First impressions are so often the most lasting, and my arrival at Bovey Castle must rank as one of most memorable.

The hotel is hidden from the B3212 Dartmoor road; there’s just a tantalising stone-pillared gateway, the long drive then snakes through the grounds and the hotel’s golf course, its route gently sloping down to the manor house.

It’s a Friday, late afternoon, and activity fills the entrance courtyard. It seems everyone has pitched up at the same time. But the hotel’s concierge team calmly sorts out parking spaces, welcoming people and guiding guests through to reception – which is equally busy, with the team equally calmly and efficiently sorting everyone out.

Great British Life: Comfort and an impressive fireplace in one of the hotel's lounges. Comfort and an impressive fireplace in one of the hotel's lounges. (Image: Bovey Castle)

This is a grand Elizabethan/gothic-style building with high ceilings, wood panelled corridors and big open fires – which all adds to the theatre of coming here for the first time. An exploration of the hotel reveals a series of beautifully grand lounges, each with a slightly different feel, (one even has a minstrel gallery) but all equally luxurious, warm and comfortable, thanks to the sink-in-able sofas, and armchairs - and those fireplaces.

The views from the front-facing side of the house are gorgeous, across the grounds and over the wooded valley. In the warmer months it must be so lovely sauntering out on to the terrace, which runs the length of the building, sitting there and soaking up the surrounding beauty.

Great British Life: Martin and his birds of prey are regular visitors to the hotel. Martin and his birds of prey are regular visitors to the hotel. (Image: Bovey Castle)

The house was built in the 1890s by William Henry Smith, of WH Smith fame, becoming a hotel and golf course in 1930 after being bought by Great Western Railway. With its acres of grounds, as well as golf course, swimming pool, spa and separate lodges, it’s held its five star accolade for 20 years.

Bovey Castle exudes comfort and luxury and it has the space, which means you’re bound to find a cosy nook where you can tuck yourself away. Yet, it’s also offers a wide range of activities, so there’s every opportunity to get outside and make the most of the estate, from archery, fly fishing and air rifle shooting to horse drawn carriage rides and cider making, and of course golf. This is a golfers’ paradise – even though the passion for the sport gets a gentle ribbing by another integral player in the Bovey Castle experience. Martin Whitley is the highly entertaining Dartmoor falconer who gives regular complementary demonstrations of his birds of prey. Another memorable moment from my visit comes when waiting outside on the terrace for the display to begin, and Martin appears right in front of us in the main hotel doorway - with a golden eagle on his arm. What an awe-inspiring sight! Bovey Castle is very dog friendly, they are allowed in all rooms and many areas of the hotel, but I can see why this is an off limits experience for canines!

Great British Life: Elegant yet relaxed dining in the Great Western Grill restaurant. Elegant yet relaxed dining in the Great Western Grill restaurant. (Image: Bovey Castle)

There are two restaurants, Smith’s Brasserie, which offers more casual dining, and the recently refurbished Great Western Grill – which has just the right mix of glamour and elegance and a not too fussy, relaxed atmosphere. The menu has been reworked by executive head chef Mark Budd to offer all that you’d expect from a ‘fine dining’ experience - high quality, inventive cooking, combined with top notch table service, but it’s more modern, with a popular array of dishes such as steaks and grills (including venison from the estate), along with fish and shellfish and and there’s an imaginative vegetarian and vegan menu with a great range of choices.

The 60 rooms at Bovey Castle range from single bedrooms to suites, all individual, unique offerings, and with that five star comfort. The views over the valley from my suite are wonderful to wake up to and, with plenty of lounge area and a huge bathroom with rolltop bath, it’s hard to drag myself away from my own little slice of Bovey Castle heaven.

The draw of being in my room is strong, but that said, the perfect way to end an evening after dining in the restaurant is to stay a while downstairs. Enjoy a drink from the very well stocked bar, sink into a sofa in front of the fire, and mull over the experience of staying at this hotel, a slice of extraordinary excellence, hidden away in a Devon valley.