Sunday, 28 August 2022

East Soar

It's the final countdown, scone fans! Only 10 National Trust properties to go on this scone quest. East Soar on the Devon coast was one of the final 10 and I knew it was going to be a problem. Firstly, it was the most difficult one for me to get to. But secondly, I HAD ALREADY BEEN THERE. I visited East Soar in 2019 but had been stupidly negligent about its facilities and no scone purchase had been attempted.  

East Soar

Luckily for me, I have the support of my friend Kathy. We have been best friends for a long time and have helped each other through our chosen endeavours. Example of Kathy's chosen endeavours: an Ironman triathlon. I watched her doing her huge swim, I cheered her as she sped past me on her bike, and I shouted support as she ran past me several times while completing a marathon. Example of my chosen endeavours: driving around Devon looking for a scone. Yes, I do often wonder why she is friends with me but I am beyond grateful that she has persevered these past 30 years. 

Anyway. East Soar is a great place for coastal walks but it also contains a lot of history. There's a very good podcast episode by an archaeologist called Bill Horner who explains how the East Soar National Trust car park was once part of RAF Bolt Head. It played an important role in World War II - its location enabled incoming enemy aircraft to be intercepted.

There's also a lot of wildlife in the area. Highland cattle, Dartmoor ponies and all sorts of other species can be spotted as you walk along:

Ponies at East Soar

Kathy was on holiday in the area and had done a recce of the East Soar scone facilities during the week. She texted me with some concerns that there might not be any and I had to explain that it didn't matter: the National Trust handbook states that refreshments are available at East Soar and, as I couldn't be 100% sure that they weren't NT, I had to go there. Even if all I found was a hole in the ground, this blog needed to report that the hole contained zero scones. To be fair, she hid her bafflement well.

She didn't hide her National Trust Scone Panic though: as soon as we got to the Walker's Hut, she basically turned into me. I was sanguine about the chances of finding a scone in a barn but she was utterly determined that East Soar would deliver. It was like having an out-of-body experience and watching an action replay of yourself at 200+ National Trust cafes over the years.

The Walker's Hut is located on a National Trust farm and is a lovely little place serving a good array of cakes and drinks. There's an honesty box for the money and you help yourself:

East Soar Walker's Hut

Kathy's determination was rewarded - what I thought were baked potatoes turned out to be scones. It's almost exactly 30 years since we collected our A'level results - frankly, I think she might have been more relieved by today's scone than she was with her 3 As :)

East Soar Scones

It was a very nice scone as well - light, fluffy and very fresh. Kathy wanted to give it a 4.5 but if you are a regular reader you will know that I have a Crumbleometer that automatically deducts a point if a scone disintegrates into more than six pieces during preparation or consumption. The East Soar scone did fall apart a bit but it was still delicious.

East Soar National Trust Scone

If you'd like to know more about my Devon road trip of 2019 where I probably came within 300 feet of the East Soar scone but failed to realise it at the time, you can read about nearby Overbeck's (also starring Kathy), as well as Cotehele, Lydford GorgeBuckland Abbey, and Antony. We even stopped at Wembury and South Milton Sands, even though I knew we probably wouldn't find any National Trust scones on the beach (I was correct).

Only nine scones to go!

East Soar: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
Watching someone else having the Scone Panic: 4.5 out of 5
 

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Best National Trust Scones 2013-2022

Happy 9th Birthday to the National Trust Scone Blog! When I started this project, I really believed that I would complete it within 7 years at the absolute most. And we're nearly finished, as I only have 10 properties left to visit. But I must face facts: it is going to take 10 years for me to review every single National Trust scone.  

In the nine years since I created this blog:

  • 232 National Trust properties have been visited!
  • 93 scones have scored a 5 out of 5 top rating!

National Trust Scone Birthday

To recap: nine years ago today, I decided it was time to up the ante on my National Trust membership. I would start a blog to help me learn about each property and I would reward myself with a scone at each place I visited.

Only National Trust properties with an NT cafe are mandatory - you can read the Rules of the National Trust Scone Quest here - but I have also included below a few tenant-produced scones that I have met along the way.

