Every princess (and prince) needs to stay at a castle at some point in their lives, so when we heard about Bovey Castle, located in the heart of the beautiful Dartmoor National Park, we put it on our travel wish list for the recent half-term.
This is our review of Bovey Castle and what it offers families.
Who said luxury and kids don’t mix? We love five-star hotels and if I’m being honest, we did have some initial reservations about whether the hotel would be suitable for kids, but we needn’t have worried. Bovey Castle ticked all the right boxes for a perfect family retreat in Devon.
The moment we drove through the gates of the 275 acre Bovey Castle Estate we knew that we had arrived somewhere very special.
Travelling down the mile-long private drive, which meanders through its pristine golf course, the girls shouted from the backseats of the car that they could see the castle.
Perched on the hill was a beautiful baronial granite castle. It felt like we had been transported into a fairytale movie.
When our car stopped at the entrance to the hotel, a gentleman dressed in tweed country attire warmly welcomed us to the hotel. Valet parking is included in your room rate and after a long car journey, it was wonderful to know that our car and luggage would be whisked away, allowing us to start enjoying the hotel.
As you walk through the grand entranceway you are greeted with wellington boots and waxed jackets which are freely available to guests to use to explore the beautiful countryside that surrounds the hotel.
This is the perfect place to kick back, relax and soak up the atmosphere in the heart of Dartmoor.
Check in was fast and efficient and we were warmly welcomed by the hotel’s staff who instantly made us feel at home in Bovey Castle. In one of the grand reception rooms off the lobby the girls found Beaky, the hotel’s resident parrot.
Bringing back memories of our fun encounters with Merlot the resident Macaw at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress the girls set off to test Beaky’s vocabulary.
The exterior of the hotel is breathtaking whilst its interior offers the perfect blend of old and new with gorgeous period features including mullioned windows, oak panelling and huge stone fireplaces.
The original Jacobean staircase draws your eyes up to the antler clad chandelier and the upper floors of the hotel where the hotel’s sixty rooms are located.
Because of its unique setting and the fact that we were staying in a castle we were so excited to see our room which added an extra touch of excitement compared to most other hotels.
The girls said a quick goodbye to Beaky and Shaun our bellman accompanied us to our room.
Of the 60 bedrooms at Bovey Castle no two rooms are alike and there are several options for families. We stayed in a spacious junior state room – perfect for a family of 4.
Our room at Bovey Castle was luxurious and really impressive – plush modern fittings and furniture to complement all the charm of the castle.
It was beautifully decorated in a stylish colour palette of greys, sage greens, taupes and pinks complemented with metallic wallpapers and deluxe fabrics – my favourite being the Mulberry cushions.
Shaun gave us a comprehensive tour of our room and its amenities which offered all of the comforts required for a memorable family stay including:
- Large flat screen television
- Complimentary high speed WiFi
- A mini fridge with daily complimentary 2 bottles of still and sparkling water
- Iron and iron board
- Nespresso coffee machine and tea making facilities
- Selection of magazines.
The hotel welcomes children with lovely little touches such as child size bathrobes, slippers, apples and jelly beans (much to the girls delight).
Not to be left out we also received a gorgeous fruit platter and a decanter of estate-made sloe gin (more on this later) along with a hand written note from the hotel which was a lovely welcoming gesture.
Our enormous bed was so soft with the highest quality bed linen ensuring a perfect night’s sleep.
Thoughtfully located beside the beds as well as throughout our room were plenty of electrical sockets, which are essential for travellers these days with so many pieces of technology to charge.
The hotel offers complimentary high speed WiFi throughout the hotel which typically is one of the first things the girls ask about when we check-in, so they can use their iPads – however at Bovey Castle there was so much to keep them occupied they rarely asked to use them.
In fact if you are after a digital-detox then Bovey Castle is a great place to visit – it was so peaceful to not have a constant mobile signal.
I loved the fact that the room had huge mullioned windows (as you would expect from a castle) but what made this even more amazing was the view when you peered through them.
