I try not to get too enthusiastic when writing these hotel features, the aim is to present a balanced view of an experience I’ve had, but some places really do warrant a hefty dose of flattery and appreciation of just how wonderful a stay they provide to their guests.
Ever evolving and adding delights to please their visitors, there’s a reason that the G7 summit in June 2021 was held at Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate; it’s such an obvious spot to show off some of the UK’s natural beauty, and this beach-side resort truly has made the most of its surroundings to offer its guests a superlative stay.
Every time I visit this five-star haven on the Atlantic Coast, just one mile from St. Ives, I’m bowled over by its surrounding natural beauty. Whether it’s raining or boasting bright sunshine, the glow of the pale sand beach and bright blue water makes the bay look so stunning, and in addition to the accommodation and facilities offered by the estate, you really couldn’t ask for a better location to spend a beach-side excursion on UK soil.
With every visit, I feel like there’s a new part of the hotel to discover, and on my most recent trip in late January, I found an extended C Bay Spa and new outdoor pool and gym, as well as new restaurant Walter’s on the Beach, brand new beach suites, a deli, and fine dining restaurant Ugly Butterfly by Adam Handling in the Ocean venue. These newer elements are in addition to The Orangery Restaurant, The Beach Club Restaurant, and selection of accommodations including the gorgeous three-story beach lodge residences, rooms and suites within the main building – the Victorian manor house, beach houses and valley cottages and suites.
Throughout my stay, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing tales of the G7 summit from staff members, where the likes of Angela Merkel cosied up by the fire each night, submarines stopped in the bay, and the Red Arrows put on a remarkable display overhead. That’s one element that stands out for me here; the friendliness of those who work throughout the estate, all of whom go to great lengths to ensure that their guests are having a pleasant stay.
I was excited to check into my junior beach suite in the Ocean venue for a few days, and number 8 did not disappoint. With a long balcony and floor to ceiling windows stretching around our curved end suite, my guest and I were treated to sweeping views of the bay, and being positioned just steps from the beach meant that we had the best view in the house.
Directly above Walter’s on the Beach, below the bar at Ugly Butterfly and next to the Beach Club Restaurant, we were in prime position to reach these venues easily, especially handy when it rained! I wondered if we would hear any noise from the neighbouring venues during our stay, but we didn’t, though we could spot patrons of the Beach Club from parts of our suite, so we just kept the sheer curtains pulled on that side.
The suite was spacious with a bedroom, shower room and lounge, presumably holding another bed when required, and I felt very comfortable and immersed in luxurious surroundings here. The décor encapsulates the suite’s location with a cool colour palette, mustard accents and greys tones creating a stylish and contemporary space to relax in whether curled up on the large bed or propped up on one of the armchairs or the sofa. There are plenty of useful amenities such as an ironing board, digital lighting, information tablet, comfy robes and two large TVs to steal your gaze away from trying to spot wildlife in the bay, while mini bottles of Cornish Tarquin’s Gin and tonics, along with the daily delivery of a glass of sparkling wine, were certainly a welcome sight.
The shower room held a double vanity unit and incredibly inviting rainfall shower along with Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, but I would have loved to have seen a bath – the perfect antidote to tired muscles after a long coastal walk.
The eight beach suites share a pantry area where you’ll find tea trays, coffee, a daily delivery of lemon drizzle cake and replaces the need for a kettle and/or coffee machine in each room. We couldn’t find coffee when we wanted one, but I have no doubt that a quick call to reception would have resulted in it being topped up if we had been desperate to consume one.
As mentioned, there are a number of restaurants available to dine at and, during my stay, I visited The Orangery, in the original building, for breakfast (a delightful bacon filled ciabatta each day with regular coffee refills); while dinners were enjoyed at both Walter’s on the Beach and Ugly Butterfly.
Walter’s on the Beach is a trendy, intimately decorated dining venue at beach level serving sumptuous treats and tasty cocktails with upbeat tunes filling the air as you sip and dine. You get a great sense of atmosphere even before you set foot in the venue with bulbs strung along the front making you feel as though you’re walking along a promenade overseas, and once inside the feeling continues. The interiors are decorated in deep tones, from the herringbone flooring to the walls and ceiling, while low lighting and soft furnishings help to create that welcoming and cosy vibe, so welcoming that we commented on how we wished we lived closer so that we could visit more often.
