A grand old lady, her stark white walls and gold lettering gleaming in the sun, The Royal Castle Hotel, rests placidly by the waterside, overlooking the River Dart and a bay filled with boats and ships. She has graced the historic harbor since the 17th Century, or maybe before if you count previous inns that have occupied the space, including one Sir Francis Drake stayed in.
You remember Drake. Elizabethan Admiral (a pirate in Spanish eyes), commander of the victorious British Fleet against the Spanish Armada, and circumnavigator of the globe.
We didn’t stay at the hotel, but even if you choose more modest accommodations, it’s essential to at least sit in the hotel’s Galleon Bar, sip a local DoomBar Ale, and wander around inside to see the grandeur of an old coach inn. Modest in some ways, yet splendidly opulent in richly woven rugs, overstuffed seating, polished brass fittings, and weathered leather.
|light ale on the left, cider in the middle, Doom Ale on the right|
|Lots of local frequent the Galleon Bar|
The Galleon Bar, it’s said, features timbers gleaned from the wrecks of the Spanish Armada. That was 1688, so the timing is right enough and the timbers do indeed look both ancient and notched from previous use.
In England, history never dies, it just lingers on, cut and polished, and applied to other purposes. History this hotel has in quantity. Mary and William stayed here after arriving from the Netherlands to claim the English throne. Charles II and his female admirers also spent some time. Edward VII (1841-1910), movie stars such as Cary Grant, and the author Agatha Christie are others of note. The latter changed the name of the hotel to Royal George in her novel Ordeal by Innocence.
Charles II owns a special place in English history. His father, Charles I lost a war and lost his head. Charles II also lost a war, but after Oliver Cromwell’s death and the restoration of the monarchy, he mounted the throne.
In The Royal Castle, you not only have history served on a platter, but if you’re lucky, in the dark of the evening, you may even hear the whinny of horses or the cracking of a whip as a phantom stagecoach picks up equally phantom passengers by the front door. Hey, you can’t call yourself a true English hotel without a ghost or two!
Didn’t stay in any of the 25 hotel rooms, but I hear they are individually decorated in sumptuous antiques, some featuring four posters and modernized by the addition of Jacuzzis.
|Top of the stairs looking down on the sitting area. Note the bells on the top left.|
There’s a seafood restaurant on the ground floor and another dining room above that looks out over the harbor. But, whether you stay or eat or both, do not miss the chance to trip up the winding staircase that looks down on a sitting area. On the top floor is an old library featuring leather-bound volumes of hotel registers.
On the wall above the sitting area, look for the 20 bells, in the long ago used by guests to call for assistance from the staff.
We camped in The Galleon bar for some time, ordering plowman’s lunches (cheese, salad, and bread), while we quaffed an ale or two and watched the locals.
The Royal Castle Hotel is a friendly, welcoming place. You could stay awhile, soaking in the history of the weapons and nautical gear on the walls. You may be sitting where royalty sat. It’s a comfortable feeling and you may stay awhile. We did.