Saturday 31 August 2019

Sticklebarn and The Langdales

I suggested recently that if anyone wanted to start their own National Trust blog you could do worse than to choose National Trust Beaches. Well, here's an even better idea for you: National Trust Pubs. It turns out that there are around 40 of them, Sticklebarn in the Lake District being one. What a pub crawl that would be.

Anyway. Sticklebarn and The Langdales might sound like the band at Worzel Gummidge's wedding but it's actually a pub and a very scenic area:
  • Great Landgale is a U-shaped valley containing the Langdale Pikes (a group of mountains) and two villages. It was the centre of the Lake District's slate industry and there are still slate works there today.
  • Little Langdale is a valley containing a hamlet, as well as two tarns (mountain lakes created by glaciers); Little Langdale Tarn and Blea Tarn
  • Sticklebarn is a pub (a place serving alcohol), providing food and drinks to weary walkers
Sticklebarn - a National Trust pub
I'm not sure why I took a picture featuring a drain-pipe, rather than the cosy interior
of the pub. You'll just have to imagine that part. 
You really do need a special dictionary in the Lake District - I only just discovered that a stickle is "a hill with a prominent rocky top." What with ghylls, fells, tarns, forces, thwaites, and meres, you really do need to pay attention to what you're agreeing to.

The Stickle Tarn Trail

Anyway. If you like walking, cycling, and camping then you'll love this beautiful area of the country. There's a real buzz - people setting off on walks, or returning from walks, or walking into the pub having completed a walk.
Blea Tarn in Little Langdale
Blea Tarn - surely one of the world's most beautiful spots
The Sticklebarn scone
But let's move on to the scone. This was the third (yes, third) scone of the day (after Fell Foot and Wray Castle) and it was still only 2pm. We decided to go crazy and have some lunch as well, so what with sausage rolls and baked potatoes thrown in to the mix it was all turning into a highly unusual scone mission. 

The scone itself was a lot smaller than the Fell Foot and Wray Castle ones, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing - if most people drop in to Sticklebarn for hearty meals to get them up the fells, then a scone-as-dessert might be appropriate. And it was definitely fresher than the one we'd just had at Wray. It just wasn't quite up to the standards of the legendary scone we'd had at Fell Foot.

Sticklebarn National Trust scone

Sticklebarn was my second National Trust pub, as I had been to The George Inn in Southwark in my previous life as a London pub expert*. If you'd like to see the list of all NT hostelries, you can find it here.

*I wasn't a certified or qualified London pub expert. I just went to a lot of London pubs.

Sticklebarn: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
Ticking second National Trust pub off the list: 5 out of 5

Other National Trust properties we've visited in the Lake District: Acorn Bank, Allan Bank, Fell FootHill Top, Sizergh CastleWordsworth House, Wray Castle

Wray Castle

If I went to IKEA tomorrow and bought a flat-packed fortress, it would probably look just like Wray Castle. Or it would do if I got someone else to build it for me, as my efforts at flat-pack unfortunately tend to look like Dennis the Menace's tree house until they just fall apart completely.

Wray Castle

Anyway. Wray is not an ancient castle. It was built in 1840 as a Gothic Revival place, so the turrets and arrow slits were never actually used for firing projectiles at Roundheads or invaders during a siege. It's also a very squat building when you see it up close, but the exterior is very impressive nonetheless.