So here is the National Trust Scone Blog Birthday Honours List - the 93 properties with 5-star scones, in reverse order of when I visited:

  • Dunstable Downs - the town of Dunstable and I had fallen out many years ago, but stunning views and stunning scones means all is forgiven.
  • Carnewas at Bedruthan - it's not strictly an NT scone as it's a tenant-run cafe but it was excellent so I'm including it.
  • Godolphin - an absolute showstopper of a scone served in a former pigsty in a fantastic property. If Godolphin isn't on your list, add it immediately!
  • Brean Down - never trust a bus timetable on Good Friday but you can trust the Brean Down scones to be brilliant.
  • Aira Force and Ullswater - William Wordsworth wrote a poem about Aira Force and he'd have written one about the scone if he'd known about them. 
  • Claife Viewing Station - the scone was triangular, suggesting it was a tenant-run scone and not strictly NT. But it was so good it deserves to be included anyway.
  • Ormesby Hall - a scone needs to be good when you travel all the way from London to Middlesbrough and back in a day for it. And it was spectacular.
  • East Riddlesden Hall - another excellent scone that was snatched from the jaws of disaster when another cafe closed early, this time due to Storm Eunice.
  • Ilam, Dovedale and the White Peak - people ask if I'm jam first or cream first. I never divulge but I will tell you that when I visit a property, I'm scone first. None of this earning it lark. It paid off at Ilam as the tea room closed due to Storm Malik and we only just got our excellent scone.
  • Stackpole - after six months of lockdown, I made a bid for freedom in September 2020 and made it to Pembrokeshire for a fantastic scone. 
  • Wentworth Castle Gardens - little did I know when I set off for Barnsley in March that it would be my last National Trust scone for months. Lucky I ate two.
  • Lavenham Guildhall - it hasn't always had the happiest of histories but the scones made me very cheerful indeed. Absolute perfection.
  • Fell Foot - my attempt to eat three scones in one day in the Lake District got off to a promising start at Fell Foot. It subsequently won Scone of the Year 2019.
  • Cotehele - here's a top tip: it always bodes well when the property has a mill that produces flour for the scones. 
  • Buckland Abbey - previous owner Sir Francis Drake might have a bit of a questionable history but there was nothing questionable about the scones.
  • Antony: I loved Antony. I loved the name, I loved the house, I loved the scones, and I loved the fact that there's a street called Sconner Road nearby (check the photos).
  • Florence Court - located near a mountain where a legendary horse appears every July to talk to people (and have a scone I hope, as they're good).
  • The Argory - you can get there by canoe but however you get there, make sure you have one of their superb scones. 
  • Dudmaston - there was a wand workshop going on when I visited and the scones had indeed been touched by magic.
  • Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses - people lived in these caves until the 1960s and although rock buns may have been more apposite, the scones were super.
  • Arlington Court - see the house, visit the National Trust Carriage Museum, but definitely don't miss the excellent scones.
  • Dunster Castle - a very old estate with a working water mill, a leather room, and very good scones.
  • Watersmeet - the beautiful place that inspired me to keep going with the National Trust Scone Blog did not disappoint. Excellent scones.
  • Mottistone Gardens - Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't there but we did find some very superb scones.
  • Kinder, Edale, and the Dark Peak - the Pennypot Cafe is next door to Edale station. Kinder Scout is not. But we all know which part of the property is most important.
  • Erddig - donkeys, a thief housekeeper who stole £30,000, and fantastic scones can all be found at Erddig.
  • Oxburgh Hall - everybody loves a moat and everybody good scones. Oxburgh has both.
  • Croft Castle - Owain Glynd┼Ár may be buried under the floor but they don't bury the scone baking talent at this cosy castle.
