Dartmoor National Park is an incredible area of natural beauty and heritage, set in the heart of south west England. Long regarded as an area of mystery and legend, Dartmoor holds a particular place in the English national psyche. Dartmoor has been the inspiration for many novels, most notably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, which still captivates readers to this day.
It was the fourth National Park to be created as an area to be protected in 1951. The landscape is dramatic with its wide open spaces, moorland, woodlands and rivers. The granite tors stand proud against the skyline and the flora and fauna of the region is sure to delight anyone with an interest in wildlife and the countryside.
Located in the heart of the moor is the newly refurbished 5 Star country house Bovey Castle Hotel cushioned in amongst 275 acres of magnificent countryside and undulating valleys. The Bovey boasts 60 magnificent and individually designed bedrooms and 22 self-catering country lodges, scattered across the estate.
It also has two stunning revamped restaurants which offers a wide selection of dining choices. Guests can choose fine dining in the Great Western or select their meals from the classic British menu offered in the Smith’s Brasserie.
The Bovey Experience starts as soon as you approach the hotel from the mile – long drive, which parts the last couple of holes of the impressive golf course. The Hotel reveals itself to you from behind ancient trees with the rising hills of Dartmoor as a backdrop. When I pulled up outside the splendid entrance doors of the hotel, the doors of my car were gently opened and a couple of friendly,`tweed dressed’ helpful doormen took control.
Our luggage was delivered to our room and the golf clubs across to the Golf Pro shop, ready for our tee time in twenty minutes, whilst we went and checked in! Having looked at the Hotels website I thought the golf course may be a little too challenging, but I was pleased to discover that I managed to play it quite well.
Some of the holes were a test, particularly where the river meandered close to the fairways and greens, but the views from the course were stunning. One of the most impressive views of the Hotel was from the third green looking back up to the hotel towering above the manicured green slopes.
I found the service and hospitality at the golf club to be exceptional. Besides the golf course, which is an award-winning 18-hole championship course, designed by J F Abercromby, there is a huge number of activities to enjoy and experience including a free daily falconry display, cider and sloe gin production, archery, high-clay pigeon shooting, an Off Road Driving Experience, Horseback riding, Falconry, Virtual Jet Centre, Flight Simulator, Game Shooting, Deer Stalking, Hot Air Ballooning, Rock Climbing or Quad Biking. There is so much to do at Bovey Castle Hotel, the problem will be deciding what not to do!
I love bird life, so I was delighted to discover that a local Falconry Club display several of their birds at the Hotel every morning. What a fantastic sight to see both a glorious Bald Eagle and a Harris Hawk on the arm of an experienced falconer inside the hotel corridors! The Bald Eagle was huge and her call loud, shrill and piercing.
Guests also have full use of the hotel’s gym, tennis courts, indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam room and gym. There are also Luxury Elan Spa facilities and treatments for men and women. On this my first visit to Bovey, I did not have time to enjoy any treatments in the Elan Spa, but I did spend some time in the impressive `Art Deco’ swimming pool, looking out across the golf course towards the hills of Dartmoor, from the comfort of a lounger!
The Spa also offers an extensive range of body treatments and full massages for men. Guests with children have not been forgotten either, there is a play area and they can spend time with the hotels very own chickens and ferrets. Visitors can also bring their own dogs on holiday, as Bovey welcomes well-behaved dogs too!
In 2015 a major refurbishment of the hotel began with a revamping of the public areas and the two restaurants. Two years later a huge mission to create sixty quality en-suite bedrooms was completed.
My room was a Valley Castle room with a spectacular view of the golf course, valley and the hills of Dartmoor. Located on the first floor of the main hotel, there was a luxurious Superking bed, Ensuite modern bathroom, a fridge containing several bottles of complimentary water, a safe and a small comfortable seating area with armchairs and table.
The essential complimentary WiFi was much appreciated as was the Tea making facility and Nespresso coffee machine, after such a long journey. Bathrobes, slippers, Espa toiletries and a hairdryer completed the small essentials.
The room had been styled in a subtle, calming colour scheme incorporating a pastel palette which helped create a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere. I had a walk-in rain shower, as well as a bath with a thermostatically controlled hand shower. The bathroom was finished to the highest possible standard with marble tiling and granite detailing plus an ‘Anti steam’ shaving mirror. It looked stunning!
The room was very comfortable and relaxing. I could adjust the lighting across the room and the bed was huge, comfortable and luxurious. There was also a separate seating area from which I could sit and relax with a drink or watch television.
A very special addition was a small bottle of Bovey Castle Sloe Gin, bowl of fresh fruit and a Jar of Mixed Nuts as a welcome treat. I am not much of a Gin drinker but this was very special, I loved it! The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link™ purifier heater was also an extremely welcome piece of kit. I used it to heat up the whole room very quickly and evenly with purified air and it can be used to keep the room cooler during those barmy days of summer! Throughout the room there were plenty of electrical sockets for charging up our laptop and mobile phones.
The views over the hotel’s beautiful grounds and surrounding moorland were spectacular. At night, with the windows slightly ajar, you could hear the sound of owls hooting in the distance and the `dawn chorus’ was just awesome. In the evening after returning from our meal the bed had been `turned down’ and a sheet left on the bed describing the next days activities and more importantly the weather forecast for the day, a thoughtful gesture.