It's very different inside. I mean this with the greatest of affection, but it reminded me of a cross between a town hall and the set of Why Don't You?, that iconic 80s TV show that was presented entirely by kids making Rice Krispie cakes and marauding around the place like a televisual Lord of the Flies.
Wray Castle Interior
Someone messaged me to say it reminded her of Byker Grove
rather than Why Don't You. She's right.
But before we get further into that, here's a bit of history for you:
  • Wray Castle was built in 1840 for James and Margaret Dawson from Liverpool - he was a retired surgeon and she came from a wealthy background.
  • Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, came to visit his cousin Edward who had inherited Wray Castle from the Dawsons. Hardwicke loved the place and became vicar in Wray church.
  • In 1882, Hardwicke bumped into a young Beatrix Potter in the grounds at Wray Castle - her parents had rented the place for the summer and she and Hardwicke became good friends. She went on to buy nearby Hill Top.
  • The castle was left to the National Trust in 1929 and had many uses subsequently.
  • It was originally a youth hostel and then from 1931 it contained the offices of the Freshwater Biological Association. You probably won't be surprised to hear that the FBA is concerned with freshwater science and research.
  • Bizarrely, Wray Castle was classified as a ship from 1958 and 1998. RMS Wray Castle was a training ship for radio officers. There was even a student bar in the room that had been used as an eel reservoir by the FBA.
  • In 2011 it was opened to the public - apparently the National Trust had looked at other options for its use but it attracted so many visitors that they decided to keep it as a tourist destination.
And that's the thing about Wray; its location in the Lake District makes it a hugely attractive attraction for families. We arrived on a wet Saturday lunchtime and the very cheerful receptionist said "we have LOTS of children in today" in a way that left it very much open to our own interpretation. We could either take that piece of information and run a mile, or we could return to our people carrier and unleash 8 kids of our own into the melee.

As it was, we just stuck to having an enjoyable time wandering around the place. There's no original furniture in any of the rooms, which does make it ideal for children who want to run around a bit. However, for the first time in the six year history of my National Trust membership I did find myself questioning whether there's enough at Wray to really justify the £11 entry fee (or £27.50 for a family). It's undoubtedly a great property with a huge amount of potential, so hopefully they'll persevere with their events and continue to find good use for the space.

The estate includes lovely shoreline onto Lake Windermere:
Wray Castle on Windermere

And the view of the fells from the castle are beautiful, especially with a bit of sunshine:
Wray Castle view across the fells

The Wray Castle scone
But on to the scone. I was very impressed by the size of the Wray Castle scone but I think its size may have worked against it. It was very dry and it didn't taste very fresh. It had also followed hot on the heels of a sublime scone that we'd had earlier at Fell Foot - although each scone is taken on its own merits, it was a bit like when someone on Strictly does a show-stopping, jaw-dropping jive as the penultimate dance of the night and then the final couple have to come on and do a waltz to Three Times a Lady - it's just an extra challenge that they could have done without.

Wray Castle scone

But Wray Castle is well worth a visit if you're already an NT member - it's impressive with very friendly staff.

Wray Castle: 4 out of 5
Scone: 3.5 out of 5
Surely the only room in the whole of the National Trust that was used as an eel reservoir and then turned into a student bar: 5 out of 5

Other National Trust properties we've visited in the Lake District: Acorn BankAllan BankFell FootHill TopSizergh CastleSticklebarnWordsworth House

Fell Foot

I ate A LOT of National Trust scones in August 2019. I had managed to visit 8 properties between January and July, but it wasn't enough. I had committed to finishing this project by December 2020 and 1.14 scones a month was not going to get me over the finish line.

I thought about hiring a personal scone trainer/scone coach to help me get closer to my goal, but unfortunately they don't exist. So I just went on a scone rampage. In the first 30 days of August I managed to visit 23 National Trust properties across Devon, the Midlands, and Northern Ireland, racking up a total of 19 scones. 

By August 30th I was fatter, covered in scone crumbs, and smelling faintly of jam when my phone pinged. I struggled out from under a pile of National Trust maps and guidebooks to find a text from my friend Sarah-Jane saying she was looking forward to seeing me for the weekend and that she was planning to drive us to the Lake District - but would I be able to manage three scones in one day?

WAS I ABLE TO EAT THREE SCONES IN ONE DAY? Did she know who I was?? Like Godzilla, I raised myself up from the depths of a scone-induced torpor and headed for Euston station.

And this is how, one rainy August Saturday morning, we found ourselves at Fell Foot, a shoreline park at the bottom of Lake Windermere in Cumbria.

The Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway adding
a bit of Victorian glamour in the background
Fell Foot was once the site of a large lakeside villa. A man called Jeremiah Dixon from Leeds enlarged the original farmhouse after 1784, before selling up to a Francis Astley who in turn sold the place to Colonel George Ridehalgh in 1859. 

It was Colonel George who created the piers and the five Gothic-style boathouses that still survive today. To really see the boathouses, you can catch the Fell Foot Ferry from nearby Lakeside and approach from the water.

The Gothic boathouses -
a bit incongruous against the modern-day cruiser
The estate was then sold to an Oswald Hedley, who demolished the house and started work on a new neo-Jacobean mansion. But his wife died and he lost interest in Fell Foot. The property was given to the National Trust after he died.

Interestingly, the place was initially tenanted out to a man who ran it as a caravan park with holiday chalets. They're gone now but it's fascinating to think that the Lake Distrct has always balanced recreation facilities with the natural beauty of the area.

There used to be a large house on this site - it's not there now (obviously)
The Fell Foot Scone
Let's move on to the scone. I'd never been to Fell Foot before but it still seemed strangely quiet as we made our way along the path. We soon worked out why; everyone was in the tea room. It was packed.

This was the first of our three scheduled scones and after a couple of bites SJ looked momentarily troubled; "I think we might have peaked early - this is a great scone." She was right - it was sublime; slightly warm, extremely fresh, and very, very tasty indeed.

Fell Foot Scone
The Fell Foot scone - one of the best
ever encountered on the National Trust Scone Odyssey
She then proved once and for all that she is an exceptional human being with the words "and I haven't even eaten the top half yet and everyone knows that's the best part of a scone." There have been several occasions during the making of this scone blog when friends and family have proven themselves beyond all measure - this was one of those moments. 
Scone aficionado at work
The only disappointment was that anyone let Oswald demolish the house, but it didn't really matter. Fell Foot is now all about the lake and the paddleboarding and other activities that you can do before you enjoy one of the best National Trust scones that you'll ever eat.

Fell Foot: 4 out of 5 - I had to deduct a point for the missing house
Scone: 5 out of 5 (I'd give it more if I could)
Fitting another three scones in to August when I thought I was done: 5 out of 5

Other National Trust properties we've visited in the Lake District: Acorn BankAllan BankHill TopSizergh CastleSticklebarnWordsworth HouseWray Castle

Saturday 24 August 2019


I initially thought that Wembury would be a great place to visit, as I could make lots of jokes about how I sang "" all the way there a la Chas n Dave in their 1981 Cup Final ditty, Ossie's Dream.

But Wembury was the 7th and final stop on this 2019 Tour of Devon and my long-suffering sister had been driving up and down tiny country lanes for four days straight, so I decided to spare her the spirited singing.

It turned out that Wembury is nothing like Wembley (obviously) - it's a lovely little spot not far from Plymouth that offers some of the best rock pools in the country as well as inland and coastal walks. There's also a Marine Centre that runs watersports and other activities.

Wembury Beach

If nearby South Milton Sands reminded me of Skiathos then Wembury reminded me of Cornwall - it was very rustic, as if it hadn't changed in fifty years.

The Old Mill Café is right on the beach (see below). I wasn't sure if it was tenanted (in which case I don't strictly need to include it in my National Trust Scone Quest) but to be safe I dropped in anyway and had a very nice cup of tea (they had no scones).

Wembury tea room

It was a beautiful hot day and the place was packed - we arrived at 10.30am and the car park was already 90% full - but I can totally see why. A beautiful little spot.

Wembury: 4 out of 5
Scones: didn't have any but I think is tenanted so is bonus stop anyway
Happiness at fitting Chas n Dave into a blog post: 5 out of 5

Other stops on the Devon Tour 2019 (Part 2): Antony, Cotehele, Lydford Gorge, Overbeck's.