  • Nunnington Hall - I went to try and solve a mysterious peacock murder case and found some very excellent scones.
  • The Workhouse - I was certainly tempted to say "please, sir, I want some more" but I restrained myself, although the scones were excellent.
  • Shugborough Estate - the ancestral home of society photographer Patrick Lichfield was a picture! Ha ha!
  • Chirk Castle - murder, scandal, adultery, violence, great scones...it's all going on at Chirk.
  • Longshaw Estate and Eastern Moors - I thought the mud might defeat me, but no - I finally found my Peak District scone and marvellous it was too.
  • Mount Stewart - was Castlereagh a great statesman or a despicable murderer? I don't know but I do know that the scones at Mount Stewart were fantastic.
  • Peckover House & Garden - Lonely Planet has just announced that a cream tea at Peckover is one of the top eating experiences in the world! I concur!
  • Clumber Park - it might have lost its house to the demolition men but Clumber offers beautiful gardens, a beautiful lake, and beautiful scones!
  • The Needles Old Battery - chalk rocks, guns, secret missile testing. And now - outstanding scones!
  • Wicken Fen - home to 9,000 species of wildlife, flora, fauna and a first-class species of scone! Bravo.
  • Berrington Hall - even Capability Brown couldn't improve the scones at Berrington Hall - they were berri-good!
  • Tyntesfield - maybe one day someone will describe Tyntesfield without saying "the man who built it made his money from Peruvian bird poo" but that day isn't today. The scones were a bird poo-free zone.
  • Sudbury Hall - a great house AND the Museum of Childhood starring Sooty and Sindy AND an outstanding scone! What more do you want from life.
  • Melford Hall - famed for its celebrity resident, the original Jemima Puddleduck! Her views on scones are not known.
  • Wallington - the former home of Charles Edward Trevelyan, the third most hated man in Ireland (after Oliver Cromwell and Thierry Henry), who was name-checked in The Fields of Athenry.
  • Belton House - the kids book and 80s TV show, Moondial, was set at Belton! And when I tweeted that I'd been there, the actor who played Tom responded! Fantastic.
  • Felbrigg Hall - poor old William Frederick 'Mad' Windham - all he wanted to do was dress up as a train guard and blow a whistle on the station platform at inopportune moments. Instead he ran up huge debts and lost Felbrigg. Amazing scone. 
  • Hidcote - a beautiful garden built by "a dull little man" according to James Lees-Milne but we loved it AND we loved the scones!
  • Plas Newydd - a fantastic scone on Anglesey! We only really went there to see the Victorian dude who dressed like Noddy Holder 50 years before Nodders was born!
  • Dyrham Park - superb scones AND free 17th century hot chocolate (the recipe is from the 17th century, not the actual hot chocolate)!
  • Trengwainton Garden - the 5th NT scone we'd eaten in 48 hours during our Tour of Cornwall and it was FAB!
  • Trerice - a quiet little manor house near the not-so-quiet town of Newquay, with AMAZING scones!
  • Trelissick - the house may be relatively new to the NT but they've certainly got to grips with the scones!
  • Boscastle - a little Cornish fishing village that was almost washed away in 2004 - unusual scones but absolutely top-rate!
  • Acorn Bank - the third top-class scone on the Spring Tour to the Lake District!
  • Sizergh Castle - amazing scone AND a copy of Wham!'s Greatest Hits!
  • Wordsworth House - I was moved to compose a poem about the Wordsworth House scone - I expect a call about being Poet Laureate any day!
  • Saltram - everything went wrong on our first trip of 2016, apart from the scone!
  • Fountains Abbey - it was in the video for Maid of Orleans by OMD! And it had fantastic scones!
  • Lanhydrock - our first foray into Cornwall and we were not disappointed! Fantastic scone!
  • Biddulph Grange Garden - they had a singing tree and a golden water buffalo but nothing could upstage the scones!
  • Nostell Priory - one of the best properties EVER with THREE types of scone!
