Hotel Review: The Lodges at Bovey Castle, Dartmoor in Devon
Dartmoor is the definition of serenity – a place where time seems to slow down, affording you more of those precious minutes to reflect and gaze out among the miles of stunning landscape at your feet.
If an escape is what you require and you’d like a smattering of luxury and adventure thrown in there too then the five star Bovey Castle Hotel might be just the place you need to visit. The estate sits among 275 acres of divine Dartmoor land with unspoilt views and holds a championship golf course, a spa, two restaurants, a bar, shop, some beautiful classically-styled public spaces along with many events and activities to partake in, both relaxing and adrenaline-fuelled.
As well as 60 individually decorated rooms in the castle building, there are 22 luxury lodges set away from the main hotel to add some anonymity to your stay, if you wish, or to enjoy a group or family trip. Akin to a little village, the lodges are set among some beautiful woodland, some with views to a picturesque lake at the bottom, and all sit in a peaceful spot, just waiting for the serenity to start seeping in.
Staying in a lodge offers the best of both worlds – you have plenty of space to lounge in your own private area and it offers a more sociable setting for those you are sharing with. You also have the benefits of using all hotel amenities.
Built in the early 2000s, the lodges are all unique but share the same style with differing furnishings and layouts. All have three bedrooms, which can be twin or double, and are spacious and open plan, either laid out across three floors or with a high ceiling. Stone flooring greets you upon entry and the lounges hold dark wood flooring with a red carpet. The kitchens have dark glossy tops with wood cupboards but the more noticeable feature has to be the floor to ceiling fireplace in natural stone which separates the lounge from the dining area. All have outdoor decks seating and barbecues coming out in warmer months while some have decks leading out from ground floor bedrooms.
You can choose from a range of in-lodge dining options such as breakfast or barbecue packages right up to dinner brought to your door, which I think is a great idea. And for those nights where you’d like to dress up and be waited on hand and foot, Bovey Castle’s resident eateries, Smiths Brasserie and Great Western Restaurant await.
I love the style of this brasserie, with diners chatting creating a relaxed atmosphere. The décor is spot on too, fitting in so well with its surroundings with a subdued woodland theme, deer portraits, large plants scattered about, an abundance of wood and natural shades. I enjoyed a drink on the terrace in the afternoon and, before dinner, on some large curved leather sofas, which surround a large fireplace, and was so relaxed and happy chatting that I could have stayed there drinking all night, if dinner wasn’t calling!
The menu was plentiful, filled with locally obtained seafood, salads and small plates, steaks and other British classics. It took ages for me to decide but I finally opted to start with the poached lobster, smoked salmon, confit vine tomato and basil macaroni, and it was delicious. It was a hearty bowl, full of flavour, decadence and creaminess and I could have eaten it all over again. Next up was the ‘Dartmoor Jail Ale’ slow braised estate venison pie with honey roast roots and juniper gravy. The pie meat and juices were rich and tasty and it doesn’t get more local than venison from the estate. I had some triple cooked chips on the side, which I didn’t really need as the sweet roasted roots were enough and the chips were a little underdone – ironic for triple cooked chips!
I ate a simple, yet delectable, dessert of Steamed ‘Tate and Lyle’ golden syrup pudding with orange scented custard. The custard had a lovely gentle flavour and the sponge was delicate, moist and delicious.
I had to stop myself from ordering the lobster and smoked salmon macaroni for lunch the next day, though it was not easy! However I do recommend sharing a selection of small plates including the smoked haddock fish cakes, which comes with a tartare sauce, the pigs and hogs pudding fritters with a baked apple and rosemary dip and the garden board, which consists of heritage carrots, pickled roots and winter vegetables, artichoke cream, hazelnut pesto and flat breads. Yum.
GREAT WESTERN RESTAURANT
Open for breakfast and dinner, the hotel’s 2AA awarded fine dining restaurant offers carefully crafted dishes in an Art Deco setting. Dinner here is a must if you are staying – a lot of effort is involved in each course, from the canapés to the petit fours, and the restaurant is like something from a bygone era. Enjoy a three course offering for £65 (with supplements).
