Nestled in the Moors, surrounded by 275 acres of countryside and woodlands, stands Bovey Castle; a majestic castle, which first opened as a hotel and golf resort in 1930 by Great Western Railways.
Just a 45 minute car journey from the busy town of Exeter, Bovey Castle is incredibly easy to reach from London (a train from Paddington is just 2.5 hours) and provides the ideal escape from the bustling city. Complete with two restaurants, a bar, a spa, a pool, and grounds offering a range of activities (not just golf), Bovey Castle is somewhat of a destination hotel.
Bovey Castle has 60 elegantly decorated rooms, differing in size and price, as well as 22 lodges, hidden away on the grounds. We stayed in one of the State Rooms, which was so large I could have fit my London flat inside it, twice. We had stunning views over the terrace, which stretched out to the Moors, a ginormous bed, TV, cosy armchairs perfect for reading a book, and a grand bathroom with a bath and separate shower room (also larger than my flat).
Each room has a mini fridge with fresh milk, plus still and sparkling water. There’s also a wooden box of teas, coffee and some classic oat biscuits. On the weekend I visited Bovey, I was celebrating my birthday so they kindly left half a bottle of Champagne and a plate of chocolates, which read ‘happy birthday’, in the room as a surprise. A very nice touch.
The hotel has two restaurants, 1 AA Rosette awarded Smith’s Mediterranean and 3 AA Rosette awarded Great Western Grill.
We dined at the Smith’s on our first evening, enjoying a Negroni on the grand terrace in the evening sun (the only sunshine we saw) before dinner.
For a clubhouse-style restaurant, the food is delicious, well-thought-out, and comes in generous portions. We started with delicately battered calamari with a fiery aioli, and fresh figs, melon and parma ham. Craving something fresh, I had the Niçoise salad for my main course, which came with a perfectly grilled fillet of salmon, olives, potatoes, green beans and tomatoes, on a bed of dressed leaves – it was everything I hoped it would be. My partner had the ragu pasta, made from local game, which was rich and hearty. For dessert, we shared a milk chocolate tart, which was topped with a light chocolate mousse. We cleaned the plate in seconds and wished we’d ordered one each.
Open throughout the day, you can also eat lunch in Smith’s too. I highly recommend the club sandwich and the superfood salad. Otherwise, there’s a quaint pub in a village about a 30 minute walk away.
On the second evening, we began with drinks in the bar, playing many a game of Uno, before making our way to Great Western Grill. Just outside the entrance door is a grand piano, where a talented pianist plays throughout the night. You can just about hear the light tapping of the keys in the restaurant, although a part of me wished he was in the room with us.
The restaurant oozes traditional elegance, decorated with chandeliers, dark oak and velvet chairs, a 60s style carpet and pristine white table cloths, which I actually saw the waiters steaming on the table between sittings. The menu is classic yet sophisticated, with dishes like steak tartare paired with truffle mayonnaise and locally made caviar. Similarly, the duck liver parfait is served with aged sherry duck fat brioche. We ordered both as our starters; the steak tartare is possibly one of the best I’ve ever eaten and there was a whole stick of butter in the parfait, so naturally it was a hit too.
Mains include traditional delights such as braised oxtail pie, and native lobster and truffle macaroni cheese. There is also a selection of steaks, grills, and seafood. We both went for seafood. Our eyes lit up as the dishes were placed in front of us; great technique and skill had certainly gone into the cooking and presentation. Delicately cooked fish, with perfectly crispy skin, homemade cannelloni stuffed with crab and sea bass, brought together with a rich bouillabaisse – absolutely delicious.
To compliment our food, we had a bottle of white wine from Georgia, recommended by the sommelier. It was full-bodied, with vibrant acidity, juicy stone fruit and a touch of honeysuckle.
Dessert wine then followed, as did a rich dark chocolate ganache tart and a banana soufflé, and another few games of Uno in the bar. I felt like I was in a 1920s film, sipping whisky and playing poker (of course, we weren’t nearly as sophisticated with our Uno and fresh mint tea, but no one’s judging at Bovey Castle).
Out & About
Being in the middle of the Moors there’s beautiful countryside all around you. Grab a pair of wellies (if it’s wet) from the hotel and go for a walk, join a deer tour, guided by the very knowledgeable staff, play archery, go 4×4 driving or enjoy a quintessentially British afternoon tea in the drawing room.
You’re also not too far from the coast. Exmouth and Torquay are both under an hour away by car, and Exeter provides a good spot for shopping.
Back at the hotel, the spa awaits you. A beautiful indoor pool, sauna and steam room, as well as treatment rooms. I spent a few hours here after breakfast (and a morning run), reading, swimming, and napping in the warmth. It was raining outside; I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
At first, I felt the crowd was slightly older at Bovey Castle, but over the weekend we met a few couples and groups of friends in their mid-30s. There were dogs but no children that we saw.
The Best Thing
Whether you’re looking for activities or a relaxing break, Bovey Castle offers it all, which is ideal for someone like me. We filled our mornings either playing archery or running on the Moors and then relaxed in the spa in the afternoon, punctuated with an afternoon walk. It was just perfect.
Book it: Bovey Castle offers rooms from £239 per night, based on two adults sharing on a B&B basis. Lodges are available from £649 per night, based on up to six adults sharing on a self-catering basis.
Dartmoor National Park,