Carbis Bay Hotel: A Literary Heritage
I’m so pleased to bring you my final hotel review from my holiday in Cornwall. The Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate was the last we stayed in whilst at St Ives, and our stay was a delight from start to finish. The larger and grander sister hotel to The Gannet Inn, Carbis Bay is about a 25 minute walk (or 5 minute train journey) to St Ives, and its stunning setting just above the smooth yellow sands of the beach (which is owned by the hotel) is a huge attraction.
I’d been so excited to stay at Carbis Bay, not least because of its impressive literary connections. First built in 1894, The Carbis Bay Hotel has hosted a number of famous guests over the years. Virginia Woolf knew the area well, as her childhood summers were spent at Talland House in St Ives, and she stayed at the hotel in 1914 on a return visit to Cornwall. From its rooms, there are fantastic views of the nearby Godrevy Lighthouse that inspired Woolf’s famous novel, To the Lighthouse.
As a huge Rosamunde Pilcher fan (I brought Coming Home with me to read on this trip, as I’d read The Shell Seekers on a previous holiday in Penzance), I was also thrilled to discover that Pilcher features The Carbis Bay Hotel (renamed as The Sands Hotel) in The Shell Seekers. It is the hotel that Penelope enjoys when she returns to Cornwall after so many years away and splashes out on a luxurious holiday, relishing the hotel’s ‘thick carpets, swimming pools, Jacuzzis…huge bowls of fresh fruit, and flowers everywhere.’ Judging from my experience many years on, the hotel is still the epitome of comfort and style.
On reading more about Rosamunde Pilcher’s life, I was also delighted to discover a reference to The Carbis Bay Hotel when she wrote about celebrating her golden wedding anniversary in Christmas with Rosamunde Pilcher. Apparently the party took place the day before Christmas Eve, when the hotel was closed for the season, but opened specially to host Rosamunde and her family and friends. She describes the scene thus: ‘we found the hotel en fête: champagne corks popping, a jazz band playing music from our time, long tables set, flowers and Christmas lights, and the gleam of silver and glass.’
Walking through the hotel’s large entrance way and taking in the grand dining rooms and beautiful conservatory, I could picture Rosamunde as an elegant hostess, mingling with her guests and sipping cocktails to the tune of the jazz band and the sea lapping gently on the shore.
A Tour of Our Room
We were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful deluxe room with a large double bed and French windows that opened directly onto a private terrace overlooking the sea. Spacious and attractive, we found the room exceedingly comfortable and were appreciative of its ample closet space, comfortable chairs and wide desk.
The enormous bathroom was another highlight, with a separate shower and large tub that was perfect for a long, hot soak.
Our Private Terrace
A real highlight of our room was having access to a private terrace. I enjoyed taking my early morning cup of tea outside and watching the sun rise over Godrevy Lighthouse, discernible in the distance. The mornings dawned so warm and sunny for most of our holiday that it was easy to imagine it was still summer, and I’ve rarely felt quite so serene as when I drank my tea and listened to the rustle of palm trees waving gently in the breeze.
I’ll never forget watching the dawning sun turn the sky pink and violet above Woolf’s famous lighthouse.
The C Bay Spa
We’d arrived at the hotel just in time for our appointments at their lovely spa, which we’d already heard about at The Gannet Inn, as guests of both hotels are allowed to use it. The spa offers a wide range of treatments, and I’d booked a manicure for myself and a pedicure for mum. I went for my signature colour – a pale pink, and Mum chose a deep plum nail polish. It was lovely to be pampered in such a pretty, calming environment, and we both agreed that this was living the life!
Later in the evening, I decided to try out the hotel’s swimming pool and hot tub before we had supper, so changed into my swimsuit, wrapped one of the fluffy white bathrobes provided around me, and slipped through our little private gate onto the path which led from our room to the C Bay Spa.
I had the pool and hot tub to myself for a blissful ten minutes before a couple of other hotel guests appeared. The hot tub, I have to admit, I especially enjoyed, and it was marvellous to sit in the warm water and admire the view across the pool and out to sea as the sun sunk lower and lower in the sky.
The Hotel Restaurant
My swim had given me an appetite for dinner, so after freshening up in our room and pulling on a dress, Mum and I headed to the restaurant for our meal. As there was a wedding being hosted during the night of our stay, the hotel’s main dining area, the award winning Sands Restaurant, was reserved for the wedding party, so our table was set up – along with a few other guests – in a smaller, but very beautiful room.
As I sat down, I admired the striking art pieces hung on the walls, as well as the heavy curtains and marble mantelpiece that gave the room a touch of opulence. Mum and I had a bottle of house white wine to share between us, and we raised our glasses, toasting our fantastic holiday.
We enjoyed an amuse-bouche of bread and pate as we decided our menu choices. Sands Restaurant prides itself on showcasing local, seasonal ingredients, with an emphasis on fish and seafood. Both Mum and I settled on seared South Coast scallops and cauliflower, followed by sea bass and tagliatelle.
Our dishes were exceptionally well done – I don’t think there’s anything tastier than soft-as-butter scallops, and I loved the combination of flavours and seasonal root vegetables in our main dish.
For dessert, I settled on mulled wine panna cotta with balsamic strawberries and poached pear, and Mum tucked into a deconstructed trifle (which even had a shot of sherry alongside!).
Our sweets were the perfect end to a fantastic meal and a wonderful day.
Breakfast And Coastal Walk to St Ives
I was very keen to do the cliff walk from Carbis Bay to St Ives, especially as we awoke to such a spectacular, summer-blue day. After enjoying a tremendous breakfast at the hotel, with their impressive selection of pastries, cold cuts, cheeses, yoghurt, breads, as well as hot dishes, we made our way along the ‘coastal walk’ path that started just outside the hotel’s large balcony.
As we climbed higher and higher up the cliff path, the sea shimmered blue and turquoise beneath us, and the salty smell of the seaweed collected in black clumps on the rocks sharpened the morning breeze.
The path was narrow in places, clinging to the edge of the cliff, so I could see fungi growing in the cracks by my head as I walked along, and blackberries dangled, juicy and fat, reminding me that, despite the soaring temperatures, we were indeed in autumn. As we walked on further, the path widened, and we could admire large houses perched on either side of us, their gardens filled with palm trees and fuchsias drinking in the sunlight.
As the path started to descend, I caught my first glimpse of St Ives, with the town’s pretty grey stone cottages dotting the horizon before me. The walk had only taken about half an hour, with plenty of pauses as I snapped away with my camera, and was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I highly recommend doing it yourself if you’re ever in the Carbis Bay / St Ives area – the gorgeous views shouldn’t be missed!
Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate, Cornwall – www.carbisbayhotel.co.uk
Room rates at Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate are from £270 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. To book, please visit www.carbisbayhotel.co.uk, or call 01736 795 311.
Note: My stay at The Carbis Bay Hotel was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.