And in truth, it's no normal hotel stay. It feels more like living in some storybook fantasy of English country life as one always imagined it - with every detail perfect. Descend the imposing central staircase for breakfast, and you're greeted by Merlin, a mammoth owl perched on the leather glove-clad hand of a falcon master straight out of Harry Potter. The championship golf course is a historic 1926 creation by legend J.F. Abercromby. The trout for which you fly-fish in the estate's river and three ponds are blue - a local variation on rainbow trout that flash too brilliantly azure to seem real. The target on the archery field, with a tempting apple on his head, is Hugh Grant.
Ascend the stairs at night, and your gracious room is full of little surprises. A small porcelain box under the TV looks simply decorative, but is filled with fresh homemade shortbread cookies. And a crystal decanter on a side table keeps magically refilling with sloe gin made on the estate - with guests' help, if they want to pitch in.
Or, if you want the world's freshest eggs for breakfast, activities director Iain Wylie will help you gather them. Not that much help is needed. Even the estate's resident chickens seem happy to get with the de Savary perfection program, voluntarily depositing their eggs in a neat pile in a special egg-laying box. Really.
"Hands on? Oh, I'd say," laughs Wylie, pointing to an heirloom vegetable garden behind Bovey's mews house. It's another ecological restoration project, the idea of an employee but enthusiastically supported, according to the groundskeeper, by PdS. "I've never seen him actually digging in the dirt, but he probably does. If there's a crumb on the floor inside, he'll get down on his hands and knees and pick it up."
“To me, there’s no gray,” de Savary admits. “It’s either black or white. So I should see the dog [droppings] round the corner a few seconds before the guest does, so to speak.”
Any civilian wanting a PdS experience, by the way, had better get on the stick. Admitting that he may one day make Bovey a purely private club, too, if enough members join, de Savary says, “The people who’ve come as hotel guests have a wonderful time, and I get great satisfaction from providing them the most diversified, fantastic facilities, everything of the highest standard — in a nonpretentious way. If I was purely a snob, I probably wouldn’t have opened Bovey to the public. But you know what? I’m a farmer’s son.”