When I first visited Bovey Castle during the Christmas holidays back in 2010, I didn’t quite realise just how special it would become to my husband and I. Each time we drive through the grand gates and drive through the golf course and up to the hotel I get a feeling of great excitement and when we leave, a twinge of sadness. This was about our 8th visit to Bovey Castle and with each visit, many more great memories are made.
Holding an unrivalled position within a 275-acre estate on Dartmoor National Park, Bovey Castle is aspirational in its meticulous delivery of luxurious hospitality, exhilarating and traditional country house pursuits, sumptuous décor and roaring log fires. Built at the turn of the 20th century, heritage and history at the heart of the hotel, which was constructed in the neo-Elizabethan style of oak-panelled rooms, striking fireplaces and ornate plaster ceilings.
I find the history of the hotel quite amazing and it can still be felt in every room. The house was built by the son of William Henry Smith as one of the family’s numerous country retreats. During the First World War, the Manor House became a convalescent home for officers and as a military hospital when war broke out again in 1939. The hotel and golf course opened in 1930 and the hotel entertained many celebrities, including Herr von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s ambassador, who booked a whole floor for himself, his wife and a large number of servants and guards. Following the Second World War, 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, shortly becoming one of England’s finest courses. The Manor House became Bovey Castle in 2003.
When my partner proposed in December 2012 it was without question that we would marry at Bovey Castle, with the resident owl delivering our wedding bands and a spot of ferret racing after the speeches. The weekend in November 2013 was perfect and it was amazing to be able to share such a special place with our friends and family. Since we have returned for our anniversary and when our little boy was just 5 months old.
So this year, when my husband surprised me with a family weekend away staying in one of Bovey’s 22 luxury lodges with both sets of grandparents, I was over the moon. Before checking into our lodge we had some lunch in the hotels’ Brasserie, with views over the hotel’s wonderful grounds and straight away it felt like only yesterday we were here.
The beauty of the hotel this time of the year is that each living room in the main house has a roaring log fire, making it so easy to relax in peaceful, warm surroundings. At the heart of the hotel is the Cathedral Room (where we married), with its oak panelling and minstrels gallery. The array of activities at the hotel is pretty spectacular, from falconry, archery, and tennis, to Cider and Sloe Gin making. Since we last visited they have also introduced an off-road driving experience. Sadly as I am nearing 6 months pregnant I wasn’t able to take part in this activity, but it gives us an excuse to return after the baby is born. However, we did take part in a private family archery session which was fun, if not competitive and also enjoyed the daily falconry display on the terrace.
Since our last visit, the spa has been refurbished and now offers Espa treatments. During our stay, I was lucky enough to experience two of their prenatal treatments, which were totally divine. One consisted of a back and head massage with a relaxing facial, the other was a full body massage – which I was definitely in need of. Both therapists were so aware and knowledgeable when it comes to knowing what positions I would be comfortable in and where my muscles most needed attention. I did my best on both occasions not to drift off to dreamland and enjoy every minute. The pools changing room areas had also been given a makeover since our last visit, which was where I headed after both treatments. What I love about the swimming pool area is that the day beds look out over Dartmoor National Park and the hotels’ gorgeous golf course. So whilst it may be on the chilly side outdoors, I am lying in my swimwear enjoying the hot steam room, beautiful pool, and wonderful view. During this time my husband hit the golf course, a beautiful yet challenging 18-hole golf course. However, he came back happy with his performance and was keen to tell me about the beauty of the setting.
Over the long weekend, we hardly left the hotel; just once for a muddy walk to North Bovey. For me, this is the perfect country retreat and a unique experience of true English luxury. For us, it’s a home-from-home and we are already planning our next visit, but this time with two children in tow.