There is more to the West Country than beautiful beaches and endless open countryside; it is also home to a vast array of stunning National Trust stately homes. Whether you are after some historical insight or are stuck for ideas on a rainy day, visiting one of the National Trust’s houses and gardens provides a great day out for all the family.
From the grand and imposing, to the culturally significant, you are spoilt for choice when planning a visit, so we have put together a list of our favourite National Trust houses throughout Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.
1. Saltram House, near Plymouth
Described as “a house full of treasures, stories and intrigue”, Saltram has magnificent views of the River Plym and is also popular for its tranquil riverside walks and cycle trails.
Formerly the house of residence for the Parker family, its lavish décor includes rare Chinese wallpaper hangings and a precious collection of paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
The grounds are enjoyed by visitors all year round, from its orangery and follies to its elegant shrubberies and specimen trees.
2. Coleton Fishacre, Kingswear, South Devon
This 1920s house by the sea is famous for its Art Deco themes and ostentatious garden. Inside, you’ll discover an eccentric atmosphere, a window into this roaring decade and the classic ‘upstairs downstairs’ lifestyle.
Once the country home of the D’Oyly Carte family, its RHS accredited gardens are full of exotic plants that thrive in the milder climate of the English Riviera.
Coleton Fishacre has been the recipient of two silver awards at the English Riviera and South Devon Tourism and Hospitality Awards.
3. Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall
Set in a beautiful wooded estate, Lanhydrock is an unembellished country house surrounded by acres of stunning gardens.
Ravaged by fire in the late 1800s, the house was revived in a high-Victorian style with kitchens, nurseries, servants’ quarters, as well as a handsome dining room and bedrooms.
Walk amongst the towering magnolias and splendid rhododendrons, features of the Lanhydrock garden that ensure perennial colour, and discover the ancient woodlands and meandering cycle paths that weave around this glorious corner of Cornwall.
4. Cotehele, East Cornwall
Set high above the banks of the River Tamar is Cotehele House, the centuries-old ancestral home of the Edgcumbe family.
This magnificent stately home is dressed in tapestries and armour, and finished in pewter, brass and old English oak. Every year visitors enjoy the gorgeous grounds with its apple and cherry orchards, medieval stewpond and valley garden.
In the 1800s, Cotehele was famous for its market garden produce, shipped down river to Devonport Market by paddle steamer. Today, you can indulge in a traditional Cornish cream tea onboard the ‘Shamrock’ barge which has a riverside mooring.
5. Castle Drogo, Teign Gorge
With its sweeping views of the Teign Gorge and historic walls, the drama of Castle Drogo is something to be admired.
The castle is a blend of both medieval and Tudor design, intertwined with more contemporary approaches and its defensive ramparts are purely decorative.
From its breath-taking views of Dartmoor, stunning terraced garden and rose beds, to the winding paths and trails through the ancient gorge, Castle Drogo remains a memorable day out for all the family.
6. Buckland Abbey, near Yelverton, Devon
Once home to such famous seafarers as Grenville and Drake, the 700-year-old Buckland Abbey is steeped in both magnificence and history.
Here, you’ll be able to step back in time and discover the Drake’s Drum and Great Barn, which remain virtually untouched. Be enthralled by the museum and take in the splendour of the surrounding countryside with views ranging for miles across the Tavy Valley with its ancient woods and wildflower meadows.
Relax in the sanctity of the Abbey’s secret garden, just one of the features that makes Buckland Abbey such a special place to visit.
7. Kingston Lacy, Dorset
This palatial feat of architecture inspired by Italian design is full of marvellous detail from the minute to the grandiose.
Described as “an art lovers dream”, the walls of Kingston Lacy play host to a captivating collection of paintings by such artists as Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel. Visitors also marvel at the Egyptian Room, home to the largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the UK.
The south lawn is the perfect setting for family picnics, leading to the sunken Japanese Gardens and peaceful woodland walks.
This impressive 8,500 acre estate also includes an Iron Age fort, roaming heathland, water meadows and the remains of a Roman road.
8. Montacute House, Somerset
This spectacular estate in the heart of the West Country is built from iconic Ham Hill stone and is surrounded by acres of splendid gardens.
People travel from far and wide to marvel at the highly-skilled masonry work, built under the foremanship of William Arnold, master craftsman.
The famed Long Gallery is the longest of its sort in the whole of England and plays host to an impressive collection of Tudor and Elizabethan portraits – loaned from the National Portrait Gallery.
Montacute remains a fabulous outing for all the family throughout the year, its charming location ideal for blissful walks in the surrounding countryside.
9. Tyntesfield, near Bristol
Tyntesfield is a quintessential family estate of Victorian Gothic revival with beautiful parks and gardens.
This once hidden manor stands as a monument to four generations of the Gibbs family, who lovingly sculpted these charming grounds.
There are blossoming terraces and acres of woodland to be explored, as well as Gothic carvings that add to Tyntesfield’s distinct personality.
10. Knightshayes, near Tiverton
The lavishly designed Knightshayes is a grand and marvellous house of gothic revival.
“Full of quirks and curiosities, it is a house of many faces” say current custodians The National Trust.
Knightshayes’ architecture is part of the William Burges repertoire. Its woodland garden is home to one of the most diverse and venerated plant collections in the UK with more than 1200 species.
Ideal for family outings, Knightshayes is surrounded by quiet woodland walks and farmers’ fields grazed on by the iconic Exmoor Long-horn sheep.