Friday 23 August 2019


Some National Trust properties are very difficult to reach. Lindisfarne and St Michael's Mount are the obvious examples, what with the small hurdle of 'the sea' being in the way. A tide timetable is a basic requirement for both of those before you set off.  

But I'd also put Overbeck's in Devon up there. That sat nav that has never let you down? You'll be threatening to throw it into the sea as you inch up single track roads, swearing that surely no tourist attraction could ever be down this ridiculous path.

And then you find it and all is forgiven, Google Maps:


I hope the NT doesn't mind me saying this, but the house itself is probably fourth on the list of highlights at Overbeck's. The amazing views, the beautiful gardens, and the lovely tea-room would certainly be higher on mine. 

This is the view of the Salcombe estuary from the top of the garden:

Overbecks view

But there is a house and I will gladly give you some history of it:

  • Overbeck's was originally called Sharpitor 
  • The house you see today was built just before WWI - a man called Edric Hopkins had bought the place in 1895 and laid out the gardens 
  • It was a convalescent home for soldiers during the War - the owners at the time, the Verekers, had lost a son at the Battle of Mons and ran the place using their own funds and voluntary contributions
  • Fifteen of the 1,020 soldiers that stayed at Overbeck's ended up marrying local girls
  • It was bought by Otto Overbeck in 1928 - he was a research chemist by trade
  • He actually discovered Marmite before it was discovered, if that makes sense, and  he invented a non-alcoholic beer but the government taxed it, which stopped it being commercially viable
  • His big invention was an 'electrical rejuvenator' - users applied electrodes to their skin and the years dropped off. He planned to live to the age of 126 using his ingenious device but he didn't quite make it, dying when he was 77. I imagine this might have made marketing a bit more challenging. 
  • Otto died in 1937 and left the property to the National Trust, stipulating that it should be renamed Overbeck's

The gardens are fabulous. The Statue Garden is very structured and neat, with beautiful colours and fragrance: 

Overbecks gardens

There's also a banana garden, where the shelter from the elements also supports other impressive tropical plants:

Overbecks tropical gardens

The Overbeck's Scone
But let's move on to the scone. I'm taking the education of future scone buffs very seriously as I enter the final year of my National Trust Scone Odyssey. I was therefore delighted to be joined on this expedition by two young aficionados called Olivia and Amy, who also brought their parents along.

In fact, very little training was required by the girls (the parents were a different matter). They were spot-on in their final assessment - the older fraternity wanted to award 5s willy-nilly, or try and take marks off for wasps (what??), but Olivia and Amy were firm on 4.5 out of 5. This is exactly what I would have given, and they managed it without six years of trekking around the country consuming 8 gazillion calories. Great work, apprentices.  

The Overbeck's scone: fresh, tasty and full of fruit:

Overbecks scone

The tea room is also inside the house itself, which is always a bit special, but this one has the added bonus of spectacular views down over the estuary. It really is the most perfect place to eat scones and drink tea on a sunny afternoon. 

Overbeck's: 5 out of 5 for the amazing views and gardens
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
The very Instagram-friendly plate: 5 out of 5

South Milton Sands

If anyone is looking to start their own National Trust blog, you could do a lot worse than focus on National Trust beaches. 

I went to South Milton Sands as part of my National Trust Scone Tour of Devon 2019 (Part Two). I knew there was a beach cafe there and although I wasn't sure if it was a) tenanted, in which case it's not mandatory for this project or b) a purveyor of scones, I decided not to take any chances. We were on our way to nearby Overbeck's anyway, so we dropped in.
South Milton Sands

Thank God we did. It's a beautiful beach. It was a baking hot day and I honestly felt like we'd been transported over to Skiathos.

The Mediterranean atmosphere was helped by the very nice food and relaxed vibe exuding from the Beach Cafe. They didn't sell scones but they did lunches, coffee, beer, wine, cakes. We had excellent ice cream.  

