Boringdon Hall Hotel – Review
Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa, Plymouth
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
When you’re invited for a spa weekend more than 300 miles from home, it becomes a tempting dilemma. Yes, the website looks good, and there’s plenty of impressive reviews for the five-star establishment, but if it doesn’t live up to the hype, a 635-mile round trip is an expensive mistake to make.
Still, fortune favours the bold, and as it’s my birthday weekend, I’m in the mood for some pampering.
Thanks to the weather, the drive from Yorkshire to Plymouth proves interesting. The charcoal-coloured sky, torrential rain and buffeting winds means we’re glad to get there in one piece. Thankfully when we rock up on Friday night at 9pm, everything from that point on gets so much better.
Adama, the check-in clerk, is outstanding. Warm, welcoming, efficient. Everything you want after a long drive. We’re impressed by the place, which at first glance reminds me of Wayne Manor. Led across a courtyard with lights in the trees, my stress about taking us away on a foolhardy mission soon melts away. We’re shown to our room, which is huge and has (almost) everything you could wish for. A double bed and a single; terrific spotless bathroom; wardrobe; TV; tea and coffee-making facilities. The works. The only thing missing are built-in USB ports, though I’m guessing that upgrade is only a matter of time.
After the obligatory cuppa, we’re out like a light. The bed is incredibly comfortable.
“So much rich and colourful history”
Next morning breakfast does not disappoint either. The main dining area feels like stepping back in time a few hundred years. Little wonder as the place has so much rich and colourful history, including links to the Domesday book, and Lady Jane Grey, who became Queen of England for a mere nine days in 1553.
There’s ostentatious decor, gorgeous paintings, leaded windows. And the food itself is terrific. I order a full English, and Rachel has the vegetarian version. Both are excellent and set us up for a morning in nearby Plymouth.
There’s plenty to see and do in the local area, and as the weather is once more a mix of grey skies and Twister-style winds, we’re glad to take refuge in the stunning Aquarium before pottering round town. Naturally we have to check out the spot where the Pilgrim fathers left all those years ago. (Weirdly we’d been to their landing spot, Plymouth Rock, a decade ago, give or take a few weeks).
Again another dilemma. We’ve been promised dinner, so do we opt for a lunchtime bite or save ourselves for the main event?
Opting for the latter, we return to Boringdon Hall to chill out before our spa treatments.
It was once voted the best in the UK, among its many other awards, and I can understand why.
We’ve both opted for facials, and though we’d passed the spa entrance, once we go inside it’s like being transported into a totally different world. The old of the hall makes way for the new of the Gaia Spa. We’re given a guided tour of the facilities, which are little short of breathtaking. Two stunning pools, one of which connects to an outside hot tub, assorted saunas, and an amazing gym must act like a magnet for locals desperate to get away for a few days.
“Believe the hype”
And the treatment itself is excellent. I’ve done many over the years on assorted trips, whether in spots around Alberta, Canada, different cruise ships or here in Blighty. I’ve long had mixed feelings about them, but after a few months from Hell, realise how desperate I was to have a face and neck massage. You can believe the hype. This ranks as one of the best anywhere.
With my face, scalp and neck massaged into something more human, we have time to chill out before dinner.
Of course ’dinner’ can mean anything from a couple of dishes and dessert to something more formidable. And this turns out to be the mother of all meals.
The signature five-course taster menu consists of freshly baked bread (the butter and sea salt on a slate is a work of art); bird’s liver parfait with brioche; an amuse bouche of langoustine bisque, followed by scallop taco; brixham crab; aged beef (or braised turbot), all finished off with a raspberry mouse. Each of our courses is paired with a different wine. Every dish is beautifully presented and expertly cooked by head chef Scott Paton and his team. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some phenomenal meals over the years, and this is one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had anywhere.
All of it is in the most exquisite setting with waiters including Josh, who prove to be a delight. Witty, engaging and well informed about every wine and dish. It’s like a Swiss watch how well the whole thing works.
Any fears I had about coming so far and being let down have long since melted away. It’s the sort of experience The Proclaimers would walk 500 miles for.
After another great night, I leave Rachel in the land of nod and decide to hit the pool early.
Clever wristbands mean you can lock away your valuables and then enjoy a swim, a soak, or sweat away those impurities in the saunas. One of which looks like the set of the original Superman movie with a formidable crystal providing positive energy, or something equally new age and healing.
I also enjoy a session on the treadmill, which first thing on a Sunday morning is blissfully empty. It’s a glorious experience and I’m so glad I made the effort.
Following another superb breakfast and a few photo opps on the lawn, we set off with a heavy heart.
Whether you’re in the neighbourhood and fancy an extraordinary experience, or like myself and Rachel make the epic journey just for Boringdon Hall and Spa, it’s a time you’ll never forget. While eavesdropping at check out, I can understand why a couple of fellow guests are repeat visitors, and are already planning their next stay.
We’d be back in a heartbeat just for the food, let alone the rest of it. It really is that good.
Boringdon Hall, Plymouth, Devon, PL7 4DP
Nightly room rates at Boringdon Hall Hotel and Spa start at £156 in low season, and up to £196 in high season. Based on B&B in a Courtyard Room.