The vistas over the hotel’s beautiful grounds and Dartmoor National Park were spectacular. At night, with the windows open, you could hear the sound of owls hooting away in the distance.
The bathroom in our room was incredible and immaculate. The highlight for us was the breath-taking freestanding bath, it was the perfect place to relax.
A separate walk-in rainfall shower an abundance of ESPA toiletries were provided along with lots of soft white fluffy towels and sumptuous fluffy bath robes hung on the back of the door.
The girls in particular loved relaxing in their robes after their shower before getting dressed for our evening meal.
A lounge area gave us as a family a greater sense of space to relax in comfortable surroundings with great views over the countryside. The spacious well-lit desk was popular with the girls as they used it for activities such as drawing and colouring in.
We have stayed at five-star hotels in the UK previously and not had turn down service, so it was thoughtful that this was offered at Bovey Castle.
Each evening it was lovely to return home to our room to find a note left on the bed containing the following day’s weather forecast, along with some West Country fudge and bottled water on the bedside table.
One of the main reasons we tend to stay at luxury hotels around the world is because we spend a lot of time eating on property and Bovey Castle did not disappoint.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were flawless in food quality and family friendliness.
On both nights of our stay we dined at Smith’s Brasserie, named after WH Smith who was the house’s former owner.
The brasserie was really welcoming and family friendly, with tasty choices on the children’s menu to tempt our girls.
The children’s menu offered a good range of dishes even for the fussiest of eaters and the girls selected the fish and chips and garlic bread to start.
To start, we chose the William’s Farm warm free range Scotch duck egg, Bramley apple chutney, watercress salad and pan fried duck egg “Bubble & Squeak”, creamed leeks, smoked bacon and a selection of breads for the table.
Moving on to mains, I couldn’t resist the fillet steak and my husband chose the sirloin steak and triple cooked chips, both of which were delicious.
To finish I chose chocolate bread and butter pudding with orange marmalade and local Salcombe dairy ice cream and my husband selected warm pear and almond tart accompanied by ginger ice cream. From the children’s menu the girls chose a chocolate pudding and vanilla ice cream .
The dinner experience was excellent with very attentive, highly trained staff. It was so good in fact that we returned on our second night and once more our meals were delicious and the service impeccable.
What made our return visit even more memorable was the fact that the hotel brought out a birthday cake to celebrate Holly’s birthday which was a lovely surprise and a really thoughtful gesture. This is just one of the many ways that we felt so much at home during our stay.
Breakfast the next morning at the Great Western restaurant was delightful. We were greeted upon arrival by the friendly staff and a beautiful buffet selection of continental items, as well as an a la carte menu for hot breakfast items, awaited us.
The hotel created American style pancakes to order for the girls which quickly became their staple breakfast diet each morning.
In the spectacular cathedral room we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the castle. It’s not every day that you get to have lunch on comfy sofas in front of a feature fireplace with views from the huge windows that looked out over Dartmoor.
This impressive castle with its Jacobean-style exterior looks older than it really is. In 1890 the founder of newsagents WH Smith bought 5,000 acres from the Earl of Devon and 15 years later in 1905, his son Frederick Smith built the castle as his holiday home.
The Great Western Railway Company turned it into a golfing hotel in 1930. In 2015, as a result of a multi-million pound refurbishment by its current owners, the Eden Collection, the hotel now oozes luxury.
A barometer of a good hotel from the kids’ perspective is how good the hotel pool is and Bovey Castle didn’t disappoint. Children are allowed during specific hours for family swimming, 9am – 5.30pm.
The Art Deco inspired swimming pool overlooks the sun terrace and the River Bovey, offering stunning views for miles over Dartmoor.
The spa facilities included a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room which was so relaxing and the girls enjoyed the pool so much that they didn’t want to leave.
As our room was so close to the spa, it was too difficult to ignore and I treated Chloe to a princess manicure.
