Surely there is nothing better than a very full 5* luxurious country house hotel break for a truly relaxing time. Bovey Castle now under the ownership of The award winning Eden Hotels Collection – the service has been transformed – it fills that luxury criterion with aplomb, add in a well-presented building and extensive estate, stunning location and a spa in which you can lose yourself and be pampered. And, there is the tranquillity of the flower gardens. Children are equally well looked after with a crèche, visits to the deer park and feeding the fawns and chicken. There is also a children’s playground. Older children can find plenty of diversions to leave parents to relax. The whole package creates a destination in its own right, it is within the Dartmoor National Park – the open expanse of the park is literally just around the corner where riding is available.
To other guests, Bovey Castle presents the opportunity to be active across so many different sports, pastimes and other diversions. For them, a change is as good as a rest. The hotel was built by William Smith of WH Smith in Victorian times; it is sited to look over a valley which comprises the estate, the views are to die for with a stream and pools in the valley bottom and extending to a partly wooded backdrop. There is a feeling of an intimate, private enclave.
There is a lengthy list of activities from golf plus a driving range, falconry, cider and sloe gin making, 4x4 driving, tennis, shooting clays and air rifles, archery, fly fishing and singly the best prepared hotel croquet lawn. As a foil, we much enjoyed the essentially leisurely walk between the colourful herbacious borders of flowers leading up to the open fronted pavilion which is a favourite place for weddings.
The hotel includes some 60 rooms and suites within the main building and adjoining mews. There is no corporate or group style imposed, and there is a lot of variety in the décor with a wide range of categories. Whilst the hotel is expansive, there are plenty of niches and sitting rooms where you can enjoy quiet reflection or conversation without being heard, or perhaps take a tea or other refreshment. The open wood fires certainly are much enjoyed by all.
You can choose between two dining rooms in which to dine – the more leisurely formal dining room or the more informal bistro style room where those involved in the numerous activities take a quicker bite to eat. Both offer a high standard of food.
No visit to Bovey Castle would be complete without a visit to the delightful and much improved Spa part of which is a good sized swimming pool maintained at a very acceptable temperature. Olivia, a charming and attractive therapist, gave Bonnie one of the best rejuvenating massages she has had in a long time. Adding to her list of superlatives were the delightful Chloe and Josh who gave so much of their time looking after us.
Obviously there are rightly very severe constraints within the National Park regarding any new buildings. So it is to the credit of one-time owner, the famed Americas’ Cup Challenger; Peter de Savary, that the twenty-two contemporarily designed lodges he built have blended into the scenery exceptionally well. Each provides three en suite bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen plus sitting room and balcony. However, those in lodges can enjoy all the services of the hotel which is very close by. The lodges still offer a good and very individual option, nevertheless they are currently being up-dated to reflect today’s style.
You can have all the facilities imaginable in an hotel or yacht, but if the staff are not both efficient and personable it will ruin your experience. There are good vibes at Bovey Castle which were echoed throughout every element during our stay, the only exception was Beaky the parrot who just stared at us without any reaction. Just to rub it in, he gave a strange hollow hoot each time we headed for the door.
This hotel could easily take up all your time but there are many diversions to explore. Dartmoor with the Hounds of Baskerville association paints a bit of a grim place, however it has its charms and presents a refreshing contrast for us from the over-crowded home counties. The cattle added an appealing series of sightings with the shaggy, horned highland cattle grazing alongside an equally attractive breed, which I now know to be Red and White Belted Galloway cows. Widdicome-in-the-Moor, of Widdicome Fair fame, and Salcombe were a bit crowded after we had been a bit spoilt in other villages. A bit further west is Plymouth with its classic Georgian Former naval base. The potential is there for them to join Gloucester harbour as attractive tourist destinations but it needs more effort, simply adding a bit of colour would do a lot to lift the rather severe atmosphere.
Many people will probably drive down to Bovey Castle so on the way a visit to Exeter can be rewarding. However, on a much smaller scale but of equal enjoyment is Cothay Manor just west of Taunton. The Mediaeval moated manor house is set off beautifully by gardens that are truly captivating.
A visit to Bovey Castle offers many different experiences with friendly service and you leave feeling that you have been cocooned in the softest rejuvenating blanket.