Follow the winding lanes towards St Dominick past the unlikely named Who'd Have Thought It Inn and you'll eventually arrive at the grand estate of Cotehele. This National Trust property is ideal for a day out with family and friends, especially if they enjoy Tudor history.
Unchanged since Tudor times
Cotehele is considered the most authentic and unaltered Tudor house in the UK. You enter through a castle-like gatehouse into the enclosed terraced gardens and approach the main house. Check out the small windows along the front of the house with their diamond-shaped glass set into unbelievably thick stone walls. They make the interior of the house gloomy, along with the fact that there is still no mains electricity to the old house, so it is pretty dark in many of the rooms.
Enter the house through an old wooden door which would do justice to any historic church. As you step inside, give your eyes a few moments to adjust to the interior gloom. The Great Hall has a raised platform at one end and the huge space is lit by three narrow windows which still have the original 15th century stained glass throwing colourful rays around the walls. It's an amazing place to gaze around.
The high barn-like structure has whitewashed walls covered in abstract arrangements of swords, guns and bayonets which make a fascinating display. Suits of armour (which I noticed were clearly worn by very small adults), Civil War breastplates and a lobster-tail helmet are on display. In the centre of the room is a long oak refectory table, and I could almost picture the Lord and his cronies eating huge turkey legs as they feasted around this wonderful old table!
Caution, uneven surfaces!
As you explore this family home on a self-guided tour, look out for the very uneven stone floors, huge mediaeval fireplaces and tapestries used to make the rooms cosy. To add to the darkness, the drawing room has some fabulous black ebony furniture, which I had never seen before. Another furniture piece I particularly noted in the chapel was the oldest domestic clock in the UK, still in its original position. It is powered by two weights and has no face. The time is told by the striking of bells.
There are lots of small rooms but one of those I remember best was the Punch Room. It is decorated with naked figures all treading grapes and the room has arched niches where the wine jars were stored and matured.
Upstairs, the bedrooms have four-poster beds with heavy drapes. Look out for the carved scene of the death of Remus which I thought was more likely to induce nightmares than sweet dreams! Climb the spiral staircase up the three storey tower to the room in which Charles I slept in 1644 on his march from Liskeard to Exeter. Apparently he was not the only royal visitor to this family home as George III and Queen Charlotte dropped by in 1789.
Originally built around 1300AD, the lovely stone manor house was developed in the late 15th century by Sir Richard Edgcumbe. If you are wondering where you heard the name before, check out our article on Rame Peninsula and Mount Edgcumbe. The Edgecombe family moved from Cotehele to take up residence in the much grander house at Mount Edgcumbe in 1553 and this is why Cotehele remained untouched for centuries, shut up in its own Tudor time warp and used as an occasional weekend retreat.
Explore the grounds at National Trust Cotehele
Wander through the Elizabethan-style gardens and orchards surrounding the old house. The Valley Garden is very quiet and pleasant with its ancient dovecote and stew pond. My favourite part is walking back down the long drive towards the quay on the banks of the River Tamar. There is a restored 1899 Tamar sailing barge moored there called the Shamrock. You can read about its history in the Discovery Centre, but you will always find me in the tearoom before too long, enjoying a pot of tea or a creamy Cornish ice cream.
Have you visited Cotehele? What do you remember most about your visit? Did anything stand out or surprise you about it? Are there any other National Trust properties you would recommend to visitors?