Some of my favourite aspects of Bovey Castle were the comfortable seating areas within elegant public rooms such as the lounge and the library which is located just off of the lobby.
The stylish bar offered a good selection of beers, wines plus 60 different single malts displayed on one wall including one from 1943 at £300 a dram!
A favourite room of ours was the Adam room with its roaring fire, ornate ceilings, period furnishings and it was also where Beaky (the chatty parrot which the girls adored) lived.
Even though it was winter, one of the girls’ favourite activities was the chance to run and explore the perfectly manicured grounds located just below the main terrace of the hotel. In the summer months it must be just delightful to spend it in the stunning grounds of the hotel.
During our walks we came across a playpark for the kids and a croquet lawn. Even in winter it was picture perfect and so British.
This was the first time we had played croquet, but in no time we were having great fun trying to hitting the wooden balls through hoops with our mallets.
What caught our eye were the 22 three-storey granite country lodges within the grounds.
With three en-suite bedrooms, fully fitted kitchens, a dining room and lounge with views overlooking the lakes and gardens, they looked the perfect option for an extended stay at the castle.
We liked them so much in fact we are currently planning a return trip during the summer months.
The resort is well known for its 18 hole championship golf course designed by the same people who created the Gleneagles and Turnberry golf courses in Scotland. Along with golf there were so many activities to take part in including tennis, bike trails, fishing lakes, archery and the list goes on.
There was so much for all the family to do at Bovey Castle. It is such a great multi-generational family hotel. Our days were packed at Bovey Castle. You always know when you have found a special hotel when your kids don’t want to leave.
Every morning after breakfast the girls would rush off to meet the hotel’s resident chickens, where they had great fun feeding them and collecting their freshly laid eggs.
They also got to meet the Bovey ferrets which my youngest in particular found captivating from start to finish.
My youngest never got tired of feeding the chickens or visiting the ferrets as this was her favourite activity at the castle and that’s saying something, especially as the hotel had a fantastic pool.
Then it was off to the expansive terrace which overlooked the lawns for the 10am falconry display, another of the complimentary activities at Bovey Castle.
The falconry at the castle is provided by Martin Whiteley, who was an intriguing character with a deep passion for predatory birds including our favourite, Rosie the bald eagle .
Watching these magnificent birds, which included peregrine falcons and hawks up close and overhead, was such a unique experience.
We missed the Bovey Rangers club run in the school holidays because our half term was different to the Devon schools but there were still numerous chargeable pre-bookable activities that children and adults could take part in at Bovey Castle.
We started our morning taking a spin in one of the hotel’s fleet of Land Rover defenders expertly driven by Quentin on an exhilarating off-road driving experience.
My husband loved this activity and the girls and I shrieked with laughter as we navigated around this awesome muddy woodland track with steep inclines and descents. It’s the only one of its kind at a five-star resort in the UK and was such a memorable family experience.
After a quick refresh the hotel offered us a golf buggy transfer to the nearby archery range which was a great way to get acquainted with the vast grounds of the hotel and its facilities.
We loved our archery experience at Bovey Castle, it was such a fun activity that all the family could enjoy. It was the first time that we have had proper tuition and under the extremely guided eye of our instructor Quentin, he had us all hitting the targets quickly.
En-route back to the hotel Quentin stopped off at an inconspicuous looking barn. As he opened its doors we found that this was where guests get to make sloe gin and cider.
It was such a romantic setting for an adults only activity as the barn is only lit by candle light. After a quick sample of the produce it was back to the kids and no doubt more pool time!
Bovey Castle deserves its reputation as a five star family bolt hole, it was truly one of the finest hotels we have stayed at in the UK and is highly recommended.
The level of service received during our stay was exceptional and this high level of customer service is a credit to the hotel management because it really does make a difference during your stay.
In theory 2 nights at Bovey Castle should have been plenty, but there was so much to do, time just flew by. We can’t wait to return.
North Bovey, Dartmoor National Park, Moretonhampstead, TQ13 8RE, Devon.
01647 445 000