Visiting the National Trust house of Cotehele in Cornwall is a good excuse to lose yourself in the tranquil gardens and the ancient wooded valley which runs next to the River Tamar.

Cotehele is an elegant Tudor house sitting high above the River, formerly owned by the Edgcumbe family. Just below the house the exquisite terraced gardens are laid out before you, filled with a superb display of herbaceous border plants and perennials. Now take a step through the Jasmine covered tunnel and start your descent into the lower garden. The first thing you see is a perfectly formed circular medieval Dovecote, originally built to provide delicate doves for the dinner table. Distracted by that you almost trip over the ancient Stewpond which was used to rear fish for the family’s larder. Keep wandering down the paths past the sweet Cornus, giant Gunneras and Victorian summerhouse, and into the lush woodland.

This verdant woodland could be anywhwere in England, but as you scan through the trees you see the meandering River wending its way through the valley. You’ll also see the Cotehele working millhouse and waterwheel, the 19th century Quayside and the renovated barge ‘Shamrock’; now you know you’ve found somewhere special.  You can imagine this once busy Quay with barges and boats collecting and delivering supplies, using the river to take precious cargo to Plymouth and beyond.  But the Victorian Viaduct at the pretty village of Calstock looms up into sight; this brought the railways and the end of trading on the water.

So the River and the vast countryside surrounding it have now been returned to a home for butterflies, rare Marsh Orchids, birds and grazing cattle, and of course a steady stream of inquisitive visitors.

You can take all day wandering through the woods and gardens, with refreshments at the Edgcumbe tearooms, but if you would like to immerse yourself in the history of the area then the National Trust put on a variety of talks, activities and exhibitions throughout the year.  This might include boat trips on the river, costume Sundays at the Mill, or a climb on the roof of the house in the ‘Cotehele Unlocked’ events.

Cotehele is just inside the Cornish border and takes approximately 60 minutes by car from Dittiscombe Holiday Cottages in South Devon. Dogs are welcome in the shady woodland valley, the grounds of the estate and the outside eating areas, but not the formal gardens. Cotehele is one of many delightful National Trust properties within an hour’s drive from Dittiscombe. For more information about Cotehele visit the National Trust website, and to find out about more things to do in South Devon go to Dittiscombe blogs.