  • Coughton Court - 7 of the 13 Gunpowder Plotters were Throckmortons! Somehow they kept hold of Coughton and are still there today! 
  • Tredegar House - fantastic scones AND they keep a Dalek in the stables (Doctor Who is filmed there)! 
  • Anglesey Abbey - they have a working flour mill! You can buy bags of flour that you transform into scones that won't be as good as the ones here!
  • Montacute House - they filmed Wolf Hall here! If only Anne Boleyn had been able to bake scones like these, it could all have turned out differently!
  • Goddards - brilliant scones at the house once owned by Noel Terry, of Chocolate Orange fame! There used to be a Terry's Chocolate Apple as well! 
  • Beningbrough Hall - spectacular works of art (and a few pictures on loan from the National Portrait Gallery as well, boom, boom!)
  • Sissinghurst Castle - did you see the scones, Orlando? They were great - and fantastic gardens too, in the former home of Vita Sackville-West!
  • South Foreland Lighthouse - excellent sconeage in this 'shining' example of a National Trust property HA HA! 
  • The White Cliffs of Dover - I really was inspired to ransack the Vera Lynn back catalogue and sing "we'll meet again" to the WCoD scone - it was that good. 
  • Speke Hall - it has the River Mersey, it has a priest hole, it has a baker on Twitter, it has fantastic scones, I LOVED it!
  • Studland Beach - famous for the UK's most popular naturist beach, for inspiring Noddy's Toytown, and now for very good scones!
  • A la Ronde - a round house full of trinkets AND fantastic scones, what more do you want from life? 
  • Upton House and Gardens - a lot of pictures, an outdoor swimming pool, and truly excellent scones!
  • Treasurer's House, York - they had a Christmas pudding scone with brandy butter that I literally still dream about!
  • Hinton Ampner - lots of sheep and fantastic scones!
  • Uppark - burned to the ground a few years ago while it was open to visitors, but now restored and serving very excellent scones!
  • Stowe - it costs £30,000 a year to attend Stowe school - I'd rather spend that on scones, personally!
  • Charlecote Park - William Shakespeare was once caught stealing a scone from Charlecote Park. Did I say scone? I meant deer.
  • Bateman's - "Well I'm the king of the sconers/the tea-room VIP", as Rudyard Kipling would have written if he'd had scones at Batemans!
  • Claremont Landscape Garden - more of a park than a garden but who's counting - the scones were fantastic!
  • Standen - tests proved that the Standen scone was genetically closer to a cloud than a baked foodstuff!
  • Nymans - another place that burned down (before the National Trust was involved), now serving amazing scones!
  • Waddesdon Manor - they have a mechanical elephant that flaps its ears at Waddesdon but as an attraction it's no match for the top-class scones!
  • Scotney Castle - the scones were EPIC. Scotney also had a Banana and Walnut Scone of the Month and Richard Gere, who filmed Yanks there!
  • Dunwich Heath - they had 20 TYPES OF SCONE at the Sconeathon we attended! Sticky Toffee, Chocolate Orange, Apple & Cinnamon, Malteser...!
  • Morden Hall Park - big, warm, and glazed. 'Morden enough' to warrant a five out of five (ha ha ha! Sorry.)
  • Sutton House - Sir Ralph Sadleir of Wolf Hall fame built Sutton House - go along and see them bring out the sconies!
  • Quarry Bank Mill - amazing scones in one of the most fascinating NT properties ever - you can even buy a tea towel made in the cotton mill!
  • Flatford Bridge Cottage - we helped bake the scones at Flatford but we gave them 5 because they were mince pie scones and they were ruddy delicious! 
  • Winkworth Arboretum - a very understated place - not a fridge magnet to be had - but serving fantastic scones!
  • Houghton Mill - the Scone Blogger was very hungover but she soldiered on and tried the scone made from home-milled flour, which was DELICIOUS!
  • Brownsea Island - we didn't see any red squirrels, which shows that they don't have very good taste as there was a Sconeathon on the day we visited!
  • Bodiam Castle - our very first 5 out of 5, setting the benchmark for all!  

