We spent a wonderful few days at Bovey Castle in Dartmoor National Park. By English standards, the hotel has a very short history – built in the early 20th century by the WH Smith family. It is in a spectacular location, set amid a world-class golf course in rolling countryside.
Our entire experience was first rate. From the friendliness of the staff, to the comfortable appointment of the rooms, up to the exceptional quality of the food, we enjoyed every minute.
This little guy sits on the reception desk for a few hours a day. He’s about 7″ tall and utterly charming. There is a falconry on the property, and displays are given several times a week.
Animals lovers ourselves, Glenn and I are always vastly amused by the central role that dogs, in particular, play in English day-to-day life. The hotel’s eminently practical approach to the often messy part of life with canines was illustrated right at the entrance. Note the basket marked “Dog Towels”, and the lineup of Wellington boots, at the ready.
We certainly needed clean up after returning from a four mile walk through field, stream and over stile, route map supplied by the hotel. For reasons unclear to us now, we did not avail ourselves of the wellies on offer at the entrance to the hotel, but set out in our regular footwear. We encountered lots of livestock on our walk — it’s lambing season in Devon.
The “slight drizzle” which had seemed somewhat charming at the outset turned into a downpour halfway through the walk and the paper map disintegrated in my hands. Completely lost, we finally spied the church spire of the nearby town and headed for that. We were tempted to admit defeat and call a taxi from the pub we found, but we reconnoitred, asked for directions and made our way bay to the hotel, soaked to the skin. I have never been so cold. My jeans were plastered to my legs. I rinsed out the mud as best I could in the bathtub, rung them out and hung them to dry over a radiator before getting into a hot shower. A reviving cup of tea and some biscuits put things to rights quite quickly. Glenn may have had something stronger…
Bovey Castle has many comfy spots in which to snuggle up with a book, or indulge in some creature comforts. The panelled bar, shown on left, was a favourite of ours, and tea is always available in one of the lounges.
The formal dining room, papered in a gorgeous Fromental wallpaper, was warm and inviting. We enjoyed several lovely meals here. Whatever pre-conceived notions you may have about poor British food, banish them. The food was imaginative and beautifully prepared. The staff were friendly and attentive, and “George”, the sommelier, went out of his way to find us excellent quality and reasonably-priced wines.
The piece de resistance was the cheese tray. Faced with its more than 50 varieties, we did our level best to work our way through it during our stay. A selection of that breadth requires a strategy, so we tried to confine ourselves to English cheeses we’d be unlikely to encounter back in Canada. It was a close run, but the Lancashire Bomb, a creamy, very flavourful cheddar won our hearts and stomachs. You can see it in the back row; it’s the black, round cheese. The top is cut from the waxy coating to allow scooping of the contents – delicious! We were informed that all the cheeses came from the cheese shop in Tavistock, so we resolved to visit it on the morrow.