The landscapes on this tour range from the enchanting patchwork fields and wild moors of Devon to the verdant hidden valleys of Exmoor. The houses and their families reflect deep attachment to place: eighteen generations of the Luttrell family have clung to their castle turned country house at Dunster; Montacute was home to the Phelips family for three centuries. The beautifully situated house at Crowcombe combines Baroque and Palladian influences, while the eighteenth century is also wonderfully exemplified by the delicious Adam interiors at Saltram. The severe Palladianism of Claverton is home to a unique collection of American interiors, and Edwardian eccentricity is demonstrated by Lutyens’s faux fortress at Castle Drogo.
Montacute. The coach leaves The Castle Hotel at 1.10pm and Taunton Railway Station at 1.30pm. Drive to Montacute, one of the loveliest and least changed of Elizabethan country houses, with the longest long gallery in England. An outstation of the National Portrait Gallery, it is hung with 16th- and 17th-century pictures.
Saltram, Castle Drogo. Drive across Devon to Saltram, a largely 18th-century house with lavish Robert Adam interiors, rooms of fine Chinese wallpapers and pictures, books and furnishings. Among the paintings are works by Reynolds, Stubbs, Rubens, Brueghel, and Pieter de Hough. A rugged Dartmoor setting matches Sir Edwin Lutyens’s imaginative exercise in medievalism at Castle Drogo, which is nearing the end of a six-year restoration programme. Though equipped with a working portcullis, the castle incorporates all the latest early 20th-century comforts.
Orchard Wyndham, Dunster Castle. Orchard Wyndham is a Grade I-listed building with medieval origins and has been owned by the Wyndham family for over 700 years. The last additions to its complicated architectural history were made by Queen Anne’s Chancellor. In addition to the 15th-century Great Hall are early 16th-century plaster ceilings, portraits by Gainsborough, Kneller and Reynolds, and fine furniture. Drive towards Exmoor to the picturesque village of Dunster. Atop a wooded hillock, the defensive features of the Norman castle were long ago domesticated, notably in the Carolean and Victorian ages.
Claverton Manor. Built in 1819–20, this Neo-classical villa was designed by Jeffry Wyatt. Today it houses a remarkable collection of rooms transported from America, including Shaker and Mexican Indian examples. Part of the garden is a copy of Mount Vernon outside Washington. The tour ends at the festival hotels in Bath by 2.00pm.
Historian, journalist and travel writer. He has worked with and for the National Trust in various capacities for almost 30 years. His books include Victorian & Edwardian Country House Life and he writes regular profiles of country houses for the Historic Houses Association magazine. He has written numerous travel and guide books, and contributes to a wide range of newspapers and magazines.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £1,240. Single occupancy: £1,400.
Hotel accommodation; breakfasts and 2 dinners with wine, water, coffee; transport by private coach; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
The Castle Hotel, Taunton: an award-winning family-run 4-star hotel, pleasingly decorated and with excellent service. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Unavoidably, there is quite a lot of walking on this tour and it would not be suitable for anyone who has difficulties with everyday walking and stair-climbing. Coaches can rarely park near the houses, some of the parks and gardens are extensive, the houses visited don’t have lifts. Average distance by coach per day: c. 75 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.