The thoroughly British hotel that has everything covered for family holidays, baronial Bovey Castle near Dartmoor has waxed jackets and wellies at the ready for your moorland adventures en famille. The estate is vast, so there's plenty to do for Smiths of all ages with exhilarating outdoor activities, delicious dining in the award-winning restaurants and a place to pamper yourself in the luxurious Elan Spa.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of red wine; little Smiths (under 14) staying for more than three nights get a Bovey Bear
60, plus 22 three-storey country lodges with kitchens.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in is 4pm, although you're welcome to arrive earlier and use the facilities, have lunch and make yourself at home before your room is available.
Double rooms from £214.43, including tax at 20 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 12.5% per booking on check-out.
Room rates are usually room only. Breakfast costs from £25 for an adult (£15 a child). Under-14s stay in extra beds for £20 a child, a night.
Within the main building, there are two accessible bedrooms, each with a level entry wet room for guests in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. There's a disabled toilet and an emergency alarm.
Please note that the Great Western Grill is currently closed until further notice.
At the hotel
Spa, indoor pool, restaurants, bar, family activities, helipad, 275 acres, gardens, woods, outdoor activities, golf course, driving range, tennis courts, putting green, free WiFi. In rooms: flatscreen TV, mini-fridge, kettle, free bottled water, safe, ESPA bath products, bathrobes and slippers. Lodges have fully equipped kitchens, a DVD player and utility room with washer/drier.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms from the Castle category up can take one extra bed or cot, but the Grand State rooms are much roomier – some have separate living spaces and dining tables – and they all have space for two extra beds. One of the Grand State rooms has a decked balcony directly overlooking the countryside. For bigger families, there are the 22 three-storey self-catering lodges dotted around the grounds; they each have three ensuite bedrooms and sleep a maximum of six adults and two children (with two extra beds). They also have a utility room, outdoor areas, enviably kitted-out oak kitchens with microwaves and dishwashers and a lounge and dining area.
There’s a heated indoor pool which features a whirlpool at one end; it’s adults-only from 7am–9am and again after 5pm (until close at 8pm), but firmly family-friendly for the rest of the day. The area contains a steam room, sauna, a scattering of chic deckchairs and is utterly spotless with fine poolside views over Dartmoor National Park
The Elan Spa uses Espa products in its relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatments; choose from a range of classic massages, body wraps, age-defying facials, aromatherapy and reflexology treatments, pre- and post-natal massages, and Orly mani-pedis. The spa itself is quite basic – a reception leading to a few treatment rooms, but the service and attention to detail are excellent, and there's a gym too (open 7am to 8pm). There is also a Gentleman’s Quarter offering treatments, including wet shaves, all using Trufitt and Hill products.
One medium size dog can be accommodated in a single or Classic room and two dogs in a Castle room or above are welcome (£25 a night, for each dog) with advance notice. See more pet-friendly hotels in Devon.
Very welcome. There are kid-friendly activities and designated family swim times (between 9am and 5pm). Babysitters must be booked in advance. Cots, highchairs and stair gates can be provided and extra beds for under-14s are available for £20 per night.
Anything you can possibly think of, Bovey Castle has thought of it first (if it’s raining, they’ve even got a jacket for you) – from a trampoline, crolf (croquet mixed with golf), falcons and ferrets within the castle’s confines, to the parkland that lurks beyond. Wear out your little ones, so you can unwind over an Armagnac, spend a few hours at the spa, or hit the world-class golf course.
Kids of all ages.
The Castle Room, Valley Room, Junior State Room, State Room and Grand State Room can all fit an extra bed or two (for kids under 15) for £20 a child, each night).
The Playroom opens daily and has supervised sessions during half-terms and school holidays; it contains craft materials, dressing-up chests, puzzles and games, and the brilliant staff will entertain children aged 3–8 with painting, clay-work, puppet-making and imaginative play for up to three hours. Supervised under-3s are also welcome. Prices are £20 per three-hour session or £10 an hour. You can choose to book in advance or sign up on the activities board on a daily basis.
If your 6–14-year-olds love to get stuck in, Bovey Rangers runs during school holidays and half terms; it’s excellent and gives adults a break from all the outdoorsy, adventurous stuff you might not fancy. A Bovey Ranger might spend their morning making a campfire, building a shelter, learning archery, building a raft or canoeing. It costs £35 a 60-minute session. Book your spot in advance if you can. For younger children, there's the Bovey Bears Den.
Children are welcome in both restaurants, and highchairs are available. There’s a small but thoughtful kids menu available in both restaurants, which features all the big hitters – half-pizzas, 'Heinz' tomato soup, pasta and sausages – meals cost £8.50 and come with cordial and ice-cream. On sunny days, staff are always happy to pack you off with a picnic.
Babysitters are available for £20 an hour (minimum three hours); book at least two days in advance. Different rates apply during the festive season (£30 an hour on Christmas day; £40 an hour on New Year's Eve).
Letterboxing combines orienteering and puzzle-solving and there’s a trail within the grounds of the castle. Ask staff for details, but the basic aim is to locate hidden weatherproof boxes using clues, keeping a log of each one you find. The trail gives purpose to your walking and stops little ones getting bored.
Bovey Castle draws all its water from the Bovey River, cleaning and purifying it before pumping it through the hotel.
If you’ve got a babysitter, go for one of the tables by the Great Western Restaurant’s big windows for romantic, wistful views. If you haven’t, you can get some privacy at the front of the dining room, behind tactfully positioned planters.