South Milton Sands Beach Cafe

So if I have inspired you to kick off the National Trust Beaches Blog, here are a few other coastal places that I have chanced upon over the past six years. They're all fantastic and will get you started (Studland has a nudist section, so you might want to start there if you're looking for something a bit different):

South Milton Sands: 5 out of 5
Scone: didn't have any, but I think it's tenanted anyway so doesn't count

Thursday 22 August 2019


Cotehele, pronounced Coat-Heel, in Cornwall is a very dark place. I don't mean that it was once a brutal orphanage, or that it's run by the Addams Family. I mean it literally: there isn't much light


The reason for this lies partly in the number of tapestries in nearly every room. A lot of NT houses have one or two hanging about, but Cotehele has loads of them. They themselves contribute to the gloom, but they also need protecting, which means that the amount of daylight allowed into the rooms has to be rationed.

If you're wondering why I'm wibbling on about the dark so much, I need to explain:
  • Cotehele had been recommended to me by many, many people and I badly wanted to love it. 
  • It was the 200th stop on the National Trust Scone Odyssey and came on the back of a series of visits to bright, light, airy NT houses that I would live in tomorrow if I could (namely Arlington, The Argory, Springhill).
So having established that, while I appreciated the unique antiquity of Cotehele, its eerie nooks and crannies wouldn't allow me to ever sleep again if I lived there, let's move on and tell its story.

It was the home of the Edgcumbes for 600 years
In 1353 Hilaria de Cotehele, from an old and respected family, married William Edgcumbe. The early Edgcumbes all played a part in modelling the house - Richard I modernised it and his son Piers also made signficant changes when he inherited in 1489. Later on, in the mid 1600s, Colonel Piers Edgcumbe made further changes when he moved the family back to Cotehele for a time.

The antique furnishings were not always quite so respected
There's a great story in the guide book about James Lees-Milne, when he was the Country Houses Secretary for the National Trust. He visited Cotehele to begin negotiations about the NT taking on the estate. He was "incredulous" when Lady Mount Edgcumbe's puppy 'ate a good slice of Queen Anne tatting from the famous needlework sofa in the Punch Room. "You naughty little thing," she admonished in an amused tone as it scuttled off with a mouthful.'

Richard Edgcumbe I was quite a character
In 1483, Richard Edgcumbe decided to rebel against King Richard III. He was put under house arrest but he absconded. He made his way to Brittany and later fought with Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth, where he was knighted. He later built the Chapel-in-the-Wood to commemorate his escape.

It's a big and complex house
In 1450 the house was a fairly simple hall with a chapel and service wing. As various Edgcumbes added new sections to the place, it became a bit of a warren. There are around 18 rooms that you can visit today and they're all spread out in various ranges and towers so you never know where you are (or you probably would - my sense of direction is sadly abysmal). 

It played second fiddle to Mount Edgcumbe House
In 1553, Piers's son Richard Edgcumbe III went to live in a grand new abode that he had built, Mount Edgcumbe House, which is down on the coast about 20 miles away from Cotehele. It became the main residence for the family, which meant two things: a) Cotehele didn't change as much as it might have done had it been a primary residence and b) old furnishings that were no longer needed at MEH were sent to Cotehele, giving it the very ancient atmosphere that it still has today. 

The family returned in 1941
Mount Edgcumbe House was destroyed by bombs in 1941, so Piers, the 5th Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, moved the family back to Cotehele. 

It has a famous Christmas garland
I had seen pictures of the Cotehele Christmas garland of flowers that goes up every year but I had no real concept of its size until I saw the Great Hall for myself. It's BIG. The garland involves an 18 metre-long rope and 15,000-30,000 flowers.

Cotehele Great Hall

The tradition only dates to the 1950s when the National Trust introduced the idea. The seeds for the garland are sown every February and the flowers are cut daily throughout summer. The stems are bunched and hung to dry in the shed. The team then begins constructing the garland in November - the rope is hung and evergreens added and then the flowers are placed individually. It's a lovely idea. 