There's also a National Trust Book of Scones, which is available in NT shops or on the internet.

As ever, I send my ever-lasting affection and thanks to all of the fantastic Sconepals that send in photos and show ongoing support and enthusiasm for this mad project. 

Keep sharing your National Trust scone sightings, either on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. I love them. 

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Barrington Court

I have a secret affection for National Trust properties where you approach the house saying things like "There it is! It's nice. Quite small and, er, I can't see any sign of the enormous multi-year roof repair project from here. Maybe they haven't started yet?" before you turn your head to the right and see the enormous Tudor house that you're meant to be looking at, rather than the random outbuilding you've been admiring for 10 minutes.


I'm not a heritage professional but if I was and someone told me that the building I was working in needed roof repairs, I would put my coat on and never, ever come back. I can't think of anything worse. Roof repairs take years and cost millions and cause total upheaval for something that 99% of visitors will never directly see or appreciate. It must be absolutely awful.


Anyway. You've probably gathered by now that we didn't get to go inside Barrington Court as it's closed. But it's a fascinating place so I'm going to share some details anyway:

It was restored by Arthur Lyle of sugar fame
It's an amazing story: Barrington Court was gifted to the National Trust in 1907 - it was actually one of its first acquisitions. But Barrington was a partial ruin and, with no endowment money, it threatened to become a huge drain on NT resources. Luckily, Colonel Arthur Lyle came to the rescue. He was the grandson of Abram Lyle, who invented Lyle's Golden Syrup. He took on a 99-year lease of Barrington and began the long process of restoring it with his architect, James Edwin Forbes.

Gertrude Jekyll worked on designs for the gardens
Jekyll was 74 when she worked on Barrington, with failing eyesight. She never actually visited the place and had to rely on drawings, biscuit tins of soil samples and visits from Colonel Lyle's wife, Elsie, who did much of the planting. I was pleased to read in the guidebook that Jekyll had a "dislike of rich people who gardened only through 'hirelings'", so she'd have approved of Elsie getting her hands dirty. (She would have approved of me too, as you won't find any hirelings in my garden. You won't find anything else either, but never mind.)

Barrington White Garden

The house was completed around 1560
A London merchant called Sir William Clifton actually built the house. His son John succeeded him but then it all went wrong - his son, Gervase, ended up in the Fleet Prison, where he killed himself. Gervase's son was mauled by a bear at a bear-baiting event and died of his injuries. The Strode family then acquired Barrington and extended it with an impressive stable block. 

It appeared in Wolf Hall
Barrington was in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall (as was Montacute, which isn't far away). It had a starring role as York Place/Whitehall, the home of Cardinal Wolsey.

The stables became Strode House
There are quite a lot of secondary buildings at Barrington. The impressive stable block built by the Strodes was restored by the Lyles so they could live there. It's a really striking building in its own right:

Strode House Barrington

There are Artisan Workshops
The Artisan Workshops are close to the house on the estate and they were very nice, with jewellery and chairs and other items on sale:


The Barrington Court Scone

Barrington was the final stop on a mini Somerset road trip. We'd started at Lytes Cary, which is a beautiful place but the scone wasn't the best. We then went to Knightshayes, which is a barnstormer of an NT property, where the scone was a bit better.

The Barrington scone didn't fill me with hope. It looked a bit over-baked and I was fearing the worst. But it was actually very nice. It was fresh and tasty and I ate all of it.

Barrington Court scone

I'll hopefully get to go back to Barrington when the roof is fixed, as the interiors look very impressive even if they are empty. In the meantime, I'm sending all my positive thoughts to the Barrington team - it can't be easy running a National Trust property that's actually shut.

Barrington Court: 3 out of 5 (I'm sure it would be a 5 when the house is open)
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Gertrude Jekyll's approach to life: 5 out of 5

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Knightshayes

Imagine for a moment that you have a lot of money and want to build a new home for yourself and your family. Who would you commission to design it for you? Sir Norman Foster maybe? If you like a lot of steel and glass - think the Gherkin or City Hall - then Norman's your man.

Now imagine that Sir Norman builds your modern house as agreed and then presents you with detailed pictures of his plans for the interiors. You decide that it's too much - too much steel and glass, Norman! So you fire Sir Norman and hire another architect that you think will be more restrained. But they have to come up with something that fits Norm's structure and it's still too much for you. So you spend the next few years covering up all the modern work you paid a modern architect to do.

This, in extremely simple terms, is what happened at Knightshayes. The Heathcoat Amory family hired William Burges, an architect deeply immersed in medievalism and the Gothic aesthetic, to design their house and then didn't like his work. And then John Crace, hired to replace Burges, didn't get it right either.

Knightshayes

Why am I telling you this? Because the story of Knighthayes is actually two stories: the fascinating story of the Heathcoat Amory clan AND the story of Burges/Crace architecture and how the National Trust has recreated Knightshayes as those men had envisioned it.

