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The Cary Arms hotel and spa review, Devon

Josephine Price tests out an anti-aging facial in Torquay’s clifftop village of Babbacombe

The hotel

The Cary Arms hugs the steep craggy cove of Babbacombe, speckling it with all types of accommodation options, from newly opened beach huts and suites to cottages and rooms in the main hotel. Slap bang in the middle of the ‘English Riviera’, this hotel harks back to the halcyon days of the British beach break and plays up the blue and white nautical theme throughout.

The spa

Perched above the hotel, the all-new spa (it only fully opened in January) feels squeaky clean. There’s a gym, sauna and Jacuzzi all overlooking the sea that stretches beyond.

The treatment

I’ve chosen an anti-aging facial to erase the evidence of the week’s lack of sleep. Hannah, my therapist, extols the radiance-boosting effects of the collagen-pumped products that my face is about to be smothered in. I didn’t need convincing, but she does a good job of it. With thick paintbrushes in hand, she begins. They’re used to coat my face and neck in a rich cleanser, which removes all traces of make up, dirt, pollution and more.

Next, she treats every square centimetre of skin as preciously as the next with her concentrated exfoliation. A heavy collagen serum is painted on and then a spongy fabric is laid on top before more of the serum is applied. It moulds to my face and hardens as it dries. As I’m mummified, Hannah massages my arms, neck and shoulders. Everything from the ache in my shoulder to the tips of my fingers are pummelled and prodded for the next 15 minutes.

The fully set face mask is eventually removed and my face is cleansed for the final time and gets another massage. Then I’m sent off into the afternoon feeling a bit less haggard.

My partner comments on my skin later in the day. While searching for the right adjective, he sucks his cheeks in and pulls back his hairline to tighten his face. I’m content with this. She promised youth and radiance and I’m hoping that’s what he means.


We’re staying up in the Smugglers Cottage which is hidden up the hill above the hotel. Although they offer to collect us each morning by car, I eschew the offer for a walk down the wild garlic clad path with a sea view. The cottage has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a terrace and a den for kids and dogs.

Though I spend most of the time curled up in front of the open fire at the cosy kitchen table — grazing, reading and staring out to sea. Before leaving, I peek around the new beach huts. From the bed, you can see the sea through the well-positioned porthole window. I’ll be coming back to check out that view.

Eat & drink

Breakfast is served in the bright dining room. Gingham tablecloths are as ‘cute’ as the boiled eggs and soldiers on the menu. Things get more refined in the evening, though. Pan-fried scallops with black pudding, cauliflower puree and star anise jus complement the 1980s classics, such as prawns served in a pint glass. With the sea always in sight, we stick to the fish options — the nut-crusted hake and pan-fried sea bass fillet with crushed new potatoes, leeks, chorizo and samphire doesn’t disappoint.

The room is, however, deluged with dogs. They sniff and bark from under every table, chattering at each other across the room. If you’re a dog fan, it’s adorable. I’m perfectly happy watching canine friendships develop, but it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.

Best for

Couples looking for a spa break with their dog. We seem to be the only pair without a pup in tow.


A fun blend of traditional British beach break and contemporary getaway. There’s something for everyone, but it’s the dog lovers who are best catered for.


The Cary Arms is a de Savary hotel. Cottages from £450 per night with rooms starting at £245 per night. The Signature Facial (80 mins) costs £85.

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