Babbacombe, Devon

Oxford Mail: Seaside out of season Seaside out of season

It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts. Having tried unsuccessfully to bribe and cajole every grandparent in turn, our romantic mini break had turned into a family holiday overnight.

The weather was terrible – rain and snow were forecast, and we were stuck on the M5 behind an enormous digger that took up two lanes for a good hour. Then the mist descended so that even when we did reach the sea, we couldn’t see it.

But having descended a hill that was so steep it gave the Nemesis roller-coaster a run for its money, we reached the Cary Arms, perched on the beach overlooking the Devon coast, and all our grumbling stopped instantly.

The Cary Arms is like something out of an Agatha Christie novel, a beautiful country house built in the 1880s. There is a billiard room and a lounge, a gorgeous bar, a restaurant on the seafront, and some glorious accommodation with balconies and little touches such as candy rock on your pillows, and some cottages if you really want to lock yourselves away.

The cove and jetty are equally as entrancing, and the long walks along the beach beckon you from the hotel windows. It even has its own moorings in case you want to moor your boat and pop in for lunch.

But there were not many other tourists in early March.

Come the summer holidays, the place is probably packed to the rafters with holiday-makers, but instead the rugged red coast, shingle and paddling were all ours, give or take the odd adventurous seagull.

Not that we were entirely alone of course, the Cary Arms being such a gorgeous boutique hotel that people travel there all year round to take in the views and breathe in the sea air from the sanctity of somewhere that really understands how to get away from it all.

In summer, food from the outdoor pizza oven and barbecue is also served on the hotel’s pretty terraces that hang over the bay and lead down to the public jetty, where there’s always a fisherman or two trying his luck. We even spied some midnight scuba divers toppling off the edge. There’s also the bandstand style circular Captain’s Table, which can be booked for six to dine in style al fresco.

Not that we could appreciate much of anything when we arrived – the thick sea mist obscured everything. But on pushing open the hotel door, we were enveloped into the warm and convivial atmosphere and knew ‘everything was gonna be alright’, as Prince Harry put it in his hilarious upper-class reggae accent recently.

On being shown our room, The Captains Cabin, which was more of a suite with separate bedrooms for the kids, we were so excited we forgot all about being cross. Decorated in a saucy postcard palate of striped reds and blues, red leather bedheads, white painted balcony and 180’ degree windows, it was more than you could ever ask for. The children even had their own buckets, spades and fishing nets left on their beds so they could explore.

Getting them to sleep, however, was another matter, as they had worked themselves into such a high state of excitement, especially after having their own table in the pub with home-made chicken goujons, chips and ice cream for supper. But eventually they succumbed and we snuck downstairs for a wonderful meal in the boat shed-style bar.

The next morning was rammed full of excursions that Mr Greedy had organised.

Having come here regularly as a child, he was keen to take us around his childhood haunts and we had a busy schedule. In fact, we were the first into the Babbacombe Model Village when the doors opened, then onto the red-sanded Ness beach in Shaldon which you enter through a long tunnel, followed by lunch in The Ness pub overlooking the bay.

The sun was shining and we even managed to eat outside. Heaven.

Shaldon Zoo was another hotspot, where endangered species, in particular monkeys, had the kids fascinated. Then we went on a long walk up the Teignmouth seafront, where we watched the train from London screech along the coastline, hugging the beach.

By the time we made it back to the hotel we were exhausted, so had a rest before venturing out for a pizza in Torquay, in hindsight not something I’d recommend.

Torquay is a world away from Babbacombe so we ate and then fled back to our coastal fantasy land.

Long walks along the beach after the Cary Arms’ superb breakfast brought us to Sunday, with the added entertainment of watching a man in his Speedos go for a swim, accompanied by his wife in a wetsuit complete with hood and gloves.

It was with a sigh that we packed our bags and departed. For those of you considering getting away from it all, there is nowhere more conducive than here and The Cary Arms ticks all the boxes, kids or no kids.

The Cary Arms has eight bedrooms and three self-catering cottages. For bookings and further information, visit www.caryarms.co.uk.

Prices start from: Apr-Oct 2012: £230 per night for a deluxe super-king double, including breakfast Cottages start from: £1,600 per week or £810 per three nights without breakfast.

For bookings and further information, visit www.caryarms.co.uk, enquiries@caryarms.co.uk or call 01803 327110

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