There comes a time in every new parent’s life when they have to face up to the reality of a first trip away without junior. It’s a daunting, guilt-inducing, fear-inspiring prospect that gives rise to all sorts of uncomfortable questions. Are we bad for even going? Will the grandparents be able to cope? Will we spend the entire time talking about our child? What if something goes wrong and we’re miles away?
With the above considerations in mind, my wife and I had a fairly specific, borderline-unrealistic goal in mind -- somewhere nice and rural, within driving distance of London (grandparents’ house in Bath en route, please), where peace and quiet (not to mention good food and drink) would be assured. Oh, and not too expensive obviously. It all felt a little unlikely -- then along came the Travelzoo deal for Bovey Castle and ticked every box.
It seemed too good to be true -- in fact, it still seemed that way when we got up on our first day there. Having woken naturally (first time in roughly two years), I squinted into the distance to find my wife still asleep somewhere over on her side of the hundred-acre bed, swung my legs over the side into the complimentary slippers, pulled on my super-soft robe and padded over to the window to look out over the frosty Devon hills, wondering whether or not I could squeeze in another nap between breakfast and my massage later that morning.
The term “luxury” tends to get thrown in around fairly liberally these days, but the 5-star Bovey Castle, in the heart of Dartmoor National Park, easily earns the tag. A falconry display at breakfast sets the tone; if, while sitting down to this avian display over eggs benedict, you happen to notice you’re the only couple in the restaurant, you might just start feeling like the viscount for whom this property was originally built in 1907.
Then there’s the property itself. Given the size of the place and the imposing exterior, it somehow manages to retain an intimate feel, with a smart combination of traditional country style and art-deco furnishings.
And it’s full of little nooks and crannies. You can have afternoon tea in one lounge, an early-evening drink in another, dinner in the main restaurant and a nightcap in yet another lounge (roaring wood fires in all, of course), and then do it all over again the next day.
If you arrive in a child-induced sleep-deprived state, you might find that drifting from one of these lounges to another (via the odd massage in the Sundari Spa) is enough to keep you sufficiently spoiled. If not, you’ll find there’s all manner of stuff to do -- golf (there’s an 18-hole championship course on site), walking, shooting, hot-air ballooning, cocktail-making, archery and even crolf (a cross between golf and croquet). And if that all sounds a little too pastoral, the south Devon coast is just 10 miles away.
To be fair, I did try to go fishing. Sadly, given the December cold snap that accompanied our stay, the lake was frozen over. The lady at reception (and I’m not making this up) did actually despatch a burly man to see if he could break the ice for me, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Twenty minutes later, I was back in the bar with a glass of red in one hand, book in the other, posh canapés on the table in front of me (homemade pork scratchings, pickled quails’ eggs) and an open fire roaring just beyond.
Not a bad start, when you know dinner in the hotel’s Edwardian Grill is still to come. It wasn’t cheap (though the credit included in the deal certainly helped), but considering that the chateaubriand went straight into my “top three steak dinners of all time” list, I'd say it was worth every penny. And where better to sleep it off than back in the ridiculously large bed?