I didn't see the famous Cotehele garland as it's a yuletide thing,
so I borrowed this picture and will just hope that nobody sues me.
It's hugely impressive and must be quite a sight.
It has a working mill that produces flour for the scones
It's a 20 minute walk down to Cotehele Mill (or you can hop in a little minibus like we did). The mill was restored by the National Trust in 1973 and produces flour that you can buy in the shop. The NT also created four workshops to show how a saddlery, a wheelwright, and a blacksmith would have looked.

While we're on the subject of flour, let's talk about the Cotehele scone. It was a big chunk of a scone and it didn't disappoint. It was well-baked and very tasty. I also loved the tea room at Cotehele - it's in the barn and it's big and light, so a total contrast to most of the house. The staff were also very friendly.

Cotehele scone

I just went to close the guide book and saw a quote from Queen Victoria who visited Cotehele in 1846; "The old rooms are hung with arras [tapestry], & very cheerless I think." So I'm not the only one who struggled with the gloominess. 

However, the house reminded me very much of Knole in Kent - both hugely impressive buildings that could inspire a thousand ghost stories. I'm just not sure you'd want to live there.

Cotehele: 4.5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Bonus marks for local production of flour in the mill: 5 out of 5

Lydford Gorge

I did a very British thing at Lydford Gorge in Devon. My long-suffering sister was my companion for Part Two of the 2019 Devon National Trust Scone Tour. I had lectured her into previously unknown levels of boredom about the need to bring her trainers for the Lydford leg of the trip. I even recapped at length about it on the morning of the visit.

Whitelady Waterfall at Lydford Gorge

So it was quite a tricky moment when, just as we swung into the carpark, I looked down and realised that I was wearing ballet flats. We went into the reception booth and it turned into one of those sitcom scenarios where everywhere I looked were signs saying "THE ROCKS ARE SLIPPERY - STURDY SHOES ARE ESSENTIAL", and all I could hear was NT staff telling other visitors wearing massive walking boots "you'll have NO PROBLEM as long as you have DECENT SHOES!"

A very enthusiastic man gave us directions on the various options for reaching the waterfall. This is where I did the British thing: I listened and nodded, I thanked him profusely, I walked confidently through the gate, then I did a sharp turn into the tea room. I ordered some scones while I did what any sibling would do in this situation - I tried to work out how I could blame my sister for this debacle. Having failed on that as well, I 'fessed up and shared my concerns: I probably needed to go back to the hotel and get my trainers, otherwise I might plunge to a tragic death and our parents would blame her. 

I don't know if the enthusiastic man saw us pulling out of the car park only 15 minutes after he'd given us directions (directions that definitely didn't involve getting into a Renault Clio and driving off towards Tavistock). I hope not.

But his words were not wasted; the very next morning we were waiting for the kiosk to open so we could pick up where we had left off.

Whitelady Waterfall

We weren't disappointed. Here are some highlights:
  • Lydford Gorge was created 11,500 years ago - when the glaciers retreated the meltwater created the steep gorge that we see today
  • The rocks themselves have been around for over 350 million years
  • Lydford Gorge contains a 'river capture' - the River Lyd 'captured' the River Burn 450,000 years ago, which changed the course of the Lyd and resulted in Whitelady Waterfall
  • Whitelady is 28.2 metres high (the highest in the SW of England)
  • It was named after a spirit that is meant to appear if you are drowning in the river - unfortunately there's some debate about whether she appears to save you or to tell you that you're done for
  • The Devil's Cauldron can be found at the other end of the Gorge - it's a bubbling pothole that visitors can walk over in summer
  • Over the years the Gorge has been home to mills and mines until it was bought by Daniel Radford after 1871
  • His family bequeathed the Gorge to the National Trust in 1943
The Lydford Gorge Scone
But let us return to the Lydford scone, which we had eaten on that first day of footwear fail. It was a fine-looking specimen and I had very high hopes for it. I cut into it and immediately feared the worst, however: it looked a bit dry and I had a strong suspicion that it wasn't fresh. 

