Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa
You feel the change of pace as you swoop down the hill to the sheltered bay, breathe in the sea air and get your first glance of the often-turquoise sea. We arrived by train, five and a half easy hours from London Paddington to St. Erth, a short cab ride away from the hotel.
You can happily spend a week at Carbis Bay without leaving the Estate. But, if you have time, it’s worth visiting ever-popular St. Ives just a 20-minute walk along the pretty coastal path. The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden and Tate St. Ives make it well worth the trip for culture vultures and there are loads of great cafes, shops and places to eat.
The whole Carbis Bay Estate had a serious glow-up before world leaders flocked there for the 2021 G7 Summit. Now the resort has the best of everything – one of the most stunning coastal locations in the UK, let alone Cornwall, plus new luxury accommodation and spa facilities. And it’s now open to everyday folks looking for some seaside R&R.
C Bay Spa sits next to the main hotel, built into the cliff, and every centimetre of this two-storey wellness hub makes the most of its stunning view. Whether you’re enjoying a bubble in the hydro pool, a stint in the panoramic sauna or luxuriating by the infinity pool, you’ll have a privileged bird’s eye view of the bay. And you can feel smug about not being jet-lagged or having spent two hours at passport control.
You can also make the most of nature’s own spa, with guided sea swimming sessions organised via the hotel, and towelling swim robes are provided. Carbis Bay’s a great place for swimming, with its gently-shelving, golden sandy beach, and enviable Blue Flag beach status.
The spa’s open from 9 am – 7 pm daily, with children’s swimming times between 9.30-11.30 am and 4.30-5.30 pm.
C Bay spa offers a good range of luxurious, nature-embracing treatments by sustainable spa brand Bamford, and seaweed-centric Voya, both a perfect fit with Carbis Estate’s natural vibe. Choose from wraps and facials to manicures, pedis and restorative journeys. They also offer pregnancy massage, and treatments designed especially for men.
I was lucky enough to try the new Bamford facial and body treatments during my stay. The brand’s all about respecting the natural world and harnessing nature to deliver effective treatments that soothe body and mind.
Bamford Awakening Facial
The Awakening Facial is particularly recommended for skin with sun damage or an uneven texture. It uses powerful fruit acids to help even the skin’s texture and leave it feeling softer and smoother, with a rosy glow. Here’s my experience of the treatment:
Once I’d made myself comfortable, lying face-up on the inviting heated bed, the therapist started off by placing a warmed stone on my chest to ‘open my chakras’. Then, she gracefully wafted a smoking Palo Santo stick in the air to ‘cleanse the room of any negative energy’. Not that there seemed to be anything but positive vibes in this candle-lit oasis of calm as far as I was concerned. It smelled good, with a subtle citrusy scent, and I liked the nod to spirituality.
The facial kicked off with a balm cleanse, second cleanse and gentle exfoliation, with the products being carefully removed by soothing hot mitts. Then, a nurturing oil was applied, followed by a facial massage with hot and cold jade ‘stones’. This felt particularly soothing and, as my eyes were closed, I wasn’t sure what to expect next, and I liked the element of surprise.
Next up was the application of a soothing face mask. The therapist chose the rehydrating one, having deemed my skin to be a tad on the dry side. She then went on to massage my décolleté (around the collar bone), neck and shoulders, while the product was working its magic, and removed the mask with hot mitts. I loved the fact that this facial has such a soothing massage included.
Next, a cool, refreshing toner face mist was spritzed, followed by skin brightening drops – apparently to refresh and resurface the skin and stimulate cell renewal. Sounded good to me! The therapist then applied a smoothing eye cream, and gave my eye area a cold stone massage. I could feel the puffiness deflating by the second.
Finally, my pampered skin was treated to a rehydrating serum, followed by a few drops of nurturing face oil and a plumping moisturiser. I, and my skin, felt amazing! The therapist softly recommended that I take my time to get up and left a fresh fruit ice lolly on the side for me to enjoy in the relaxation area. The treatment left my skin feeling soft and smooth, and spirit lifted. There was so much more to it than your average facial. And, with the fragrant oil, and ritual elements like the chakra balancing and smudging, made for a particularly relaxing and enjoyable treatment. The therapist, Sarah, was lovely and very professional too – the kind that would put any facial/spa first timers immediately at ease.
