The South West has been utterly spoilt…by acres and acres of luscious gardens and lavish country hideaways. Devon alone has 25 National Trust properties and, if you fancy sneaking over the border to Cornwall, there’s a gorgeous selection there too.
Step into any one of these utterly divine National Trust properties and you will be whisked away to a land where time has stood beautifully still, inviting you to explore the beauty and wonder of yesteryear. Each of our top five is a little slice of heaven ready for romantic strolls, lazy meandering and wicked adventures…
Still a largely undiscovered treasure, and the result of centuries of sophistication and extravagance, Saltram is a National Trust property that offers a fascinating insight into country-estate life through the centuries. Opulent Robert Adam interiors and beautiful collections bring the 'age of elegance' to life at Saltram. Surrounding the house is a beautiful 20 acre garden and 500 acres of parkland - perfect for lazy strolls and whispering sweet nothings. The impressive orangery is also well worth a visit.
CLAIM TO FAME:
Saltram was Norland Park in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
Saltram, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon, PL7 1UH
2.5 miles from Boringdon Hall and 17 minutes by car.
Buckland Abbey Garden & Estate
Buckland Abbey is an ancient gem ideally located in the rugged Dartmoor landscape. With a rich and varied history, it started life as the home to the Cistercian monks who built the abbey and then farmed the vast estate. Much of their effort was in making cider to drink as they found the water to be too unclean – rumour has it that they would drink up to a gallon a day!
The monks prospered at this secluded retreat for 250 years, until Henry VIII threw them out and Sir Richard Grenville moved in, converting the Abbey into a house. Later, Sir Francis Drake and his family lived here making more and more modifications to the former Abbey, until eventually the National Trust took over in the 20th Century.
Today, the gardens and buildings are beautiful and full of little spots to explore. When the weather’s on your side you can discover meadows and orchards whilst enjoying far-reaching views of Tavy Valley. On more inclement days you can head inside to explore the rabbit-warren-like interior, which features an eclectic mix of architectural styles.
CLAIM TO FAME:
A painting that was gifted to Buckland Abbey and displayed in the Georgian dining room is thought to be a self-portrait by Rembrandt himself. The painting is currently being cleaned in hope that this will assist the quest to authenticate it. Due to be returned to the Abbey in 2014, the painting’s value could be close to £20m if it is found to be the real thing.
Buckland Abbey Garden & Estate, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6EY
11.7 miles from Boringdon Hall and 27 minutes by car.
Again, just over the Cornwall border, Antony is faced in silver-grey Pentewan stone and flanked by colonnaded wings of mellow brick, making it a classically beautiful house with an irresistible blend of the formal and informal. Curiously, the house is still occupied by the owner family. Hence, it offers an exquisite insight into how the family are still living in a stately pile whilst maintaining the family history. A behind-the-scenes tour even opens the door on the current Lord and Lady Carew Pole bedrooms.
Next to Antony House is the privately owned Antony Woodland Garden. The garden is home to a National Collection of Camellia Japonica and divided into three sections: The Wilderness, West Down and the Woodland Walk. From the Wilderness the path leads along the river and into a shaded area of trees, known as the Cathedral, where you can stroll wistfully through carpets of dusky bluebells in April or May.
CLAIM TO FAME:
Antony was used as the film set for Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton. Some of the features in the gardens give a little nod to this heritage.
Antony, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2QA
10.0 miles from Boringdon Hall and 34 minutes by car.
Located just over the border in Cornwall, Cotehele was the home of the Edgecumbe family for almost 600 years. Passed carefully down the generations, it is one of the most complete medieval manors in England. Inside the rambling stone walls you’ll find a fascinating collection that reflects the owners’ antiquarian taste and deliberate desire to evoke a sense of nostalgia. Step outside to be greeted by some of the most magical gardens in the UK; take the tunnel from the formal terraces to the wild Valley Garden filled with rhododendrons and azaleas before heading down to the enchanting Victorian summerhouse and ‘Chapel in the Woods’.
Described by some as ‘the most picturesque National Trust property ever visited’, Cotehele is a well-hidden gem that’s simply divine (and the cream teas are to die for).
CLAIM TO FAME:
The story of the 'Chapel in the Woods', or, more properly, the Chapel of SS George and Thomas Becket, is as exciting as any modern thriller…
In 1483 Sir Richard Edgcumbe joined a rebellion against King Richard III. The rebellion was quashed, and the king's men pursued Edgecumbe through the woods. He must have thought the end was near, but, thinking quickly, Sir Richard threw his hat upon the waters of the river that runs through the woods, and hid in the trees. His enemies saw the floating hat and assumed that he had drowned while trying to cross the water. They left, and Sir Richard was able to complete his escape and make his way to safety in Brittany. Years later, when it was safe to return, Sir Richard wanted to give thanks for his escape and built this small single-cell chapel at the spot where he had cast his hat into the river.
Cotehele, St Dominick, near Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6TA
18.0 miles from Boringdon Hall and 39 minutes by car.
Overbeck’s was the seaside home of inventor and scientist Otto Overbeck. Full of surprises, the house is perched high on the cliffs above Salcombe. Hence, the hidden paradise of subtropical gardens and quirky collections offers breathtaking views over the estuary and coast. Meandering through the garden is like taking a trip around the world; with palm trees, banana plants, citrus and olive trees, you could easily forget for a moment where you are. Step inside the house to discover its curious surprises - a magical polyphon (a disc playing music box) still plays, and cabinets of butterflies and bugs sit happily with collections of dolls, toys and model boats.
The coastal clifftop location means the drive up to Overbeck’s is an adventure of its own. For an extended summertime escapade, park near Salcombe Harbour and take the ferry to South Sands then walk up the hill to Overbeck's.
CLAIM TO FAME:
Overbeck’s is home to the famous "Overbeck's Rejuvanator" - a device patented by Overbeck to cure all known ills. It probably didn't work, but it made him a very wealthy man, enabling him to buy the house and plant the gardens with an impressive array of exotic flora and fauna.
Overbeck’s, Sharpitor, Salcombe, Devon, TQ8 8LW
24.0 miles from Boringdon Hall and 60 minutes by car.