By Katie Wilson
As the only UK hotel with its own Blue Flag beach, we knew before we visited that Carbis Bay Hotel was going to be special – and we were right.
In fact, it’s not just a hotel, it’s an entire estate made up of 125-acres in an enviable spot near St Ives on the Cornish coast.
Carbis Bay Estate includes a stunning stretch of soft white which runs along the South West Coast Path, an infinity pool spa, fine dining restaurant run by a Michelin star chef and a myriad of accommodation to suit all budgets.
Here’s what happened when we checked into one of their luxury Beach Lodges for the night.
The fact Cornwall is a long way from most places shouldn’t put you off visiting. It’s all worth it when you get there.
You can easily travel by train, as we did. It takes 5 hours and 27 minutes on average from London Paddington to St Erth (the nearest main station to St Ives) with around 14 trains per day. Driving may take longer but at least you’ll have a car the other end. Although we found taxis to be cheap and easy to book if we needed to.
While five hours on a train might sound like hell, it was actually fine and went quickly. We got up early to make the 8am journey so were there by 1.30pm, giving us most of the day to enjoy the sun.
From St Erth get a local train one stop to Carbis Bay (£3 per person) to see one of the most scenic coastal routes in Britain. When the white sands and crystal clear ocean roll into view it will take your breath away. Even if you drive, try and catch the train while you’re there so you can see it. It’s really quite special.
From the station it only took us a few minutes to walk down the hill to reach Carbis Bay Hotel. That’s when we realised it was literally on the beach. You couldn’t wish for a better location.
As we were escorted to our room we walked through The Orangery, where afternoon tea is served, and out on to the terrace. The spa with its impressive infinity pool overlooking the bay was there in all its glory inviting us to get in.
Our plan was to drop off our bags and head straight to the pool. Then we were told our Beach Lodge came with its own private hot tub which was bubbling and ready to go, along with a bottle of champagne on ice…
Rooms at Carbis Bay Hotel range from Superior and Deluxe to Suites in the Main House. You can pay extra for a sea view.
There are also Beach Houses, Beach Suites and a number of self-catering properties dotted along the coast of Carbis Bay Estate to choose from, depending on the size of your party. A more budget-friendly option is sister hotel The Gannet Inn, a short walk up the hill.
We were lucky enough to stay in a Beach Lodge, which was where world leaders stayed during the 2021 G7 Summit. Ours wasn’t the one Boris occupied – you can tell as the world flags are imprinted on the outside of each lodge. It was where the Japanese Prime Minister stayed.
To say we were impressed when we saw it is an understatement. It had not one, but three floors, all with direct views of the ocean.
On the top floor was a decking area with private hot tub. Three double bedrooms with en-suites, including one with a freestanding bath, were on the next level. Two of these had balconies which looked out onto the beach. The view in the morning as the sun started to rise was incredible. Set your alarm early so you don’t miss it.
The ground floor housed a stylish and spacious open plan kitchen, dining and living room, with another decking area with table and chairs outside, and even a utility room in the back with its own washing machine. Our first thoughts were, can we move in?
Each Beach Lodge also comes with its own concierge and we were given a phone number to ring or text if we needed anything.
FOOD AND DRINK
One thing we noticed about Cornwall in general is they don’t scrimp on portion sizes – and Carbis Bay Hotel is no exception. You definitely won’t find a shortage of food here, especially with four restaurants with very different offerings to choose from.
For fine dining book a table at Ugly Butterfly by Michelin star chef Adam Handling. The beautiful restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water. While the tasting menu (£100pp for five courses or £125pp for seven courses) has a focus on local food with zero waste. Note it is closed Mondays and sometimes early in the week, depending on the season. Booking is essential.
More casual dining can be found at The Beach Club Restaurant, which has a Mediterranean vibe and serves up fresh fish caught that day, alongside steaks, burgers, pizzas and salads. Think white washed walls, rattan furnishings, a mix of dining tables and comfy sofas, plus a terrace which is great for sundowners.
The Orangery Restaurant in the main house is an all-day drinking and dining space for coffee, light lunches, dinner or a Sunday roast. It is also where Afternoon Tea is served daily from 12pm to 5pm. A Champagne Afternoon Tea for two is a reasonable £70.
We dined in the hotel’s newest addition, Walter’s on The Beach, a glamorous beachside restaurant you can pop in for cocktails, lunch or dinner. It has a buzzy vibe with low level dance music playing in the background and botanical influences in the chic decor.
Prices are on par with London. The Pan Roasted Scallops with Spiced Cauliflower Cous Cous starter was delicious (£16.50). We tried the interesting-sounding Lobster Macaroon (£18.50), but it was a little too sweet for our liking.
Mains were Thai Spiced Aubergine with Rice and Stuffed Roti (£22) and the Whole Flat Fish (lemon sole) with Potato, Samphire and Walnuts (£27). While tasty, the portions were huge. We could have shared the fish alone. With no room for dessert, we finished our wine out on the terrace where kind staff brought out blankets so we wouldn’t be cold.
Breakfast the next morning is served in The Orangery, or guests in the Beach House can opt to have it delivered to their room. We chose the latter and received quite possibly the best breakfast hamper we’ve ever seen. You can preorder a cooked breakfast along with pastries, toast, fruit and yoghurt, porridge and fresh orange juice. For casual coffees, sandwiches and snacks in the day, there is also a Deli Café on the beachfront.
All guests staying on Carbis Bay Estate, whether that is in the hotel (including The Gannet Inn) or one of the self-catering properties, have access to the C Bay Spa throughout their stay. It is open from 9am to 7pm daily and the only thing you need to book ahead for is treatments, which start from £95 for a 30-minute massage.
The luxury facilities include an infinity pool, hydrotherapy pool and garden sauna, which all overlook Carbis Bay. There is also a poolside bar serving up champagne, cocktails, smoothies and hot drinks.
Fitness conscious travellers get complimentary use of the state-of-the-art C Bay Fitness Studio. While personal trainer sessions can be arranged on the beach. There is also a yoga studio with views over the ocean.
Even if you’re not staying at the hotel you can book a Spa Day. There are different options to choose from but The Beach Mermaid package includes full use of the spa facilities, lunch in The Orangery, a glass of bubbles on arrival and a 30-minute treatment for £120pp.
If you’ve got cash to splash (quite literally) you can hire a luxury yacht for the day. Water sports such as paddle boarding and surfing are available in nearby St Ives, as are boat trips to spot local wildlife such as seals and dolphins.
We’ve stayed at some pretty fancy places before, but Carbis Bay Hotel – from its five-star facilities to its next level service and enviable beachside location – is world class. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. Go here for a treat, or check out their offers page as they regularly have dinner, bed and breakfast and spa deals.
Room start from £280 a night
Read next: New UK hotels to book now
Read next: The UK’s best beach hotels