There are plenty of options to choose from on the menu – cocktail snacks, nine starters, 10 mains and sides, while the wine and drinks list offers an abundance of choices, too. I opted for the lobster macaroon, chive and tomato mayonnaise and caviar to start, and was floored by this remarkable dish. It looked beautiful with the delicate lobster pieces sandwiched between two gently sweet and delightfully chewy large macaroon layers. With a helping of caviar on top to add to the decadence, I was in awe of this dish – I’ve never tasted anything like it before – and I would eat it over and over again. This dish was a ten out of ten for me, it was innovative, larger in size than I expected, and simply delicious.
Next up was the Cornish fillet of beef, tempura king prawns, Lyonnaise potatoes, pea puree and jus, and I would describe this as the ultimate surf and turf. The beautiful chunk of beef was cooked exactly how I requested, three juicy fat prawns were encased in the lightest, most delicate batter, and the sweet onion, thick potato slices and the tasty pea puree and jus made for a hearty dish full of delectable flavours and textures, and so good I devoured every morsel. Along with a shared side of tenderstem broccoli with lemon and crunchy, thinly sliced almonds, this was a delight, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Dessert seemed like a bit of an over-indulgence at this point, but when everything had been that good, it was hard to resist. Options included a tonka bean panna cotta with clotted cream ice cream, date and walnut pudding with toffee sauce and my choice of ‘our sundae’. Our lovely waitress had warned me that it was big enough for two to share, but I thought I was up for the challenge. Out came a pint-sized glass tankard filled with four types of ice cream, Chantilly cream, toasted marshmallow chunks, Turkish Delight, crunchy chocolate pieces and a flake. It was scrumptious, but I felt a bit like I was on Man V. Food and wished I had listened, though equally glad that I had tasted their decadent sundae.
As mentioned, this isn’t the only place to dine, and it wasn’t the only dinner I enjoyed while at Carbis Bay. Head to the Beach Club for a casual atmosphere, great pizzas and more, while The Orangery serves up classic and continental dishes day and night in its sun-drenched setting. For a fine dining treat with a menu full of personal touches and creativity galore, Ugly Butterfly by Adam Handling is the place to go. Having been open since the end of summer 2021 and situated at the Ocean venue, expect quite the array of delectable dishes crafted with flair as well as a stylish bar with views to be in awe of. For a more in depth understanding of a tasting menu dining experience, read my Ugly Butterfly review here.
There has been a spa at Carbis Bay for a long time, but one positive to come out of the pandemic was the opportunity for C Bay Spa to see itself extended. The heated outdoor pool remains but has received a facelift and the hydrotherapy pool, barrel sauna, poolside cocktail bar and sun deck join the pool in providing guests with sublime views from their lofty positions.
Inside, there’s a gym with brand-new equipment, a yoga studio with triple aspect bay views and a hair salon, but I was there to be pampered in one of the new treatment rooms.
There are a range of luxurious treatments available to suit many types of conditions, and my Head in the Clouds treatment with Georgina was exactly what I needed during my visit. Promising to cleanse, clear and decongest, this upper body treatment included a back and scalp massage aimed at clearing the mind and supporting the immune system. No stranger to a massage, I always appreciate just how relaxed and refreshed a back massage leaves me feeling and there’s no better way to end a treatment than with a scalp massage to fully relax.
Georgina was an absolute pro and expertly massaged my back and shoulders using just the right amount of pressure before I turned over for a décolletage massage and scalp rub while wearing a warmed lavender scented eye mask. I headed to the relaxation room to wake up and drink some water while taking in the views and scanned over my Aromatherapy Associates post treatment advice sheet, which also described the items that had been used, and promised myself that I would purchase some of the beautifully smelling products listed.
When you come to a place like Carbis Bay, you are well and truly catered for – from the dining options to the spa, the lounge to the beach and, of course, the relaxing rooms, suites and lodges themselves. However, St. Ives is a must-visit, especially in low season when there are fewer fellow visitors to contend with on the narrow streets. Take the train from the station – a short walk up the hill – which takes just three minutes and offers some of the best views GWR can possibly provide on one of their journeys, or walk the South West Coastal Path from the hotel, which takes about half an hour.
Land’s End, Sennen Cove, the Minack Theatre, Gwithian Beach, St Michael’s Mount and more are close by and certainly worth a visit, but, honestly, I felt that just sitting in the suite (or balcony on warmer days) with a book and those views was a pretty perfect use of my time.
In a nutshell
Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate never fails to impress me, and I have no doubt that on my next visit, I will be just as impressed whether I’m staying in a beach suite, lodge, the main house and whichever restaurant I choose to dine in. The friendliness of those who work here is genuine and I can give it nothing less than a ten out of ten.
See snippets of my travels on Instagram @tashheard_food_travel
All imagery, unless stated, provided by Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate