Thrust And Parry: Bovey Castle, Devon
Bovey Castle, sitting in 400 acres of rolling hills in the middle of Dartmoor National Park, is a delight to discover. You really do get the sense of getting away from it all down here: the remote setting, the sheer length of the drive down and even the final few directions: turn right on to the B3212 if you are using Sat Nav, please turn it off at this point. I liked the place before we’d even arrived.
We were staying in one of the Bovey Castle Lodges, a 3-storey luxury stone cottage adjacent to the main hall. With a fire flickering in the hearth (OK, so it’s gas but the welcoming effect is still there) warming a huge lounge with a million-inch television, a fully equipped kitchen and 3 cosy suites to choose from, it had an indefinably homely feel about it. Little touches, like the makings of a full English breakfast in the fridge, only added to the effect and to the temptation to stay in for the whole weekend but that would have been a waste. We had to try the selection of restaurants which live up to their reputation for offering some truly great food and wine, not to mention a fine selection of whiskies, to follow. The restaurant experience was best summed up by an American lady on the next table: I’m still slightly overwhelmed by this place. Then I had another whisky and that’s the last that I remember.
The facilities are also everything you could ask for. A Top 100 golf course (far too slow for me but I thought I’d mention it) a swimming pool, riding, falconry, hunting, shooting, fishing, egg-collecting (egg-collecting? I’ve gone too far down the list) and more besides. With all this available, naturally we went for a spa instead. Don’t tell anyone, but I took my wife’s advice and had a facial and definitely don’t tell anyone this, but I really enjoyed it. The staff just couldn’t be more helpful, friendly and permanently smiling, so much so that it was almost tiring having them around. They try almost too hard sometimes, the spa was only 50 metres from the main building but they escorted us anyway to make sure that we didn’t get lost. It was something of a challenge just to go for a wander through the grounds without someone checking that we knew where to go (which of course we didn’t but that’s the point of going exploring), so we sneaked off when they weren’t looking. We got about 200 metres before bumping into Federico, the small, energetic, ubiquitous, Italian Manager. He was everywhere, overseeing dinner the previous evening, greeting us coming out of breakfast, intercepting our walk in the grounds just how many of him can there be? However, this sounds overly critical. In fact, its a bit like having your Mum around; if you’ve gone home for the weekend, it’s rather comforting.
It seems important to arrive somewhere like Bovey in an appropriate style. In our case, arriving for the weekend in an orange Lamborghini Gallardo pretty much out-styled everyone else in the car park. The Gallardo is a shouty-loud wedge of look-at-me Italian car sculpture and all the more fun for it. Of course, being small, energetic and Italian (much like Federico) does have its drawbacks for a 64 in driver like me. It is a fact that Italians are smaller than everyone else; there is a standard military weight allowance for soldiers boarding transport aircraft, which is the same for every nation within NATO except the Italians, for whom it is several kilograms lighter. This difference is reflected in the Lamborghinis small cabin so, driving down there I had to stop every hour to regain some feeling in my lower limbs. Taking a set of Golf Clubs to Bovey? Sorry, no, you’d be hard pressed to find room in this car for a small box of golf balls. Overnight luggage? Socks or underwear, you choose. But now for the good part. This car is fantastic fun to drive, with 4-wheel drive and a V10-load of horses making it fast, crisp and easy to use, all at the same time. Shame that Lamborghini inherited some (cheap end of the market) Audi dashboard parts to distract you inside the car but then its got some great gadgets too, like the rear-view camera that you cant park without, and the launch control known as Thrust Mode. Now that I really like.