s definitely worth the journey.
On the way down you will pass Babacombe Cliffs, a house where Oscar Wilde stayed in the winter of 1892-93. When you get to the Cary Arms you’ll understand why he chose this tranquil spot. The hotel sits on a small calm harbour on the Devon coast with a stony beach beyond.
This inn has over the centuries expanded into every nook and cranny of this tiny, cliff-ringed bay. Its name comes from the surname of the local landowners, whose coat of arms and motto Virtute Excerptae are incorporated into the pub’s crest. Once inside, you’ll find reception in a corner of the bar. Like the rest of the hotel this traditional British pub is nautically themed with shiny brass ship paraphernalia It also has a log-burning fireplace which throws out a lot of heat in autumn and winter.
Outside seating includes The Captain’s Table, an octagonal poopdeck overlooking the harbour. Here there is a bell that you are asked to ring if dolphins are sighted in the bay below.
There are eight bedrooms (some dog-friendly) in the main building. Those facing the sea have naval names, from Petty Officer to Fleet Admiral.
There are also six newbuild “beach huts” that are painted a jolly blue and white. There are also two “beach suites” just above high tide that make for good family accommodation.
Dining is at tables in the bar and its conservatory. Personally I preferred the bar partly because of the warmth of the fire but also the pianist who plays here on an upright on Friday and Saturday nights.
The menu features reliable pub classics like ale-battered Brixham fish and chips, as well as West Country fillet steak. There is also a fish of the day. Vegetarians get less choice with just a wild mushroom and spinach risotto the night we stayed. The wine list is plentiful and each week the De Savary family (who own the inn) choose the house white and red.There are two malt whiskies behind the bar and three bourbons but best of all is the decanter in your bedroom containing a generous helping of sloe gin.
Now there is a good way to get you off to sleep.
By day you can walk the beach at low tide, or even swim, or just find a nook where you can put your feet up. The Cary Arms is full of nooks. It’s almost as if it was designed for cosy corners.