Bamford B Clear Upper Body Treatment
On the second day of my stay, I tried the Bamford B Clear Upper Body Treatment, a relaxing 45-minute treatment focusing on décolleté, neck and shoulders and scalp. This targeted treatment involves two types of massage, Shiatsu and Swedish, to soothe stressed muscles into submission and promote energy flow.
Before the treatment started, I was given a consultation to identify any issues and target areas. Then I was asked to pick my favourite scent from a choice of three oils: geranium, chamomile, and rosemary. I was drawn to chamomile, with a gentle floral fragrance, which the therapist said was a perfect fit with my (admittedly unoriginal) goal of ‘relaxation’.
I started lying face down on the super comfy treatment table and was asked to take three deep grounding breaths before the treatment began. The therapist started by gently rocking my shoulders, before working her way up my spine using shiatsu techniques and targeting cranial pressure points to release any tension at the base of my skull. She then moved on to my back and shoulders, using her thumbs and forearms to apply perfect pressure. This was particularly appreciated as, like many of us, I spend too much time hunched over a computer. The massage felt like it was really hitting the spot and targeting the problem areas I’d highlighted in the consultation.
Back knots unravelled, I was asked to turn over, a mask was placed on my eyes, and the same tension-busting treatment was applied to my front, covering décolleté, neck, shoulders, and scalp.
As the treatment came to an end, the therapist gently checked in with me and offered me a fruit ice to enjoy outside. I felt simultaneously relaxed and uplifted. The therapist did a great job of tailoring the treatment to my needs, addressing tension areas that can contribute to headaches as well as shoulder burn. I also felt sure that it would help with longer term tightness in addition to giving immediate relief.
Another element of the treatment I loved was being given a choice of body oil, as scent preference is so subjective and I’ve previously had a couple of treatments where the smell of the oil has detracted from the overall enjoyment of the experience.
Access to C Bay spa is free to all guests staying at the Carbis Bay Estate.
Spa days are available from £75 for a Sundowner Spa session. Spa access is available for non-residents £75 per day in high season and £50 a day in low season.
There’s also a private hot tub on the beach which is bookable by the hour.
For gym bunnies there’s a well-equipped gym and a beautiful glass-fronted yoga studio overlooking the beach. So there’s no excuse not to keep fit and flexible while you’re away from home.
We stayed in the new Beach Lodges, built to accommodate the seven world leaders and their entourages at the G7 Summit. These are now available as a luxury accommodation option for everyday folk, each one bearing the flag of its former G7 inhabitant. Locations and sea views don’t come much better than this!
We were in ‘Deluxe’ Lodge 8, where Mr. Johnson & co. stayed. Like all the Lodges, it has an uninterrupted view of the bay, and this one offers the ultimate VIP experience, with four double bedrooms oozing seaside-chic and a large Instaworthy copper bathtub in the master ensuite.
Outside there’s a small garden area, with hot tub, dining table and direct access to the beach. The ground floor has a huge open plan living/dining space with kitchen area that has everything you could possibly need for cooking, drinking, and dining during your stay (this has, apparently, been tested by Jamie Oliver and family, so don’t just take my word for it).
You can spend hours enjoying the sea view through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, or from the luxury of your own private hot tub, admiring the ever-changing colours of the vista and the occasional passing seal, or even dolphin. The bay’s special light quality is apparently due to the beach being formed from crushed golden granite and white shells, which helps the sunlight to bounce around.
Another benefit of Lodge life is the dedicated concierge team who are contactable 24 hours a day via WhatsApp. Whether you’re struggling to light your fire or fancy a glass of fizz in the hot tub, nothing’s too much trouble. As well as catering to your pretty much every whim, the team are a font of knowledge about everything from wildlife and where to catch the best waves, to Barbara Hepworth and cunning places to park.
