The building itself – neo-Elizabethan in style – grew ever larger as we crawled along the driveway past golfers on tees and in bunkers, and we were soon met by a 20-something in smart tweeds who invited us to step out of the car in order that it be parked and our luggage brought to reception.
The odour of Old World glamour hangs around the hotel, built by Frederick Smith, later 2nd Viscount Hambleden (and son of W.H. Smith), in the early 1900s; wooden panels, a Jacobean staircase and an antler chandelier are just three of the thousands of details one could spend days cataloguing. Our bags, carried by another bright young thing in tweeds and a battle-hardened wax jacket, followed us to our room at the front and centre of the hotel. Although one of the smaller rooms at Bovey Castle – there are 64 in the main house and private mews, all designed by Annabel Elliot – it was still large enough for a sizeable shoot party to gather in before the off.
Even the small bedrooms at Bovey Castle are big enough for a shoot party. And the views are pretty special too.
The view of the expansive valley from our window is the kind guns pine for ahead of the season’s start; the fresh Devonian air tinting tightly-bound woodlands and the steep grass hillsides facing us were a feast for the senses.
The odour of Old World glamour hangs around Bovey Castle, built by Frederick Smith, later 2nd Viscount Hambleden (and son of W.H. Smith).
We took drinks in the Oak Bar before dinner, a room which nods to Bovey’s heritage without overdoing it; the Chesterfields all within crackling distance of the vast fireplace. The clientele ranged from ladies who lunch to refined Americans, everyone enjoying an enviable array of refreshments including local ale and tropical cocktails. Malt connoisseurs will be immediately drawn to the whisky bottles lined out across the upper shelves (this is the room to doze off in before bedtime).
And so to dinner at Bovey Castle
We dined in the Edwardian Grill, a long room designed in the Art Deco style. It was a three-course affair prepared using some of England’s finest ingredients, arranged with forethought by the team under head chef Marc Hardiman. The tranquil notes of a pianist helped us to idle away the hours and soothe the food envy induced by the sight of fabulous dishes arriving at the tables around us. A night at Bovey Castle will pierce some kind of hole in your pocket, but if you have a special reason for shooting in Devon want an establishment where the courteous and well-presented staff offer a personal service under a roof that sings of a bygone England, then consider it money well spent.
Cost of a double room at Bovey Castle: From £229.
Shoots close to Bovey Castle: Too many to mention, Dartmoor is on the doorstep.
Bovey Castle contact: boveycastle.com or tel. 0844 474 0077.
Shooting Gazette scores for Bovey Castle
Catering: Sophisticated without pretence in traditional surroundings. 8/10
Accommodation: Contemporary rural England. The view from the front windows at dawn is worth the room rate alone. Fourteen self-catering lodges are also available. 8/10
Atmosphere: Relaxed and friendly, stylish and respectable. 8/10
Service: Prompt. The staff were approachable and knowledgeable. 8/10
Suitability for shooters: Bovey Castle can help you find somewhere to shoot and stalk; offer a room for briefings and dinner; will clean your gun; teach your children to shoot; provide you with somewhere to land the helicopter; prepare the game you’ve shot; dry your clothes and walk/ clean/ kennel your dog. There are even whisky tasting and cigar evenings. 10/10