Of all the different places we stayed around England, two places stood out as (our) my favorites, but of the two, one was just exceptional! The Bovey Castle is more than just an accommodation. Labelling it as a resort would not describe it accurately. It’s a destination – an experience – a country retreat from the daily grind of city living.
Staying at Bovey Castle was an indulgence I did not realize I wanted until we had arrived. Don’t get me wrong, I knew very well I had made reservations to stay at the Bovey however, my imagination of where we would be staying was limited in comparison to our arrival at the elegant manor set within an amazingly beautiful park of gentle rolling hills, lush green valleys, and fresh water streams and lakes.
Dartmoor is one of two national parks in Devon. The landscape of Dartmoor undulated with life and history; dotted with ancient ruins, roaming patches of grazing sheep and cattle, and towns with cute thatched roof houses hidden among the hills and valleys. I was reminded of an episode from Jeeves and Wooster where they drive out to Aunt Dahlia’s country home estate, and thought to myself, “This is what that’s like”, but arriving at a grander house! The drive through Dartmoor built up giddy feelings of excitement in the pit of my stomach – cliché, I know.
When you arrive from Moretonhampstead, you drive through an open gate and through the golf course until you reach another gate with a water fountain beyond it. Despite the name, Bovey Castle is really a manor house. It wasn’t always a residence and has had more than one owner. It once served as a hospital during the war. You can find out more about the history of Bovey Castle, here.
Bovey Castle welcomed us with such warmth that we were immediately put at ease of any doubts of “fitting in” in such an elegant establishment. After checking-in, we were given a tour of the manor by the hostess. There are two restaurants, The Edwardian Grill, which is their dining room serving contemporary English cooking, while The Castle Bistro is a more casual restaurant. The pool, sauna, and steam rooms are downstairs. There is a spa, which we did not have an opportunity to use. The Bovey had several salon type rooms, for guests to lounge in. All the rooms are tastefully decorated with a fireplace and plush seating.
There is the Oak Bar that stays open as late as a guest is in the room. The bar is stocked with various liquors. There is a wall featuring an extensive collection of Scotches, whiskeys, and single malts. There is the library where you can sit and read by the fireplace. There is a sitting room that seemed to cater to the ladies. I say this because of how it is decorated, whites and cream tones, portraits of women hung on walls, a big pretty bay window which filled the room with natural light, plenty of comfortable seating, especially around a cozy fireplace. There is grand sitting room with double height ceiling and a giant fireplace. The hostess explained that afternoon tea is served in the grand sitting room.
We walked out to the terrace and she explained the extent of the property, the walks we could take (though not limited), fishing, falconry show in the morning, and of course, golf. The tour ended by the reception where she explained there is a sign up sheet for the various activities offered at Bovey Castle, which included tours of the moor, shooting, gin making, and falconry.
As I mentioned in one of the earlier post, it was a long drive to Devon from Winchester, and we made an impromptu stop to visit Stonehenge along the way so when we arrived at Bovey Castle, we were relieved to not be on the road. We checked into our room, which was a comfortable size. It was tastefully furnished with a double bed, a writing desk with chair, an arm-chair by the window, armour to hang your clothes and where we found the robes, tellie, mini fridge stocked with milk and water, dried fruit and nuts and fresh strawberries for our snacking pleasure. Being that the Bovey is located in a park, wireless is not available however there is a cable that you can connect to your laptop for internet access. The bathroom was narrow but spacious. Plenty of towels and slippers. I loved the design of shower; it was doorless! The shower enclosure was made of curved glass that you entered, which also kept water from splashing out to the rest of the bathroom.
After we were settled in our room and freshened up, we went for a walk of the surrounding area. The sky was slightly overcast but the clouds were slowly clearing away for the sun.
We then had full afternoon tea in the grand sitting room. The experience was everything I had imagined it would be; a pot of tea and the three-tiered tray stand of sandwiches, scones, and pastries. We were seated in one section of the room which gave us a wonderful vantage not only of the room but also of the other guests who were having tea. Afternoon tea service was impeccable – inviting, attentive, and discreet.
British afternoon tea is taken between 3pm and 5pm and along with your pot of tea, a scone is served with some spreads that may include strawberry jam, butter, and clotted cream. However the traditional or full British afternoon tea is the experience most visitors to the UK seek. A pot of tea is served with a three-tiered tray of delightful goodies. From the bottom up, you start with simple sandwiches with the crust removed. The filling may include egg, salmon, and cucumber. The next tray is the scones with the spreads. Clotted cream is not always offered but since we were in Devon, we had a generous serving of Devonshire cream. The top tray are dainty pastries and/or cookies.
After a relaxing afternoon of refreshing mint tea and lovely treats, we returned to our room to collect our swimsuits and proceeded to the pool. We relaxed in the steam room and sauna, alternating between the two rooms. While TH continued on with the rooms and a dip in the pool, I relaxed in a lounge chair looking out to the gorgeous vistas of Dartmoor. The sun was shining, and there were some cows grazing in the distance.
In the evening, we dined at the Edwardian. We were seated at the corner towards the end of the room, which gave us a great view of the restaurant and the other guests who were also dining. The service was friendly and professional. The food was carefully prepared, and plated beautifully. We enjoyed our dinner. The fois gras starter was delightful especially paired with rhubarb. The Cornish hen wad a bit dry but tasted good. TH loved his lamb stew.
Breakfast is served in The Edwardian Grill, which is a buffet of various fruits, yogurts, cereals, cold meats, juices, and pastries. You can also order hot breakfast from the menu as well.
On the second evening, we had dinner in the Castle Bistro after a long day visiting Cornwall. The food served at the Bistro was very good! TH ordered the pizza and he just devoured it happily! I had the leg of lamb and the meat just fell off the bone. It was flavorful and succulent!
Our rooms were always turned down for the evening. Our first night, they left a small package of toffee colored cubes in a cellophane bag, which I eventually figured out was clotted cream fudge. I was skeptical of it at first assuming it would be sugary sweet. I was wrong. It had a wonderful dense grainy texture, which softened into a delicate cream before it melted away in your mouth. They only left one package and have not been able to find anything comparable. I can still feel the dense fudge as I cut a piece of it with my teeth and taste the intoxicating mixture of sugar and cream. The only thing I have left to remember it by is just the black ribbon with the name Bovey Castle written in silver which was used to tie the cellophane bag.
The staff at Bovey Castle are wonderfully accommodating, courteous and professional. The guest rooms were always tidied up and turned down for the evening. The public rooms on the main floor are always kept clean and orderly. Fresh apples were available to guests at the reception desk and bottled water were by the entrance for guests to take along with them on their adventures. There were also tall rubber boots for guests who wanted to walk around in case the terrain was on the muddy side. Mountain bikes were also readily available too and they were parked outside the entrance.
The value of staying at Bovey Castle is not cheap however given the quality of the hotel, the location, the services, and amenities; the price is reasonable. We stayed in the Classic double room at 199 GBP per night for two nights, which was inclusive of breakfast and taxes. I would do it all over again but stay longer and sign up for the various activities. You may view the full list here.
We were both sad to leave but we still had lots of England to see. However, if I could have changed our itinerary, I would have, and stayed an extra two days. But at least we had an opportunity to stay, and now we know what incredible adventures await for us when we return to Bovey Castle in the future.
For more information about Bovey Castle, please go to their website.