Sunday, March 15, 2015

Devon and Cornwall part 2 - Polperro, the South West Coast path, and National Trust properties

In part 1 of my Devon and Cornwall recap, we saw Dartmoor national park and the Eden Project. Today, we have Polperro, coastal views and several National Trust properties.

Polperro, Cornwall

As a child, I decided I would live in Polperro when I grew up. I loved the colourful town with its narrow, twisting streets and smuggler history. I also loved a tree-lined walk high above the town and adjacent to the sea. My childhood plan was to buy a plot of land in the trees, build a cabin, and live happily ever after.

Things change, and I no longer feel a burning desire to live in Polperro. However, I was glad to visit it again after many years. It was as attractive as I remembered, if oddly quiet out of season. 

Polperro harbour
We walked some of the South West Coast path to the west of Polperro - the opposite direction to my tree-lined childhood memories. The South West Coast path is England's longest trail, covering 630 miles of rugged and spectacular coastline.

We were fortunate to have glistening sunshine on the afternoon in question, and before long we had shed our coats and were wishing for sunglasses and fewer layers. The path was muddy in spots, incredibly steep in others, and we had stunning views from just about every section.

We also had gorgeous weather on the day we visited Saltram House, a National Trust property just outside of Plymouth. It is situated almost exactly opposite from where my grandparents lived when I was a child, but I had no memories of visiting it on previous trips. For those of you not in the UK, the National Trust is a UK conservation charity that cares for historic buildings and outdoor areas. If you join as an annual member, you get free entry to all properties for the next calendar year, which works out to be very good value if you visit even 3 or 4.

Saltram House

Saltram is a Georgian mansion set in impressive gardens, and in summer much of the house is open to the public. At this time of year some rooms were still shut off, but we enjoyed the ones we could see, and especially a book-lined floor to ceiling library.

We also ate lunch at Saltram, although I inexplicably took no photos of the occasion. As is often the case at National Trust properties, there were several vegetarian options and I enjoyed the lentil soup with fresh wholemeal bread. Mr Bite had a tuna, red onion and cheese ciabatta, and we both enjoyed our meals.

Folly in Saltram gardens

On the same day as visiting Saltram, we went to Buckland Abbey. The abbey started as a religious settlement in 1278, but after the dissolution of monasteries by King Henry VIII, it was refashioned into a private residence. It went on to become the home of Sir Francis Drake, the English sea captain who performed the second circumnavigation of the world.

Buckland Abbey

Our own navigational skills are not as refined as Drake's, and so we were relying on phone GPS mapping to find the Abbey. It is worth noting that the location of Buckland Abbey on certain maps is not very close to its location in real life. We were thus a bit delayed in our arrival, and had to hurry around the house before it closed. It is a mix of museum and residence, and worth seeing, ideally with at least an hour (we had about 45 minutes). The grounds are also impressive and if we'd had more time, we might have enjoyed one of the walks around the gardens. Instead, we had a hasty peak and left it at that.


Our final National Trust property was Knightshayes, chosen purely because it was en route back to London on our drive home. Knightshayes is a gothic revival house, built in the late 1800s, and it is set in 4 acres of gardens. We visited knowing that certain areas were being restored, and so the rooms we saw did not correspond exactly to those usually open to the public. It was still worth visiting, and again, the gardens would be lovely to wander too. On the day we went, it was raining constantly and heavily, and so we elected to carry on our drive rather than get too sodden!

That concludes our few days in the region, but I couldn't finish this recap without showing a snapshot of typical Devon/Cornwall roads. Contrary to appearances, the lane above is a two-way road that constitutes a reasonably well used route (a B road). It adds a certain something when every corner could bring you face to face with an oncoming vehicle and the possibility of reversing to a wider section between hedges!

Polperro is a small village and fishing harbour on the south-east Cornwall coast. The South West Coast path runs through it.

Saltram House is located at Plympton, near Plymouth, Devon. Opening times vary across the year - see .

Buckland Abbey is located at Yelverton, Devon. Opening times vary across the year - see .

Knightshayes is located at Boltham, Tiverton, Devon. Opening times vary across the year - see .

Have you walked any long distance trails? I would love to do so, although confess the practicalities of carrying a heavy pack for days are a bit off putting.


  1. Wow the photos from your coastal walks are truly breath-taking! In the past, I've always been put off visiting Cornwall as the weather can be so unpredictable. Over the years, I've known so many people that have had to abandon their summer camping trips because their tents have been flooded out! As your pics show, though, if you get the timing right and visit when it's sunny, Cornwall is totally idyllic ♥

    1. Funnily enough, I hadn't heard that about Cornwall weather! I suppose I associated flooded camping trips with the UK in general ;) We did have some rainy days, but it's such a diverse and wonderful part of the country, there is plenty to do around the rain anyway! I'm glad you liked the photos.

  2. How very lovely. It makes me want to go back and do a road trip of England. such beautiful old places and scenery.

    1. It is a great place for casual road tripping :-)

  3. That last photo gives me the horrors but the rest of the post is charming with lots of sunshine and beauty. Seems like you are getting your money's worth from your national trust membership! I am in admiration of your plans as a child - wish I had had such ambitions! I visited Cornwall years ago and loved the place - would love to go back there though I suspect I would never again have the wonderful feeling of isolation at Land's End (which I visited during Princess Diana's funeral when everyone else was glued to the tv screen)

    1. Oh, what an amazing experience that must have been. You're right, it would be hard to recreate! I have surprisingly few memories of Land's End and we didn't get there on this trip, so I need to visit again to get to the places we missed!

  4. You really are making me miss Cornwall. It is such a beautiful part of the world. I am hoping to go camping there this summer.

  5. I live in Cornwall at the moment but am originally from Devon, it really is a beautiful part of England. You should visit Falmouth, they have a maritime museum with different boats hanging from the ceiling. The beaches are lovely even this early in the year.

    1. Thanks Bryony! I don't know if I've ever made it to Falmouth - I shall add it to the To Visit list :-)


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