Let's start with the Heathcoat Amorys:
  • The story of how the Heathcoat Amory family ended up in Devon is an extremely timely tale. John Heathcoat was born in Derby in 1783. He was an inventive and hard-working man who created a bobbin net machine in 1805.
  • But some people weren't keen on progress and in June 1816 a group of Luddite wreckers broke into his Loughborough factory and smashed up 55 lace frames.
  • He decided it was time to move. He turned down £100,000 compensation to start again in the Midlands and focused on building his business in Tiverton in Devon, with many of his former employees following him there on foot. 
  • His Tiverton Lace Manufactory was a huge success. Tiverton has since produced the lace for the wedding veils for royal weddings. 
  • The business passed to John's grandson when he died and the Heathcoat Amory name was born. John Heathcoat Amory was the builder of Knightshayes. He preferred his leisure pursuits by the sounds of it, although he had a lot of public duties and was made a baronet by Gladstone.
  • John's son, Ian, and his brother Ludovic took on the business and Knightshayes after that, although Ludovic died from wounds received in France in 1918. 
  • After Sir Ian came another Sir John. In 1936, he married Joyce Wethered, the golf champion. She continued to live at Knightshayes until she died in 1997 and there is a little mini museum to her in the house:

Joyce Wethered Knightshayes


Williams Burges at Knightshayes

But let's move on to William Burges, the architect who designed the exterior and interiors of what we see today at Knightshayes.

Let's take one of the bedrooms as an example. It is now known as the 'Burges Room'. Burges had designed it as  "a riot of colour" but when the NT took over, it was completely neutral and all architectural features had been removed. They've restored it to his plan:

Burges Room
Image borrowed from the NT

Every National Trust guidebook has its showstopper factoid - the one you have to read three times to make sure you understood it correctly. The showstopper factoid here is that the Burges Room was opened by Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin guitarist, as he is a collector of Victorian Gothic and lives in Burges' former home in Kensington. 

The Great Hall is another example. It was built according to Burges' designs, although the roof stencilling he had planned was scaled back by John Crace. But the family didn't like it. They removed the stencilling completely, demolished the screen and reduced the fireplace.  The NT has put them back:

Knighthayes Great Hall

I particularly liked the frieze in the dining room:

Keep thy tongue

Knightshayes itself is a real showstopper of a National Trust property. It's big and impressive with artworks and architectural features to keep you interested for hours.

The gardens are also very extensive. The last Sir John and Lady Heathcoat Amory were keen gardeners and spent a lot of time improving them.

Knightshayes rearview

The Knightshayes Scone

I went to Knightshayes with my very fantastic friend, Kathy. She is an extremely fit triathlete with a lifetime of experience in taking on tough challenges. But could she manage four National Trust cream teas in one weekend? I explained to her that my many years of intensive training in this discipline would make it easy for me but if she was struggling at any point, she only had to say the word. "I think I'll manage," was the gist of her response.


Our visit to Knightshayes took place during an extremely hot weekend. We'd already blamed the heat for the Lytes Cary scone the day before (it wasn't the best) and then Kathy noticed a message on the NT website saying that the Knightshayes kitchen would be closed on the day we were visiting and the food offering would be limited. Staff shortages and heatwaves are clearly taking their toll on National Trust F&B teams. 

I wasn't expecting to find any scones at all but we were in luck. We sat in the very nice stables and enjoyed a fruit scone that wasn't fresh but it was tasty. 

Knightshayes scone

The scone we had later at Barrington Court was better and then we called into Montacute on Monday and found a fantastic scone, so our Somerset mini road-trip ended well. 

I'll close by sharing another exciting finding from Knightshayes: National Trust sew-on badges! I had never seen these before and I immediately wanted to start the National Trust Scone Quest all over again so I could create a giant picnic blanket covered in them. It'd be like being in the Brownies again.


