AboutVisiting Historic Houses in Devon & Cornwall
The fertile sheltered Tamar valley running down between the moors to the sea, was for a long while a centre for market gardening, and although most of the market gardens are now vanished, the Tamar Valley is a fascinating place if you enjoy gardens and historic houses.
If you enjoy walking, as well as the official open gardens, there are many places where you can still see the remnants of the famed strawberry gardens of the Tamar valley. In the spring you will find areas where woodlands have grown up over fields of daffodils and narcissi, as well as the traditional wild bluebell woods, and although few commercial orchards remain, there are many old orchard trees still dotted around the valley brightening the gardens with their blossom.
Tudor and Elizabethan houses to visit
The Tamar Valley has an impressive Tudor heritage, with a number of very beautiful houses dating to this fascinating period that are open to visitors.
Perhaps the best preserved Tudor building in the valley is Cotehele House (National Trust). Tucked away in a peaceful wooded side valley above the river Tamar, the squat granite house has changed little since the reign of Henry VIII. The atmospheric Great Hall with its open hearth, and the small cosy rooms with their small-paned windows give a real feeling of stepping back into Tudor times.
Another Tamar Valley house with a fascinating Tudor background is Buckland Abbey on the Devon side of the river. Converted to a family home from a Cistercian foundation after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, this fine house was later home to Sir Francis Drake. The house has an Elizabethan garden to complement the house, and is also home to an Elizabethan costume group which creates authentic Elizabethan clothes which visitors can try on.
Mount Edgecumbe, looking out across Plymouth Sound to Drake's Island and the Hoe, is also a Tudor house, and one that has perhaps the best views in Cornwall. Sadly, the house was badly damaged during the Second World War but it has been completely restored and is well worth a visit. You could combine a visit with a trip to the 18th century Anthony House nearby.
A smaller Tudor house which still gives a wonderful picture of life in the Tamar valley in Elizabethan times is Mary Newman's Cottage in Saltash. The cottage, with its stone floors, narrow twisting stairs and original fireplaces, may once have been the home of Francis Drake's wife Mary. Mary Newman's cottage is part of the Saltash Heritage Trail.
As well as visiting the houses, you may wish to travel into Plymouth (perhaps via the Tamar Valley Line) and visit the Hoe where Sir Francis Drake was reputedly playing a game of bowls when he heard the news the that Spanish Armada was on its way, and the Barbican, which still preserves some lovely buildings of the period, including the Merchant's House museum and the Elizabethan House.
Although Port Eliot is only open to the public during spring and summer, it is well worth a visit. A Grade 1 listed house, the house is another of the Tamar Valley's converted ecclesiastical buildings with a history that stretches back 1,500 years.
Staying in the Tamar Valley?
Visiting all our beautiful historic houses across the Devon and Cornwall border takes more than a day! Why not stay over in the valley?
Tamar Valley Arts and Crafts
You might also enjoy visiting local galleries and craftspeople.