narrow lanes in Devon is
an incredibly beautiful
valley with views towards
idyllic unspoilt hedged
fields and woods. And
here sits Bovey Castle
an imposing stately
Edwardian pile built in
1907 by the son and heir
of the eponymous
stationer W.H. Smith...
NOW A WONDERFUL HOTEL, it endeavours to engender the Edwardian house party
spirit and has enough public rooms, nooks and crannies in which to sit and relax
be it with a good book or a drink.
Surrounded by extensive gardens with a stream and ponds stocked with brown trout,
there are ever more nooks and crannies to explore. Amongst and beyond is what
is considered to be one of the top one hundred golf courses in the world. The
hotel, regardless of the time of year, offers a truly exceptional array of both
outdoor and indoor activities to keep young and old more than happy.
Such country pursuits as shooting, archery, tennis and daily falconry displays
are but just a few of the activities on offer. A popular choice with young children
is feeding the hotel chickens and petting extremely docile pet ferrets
quite magical for city children.
Everything you could possibly think of is available together with an enormous
indoor swimming pool and beautifully indulgent spa. But if you just want to
chill out and relax, well, there is a no better or more serene setting.
And another claim to fame the 'castle' was used in the first Hound
Of The Baskervilles film.
The rooms have been given the 'interior designer' treatment, organised by none
other than the Duchess of Cornwall's sister, Annabel Elliot, who has retained
the original Edwardian feel. Wallpapers and colours are contemporary with inspiration
taken from the surrounding countryside but other guests felt that the bathrooms
were a little too Edwardian.
All mod cons are there: flat-screen televisions, very comfortable beds, classic
furniture and complimentary dried fruits, water and hot drinks facilities. But
the outstanding feature of our room was the amazing uninterrupted view from
our window across the golf course up across the fields of the valley. So be
sure to ask for one of the valley side rooms rather than one on the entrance
side which, whilst it still features a woodland backdrop, does look down on
the car park.
The Other Guests
A mixture of well-heeled professionals obviously in pressurised jobs with babies
and young children, together with mature couples on luxury breaks. The men were
taking the opportunity to play golf and the wives/girlfriends meanwhile taking
advantage of the pampering on offer in the Spa. We must also mention a selection
of very well behaved dogs and a wedding.
A bona fide sanctuary with very friendly and unstuffy staff. On offer is everything
from full-day treatments to a 'Golfer's Tonic' for rapid relief from tense,
tight muscles men, it would seem, have at last discovered what they have
been missing and can be seen taking full advantage of the treatments. My blissful
full-body massage, accompanied by the fragrance of frangipani, whisked me straight
off to some tropical isle... Suki had me walking on air for a full three days.
The spa was certainly a big highlight of our stay and, as you'd expect, there's
also a gym, steam room and a very large indoor swimming pool.
This is the future of luxury self-catering. In addition to the main hotel there
are twenty-two self-catering lodges discreetly set amongst the manicured grounds.
The design of the lodges was brilliantly conceived; these modern buildings fit
in to the most sensitive of landscapes (a National Park no less) and with the
hotel. The best materials, from stonework to textiles, have been used throughout
and all have three en-suite bedrooms. They also boast fully-fitted kitchens,
dining rooms and lovely sitting rooms. However, I would expect most guests would
want to dine in the hotel as the restaurant prices were a pleasant surprise.
The Food and Drink
There is a relaxed dress code for dinner (no denim!) and on a warm summer evening
most men had removed their jackets and ties. The less formal Bistro is probably
a better option for those with small children and offers more casual dining.
We dined in The Edwardian Grill a beautiful room with a hand-painted,
Regency-inspired wallpaper: flowers, birds and butterflies. Foodies will be
happy with the refined menu based on local seasonal ingredients.
The memorable shrimp salad with glazed shellfish bisque was intensely flavoured
and well balanced; the ballotine of quail and foie gras, with orange and green
bean salad, was pretty and perfect for a warm summer's evening. My main course
of John Dory was well executed although the breast of guinea fowl was somewhat
bland and a little dry.
Nevertheless, in spite of the menu reading elaborately you can expect nothing
less than delicious cooking from a kitchen that knows how to handle quality
ingredients. Forget the diet and try the bread rolls and you must leave
room for the puddings!
The Bottom Line
Bovey Castle is a great place to escape to when you need a break. The hotel
is so relaxed and unstuffy, not only dog-friendly but children and families
are genuinely welcomed. The staff, as would be expected in a five-star hotel,
were all polite and helpful.
We met two young teenage American girls enjoying being pampered in the Spa who
said that 'In two whole days we have not been bored once' which perfectly sums
up the hotel.
As in all five-star hotels, and in spite of the extremely well priced menu in
the Edwardian Grill, all the small extras can add up considerably for
instance, breakfast in bed if you are not too careful. However, sometimes
you just have to relax the wallet and at Bovey Castle it is a rare treat to
be in such beautiful surroundings with such an impressively long list of complimentary
activities. Bonnie and Tim Stevens
Bovey Castle, North Bovey, Dartmoor
National Park, Devon TQ13 8RE. Tel: 01647 445000.
Exeter St. Davids, the nearest railway station, is a thirty-minute drive away
the hotel has courtesy vehicles.
Bovey Castle is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels and Pride of Britain Hotels.
Unmissable Hidden Gem Cothay Manor
Cothay Manor can be found after winding along miles of single track road 12
miles west of Taunton and it is a worthwhile meander. This magical, romantic
series of garden rooms surrounds one of the most perfect examples of a small
classic medieval manor. Many garden rooms (each a garden in itself), a river
walk and a plantsman's paradise. There is also a small café serving light lunches
If you only ever visit one garden in your lifetime, this one should be it. More
than worthwhile to make a special detour.