‘Austere on the outside, welcoming on the inside’: The Mail’s Inspector reviews Devon’s Bovey Castle


The Inspector calls at Bovey Castle in Devon and says that while’s it’s austere on the outside, it’s welcoming on the inside with ‘the biggest inglenook fireplace you’ll ever encounter’

  • Bovey Castle was built by the son of William Henry Smith of WHSmith fame, reveals the Inspector
  • ‘It’s a proper resort,’ he declares. Activities on offer include golf, tennis, archery and clay pigeon shooting
  • Inside there are 60 rooms and two restaurants, with the huge fireplace located in the ‘Cathedral Room’ 
  • Remember, the Inspector pays his way… and tells it like it is

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Quite a welcoming committee awaits as we arrive at Bovey Castle on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. On closer inspection, the dozen or so casually dressed men standing by the entrance to this baronial former stately in Devon have just completed their round of golf and are about to embark on a few rounds in the bar.

‘Come on in,’ says one. It’s early evening and this extraordinary house is bathed in sunlight. It looks Elizabethan but was, in fact, built at the turn of the 20th century by the son of William Henry Smith of WHSmith fame. Peter de Savary owned it for a while but since 2014 it’s been part of the Eden Hotel Collection.

From the outside, it’s austere; inside you’re made to feel welcome and there’s lots going on. The golf course surrounds the house and down in the valley there’s fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting, horse carriage rides, tennis, a deer park, archery. A proper resort.

Bovey Castle looks Elizabethan, says the Inspector, but was built at the turn of the 20th century by the son of William Henry Smith of WHSmith fame

Pictured above is the Cathedral Room at Bovey Castle, which contains 'the biggest inglenook fireplace you’re ever likely to encounter'

Pictured above is the Cathedral Room at Bovey Castle, which contains ‘the biggest inglenook fireplace you’re ever likely to encounter’

The noticeboard near the front door, carries a list of activities. We’ve just missed a falconry display and the ‘meet the ferrets and chickens’ experience.

Our room doesn’t have the best of views (we’re paying £410 for dinner, bed and breakfast) but it’s extremely comfortable in an old-fashioned sort of way, with carpet, pelmets and large bathroom with its own window.

There are only 60 rooms so there’s a great sense of space. There are two large restaurants at either ends of the building — one for lunch and dinner, the other for breakfast — and the wood-panelled Cathedral Room near reception has the biggest inglenook fireplace you’re ever likely to encounter.

There are only 60 rooms at Bovey Castle, notes the Inspector, 'so there's a great sense of space'

There are only 60 rooms at Bovey Castle, notes the Inspector, ‘so there’s a great sense of space’

There are two large restaurants at either ends of the building — one for lunch and dinner, the other for breakfast

There are two large restaurants at either ends of the building — one for lunch and dinner, the other for breakfast

A golf course surrounds Bovey Castle and down in the valley there’s fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting, horse carriage rides, tennis, a deer park (above), and archery

A golf course surrounds Bovey Castle and down in the valley there’s fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting, horse carriage rides, tennis, a deer park (above), and archery

The golfers appear to have their own private dining room and so we have the almost undivided attention of the mainly Romanian staff in the restaurant, where our starters arrive suspiciously promptly. But there’s no faulting my burrata, followed by fillet steak.

Finding enough chefs and waiting staff is a problem now so we are forgiving at breakfast when not a lot happens for ten minutes after sitting down. Then we’re told the coffee machine is broken.

But the staff are full of apologies and I enjoy a cracking eggs benedict. At checkout we meet an American, here for the golf. ‘It’s a fiendishly difficult course but the whole environment is memorable, don’t you think? he says. We’re tempted to agree.

TRAVEL FACTS

Bovey Castle, North Bovey, Moretonhampstead, Devon, TQ13 8RE.

Doubles are priced from £325 B&B. For more information, call 01647 445000 or visit boveycastle.com.

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