Lounging in the lap of luxury
I REALISED, once I'd found it, I'd been wondering where it was the whole time. I just didn't know I'd been looking for it.
My favourite seat in the castle, the nook under the oak staircase, just off the hall.
I was inconspicuous, and snug, and could glance up from the paper and watch the guests amble past, heads tilted upwards admiring the high archways, or watch the attentive staff scurrying past.
If I wanted, I could zone out completely into my own thoughts. Or tune in to the laughter and chatter resonating from one of the lounges.
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You see, Bovey Castle is so beautiful, it's hard to know where to plonk yourself and while away some time.
Do you choose an arm chair by the window over the stunning vista – the green lawn rolling down to the river winding its way across the valley floor, the patchwork of fields surging high up to the russet heathland of the moorland ridge?
Or do you decide to sink into a sofa by the fire? And which lounge do you choose? There are four. All comforting, all filled with sofas and arm chairs and all with log fires – but all with their own charm.
The five-star hotel is a stunning 14th century neo-Elizabethan home, just down the road from Mortenhampstead, so less than an hour from Exeter.
We were told it was actually a good thing we arrived after dark because of the wow factor of drawing back the curtains in the morning – it's true, my jaw really did drop a little.
On a short visit you do have to plan how you're going to fit in all your methods of relaxing. First we had tea, then enjoyed the pool, sauna and steam room. Then evening drinks in the bar, or Oak Room. Then dinner.
So here is where I go off on a tangent – whereas by day you can wander around in your jeans, or hiking attire, by night it's a chance to dress up a little and enjoy the delicious and strikingly fresh fare over a bottle of wine in the elegant Edwardian dining room.
Back to the all-important relaxation again – in the morning I found myself wondering how best to do so. After breakfast, should I pop down to the sauna again? Read the paper by the fire? But which room would I choose? And which comfy chair would I choose? Or should I wander the grounds? It wasn't long before I found my nook.
What was an easy decision was to see falconer-cum-comedian Martin Whitely at work. After showing off his man-eating (not really, but he did advise giving it wide berth) American eagle, Martin wowed us with his well honed falconry skills with a few smaller but equally impressive birds. He puts on demos for guests every day at 10am. When you visit, this is not to be missed. It was a wonderfully amusing and insightful addition to all the relaxing I was doing.
But you don't have to spend your whole time lolling about. In the grounds of the castle is one of the finest golf courses in England, and also tennis courts, a croquet lawn and pitch and putt (these are just a few of the activities on offer).
They are filled with birdsong and have an Alice in Wonderland feel, especially the lawned corridor leading up to the summer house and when the sun rises over the ridge and casts shadows through the evergreens.
There's just one last thing I want to mention. You may think a castle has all the credentials to be pretentious. Not so. Children and dogs are welcome, as was the lady with her cat in a basket.
There are 62 rooms at the castle, over three floors, all deliciously comfortable and cosy. I almost got lost being nosy wandering the halls.
And there's a spa, which is extremely popular among guests as you can imagine, offering a range of treatments to help you unwind even more.
Set in the Dartmoor National Park, which has an enigma all of its own, when you're there you feel miles away.
So when you have somewhere as beautiful as Bovey Castle on your doorstep, where the most stressful thing is deciding where to sit (which clearly isn't stressful at all), there really is no point going anywhere else.
For details and rates visit www.boveycastle.com or phone 0844 474 0077.