Buckland Abbey, near Yelverton, Devon, represents a British national treasure, impressive by any standards. Upon our first view of the estate, we entered one of the biggest, oldest stone buildings I’ve ever seen in my life. The grand, wide entrance doors alone dominated the entire hillside and instantly captured my imagination and interest in its origins. Once inside, I marveled at the catapulted ceiling, sturdy wooden beams, and solid walls — in place for hundreds of years. Snooping around, I felt sad that none of the furniture from its incredible past had survived. Walking lightly in sacred silence, we stumbled upon a huge wooden sign on legs and read the text out loud: “THE GREAT BARN”
We fully expected a fun day, our first taste of biking in the UK. We embarked on the Granite Way, a mainly traffic-free cycle route from Okehampton to Lydford, Devon and a part of the extensive National Cycle Network (NCN) in the UK-route 27 “Devon coast-to-coast”. Built along the course of the old Southern Region railway line, the relatively flat trail covers about 15 miles.
What contains 2355 solid granite blocks and leaks like a sieve?
Unfortunately, the last castle built in England claims that honor.
Yes, Castle Drogo leaks profusely and water will ruin the property without immediate action. Fortunately, the National Trust, owner since 1974, has come to the rescue and the building’s interior now faces a bone-dry future, but will wait five years for the privilege. In the meantime, scaffolding around the structure supports the (hopefully) brave and patient workmen who will carefully remove and return 680 tons of stone from (and back to) the Castle roof — a Grand Design Groundhog Day, to be sure.
Located in Tiverton, not far from our temporary thatched-roof cottage, Knightshayes Court represents yet another National Trust location where we spent a happy few hours. The Trust acquired the estate in 1973 after the death of its owner Sir John Heathcoat-Amory. His forefather, John Heathcoat, inventor of an innovative lace production machine, originally chose the site for its view of his plant — the largest lace-manufacturing facility in the world at the end of the nineteenth century.
Located in the small village of Sticklepath, near Okehampton and within the Dartmoor National Park borders, this historic foundry remains the last working water-powered forge in England. Owned by Tom Pearse in 1810, the mill operated then to produce the high-quality serge fabric (or twill-weave wool) needed to dress the British army in its distinguished scarlet jackets and white breeches.
Located in southwest Devon county, this stunning landscape showcases some of the wildest natural beauty in Britain with 368 square miles of pale purple heather, deep green forests, and ancient granite rock formations – known as tors. The Park ranks comparable in size to the US Mount Rainier in the state of Washington. In contrast, Yosemite holds more than three times the land mass.
In 1998, a 35-acre china clay site in Cornwall, England stood silent and unproductive. Today, the Eden Project demonstrates how enough vision and resources can transform a mining pit into a green, conservation-oriented paradise for all to enjoy. Record producer Sir Tim Smit, Eden co-founder and chief executive, provided a driving force for the critical change back to productivity. The Project, now a registered educational charity, exists to bring people and nature closer together through “gardens, exhibitions, events, experiences, and projects.”