Babbacombe is the kind of place that Agatha Christie would have sent a recuperating character to: there’s Devonshire sunshine, an uninterrupted horizon, blue seas and a charming beach made private by the shelter of a steep, tree-lined cliff. There’s even an art deco funicular railway (originally built in 1926), which links the beach to Babbacombe’s pretty clifftop green.
The Cary Arms must be the most tranquil place for a pint in Devon. Happily sat inside the curve of Babbacombe bay, right next to Oddicombe beach, the view from the inn stretches to Portland Bill in Dorset and takes in the pink-soil cliffs of the English Riviera and an old pier where both seals and locals like to fish.
The building dates back to the 1800s and its design embraces the view tastefully. Outside is a series of tiered terraces separated by pristine rock gardens, all with beautiful views of the bay (there’s no such thing as a bad table); and inside the inn is all log fire cosiness, with most tables pointing seawards and shiny brass ship paraphernalia throughout.
Bedrooms (some dog-friendly) have that fresh coastal feel. If there are more of you, rent one of the adjoining blue-and-white fisherman’s cottages that come with log fires, spacious rooms and fancy bathrooms with slipper baths facing the sea. New for summer 2016 is a row of luxury beach huts, with nothing but a sparkling English Channel in front of them.
If there’s a restaurant along this stretch of coast that enjoys better views than The Cary Arms, we’re yet to find it. The panorama changes with where you sit – tables inside the conservatory and the round ‘captain’s table’ outside (pictured below) are particularly lovely.
For breakfast, try grilled kippers or the Devon full English; for lunch it’s all about the succulent local white crab meat and lemon mayonnaise bloomer. Dinner centres around fish – pick one of the chef specials for the freshest catch, such as delicately poached John Dory with basil pesto and seasonal vegetables, or Lyme Bay lobster. The wine list is plentiful and each week the De Savary family (who own the inn) choose the house white and red.
No trip to the English Riviera is complete without a ride on the Babbacombe funicular. Starting from The Cary Arms, mosey along Oddicombe beach via a wooden walkway to reach the railway (look out for crabs skirting the rock pools below) and catch your ride for £2 per person – “it feels like being on a roller coaster!” as one little girl in our cabin squealed.
Written by Charlotte Morgan, March 2016
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