In fact, it tasted very nice. It had a slightly soft texture as if it had been kept in a container (I've been wrong about this before though, so maybe it hadn't). But I did enjoy it.

Lydford Gorge scone

As we drove away after our second (successful) visit, I did a Google search for Lydford Gorge. It turned out that an unfortunate visitor had broken their ankle there the day before and had to be rescued, not too long after we had postponed our attempt. I hope that poor person is recovering.

Lydford Gorge: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Restraint of my sister: 5 out of 5

Buckland Abbey

Buckland Abbey had two illustrious owners in the 1500s. The first was Sir Richard Grenville, an Elizabethan adventurer whose dad died the most Tudor of deaths; he went down with the Mary Rose when it sank in 1545.

Buckland Abbey

The second owner was Sir Francis Drake. He bought Buckland from Sir Richard, although apparently he had to do so through a third party, as Grenville hated him. 

But let's start at the very beginning:

Buckland Abbey starts out as, erm, an abbey
Buckland was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1278 by Amicia, the dowager Countess of Devon. Cistercian abbeys were set up to revive the principles of St Benedict, bringing back poverty, chastity, and obedience instead of the opulence and corruption that would ultimately be the undoing of the monasteries.

The Great Barn is still there
There's a large barn next to the house that would have stored all of the goods that the monks produced; wool, cheese, honey, wood and fruit.

Dissolution spells the end for the monks
Buckland avoided the first cull when Henry VIII started the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. However, a rather dodgy custodian was put in charge and it was only a matter of time before he handed the place over in February 1539, doing very well for himself out of the closure.

Richard Grenville the Elder snaps the place up
The Crown sold Buckland to Richard Grenville the Elder for £233 in 1541. He intended it for his son Roger, but when Rog met a tragic end on the Mary Rose his young son Richard was next in line and inherited when he was eight.

Richard Grenville the younger isn't very interested in sitting at home
The younger Richard wanted a life of adventure, so when he finally came of age he sold some land at Buckland and took off. He began with a bit of solidering in Hungary and then became Sheriff of Cork before evolving into a privateer, a privateer being someone that sails off to find new lands and riches on behalf of the Queen with her support. He did eventually 'settle' at Buckland - he converted the abbey into a home, while also hunting down Catholics and hanging them, for which he was knighted.

Great Hall at Buckland Abbey
The lovely floor in the Great Hall is original - I like Richie G's taste
Richard sells up, goes back to sea, ends up dead
The very well written guidebook tells how Richard came out of retirement to go back to sea, possibly because he was jealous of Sir Francis Drake's success in circumnavigating the globe and returning with treasures that made him very popular with Elizabeth I. It also tells how he disobeyed orders during his last voyage in 1591; "Sir Richard was shot, most of his crew died, and his ship was pounded to splinters". So there we are.

Sir Francis Drake buys Buckland
Was Francis Drake a pirate? Was he a slave trader? Was he a pious man who was relatively benevolent to his prisoners? Was he constantly chasing the spoils and annoying his cohorts by always somehow ending up with the loot? He was all of the above, according to a book I bought at Buckland called 'Behind the Pirate's Mask'. Here are some factoids:
  • He came from humble beginnings - he was born near Tavistock in Devon in 1542 or 1543 to a family that rented a farm from a nearby monastery
  • His father is believed to have been a sailor and was an early convert to Protestantism
  • The family had to escape to Kent during a Catholic uprising and it was there that Francis got a job with the owner of a small sailing ship who travelled between England and the Netherlands
  • When the ship owner died he left it to Francis, who sold up and returned to Devon
  • He joined his cousin, John Hawkins, on slave trading missions to the New World in 1566
  • They got into battles with the Spanish - this experience hardened Drake against the Spanish, which justified (in his mind) his subsequent pirate activity in stealing treasure from their ships as they carried gold from South America back to Europe
Sir Francis Drake picture
  • In 1577 he set sail in the Pelican with the Queen's support - for nearly three years he and his fleet sailed around picking up Spanish gold and other wealth, before returning to Plymouth in 1580 
  • Drake thereby became the first Englishman to lead a circumnavigation of the globe, and only the second person to achieve it after Magellan
  • Apparently there were some misgivings about Drake's tactics at the time, but the Queen had seen a 5000 to 1 return on her investment from the trip and so in spring 1581 Drake was knighted aboard the Golden Hind and was a national hero
Model of the Pelican, which was renamed the Golden Hind

