Where to stay:
• Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa On the northern fringes of the city, just minutes from the vast, open spaces of Dartmoor, sits Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa, (boringdonhall.co.uk) a 5* delight for its historic architecture, its levels of comfort and service, its outstanding cuisine and fabulous Gaia spa facilities. The heavy oak door, at the base of a soaring, five-storey tower, all granite-mullioned and leaded lights, leads to a magic, lowceilinged reception and a permanent sense of well-being. A medieval manor house has stood at Boringdon since the monasteries were dissolved in 1539 and parts have survived the turbulent years since, including Cromwell’s 17th century assault, owner neglect for 200 years and a devastating late 20th century fire. It is a huge achievement by the current owners (and their architects) that the whole property, built around what little was left of the original, retains the same medieval look and ambience that was enjoyed by illustrious visitors of the distant past, among them Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I, while providing 21st century standards in the exquisite guestrooms, sumptuous restaurants and perfectly-presented public areas. From the relaxed and elevated comfort of the 3 AA Rosette, fine-dining Gallery Restaurant, contented diners look over guests pausing in the Tudor-era Great Hall, now the bar and lounge, who cannot but be impressed by the great mantle over the fireplace, depicting the coat of arms of James I. The superb Head Chef, Scott Paton, is proudly responsible both for the ‘Gallery’ and the alternative ‘Mayflower’, a brasserie with the same high quality, but a more informal setting. After a day’s exertions, either in the city or roaming the byways and villages of south Dartmoor, the joys of the Gaia spa might be just the thing for nourishing the mind, body and soul. Diane Nettleton and her team pride themselves on their ability to satisfy guests’ demands, whether for one of their tailor-made treatments or cardiovascular challenges, dietary advice or just a soporific ‘dip’ in the indoor pool, set at a soothing 30 degrees Centigrade.