Carbis Bay Hotel, Cornwall

From the sauna pod of Carbis Bay Hotel you can look beyond a heated jelly bean-shaped pool to see waves crashing on wide sands (a private beach owned by the hotel).

In the distance is Godrevy lighthouse, the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, published in 1927, although Woolf set her book in the Hebrides and stayed at Carbis Bay in 1914. You can see her framed signature in the hotel guest book.

In a nutshell
This hotel was built in 1894 by the Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail, and its terraces, lounges and restaurant face the sea. It is named after its incredibly peaceful location and is a pleasant 20-minute stroll along the coast from the art galleries and labyrinthine lanes of St Ives. Alternatively, a four-carriage train goes from a nearby station. The hotel, owned by the Baker family, has a spa.

The rooms with a sea view cost £20 extra, but it’s worth it

What are the rooms like?
The 47 rooms are brightly decorated with whitewashed walls mixed with bold patterned wallpaper featuring flowers (but not at all chintzy). There’s a fresh feel — rooms are regularly spruced up — and sparkling bathrooms have Aromatherapy Associates products. The key is to go for a room with a sea view, which are £20 extra. In the low season the cheapest standard rooms with views are from £220 B&B (or £260 for dinner, B&B). For a bit more space, go for a superior room with a sea view (from £250 B&B, or £290 for dinner, B&B); of these, room 207 is a good pick.

Which is the best room?
The junior suites (from £360 B&B, or £400 for dinner, B&B).

So what’s the food like?
The main restaurant, Sands, is beyond a conservatory with a pianist where pre-dinner cocktails are served. It’s in a long, candlelit room that overlooks the pool at the far end. The menu has a seafood slant, with hake and chips, roasted cod with chorizo, wok-fried mussels and lemon sole in white wine sauce, as well as steaks and rack of lamb.

After an amuse-bouche of crayfish with lemon, my mackerel with fennel and horseradish salad made a great appetiser. I followed my main course of shin of beef with mash and mangetout (perfectly good) with chocolate fondant and cherry ice cream. Three courses is about £35. A cheerful Beach Club restaurant by the sand has burgers and pizzas (£10-£14).

Who goes there?
The comedian Dawn French has stayed recently, as has the pop star Olly Murs.

What else is there to do?
Book a treatment in the C Bay Spa; lava shell massages are £85 for an hour (Voya and Aromatherapy Associates products are used). Take a walk or catch the train to St Ives to visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden (

The hotel, which looks over its own private beach, also has a spa

The highs, the lows, the verdict
Eight and a half out of ten

It’s in a lovely location and the sauna pod is great, but the rooms are a bit pricey, as is Sands restaurant.

Need to know
Tom Chesshyre was a guest of Carbis Bay Hotel (01736 795311,, Carbis Bay, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2NP; B&B doubles are from £200; wheelchair access rooms are available; single rooms are from £100 B&B; no dogs allowed