|LUXURY RESORTS: Bovey castle, Dartmoor, england
|Style: Medieval meets modern
Scene: Middle of the moors
Seen in the lobby: Owners of the VERY flash cars lined up in the car-park, honeymooners, and five star families
I HAVE BEEN dropped right in the middle of a BBC costume drama. I’m not sure which one yet; possibly Brideshead Revisited or Downton Abbey. With, perhaps, a dash of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts thrown in. The scene was set the moment we drove through the imposing gates and down the long winding driveway. And I definitely found myself looking for hidden cameras when a porter attired in tartan plus fours, waistcoat and tweeds opened our car door with a decidedly theatrical flourish. His was the kind of grin that made him perfect for casting as the valet who was just bound to have a dalliance with the youngest daughter of the House. ‘Welcome to Bovey Castle’.
We walk past rows of waxed jackets and green wellie boots, clearly intended as our costumes for the duration, and into the oak paneled lobby. Stained glass windows, staghorn chandeliers and a sweeping staircase are our stage.
Yes, without a doubt Bovey Castle is a fantasy of a place. Even the name is an illusion Bovey isn’t really a castle at all, it isn’t really a stately home either strictly speaking. It is a grand folly a pretender to the throne. This medieval-looking granite pile was actually built in 1906 (which may explain why it’s less draughty and more comfortable than the real thing).
And, shock, horror, it was built with the money from, dare we say it ‘Trade’. The son of W.H Smith (who made his money from newsagents) built this grand illusion on land his father purchased from the Earl of Devon. Although by that time Smith junior had become Lord Hambledon and the metamorphosis was complete.
.Crenelated and colonnaded Smith wanted his home to be more impressive than the real thing. Hence the vaulted, arched ceiling in the incredible Cathedral Room and the carved the Jacobean-style staircase. Bovey is OTT in the best possible way. Medieval-meet-melodrama, history-meets-luxury. We love it. The architect was Walter F. Mills and the master builder was Lewis Bearne, who later built Lutyens’ famous Castle Drogo (which, like Bovey, was owned for a while by the ebullient Peter de Savary). In its latest incarnation the castle became part of the Eden collection in June this year.
Our suite looks over the 18 hole championship golf course and the wilds of Dartmoor beyond. The 64 rooms and suites are currently decorated interior designer Annabel Elliot with beautiful wallpaper and soft furnishings and specially selected bureaus and armoires. And the new owners will be pouring millions into more refurbishment. Two million pounds has gone into the first phase of the planned five-year revamp of the Castle. Design firm NHInteriors, with Design Director Marian Cartter of the Eden Hotel Collection have already transformed the ground floor. A July 2015 reveal shows The Edwardian restaurant, now the Great Western Restaurant, the library, the spa and Smith’s brasserie all have a new castle-cool design. In Smith’s there’s a new theatre kitchen built around a fire-pit centre. Next on Eden Hotel Collection’s list: bedrooms and bathrooms in the main building.
For all its impressive interiors Bovey Castle is a very relaxed place. According to the publicity blurb ““Bovey Castle is a place where you can live out your dreams, then put your feet up.” Definitely my kind of country estate. Obedient as always I manage to put my feet up and slouch on squishy sofas and curl up with my kindle in oversized armchairs all over the hotel. At night the stone fire place in the cathedral room produces the obligatory roaring fire and afternoon tea in the silk-wallpapered Adams room is overseen by Beaky the grey African parrot who sits in his age in the corner.
Less chatty than Beaky but more efficient as hunters are the two Harrier falcons that resident Falconer, Martin Whitley, produces during his morning falconry display where he also show a number of owls, including a Tiny Owl (collective ahhhs from the crowd) and a bad tempered looking Golden eagle (collective ooohs).
There is so much to do and see at Bovey that it takes all the strength I can muster not to leap up from the lounge and don Hunter Wellies and stride the estate immediately. There is all the usual huntin’, shootin’ (both clay and target) and fishin’ activities; as well as archery, tennis and horse-riding and of course golf on a very decent course.
Little Lords and ladies of the manor in the making have got it made at Bovey Castle. In fact I’ve never stayed at a country manor house that loves them more. (Although Gleneagles is a close run thing). Our son came away determined to marry into the British aristocracy so hooked was he on the joys of country life. The afore mentioned daily hawking display is just made for kids and there is also egg collection, ferret feeding (who can resist?), a playground and an indoor playroom. The Bovey Rangers club, run during school holidays, has classes in camp-fire building, apple pressing raft building and archery, to name just a few country pursuits they’ll love.
The day we leave the weather closes in and grey clouds as dense as pipe smoke fill the air. Looking back the granite building looks less Edwardian fantasy, more haunted house. That’s when I remember Bovey Castle is the original Baskerville Hall from 1939 movie “Hound of the Baskervilles" starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. As I said, it’s a dramatic kind of place.
|Luxury Insider Says... Bovey Castle is pronounced Buvee Castle as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (we couldn’t think of a more refined example).
|Key Count: 64 rooms and suites. Plus self-contained lodges dotted around the estate.
|Ultimate Luxury: The four Grand Suites. All are different so a bespoke booking service helps allocate guests the room the suits best.
|Most Indulgent Moment: Afternoon tea in the Cathedral Room or the Adams Room, or the library - where ever you like, they’ll bring it.
|Insider Secrets: WH Smith founded newsagents in Victorian railway stations. He became a Member of Parliament and rose to be First Lord of the Admiralty. He was immortalised by Gilbert and Sullivan, in H.M.S. Pinafore as the man who “polished up that handle so carefullee/That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee...!".
|The Little Things: So many complementary activities - who can resist ferret feeding?
|Junior Luxies: Will NEVER want to leave. THE most kid-friendly country house
|Dent in the platinum:
|Luxury Hotels Link: www.boveycastle.com, www.prideofbritainhotels.com, www.edenhotelcollection.com
Hilary Doling 16/3/15, updated 1/8/15
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