Bovey Castle was the destination for our UK staycation late in 2021. “Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to Bovey Castle”, says a young gentleman dressed in a fine green Harris Tweed waistcoat with matching trousers that are neatly tucked into a pair of emerald-green, knee-high golfing socks and brown brogues. The crisp white shirt set against the plain, lilac satin silk tie complete the uniform. Meet Sam, one of the porters that kindly helps me with my overnight bag to the reception desk and then carries it to my room; he then proceeds to provide a tour of my room, before planning to take me on a jaunt of the grand estate in a fetching racing green golf buggy parked outside. This warm welcome is just one of the many reasons why Bovey Castle has received five prestigious Red Stars from the AA for their exceptional hospitality; the red stars represent the highest accolade given to hotels in the British Isles that offer outstanding levels of hospitality and service.
The journey went from a five red star welcome to the vibrant red of the sloe gin that sits majestically on an antique mahogany table inside a beautiful crystal decanter in my stately room. I’m looking forward to tasting some of the hospitality starting with the complimentary gin, which is distilled in a little barn on the grounds of Bovey Castle from berries found on the estate. I pour some of the gin into a crystal glass and take a sip of the deliciously sweet, plumy liquid. While admiring the splendid moorland and wooded valley view of Dartmoor, I sense this is going to be a memorable stay.
Bovey Castle is located on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. It’s a four-hour drive from London and the hotel provides helpful instructions on avoiding the extremely narrow Devon lanes that most satellite navigation systems will undoubtedly want to take you down. The nearest train station is Exeter St Davids, which is a 40 minute drive away.
Bovey Castle is a great base to enjoy a UK staycation from the surfing beaches of Devon to local vineyards, historic Exeter and its Cathedral and yachting in Dartmouth and Salcombe.
Bovey Castle is a Grade II listed building and is part of the Eden Hotel Collection of luxurious hotels; the hotels consist of historic buildings. The Neo-Elizabethan building was designed by Detmar Blow in 1907. It was used as a convalescent home for officers during the outbreak of WWI and later utilised as a military hospital during WWII. Fast forward to 2017 and the hotel has undergone a rebrand and a multimillion-pound refurbishment, which includes a new spa, pool, restaurants and bars.
This charming hotel is set within two hundred and seventy-five acres of Dartmoor National Park and has sixty bedrooms as well as twenty-two self-catering country lodges that are nestled within the grounds of the estate for your UK staycation. While there is an impressive eighteen-hole championship golf course, for those of you that prefer to be relaxing in a hot jacuzzi rather than playing a round of golf, you will not be disappointed with the Elan Spa and pool. Other facilities include a choice of restaurants such as Smith’s Brasserie, the Great Western for fine dining or The Tasting Room.
If the idea of a UK staycation with a luxurious and spacious room and spectacular views of the National Park strikes a chord with you, then Room 22, otherwise known as the Junior State room, might just well be the ticket for you. The room contains a very comfortable super king-sized bed that could quite literally be fit for the king or queen of the castle.
You can also see the early morning sunrise coming up from beyond the woodlands which is breath-taking and worth setting an early wake up call for. The room has a modern bathroom complete with ESPA beauty products. For dog owners, the room is also dog friendly. Due to the hotel’s location within the National Park, it’s unlikely you will receive any mobile phone coverage; however, WIFI is available within the hotel.
Spa and Pool Facilities
Conveniently located on the same floor as my room, the Elan Spa provides an oasis for self-indulgent relaxation and pampering. The spa reception leads to several treatment rooms. I opted for a 55-minute ESPA express facial, back, neck and shoulder massage (£100); it’s exactly what I needed after a long drive from London. The session consisted of a deep tissue massage, which targeted specific areas of the upper back. A relaxing facial cleansing and masking ritual then followed, including exfoliating and moisturising the skin. My friendly therapist, Kelly was exceptionally good at loosening the countless knots in my back and shoulders by applying the right amount of pressure. The facial was highly relaxing and left my skin feeling tingling, radiant and nourished.
The heated indoor pool has a jacuzzi at one end of the pool as well as a steam room and sauna. It’s open from 7am for those that are keen on an early morning swim. There is a scattering of striped blue and white deckchairs at the far end of the pool from which one can relax and take in the wonderful views of the castle courtyard and the rolling valley beyond.
Since the reopening of Bovey Castle after lockdown, the private dining room has been renamed ‘The Tasting Room’ and is a new fine dining concept. Prepare to have your culinary taste buds teased, tickled and tested. The tasting menu (£85 pp) together with the wine flight (£65 pp) will give you a sophisticated and delicious food and wine paring experience over seven courses. Richard, the knowledgeable sommelier has selected five fine wines to pair with the various courses that are served and beautifully presented by Fergus, the head waiter.
The evening started with some canapes: Exmoor Oscietra caviar and gold leaf, black truffle cheese on toast and smoked beef tartare with charcoal mayonnaise. This was followed by the amuse-bouche, which consisted of torched lobster, cider apple and vanilla with red shiso leaves.
The second course: duck liver and Ximenez parfait, roasted hazelnut with warm brioche was paired with Riesling Smaragd, F.X. pilcher, 2019. The third course: poached and toast fillets of Cornish turbot, caramelised artichokes, chicken jus was paired with Journey’s End Destination, Chardonnay, 2018. The fourth course: Bovey castle estate venison, faggot and red leaves, salt baked celeriac, blackcurrant sauce was paired with Syrah De Trafford, Blueprint, 2016. The fifth course: Plymouth gin and tonic sorbet, crushed meringues and botanicals. The sixth course: Grand Marnier baked Alaska, burnt orange and marinated sultana was paired with Chateau Grand Jauga Sauternes, 2017. The seventh course: Devon blue, truffle honey and pear Waldorf, arrived with a Lafage Maury Grenat, 2019. The tasting ended with petits fours.
Breakfast is served in the elegant Great Western restaurant. I ordered eggs royale, which has become my gold standard in assessing just how good the breakfast is. It was wonderful. Moreover, after the delectable food pairings from the night before, I couldn’t go too far wrong with my choice of freshly brewed black Americano coffee to match.
In a nutshell
With views over the dramatic Dartmoor National Park, outstanding luxury attention to detail, fine dining and a multitude of activities to enjoy, Bovey Castle is great for a UK staycation to indulge all the senses.
To discover more, visit: boveycastle.com
All imagery courtesy of Eden Hotel Collection Group.
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