In addition to the luxury Lodges, which definitely come under the ‘top end’ banner and price bracket, there are several other enticing options for places to stay on the estate, ranging from the Gannet Inn to a selection of coastal properties, beach lodges, cottages and serviced apartments. All are located within easy walking distance of the beach, hotel, and spa.
For classic seaside charm and convenience, we recommend staying at Carbis Bay Hotel’s Main House, where rooms and suites have been individually designed, and most have direct or side sea views. The helpful hotel reception team can help you pick your perfect room.
The Gannet Inn’s another great choice – a boutique hotel with its own restaurant, a short walk inland from the Carbis Bay Hotel. Guests at the Gannet can also use the C Bay spa facilities for free from October to May, and for a £60 daily charge from June – September.
wining & dining
Another thing the Carbis Bay Estate excels at is food, with a choice of four different and delightful dining options: Walters on the Beach, Ugly Butterfly, The Beach Club and The Orangery.
Walters isn’t your typical beachside diner. Offering smart but unstuffy dining in a sophisticated space with dark walls with bright botanicals, it serves up imaginative culinary creations with flavour and flair. We enjoyed a playful crab macaroon, prime white fish with pancetta bourguignonne and the intriguing Autumn Still Life for dessert – no spoilers, but it has a Great British Menu vibe. Arrive early to enjoy the glamorous bar.
Ugly Butterfly (there’s no such thing as an ugly butterfly, right?) is former MasterChef chef Adam Handling’s bang-on-the-beachside diner offering imaginatively combined local ingredients. We didn’t get to try this celebrated restaurant during our visit, as it’s closed Sundays and Mondays. But a woman in the hot tub was raving, saying she had the best meal ever there, giving it ten out of ten for food, presentation, service, and fun (the latter apparently fuelled by the charming Sommelier). Ugly Butterfly offers a five or seven-course tasting menu, with optional wine pairing, from £100. We strongly recommend booking ahead for Walters and Ugly Butterfly – any of them in high season.
The Beach Club Restaurant is a casual sea view diner and bar, with an Ibiza-meets-smart-fisherman’s-hut vibe. Serving local and Mediterranean dishes, it’s the go-to for anything from Cornish crab risotto and fresh fish to steak and pizza. And they shake a mean cocktail too.
The Orangery at the main hotel offers relaxed all-day dining, again in a light-filled space with a panoramic sea view (are you spotting a theme here?). Great for everything from breakfast to coffee and cake and Sunday lunch. And you can sit outside when the weather’s good.
C Bay’s Belvedere bar also offers refreshments and light lunch or dinner, serving Moët, cocktails, and smoothies alongside healthy poke rice bowls.
why so spavellous?
Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa have it all – fabulous accommodation, a stunning spa offering super relaxing treatments, great dining options, *that view* and the clean golden sandy beach. It offers a ‘real’ kind of luxury with a good atmosphere, much better in our opinion than the sterile, blingy kind you can get where staff read from a corporate script and buff gold-plated taps.
It’s the perfect place for a restorative seaside break or staycation, combining a chilled coastal escape with some perfect pampering. And it’s a great option if you want a spa break you can get to by train too.
Talk to the helpful reception team to get the low-down on specific rooms before you book. And we advise booking any spa treatments and restaurants early as they can both get booked up quite a way ahead.
Consider visiting out of season. We loved the almost empty beach in March, and you take advantage of any seasonal offers. It’s worth signing up for Carbis Bay Estate’s e-mail newsletter, and following them on their socials, as they run good promotions throughout the year.
Make time to visit St. Ives and The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden – it’s a lovely walk, and you can always get the train back if you run out of energy.
Consider travelling there by train – we did and enjoyed letting the train take the strain (and relaxing with a G&T en route). And you cant get a train all the way to Carbis Bay as it has it’s own tiny station.
‘The spa ticked every single box and then some! – they put the treat into treatment!’
‘I could relax by the new pool all day long’.
‘My treatment was probably the best I’ve ever had’.
‘There’s nowhere better – we’ve already booked for next year’
‘9/10 – nearly a 10, but there are a lot of steps, and it can get quite busy’.