Category Archives: Hotel reviews

Bovey Castle: a friendly, historic, luxury Dartmoor hotel stay

If you’re going to spend the night in a castle, then it’s appropriate to look the part, which is why it felt very fitting arriving at the luxury hotel Bovey Castle in the heart of Dartmoor in a £150,000 Aston Martin DB11.

bovey castle luxury hotel
The Aston Martin DB11 arrives at Bovey Castle – still looking good in spite of a coating of Devonshire mud

A trio of valets clad in tweed plus-fours sprang into action to help us unload our luggage and admire the car (and point out that we seemed to have acquired a fair amount of the Devonshire countryside on the DB11, thanks to the incredibly narrow lanes we took to get there). However there wasn’t long to spend drooling over the car. Quentin, our archery instructor, had arrived for our lesson. See what living in a castle does to you?

 

Bovey Castle luxury hotel
Osian the valet, the Aston Martin and the entrance to Bovey Castle
Bovey Castle luxury hotel
We walked through the hotel and found this view once the clouds had cleared: Bovey Castle looking splendid in the sunshine

Five minutes later we had walked through some of Bovey Castle’s rolling acres and swapped our very modern motor for a rather more traditional bow and arrow.  The patient and friendly Quentin took us through the basics of how to shoot safely and accurately, and now it was up to us to put it into practice.

Bovey Castle luxury hotel
Bovey Castle is set in 275 acres of rolling green Devonshire countryside

I managed to hit the target more often than not and even fluked a shot to the gold centre of the target. Flushed with success, I moved onto rifle shooting. This was much harder, with the tin cans and hanging yellow bath ducks proving much more elusive targets, until my friend Lisa suddenly ‘got it’ and was firing away like a modern Annie Oakley.

Bovey Castle luxury hotel
Our shooting instructor Quentin shows us the basics of archery
Bovey Castle luxury hotel
After archery it was time for some rifle shooting

I left her to it while I made my way to our room, and when she returned half an hour later she was so pumped from her pinpoint accuracy with a lethal weapon that she barely noticed what a sumptuous suite we’d been given for the night: number 50, which was so vast we could probably have continued our target practice indoors.

There was a huge lounge with a walk-in closet, a vast bedroom, an equally large bath with freestanding tub and the whole suite was imbued with the air of luxury that only plush furnishings, epic views, a decanter of sloe gin and an ice bucket of Champagne can give. I could have happily spent the whole stay in our room.


To book directly with the hotel, go to: Bovey Castle
To compare prices for Bovey Castle click on: ExpediaTrivago – Hotels.com
To read more reviews click here to go to Bovey Castle on TripAdvisor

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A romantic seaside stay in a beach suite at Cary Arms and Spa hotel, Devon

I’ve been lucky to stay in some of the best hotel rooms in the country but for sheer romance it’s hard to beat a Beach Suite at the delightful Cary Arms and Spa on Babbacombe Bay, Devon – in the heart of the ‘English Riviera’. With a private terrace suspended over the beach, the views across the sweeping bay are your very own to enjoy, as is a lounge with flickering virtual fire and cosy sofa, an immaculate bathroom and a very smart bedroom, all decked out in a classic New England-style.

cary arms hotel devon
Cary Arms and Spa sprawls above Babbacombe Beach on the South Devon coast and combines the charm of a traditional seaside inn with the comforts of a boutique hotel

There are lovely touches, such as a coffee table handmade from stones and driftwood from the east coast of Scotland, a decanter of Plymouth sloe gin to tuck into, a bite-sized portion of seaside rock on your pillow instead of the usual chocolate and thick rugs for you to wrap yourself up in on the loungers outside for when the weather isn’t quite as clement as you’d hoped.

cary arms hotel devon
Our bedroom which opens straight over our private terrace (it would usually be made up as a double but it’s a little less romantic when it’s two friends staying… still gorgeous though)

Some seaside hotels have great views but are far from the beach itself: the Cary Arms is right on the beach and has views to match from every room. The Beach Suites allow you to really embed yourself in the landscape, as both the lounge and bedroom have glass walls which fold back so you can roll out of bed onto the decking and simply spend the day soaking up the sun (or, if the weather is being very ‘British’ then enjoying the sight of the waves crashing onto Babbacombe beach).

cary arms hotel devon
Our Beach Suite terrace – the first room is the lounge and the second is the bedroom – which looked straight out on the beach
cary arms hotel devon
A corner of our spacious lounge which was decked out in New England-style coastal colours (note the complimentary decanter of sloe gin on the table)
cary arms hotel devon
Our handmade coffee table

There’s fast wifi, a fridge stocked with fresh milk and wine and the bathroom has all the fluffy towels and toiletries you could wish for (and a super-strong hairdryer). It’s the kind of place in which I’d love to live for a few months in glorious isolation, writing a novel while gazing at the waves, or enjoying a lengthy honeymoon with no-one to distract you except from the seagulls (seals – especially local favourite Sammy the seal – and even dolphins have also been spotted in the bay). Cary Arms can also be accessed directly from the beach and there are several mooring points for overnight stays in case the hotel is full (a likely prospect in the summer months).