Dinner really starts in the neighbouring Oak Bar where you are offered the menus and canapés, giving you time to sip one of the many cocktails (a Bellini went down very well) and decide what delights you’d like to try for dinner. The wood panelled walls, large ornate fireplace and decorative plasterwork on the ceiling reflect the elegant, classic décor of much of the rest of the public spaces in the hotel. The sounds of the piano being played drifted through and I felt like I had stepped backed in time a few decades, and I loved it.
Consisting of a mixture of flavours and textureful delights, I loved the canapés of light sweet corn mousse with a salty cracker, beetroot tartare in a crispy cone (gorgeous!) and a creamy cheesy filled chioux bun. After being seated in the restaurant some more samplers were offered consisting of a leek and potato veloute with a salmon foam as well as a bread basket with plain and seaweed butter.
For starter I opted for the Brixham crab and poached Cornish lobster with green apple, avocado and vanilla buttermilk crunch. This cold dish held excellent quality seafood along with some lovely fresh, crisp textures, while a white wine from Bologna was a great pairing from the sommelier. Additions of bright green apple gel, small cubes of avocado and crisp beetroot made this a winning dish, along with the thoughtful presentation of the ingredients.
I had a long wait for my main course, the wait was made sweeter with some good conversation with my dining partner and a complimentary glass of Champagne, but service was slow on this evening. My main course arrived and it was a gorgeous plate of rich and delightfully textured food. A roast fillet of Dartmoor beef was served with beef cheek, boulangere, grelot onions and celeriac. Complemented with a glass of Cotes du Rhône, the beef was perfectly matched to the deep and silky-smooth wine. The top-quality meat had a wonderful texture, while a squid ink and tapioca crisp added a crunchy element and its unusual black colour. The beef cheek was sandwiched between layers of crispy potato and a delightful gravy was a perfect accompaniment to the meat. It was worth the wait.
I saw the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘soufflé’ on the dessert menu and I didn’t think to carry on reading. Even better was the the fact that it was a hazelnut and chocolate soufflé and served with praline ice cream. Divine. The gentle, succulent nature of the soufflé was sumptuous and the nutty ice cream was a great match, especially when dunked in the middle of the hot soufflé, as suggested. A dark chocolate disc emblazoned with the hotel’s logo sat on top of the soufflé and was lovely as it melted. A winning dessert for me.
Breakfast in Great Western Restaurant offers one of the most sumptuous settings to enjoy the first meal of the day. The surroundings are elegant and relaxing and the options are plentiful but it took a while to get a seat and even longer to catch someone’s attention to place an order.
Choose items from a hot and cold buffet or freshly cooked options from the kitchen such as crushed avocado and poached egg on an English muffin; American pancakes with streaky bacon and maple syrup; cinnamon French toast with berries or smoked haddock, herb butter, poached egg and lemon.
I would certainly recommend the avocado and egg option – perfectly cooked poached eggs with a bright orange buttery yolk sit on a tower of smashed avocado and English muffin – a great way to begin the day.
There are quite a few activities you can partake in during your stay, including cider and sloe gin tasting, shooting, archery, a morning falconry display and, for the kids, feeding the baby goats or survival camp, among many more.
I had the most fun Land Rover driving experience with Hannah, we took a number of routes which at times seemed impossible for the car to do but it did! She was very informative about the car itself and how it does the things it does such as driving itself up steep, rocky hills in first gear with no need for pedals. It was great fun being thrown about among the specially designed wooded routes over rocks, through puddles, up and down steep hills all around the vast estate. It was a really fun experience and I would love to do it again and could think of a few friends and family members who would love the experience too!
IN A NUTSHELL
When you’re at Bovey Castle there’s no forgetting that you’re in the countryside, the decor in Smiths, the local venison on the menu, the lodges that offer the ideal woodland retreat and the outdoor activities are all typical country pursuits. There’s no better place than Dartmoor to escape and indulge yourself in some five-star fun before real life starts calling again.
Address: Dartmoor National Park, North Bovey TQ13 8RE
Phone: 01647 445000