When friends, colleagues and extended family arrive in the UK from abroad for the first time they usually expect two types of experiences. A few nights in London will tick off most of the big tourist requirements from double decker buses to Buckingham Palace, but you’ll still need to show your guests the lush woodlands and green spaces they imagine from films and TV shows. That’s where Bovey Castle in Devon comes in, and here’s why its the perfect spot for an extended holiday or a short local staycation.
It will probably surprise many Londoners that with only a few hours on the train from the centre of the capital, you can escape to the complete seclusion of Dartmoor National Park. You’ll feel like you’re in a Richard Curtis movie bumbling around in Land Rovers and wellington boots like a proper Hugh Grant. If that’s what you want…
As a city boy myself, and someone who travels a lot, it still catches me off guard when I end up in a place like this after finishing a day in the office. To get to Bovey Castle, I probably spent as much time on the train as I would on any other day getting from my home to my workplace. The journey is best done just before rush hour so you can get a seat, but its not that long a trip anyway. You could of course drive here too, and once you arrive you won’t need to worry about getting behind the wheel again unless you want to go off-roading.
Originally built by the WH Smith dynasty in 1907 and first opened as a hotel in 1930 by the Great Western Railway, the neo-Elizabethan architecture of the main house and grounds appeals to couples and families alike. Bovey Castle is made up of 60 rooms and suites and a number of self-catering country lodges scattered within the estate’s stunning grounds.
The Lodges are one of the big attractions for anyone looking for a non-traditional hotel stay. Each of the three-storey properties features three en-suite bedrooms, sleeping up to six adults and eight people in total. They are ideal for weekends away with friends or family, with full kitchen facilities, an open plan lounge and dining area, which leads out on to a balcony with views over the grounds. You can also book yourself in for longer periods if you want somewhere away from the crowds for a remote working solution if you are in a like-minded group.
A real home away from home, guests in the lodges can enjoy total privacy whilst also taking advantage of the facilities of a 5-star hotel should they wish. For cosy evenings in, the chefs at Bovey Castle can provide freshly prepared, home-style meals delivered to the door to enjoy without even leaving the comfort of the lodge.
The surrounding National Park is one of the best in the country and somewhere you will want to explore at your own pace. You can pick up guides and get great tips from staff at reception in the main hotel building, where you can also get a sense of the size of the castle. Small villages are dotted around the area and you can opt for traditional roasts or hearty lunches that really showcase the local produce.
The hotel itself offers a fantastic array of dining options. The terrace at Smith’s Brasserie is a great place to view the vast expanse of Bovey Castle and takes advantage of fresh produce too. Local game, lamb, aged Dartmoor Farmers beef and fish from the coast around the Southwest are part of the Mediterranean-influenced dishes you can try.
Keen golfers will delight in the 18-hole championship golf course, designed by J F Abercromby and experiences such as cider and sloe gin making, clay pigeon shooting, archery, fly fishing and off-road driving can be arranged around the estate.
Children can enjoy a tour of the Deer Park, carriage ride and meeting the chickens and ferrets, amongst other engaging activities. The Elan Spa uses ESPA products in treatments which relax, revive and restore the mind, body and spirit.
Be sure to check which activities are on for the time you plan on staying. Most run throughout the year, but there will be some seasonal offers and modifications that might help you with timing your visit.
Getting there: The train from London Paddington to Exeter St. David takes around 2 hours. Exeter St. David is 16 miles away from Bovey Castle and is a 40 minute drive through a scenic route in the Devonshire countryside.
Bovey Castle offers rooms from £325 per night, based on two adults sharing on a B&B basis. Lodges are available from £750 per night, based on up to six adults sharing on a self-catering basis.
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