My wife and I had plenty of options in which to sit and relax. I climbed some steps into the Minstrels Gallery and looked down upon the wonderful `Cathedral Lounge’ complete with an assortment of comfortable settees, armchairs and a huge impressive fireplace.
At Bovey you have a choice of many activities to fill your day or you can simply chill out with a Spa treatment, linger by the pool, indulge in a little retail therapy or simply lounge out in any of the comfortable public areas. The Adam lounge with its roaring fire, ornate ceilings and period furnishings was a particularly beautiful room, which is where you would also find Beaky, the African Grey Parrott, who would mimic what you said to him!
The Library was a much smaller, more intimate room in which to sit quietly and read a book or newspaper. There is also boutique shop selling a selection of gifts, children’s toys and games, books, outdoor attire and designer brands such as Dubarry of Ireland Aquarapid, swimwear, Oakley sunglasses, Marbas golf wear and Meyer clothing.
I went for a pre-dinner walk around part of the grounds down by the impressive looking lodges and came across the croquet lawn, tennis courts and driving range. The exterior of the hotel is breath taking whilst its interior offers the perfect blend of old and new with gorgeous period features including mullioned windows, oak panelling and huge stone fireplaces.
‘Bovey Castle is a unique luxury Dartmoor retreat! My whole team pride themselves on providing first class service and hospitality to all our guests to ensure that their visit is a fantastic and truly unforgettable experience. We look forward to welcoming you… ’
Martin Kelly, General Manager, Bovey Castle Hotel.
There is so much to do at Bovey Castle! As we sat in the lounge bar waiting for our evening meal, I noticed a pianist playing a whole host of tunes, which continued throughout our meal, setting the tone for a wonderful evening.
The Bar was very popular as a pre-dinner destination and during much of the day. I noticed two cabinets containing a selection of 60 different single malts, including one from 1943 at £300 a dram! There was also a Havana Cigar cabinet containing exclusive and expensive cigar choices.
The restaurants have two very different personalities, so as we were lucky enough to be staying for two nights we tried both. In August 2016 Bovey Castle was awarded 5 stars by the AA for its culinary excellence. The Great Western restaurant is both formal and sophisticated, yet relaxed and comfortable. The Smiths Brasserie is a lot more informal, modern and brighter with large windows looking out across the terraces and golf course, towards the rolling hills and valleys of Dartmoor.
The hotel calls it ‘exclusive dining’ with its origins firmly established in classical cookery. Whilst waiting for our meal, my wife and I were served exquisite `amuse bouche’ in the bar, before being taken to our table. All of the dishes placed in front of us were beautifully presented, using whenever possible locally sourced ingredients. The setting offered up the opportunity for my wife and I to dress up for an evening of marvellous food and wine. The food, wine and excellent table service made for a evening to remember. The dining experience in both restaurants was excellent with very professional, highly trained serving staff, attentive but never obtrusive!
Butter Poached Loin of Rabbit, Wild Garlic Risotto & Morel Mushrooms
Brixham Crab and Scottish Langoustine Green Apple, Avocado & Vanilla and Buttermilk Crunch
Cutlet & Shank of West Country Lamb, Lamb Fat Mash, Pea & Mint
Sirloin & Cheek of West Country Beef, Beef Tenderloin Crackers, English Wasabi & Beetroot Tartare
Chocolate & Passion Fruit Tart
Orange & Marmalade Baked Alaska
Breakfast on both mornings was efficient and relaxing. I was welcomed, by name, on every occasion by the friendly staff. A comprehensive buffet selection of continental items was on display and `a la carte menu’ for the hot breakfast service.
My visit to Bovey Castle Hotel ranks as one of the best Hotels I have ever had the good fortune to visit. The setting is outstanding and the building itself ticks all of the boxes for grandeur, opulence and splendour. The food, drink and staff service were of an exceptional standard. Bovey Castle must rank as one of the finest Hotels in the country. The golf course was a joy to play, challenging but blessed with stunning vistas and picturesque fairways and greens. Bovey deserves the accolades it continues to receive.
I am already looking forward to my next visit!
Did you Know?
The hotel is enormously proud of its history and heritage, and this is reflected in the names of the restaurants.
Bovey Castle began life as a private house in 1890 when William Henry Smith (WH Smith of the High Street) purchased 5,000 acres of land from the Earl of Devon, who had owned the estate for the previous five centuries. Smith’s Brasserie is named in honour of its famous past owner. Once upon a time Bovey Castle was owned by the glorious Great Western Railway, who were the first owners to open Bovey Castle as a golfing hotel in 1930. The Manor House was built in a lavish neo-Elizabethan style. The interior boasted a Jacobean style staircase, plaster ceilings, an oak panelled dining room, open fireplace with a carved stone chimney and an Adam drawing room.
From 1946 to 1983, it was returned to the Great Western Railway and re-opened as a hotel. It then changed owners again in 1991 when considerable expansion took place and the golf course became a top priority. The 18-hole championship course is now one of England’s finest. The Manor House became Bovey Castle in 2003 and 22 estate lodges, a second restaurant, spa and pool were added, with further refurbishment of the bedrooms undertaken in 2008.
Bovey Castle became part of the award-winning Eden Hotel Collection in June 2014, joining eight other sister hotels across five counties from Warwickshire down to Devon.
Dartmoor National Park, North Bovey, Devon, TQ13 8RE
Telephone: 01647 445000
Disclosure: My stay was courtesy of Eden Hotel Collection
The views and comments expressed are as usual my own