Knightshayes: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
The idea of Brownie-style badges: 5 out of 5

Lytes Cary Manor

When I started this blog in 2013, it never occurred to me that I could write about anything other than scones. But this project could have been about a long list of subjects. I could have chosen National Trust cappuccinos or National Trust car parks. Even as I type, there's a man called NTByBike who is busy cycling around all 600+ National Trust properties to test out the bike facilities.

One thing I could have reviewed, although I may have got sued or beaten up in the process, is National Trust volunteer guides. I have met some absolutely brilliant National Trust volunteers over the past nine years of this project and the ones at Lytes Cary Manor today were exceptionally good.    

Lytes Cary Manor

You may be wondering "how do you know when you're in the presence of a five-star volunteer guide?". Luckily, I have the answer: you know they're brilliant when you have to drag yourself away from them. You want them to follow you around for the rest of your life, pointing things out to you, eg "This Tesco Express used to be a haberdashery. They once sold some buttons to Larry Grayson." or "There have been 114 marriage proposals in this restaurant. 112 were accepted, although of those was later rescinded."

Anyway. Lytes Cary today had not one but TWO five-star volunteer room guides. A man called Ian told us all about the Great Hall. Then we met Sue who pointed out all the quirky stuff in the Great Parlour. What I loved about them was the enthusiastic honesty, eg "These figures by the fireplace are made out of leather. They're quite ugly but everyone has their own tastes."

Lytes Cary Parlour

But let me tell you about the history of Lytes Cary:
  • The chapel is the oldest building at Lytes Carey. It was completed in 1348.
  • It was built by Peter Lyte, the grandson of William de Lyte who founded the family.
  • The Great Hall was built by Thomas Lyte in the 1460s, with the Great Parlour added in the 1530s.
  • One of the most notable Lytes was "Henry the Herbalist" as the guidebook calls him. In 1578 he published the Nieuw Herbal, an English translation of a Flemish book on plants and their medical and other uses.
  • But then it was all went a bit pear-shaped for the Lyte clan - they got into financial difficulties and had to sell up in 1755. However, they continued to make names for themselves. The Reverend Henry F Lyte wrote the hymn 'Abide with Me!' in 1847 while Colonel William Lyte was founder of the city of Adelaide in 1836.
  • The manor fell into disrepair.
  • In 1907, what was left of the manor was bought by Sir William Jenner and his wife. His dad had been Queen Victoria's doctor and had made a lot of money.
  • The Jenners set about restoring the place as faithfully as they could, salvaging panelling and other fittings and furnishings from other buildings.
  • The Jenners' daughter Esme died when she was 37 and so Sir William gave the place to the National Trust.
  • The West Wing of Lytes Cary is now a holiday 'cottage' that you can rent out - details here if you're interested!


The Lytes Cary Scone

I need to tell you that I went to Lytes Cary during a heatwave. This may have impacted on scone quality, as I can't imagine that it's much fun baking all day in a small kitchen when the temperatures outside are hitting 32 degrees and above. But - and it's genuinely paining me to say this - the Lytes Cary scone was a bit stale. 

The simple conclusion I have drawn after 9 years of eating National Trust scones is this: a fresh scone is 99% likely to be a good scone. If it's been baked in the last 2-3 hours, you almost cannot fail with it. The Lytes Cary scone was definitely a bit older than it should have been.

Lytes Cary scone

I also had two other scones that didn't quite hit the mark during this hot weekend - one at Knightshayes and one at Barrington Court. It's a long time since I've had a run of three scones without a five-star performer and I was feeling quite worried about it. 

So at last minute, I decided to add Montacute to the itinerary. I'd loved it there when I went in 2015 and they were brilliant again today; a top class scone. In the cafe they had a sign, though, which made me feel even more worried for all those people working so hard to keep things going in National Trust food and beverage outlets at the moment:


But let's not despair! We need to let the National Trust F&B teams know that we appreciate them and hopefully things will improve again soon.

In the meantime, I've decided that my next blog will be National Trust Holiday Cottages. I will selflessly offer my services as a kind of Judith Chalmers of the NT, going about reporting on bed quality and local cuisine (scones, obviously). Selfless, I know, but surely someone has to do it?

Lytes Cary: 5 out of 5
Scone: 3 out of 5
Lytes Cary volunteers: 500 out of 5