To book directly with the hotel, go to: Cary Arms and Spa
To compare prices for the Cary Arms and Spa click on: Expedia  Hotels.com – HotelsCombined.com
To read more reviews and check the latest prices click here to go to Cary Arms and Spa on TripAdvisor


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Montcalm London City and The Jugged Hare: brewing history and the wow factor

The joy of reviewing hotels and restaurants is that with every new visit there is often something which will surprise, delight or even shock you. The Montcalm at the Brewery London City hotel in Chiswell Street in central London and its adjoining gastro-pub, the Jugged Hare, managed the hat-trick and did all three.

A hint that it was going to be an unusual experience was found straightaway in the hotel reception. I had arrived from the pouring rain, only to discover it was raining indoors too – water cascades endlessly down one wall of exposed brick inside the entrance hall. (‘Imagine having to work listening to that all day long!’ sighed the receptionist.)

Montcalm London City
The reception at Montcalm at the Brewery, London City. Sadly the watery wall is just out of shot

Thankfully such modern touches haven’t come at the expense of the historical nature of the building which dates back to 1750, when Whitbread started brewing beer on the site. The Whitbread clock is still ticking away in the courtyard, and next to the check-in desk was a plaque showing that HM The Queen and the Queen Mother had visited the brewery in 1962. The man registering next to me had his tiny baby in a sling: ‘His great-grandfather used to work here,’ he said proudly.

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Chewton Glen hotel, New Forest – luxury from spa to treehouse

It isn’t often you plan on spending the night at a rather grand country house hotel and find yourself sleeping in a treehouse on stilts in the middle of a forest. But the treehouses at Chewton Glen, the five-star hotel and spa located deep in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire, are about as far removed from the rickety wooden contraptions of one’s childhood (or Bart Simpson’s) as you could get.

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Chewton Glen has 12 luxury treehouses hovering above the forest floor

In fact, they probably shouldn’t really be called treehouses at all, but maybe ‘luxury forest lodges’ probably didn’t sound, well, as much fun. The hotel’s own blurb describes them as secluded and romantic with the ‘exterior architecture in perfect harmony with the surrounding treescape’ and ‘on stilts, delicately balanced between the valley and tree canopy.’

I would probably describe them as ‘a really posh and gorgeous set of rooms which for some reason are plonked in the middle of a forest.’

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Each treehouse has its own wood-burning stove, private balcony and hot tub

They might be on stilts but thankfully they didn’t feel at all delicately balanced and indeed once you were inside, it was easy to forget that you were hovering several metres above the forest floor.

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A relaxing stay at the historic Spread Eagle hotel, Midhurst

Just one night at the Spread Eagle Hotel Midhurst felt like a really long stay – but in a good way. I arrived there on Sunday afternoon, and by the time I left 24 hours later I’d had a 90 minute massage, swam, sauna’d, steamed and lounged in the spa, had dinner, slept, had breakfast, explored Midhurst, returned for lunch and in between times had squeezed in an awful lot of doing absolutely nothing at all, such as relaxing in comfy sofas reading books. By the time it came for me to leave it seemed as if I’d been there for a week.

spread eagle hotel midhurst
The Spread Eagle hotel is a 15th century coaching inn in the heart of Midhurst in West Sussex

I’d heard about the Spread Eagle through its sister hotels, Ockenden Manor and Bailiffscourt – owned, like the Spread Eagle, by Historic Sussex Hotels – both of which I’d reviewed for ALadyofLeisure.com and really liked.

Guests expecting something similar to either Ockenden Manor or Bailiffscourt will find something different here as the Spread Eagle is very much along the lines of a comfy old coaching inn rather than a smart spa hotel like Ockenden Manor, or set in acres of tranquil countryside like Bailiffscourt. Dining at the Spread Eagle is less formal than the others and the spa, while modern and pleasant, is smaller than either of its sister hotels.

spread eagle hotel midhurst
The building has been extended over the centuries but the oldest part still remains – Queen Elizabeth I stayed in the Queen’s Suite (as did I)  which is on the corner on the first floor

However what you get at the Spread Eagle is a very relaxed, old world charm: the bar with its roaring fires is the perfect place to while away a rainy day or a wintery evening. Continue reading A relaxing stay at the historic Spread Eagle hotel, Midhurst