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March 17, 2016
As the rain lashed down and the howling winds of Storm Imogen clawed at the windows, I contemplated whether I’d found the best possible hideaway.
Face down with just my nose and mouth poking through a hole, work began to iron out the hidden tensions of life caught between my shoulder blades, as the seemingly relentless gusts continued outside.
Along the corridor, Molly and Indy our two lively cocker spaniels, were curled up snug in their beds after enjoying a blustery moorland ramble.
Just hours earlier we’d pulled up outside the imposing Bovey Castle to be welcomed by a young footman dressed in his finest tweed breeks, keen to whisk our car away out of sight for two days.
In my ongoing quest to sample some of the best dog-friendly accommodation our country has to offer, I’d decided it was time to crank it up a gear and put five-star luxury through its paces.
A castle only by name, Bovey is an impressive early 20th century Grade II listed mansion in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. A member of the Pride of Britain and Eden Hotel collections, it really is something the Westcountry can be proud of.
The hotel is grand, yet snug, quintessentially English, yet unfussy. Put simply it is elegance, history, adventure and relaxation all rolled into one. Add to that unfaltering customer service and an incredible pet-friendly ethos and you’ve got yourself a gem of a retreat.
Whatever your chosen pursuit from countryside traditions such as shooting, fishing, archery and falconry, through to golf, horse riding, mountain biking and quad biking, Bovey has it nailed. Oh, and if you’ve forgotten to pack your outdoor gear, there’s an array of waxed jackets and wellies in the entrance, so there’s no excuses.
Had the weather been a little more inviting I may have opted to put my prowess at clay pigeon shooting to the test, but instead I chose the more laid back approach – the 20-metre indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and ESPA spa. Bliss!
The pool and combined Jacuzzi is stunning. With dark blue tiles, subtle lighting and the water a perfect temperature, it instantly induces a calm, relaxed state of mind. White-robed guests lay on loungers nearby overlooking the spectacular grounds of Bovey through a large bay window. There are ‘child free’ periods in the pool area so adults can relax in peace and both the nearby steam room and sauna were spotlessly clean and extremely hot!
You don’t have to be a resident of Bovey Castle to enjoy its superb facilities, there’s membership as well as day and half-day packages available – a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
While dogs are more than welcome at the hotel, there are certain areas out of bounds for four paws, including the restaurants (quite right too) and several of the grand relaxation lounges. Well-behaved dogs can be left in the bedrooms, and with ours still exhausted from their afternoon hike, it was time to head down to dinner.
The hotel has two restaurants; the Great Western Restaurant (check opening times) with its elegant art deco decor, and Smith’s Brasserie, stylishly in-keeping with the country theme but with a contemporary twist. Here you can dress up or down and you won’t feel out of place.
Having stumbled come across a few reviews about the food, I was keen to test it out for myself. Bovey Castle has recently welcomed a new head chef Mark Budd, from the 5 star, 3 AA Rosette Alexander House Hotel in Sussex. If Mark was behind the culinary delights we sampled during our stay, he certainly made a positive impression on my taste buds.
I had Smith’s chicken liver parfait and shepherd’s pie, while Bill had English pea soup and the fish pie from the specials board. For desert we shared a cheese board. With the menu the same the second night, we were able to try the other dishes we were torn between the previous night. I opted for Watermelon and Parma ham, roasted lamb fillet and a sticky toffee pudding to die for – highly recommended for those with a sweet-toothed.
Post dinner drinks were taken the luxurious bar surrounded by more than 100 different bottles of whiskey lining the walls, the perfect place to enjoy a game of chess. Then it was back to our luxurious ‘junior state’ room to sink into the sumptuous double bed fit for a king.
Despite the storm still raging the following morning, the dogs needed walking, so it was time to wang on the wellies and waterproofs and dust down the cobwebs of the previous night’s champers.
Before you head out, be sure to grab a copy of Debbie Jenkin’s Walks From Bovey Castle from reception. The booklet contains five stunning walks of varying lengths all starting and finishing at the hotel.
Bovey’s situation on the edge of the moor means the hotel is a gateway to a walker’s paradise. Dogs are welcome throughout the hotel’s grounds with the exception of the 275-acre 18-hole championship golf course.
The course provides a stunning backdrop for any of the shorter routes around the hotel. The immaculate fairways and greens made Bill want to take up the game immediately.
For walkers though, the real prize is outside of the grounds. Jenkins’ routes are all spectacular, even in the teeth of a gale. The river Bovey and Easdon Tor dominate the local landscape and both our walks saw us return to the hotel soaked, but tired and happy.
For those who want to enjoy the luxury of the hotel’s facilities, but prefer the self-catering type of holiday, there’s a range of smart-looking self-catering holiday lodges nestled within the grounds.
Bovey Castle is by no means cheap, but I always believe you get what you pay for. For me, our trip was certainly money well spent and it certainly won’t be long before we’re making a return visit.
Bogey Castle is a member of Pride of Britain Hotels – a collection of 48 privately-owned independent British hotels. Situated in the spectacular Dartmoor National Park, the luxurious hotel has 63 uniquely-appointed bedrooms, 22 stylish lodges, an 18-hole championship golf course and a busy programme of activities including falconry, tennis, cider and sloe gin-making. The impressive Elan spa offers a range of treatments including the 85-minute Full Body Massage (£119) and the 85-minute Back, Face & Scalp Treatment (£120). Rooms start from £179 per night (two sharing, on a room only basis). Dogs are charged at £20 per night including bedding and bowl. Contact Pride Of Britain (0800 089 3929) to book.
As featured in the Plymouth Herald
Pictured: Bovey Castle front entrance