There are two restaurants: one formal, one less so. Inspired by the glamorous railway company that first opened the hotel, the Great Western Grill is an elegant art deco space with chandeliers, chinoiserie, champagne – the whole shebang. Specialising in afternoon tea, a meal that’s never overlooked by Bovey, guests can linger over sandwiches, scones and homemade cakes by the crackling fire, or overlooking the delicious estate on the terrace. Children can do tea too; they can order whatever they like for half price. The Tasting Room offers a seven-course menu with accompanying wine flights from Thursday to Monday evening (for over-12s only), until last orders at 6:45pm. Smith's Brasserie is a more casual place to pull up a bucket chair for generously filled sandwiches or Mediterranean themed dishes; desserts are equally satisfying. If you're staying in the lodges, there's limited access to Smith's Brasserie for dinner, but meals can be delivered, on request.
The Oak Bar practically oozes cognac from the cracks of its wood panelling. It’s a sultry spot with high ceilings, huge views of the grounds, and an open fire. Behind the bar, there are 130 whiskeys, plenty of gins, malts and Armagnacs, Dartmoor ales and a long wine list. Children are allowed at any time, but it’s quite an adult setting. During the day, cocktail-making lessons can take place here.
Catch breakfast or afternoon tea at The Great Western, followed by lunch and dinner at Smith's Brasserie; open daily until 9:30pm. The Tasting room serves dinner Thursday to Monday, with last orders at 6.45pm.
You can also phone down if you need milk to be warmed for your children. Room service runs from 7am-10pm and includes simple stalwarts such as soup, fishcakes, ploughman's and burgers. A limited selection of sandwiches and snacks is available overnight.
Bovey Castle sits within the boundaries of Dartmoor National Park in Devon. It’s in the northeast of the park, near the tiny town of Moretonhampstead, which is notable for having the longest one-word place name in England.
The nearest airport is Exeter International (www.exeter-airport.co.uk), a 45-minute drive away.
Exeter St Davids train station is a 40-minute drive away. You can reach Exeter St Davids in just over two hours from Paddington with First Great Western, or in three and a half hours from Waterloo with South West trains.
The hotel is easy to get to from the M5 - it’s about a 30-minute drive once you exit the motorway. If you’ve got a SatNav, the postcode may throw you off-course, so enter ‘Bovey Castle Golf Course’ instead. Your room rate includes valet parking. If you want to hire a car from Exeter, Thrifty and Avis have offices near the train station and Europcar is at the airport.
There’s a helipad near the hotel. Call ahead to organise your arrival, and have your insurance documents ready. From here, the hotel will send a vehicle to meet you.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s no cosier place to be on a rainy English afternoon. Take your afternoon tea by the fire and borrow a board game – there are three gorgeous communal rooms to while away the time in. Or, if you’re fond of the elements, borrow wellies and a wax jacket and do whatever you’d do if the sun was shining. Besides the golf and spa, there are lots of adult activities the hotel can help to arrange, such as sloe gin-making in the barn, art master classes and game shooting.
The Dartmoor setting is bliss, and Bovey Castle puts you in prime position to enjoy it, even if you’re not usually very outdoorsy. You don’t need to travel very far away for an epic family adventure, whether it’s history, wildlife, the seaside or ice-cream that floats your brood’s boat. Follow the estate’s keepers on a one-hour tour of Bovey Castle Deer Park; you may even get a chance to bottle-feed baby fawns. Dartmoor National Park is just outside, too. If you don’t want to go it alone, Bovey’s activities coordinators can plan a tour to suit you, whether you want to set foot on some lesser-trodden spots, or you like the idea of a War Horse Moor Walk, taking in some breathtaking filming locations. Speed to the good stuff (and spare a certain Little Smith’s feet) by turning your walk into a safari in Bovey’s Land Rover Defender. There are spectacular views from the top of Hound Tor, a jumbled granite outcrop overlooking the moor. Impress (or spook) the kids by telling them where the tor gets its name: according to local legend, it’s made of a pack of hounds, turned to stone. Feeling energetic? There are bikes to borrow for the whole family for a half day or a full day, complete with a helmet, bike repair kit and map.
For a family day out at the seaside,Bigbury on Sea is your best bet – the water is shallow, the sand is soft and the area is dotted with rock pools to keep your budding marine biologists entertained. There are bodyboards to hire and lifeguards on duty. Make an adventure of Burgh Island – accessible on foot at low tide, or by ‘sea tractor’ at high tide.
If you’re not spotting enough animals at Bovey, there’s loads to see at Pennywell Farm, a 30-minute drive away, plus farm-themed rides, theatres and quad bikes. Watch out for the miniature pigs, which steal the show every time. For young equestrians, there’s the Miniature Pony Centre in Dartmoor, where you’ll find a herd of pint-sized Shetland ponies, American miniature mares, mini Mediterranean donkeys, a handful of heavy horses and yes, even a unicorn.
Pubs like The Horse Innon George Street in Moretonhampstead are worth going on holiday for. The dining room of the ex-barn is beautiful, the food locally sourced – a bright, exciting menu might include 21-day-hung Dartmoor steak, butter-poached hake or a pizza topped with home-made meatballs. The whole clan can relax: pizzas have fresh toppings and there's a chest of toys and a roomy patio. At Lake Sourton, the thatched Bearslake Inn is run by the Cross family, who live and breathe Dartmoor. The building used to be part of a farm and the hallways are adorned with photos of those who have lived and worked there. The restaurant is crisp and smart but wholly unpretentious. There’s a children’s menu and the chef will happily scale down most meals on the main menu too. The Ring of Bells in the local village of North Bovey is also a firm favourite, and walkable, via the river from the estate.