  • He bought Buckland with his share of the spoils and moved there with his first wife (she later died and he married again).
  • In 1587 Drake was sent to Cadiz to destroy the Spanish fleet that was gathering strength - once again he brought back a huge haul of treasure and made Elizabeth I very happy.
  • In 1588 Drake famously helped defend the coast from the Armada, ensuring that of 130 Spanish ships that came to attack, only 53 returned to Spain.
  • In 1589 he took to the sea again to attack what was left of the Spanish fleet but the mission ended in failure; 11,000-16,000 English sailors lost their lives. Elizabeth I was furious and Drake didn't go to sea for a few years.
  • In 1594 he was commissioned to go the Indies again but that mission also failed and Drake died of dysentery, ending up with burial at sea
The legend of Drake's drum
I didn't see the replica of Drake's drum - maybe it wasn't on display or maybe I just wasn't paying attention and walked right past it - but it's the stuff of legend. Drake had a snare drum that he took with him on voyages. He apparently ordered the drum to be taken back to Buckland, vowing that if England was ever in trouble then the drum should be beaten and Sir Francis would return to save the day. It has reportedly been heard on several occasions.

Buckland after Sir Francis 
Sir Francis Drake had no children and left his property to his brother, Thomas. Buckland continued to be inhabited by Drakes for many years - they were "booted out" during the Civil War according to the guidebook but returned in 1646. 

By 1750 Drake's descendants had moved out to another residence and Buckland fell into disrepair. It was restored and Drakes returned to live there again, although by now they had names like Sir Francis Fuller-Elliot-Drake. When the last Drake inherited in 1937 (Captain Richard Owen-Tapps-Gervaise-Meyrick) the house caught fire and had to be restored again. It was then put up for auction - a Captain Arthur Rodd bought it and handed it to the National Trust.

Buckland today: house and museum
I particularly liked Buckland because it does two things at once; rooms like the Great Hall give you some idea of where and how Grenville and Drake lived, but it's also very much a Francis Drake museum with artefacts and pictures. 

Sir Francis statue
Plaster cast for the statue of Drake that stands in Tavistock.
It's very big.
There was also an added bonus waiting for us; a famous portrait of Drake was on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. Painted in 1581, it shows him in all his finery following his successful circumnavigation of the globe.

Sir Francis Drake portrait

The Buckland scone: Sic Parvis Magna indeed
My heart sank a bit when I saw the Buckland scone. It looked a bit small, especially when compared to some of the other Devonian scones I'd had in recent times (Antony being one example). 

But Drake's motto was Sic Parvis Magna, which means 'Greatness from small beginnings', so I ploughed on. And the scone did turn out to be very tasty. 

Buckland Abbey scone

I just Googled 'Sic Parvis Magna' to make sure I'd spelt it correctly and it's a very popular tattoo apparently.

I'll end with this. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that for six long years I've been at sea working on this blog, wondering whether I'll ever finish the odyssey. I found this prayer at Buckland by the very pious Sir Francis, which says: "Grant us to know that it is not the beginning but the continuing of the same unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth true glory". Even if he was a pirate, and even if sailing around the world is not quite the same as eating 200+ scones, I'm taking it as inspiration from one quest seeker to another. Thanks, Frank. Onwards to true glory.

Buckland Abbey: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Unexpectedness of the Scone Blog branching out into tattoo inspiration: 5 out of 5